Should English Teachers in China Enact the Communicative Language Teaching Approach? A Narrative Inquiry into Chinese Students’ English-using Experience in the U.S.



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As one of the most popular language teaching approaches established in ESL (English as a Second Language) countries, the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has encountered many challenges when introduced and implemented in EFL (English as a Foreign Language) contexts, as demonstrated by a review of approximately 50 previous works pertaining to CLT and various facets of its application in EFL countries and in China’s EFL contexts in particular. Questions have arisen concerning whether CLT should be enacted in China’s EFL classrooms. Employing narrative inquiry, this dissertation investigates the English as a second language practices of four participants from China in the U.S., in the hope of shedding some light on whether China’s English language teachers should enact CLT or not. Focusing on exploring and addressing the communicative difficulties encountered by the participants in the U.S., this narrative inquiry presents how inadequate command of English skills especially communicative competence affects the participants’ academic learning and non-academic aspects of life. The lack of English communicative competence is identified as one of the biggest barriers preventing them from achieving a greater academic success and integrating into the American life. It is clearly shown that China’s traditional English language teaching methods characterized by grammatical analysis, translation, and intensive reading
contributes to anything but students’ communicative competence. The participants’ perceived need for communicative competence explicitly underlines a vital call for enacting the Communicative Language Teaching approach in China’s EFL classrooms. While gaining valuable insights regarding how to improve China’s English language teaching from the perspective of Chinese students in the U.S., this narrative inquiry provides important implications for the educational institutions in the host countries in an endeavor to help international students become more linguistically proficient as well as socio-culturally empowered. Although this research is conducted with Chinese participants targeted at China’s contexts, it has the potential to transcend national boundaries and spark global concerns, as “it opens the door for researchers in other nations to begin to explore a similar phenomenon in their national contexts” (Clandinin & Hamilton, 2010, p. 1115).



Narrative inquiry, English-using experience, Communicative competence