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Wakening up to “Chinese culture”. Towards an intercultural approach to ‘English Reading’

By Qun Yu and Jan Van Maele


English Reading, which has long been a core course in English departments, has redefined itself under current Chinese reforms in English language teaching in higher education (Shu, 2013; Wang, 2013). As part of these reforms, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued several guidelines on the cultivation of intercultural competences within EFL education (Hu, 2010; 2013). While some voices in education (Cao, 2013; Du, 2012) still adhere to an essentialist view on culture, other scholars (Guo & Liu, 2014; Wang, 2012) advocate a more critical approach and focus on the ability to decenter and to bracket dominant discourses. Although the publication of the English Reading Course for Intercultural Perspectives (Zhuang & Kalkstein, 2009) signals a cautious move towards critical thinking about cultural differences, there has so far remained little room for students to act more autonomously in the learning process. This presentation reports on on-going action research on developing intercultural awareness (Chen & Starosta, 1998-9) in the context of an English reading course for undergraduate students of English at a major Chinese university. As part of the course requirements, students are instructed to identify texts dealing with aspects of ‘Chinese culture’, demonstrate they understand the authors’ intended meaning, compare source texts dealing with similar topics, and engage in a dual shift of perspectives by stepping closer as they relate the text to personal experiences, and by stepping away as they view familiar practices and artefacts as ‘strange’. Sampling from student discussions and writings, the authors will illustrate how student discourse can be perused for conceptualizations of culture and other indications of intercultural awareness (or the lack thereof). On the basis of these emerging data, the authors will formulate recommendations for a teaching practice that aims at acquiring English reading skills as well as developing intercultural awareness.status: publishe

Year: 2015
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Provided by: Lirias
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