AN ANALYSIS OF CHINESE EFL LEARNERS BELIEFS ABOUT THE ROLE OF ROTE LEARNING IN VOCABULARY LEARNING STRATEGIES

| November 29, 2005
Title
AN ANALYSIS OF CHINESE EFL LEARNERS BELIEFS ABOUT THE ROLE OF ROTE LEARNING IN VOCABULARY LEARNING STRATEGIES

Author
Xiuping Li
University of Sunderland
Abstract
This study sets out to investigate Chinese EFL learners beliefs about the role of rote learning (RL) in vocabulary learning strategies. The focus of the study is Chinese EFL learners culturally-influenced beliefs about their preference for RL strategies as opposed to other memory strategies (MSs). Based on the literature, there is a widely held belief that Chinese EFL learners rely on RL and that they are passive learners. Although recent studies (e.g. Bond ed. 1996; Kember 1998; Kennedy 2002), have offered reinterpretations of the values concerning RL from Confucian heritage cultures (CHCs), no specific or systematic study appears to have been carried out to focus on RL to discover precisely how and why Chinese learners hold the belief that they rely on RL. What is more lamentable, there is no clear description of the features of RL and almost no consensus in the literature of which memory category RL exactly belongs to.

This study addresses the need for a concrete understanding of the role of RL in EFL vocabulary learning by looking at Chinese EFL learners own beliefs. This study has four main aims: (1) to promote a concrete understanding of the concept of RL in the literature; (2) to explore Chinese EFL learners culturally- based beliefs about their preference for RL strategies; (3) to offer a challenge to widely-held beliefs that Confucian culture is a negative influence on learning; (4) to offer guidance to EFL teachers/researchers who are interested in Chinese EFL learners memory strategy choice and use.

The data for the study was obtained through three instruments—questionnaires, interviews and an English vocabulary test. The subjects were 100 Chinese learners in the English Department at a large University in the Northeast area of China. To confirm the results of the study and to show their generalisability across China, open- ended questionnaires were also administered to Chinese university teachers from different parts of China as advanced learners . The data was analysed using descriptive analysis, Condorcet s method, Kendall s W, content analysis, chi-square, triangulation and factor analysis. The main hypothesis (Chinese EFL learners believe that RL strategies are preferable to other memory strategies for learning and memorising vocabulary. They hold positive beliefs about RL, because they consider RL strategies to be consistent with traditional Chinese culture and values.) are supported by both quantitative and qualitative results. The findings of the study indicate that Chinese EFL learners generally hold highly positive beliefs about RL in EFL vocabulary learning because they believe that this form of RL—an integration of repetition, memorisation, practice, including reviewing and understanding—suggests consistency with traditional Chinese culture and values. The results also suggest that there is significant difference between the learners who hold positive beliefs and those hold negative beliefs about RL. A factor analysis of the 28 items on their beliefs showed the current situation for Chinese EFL learners, reflecting traditional Chinese learning strategies (Active CHC-based MSs; Repetition with perseverance strategies; Repetition with association strategies; Memorisation through practice strategies; Exam-oriented MSs and Repetition to enhance better use of words strategies), which serve as the features that could characterise Chinese EFL learners. Six factors (Chinese educational/cultural background; EFL environment; traditional habit; national situation/examination demand; Chinese linguistic background/the way of learning mother tongue; and Failure to try out best strategies) were identified relating to the reason why RL was so popular and why there continues to be a reliance on RL in China. The responses from teacher questionnaire ascertained the generalisability of the findings.

The findings of the study indicate that Confucian heritage learners use of RL actually involves far more complex processes than have been supposed to be the case. Thus, the researcher suggests a new term Active Confucian-based MSs to distinguish these strategies from passive RL.
The subjects beliefs also suggest that they believe RL is an effective way of learning EFL vocabulary, but not the best way. However, the findings suggest that their belief that RL is consistent with Chinese culture and values tends to override other considerations.

[private]

Download PDF

[/private]

Category: Thesis