English in Chinese higher education: past difficulties, current initiatives and future challenges

Sue Wright, Lin Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1684 Downloads (Pure)


English is the most common foreign language in the Chinese curriculum. However, even though a great deal of class time is devoted to acquiring English, the results have not been universally good. Studies to address the issue have suggested various reasons for this: large classes and the subsequent difficulty of implementing interactive teaching; traditional examinations which favour grammar/translation pedagogy; the difficulty of recruiting fluent teachers, which makes communicative methodology hard to implement; low motivation in parts of the population where the chance of interacting with native-speakers is highly unlikely. In addition there may be other - new - reasons developing which put a brake on the spread of good foreign language skills among the Chinese population. The general problems reported in the foreign language classroom could be compounded by the growing influence of China in the world. The experience of groups whose economic and political weight were/are significant has shown that when others learn your language and it becomes a lingua franca of power, instrumental motivation for foreign language acquisition diminishes within the population. Can we expect to see the Chinese developing the same attitudes to foreign language learning, as Anglophones, for example, if/as Chinese spreads as a lingua franca?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-183
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of World Languages
Issue number3
Early online date1 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Engllish
  • foreign language education policy
  • China
  • lingua franca
  • motivation


Dive into the research topics of 'English in Chinese higher education: past difficulties, current initiatives and future challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this