Language learning, academic achievement and overseas experience: a sociolinguistic study of Taiwanese students in Australian higher education
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 02:59 by Grace Chu-Lin Chang
This qualitative study explores the contemporary linguistic environment in Australian higher education, which has evolved as a result of globalization to accommodate a large number of incoming international students who are using English as a second language. Among them Chinese international students stand out as the largest group, which, for instance, made up 39.9 percent of all higher education enrolments in 2014. This study explores the new phenomenon of the Mandarin language predominating among languages other than English in Australian higher education. The study shows how the changing linguistic environment shapes Taiwanese international students' experiences in Australia, as a group who happen to share a common language with Chinese students but do not belong to the same cohort. Based on ethnographic fieldwork spanning three years, this study follows the trajectories of thirty-five Taiwanese higher education students in Australia. The study investigates in-depth how language learning intersects with their motivation to invest in overseas study, their participation in educational settings as well as in local communities, their sense of identity and belonging, and their overall study experience. Data include one-on-one interviews, personal communications, field notes, and participants' academic writing assignments and the feedback they received. Employing content analysis, the study finds that these Taiwanese international students chose to invest in studying in Australia in order to attain English language proficiency, internationalization, and self-fulfillment. However, when they sojourned in Australia, there was a clash between a monolingual language ideology, where English was the target language, and multilingual language realities, where Mandarin was widely used. The unexpected linguistic environment mediated their use of English despite their strong motivation to enter English-speaking networks. In addition, the Master's participants often found themselves participating peripherally in classroom and group work. For PhD participants, their candidature was often a lonely experience with little institutional or community support. As regards participants' experiences with academic writing, the study identifies gaps in institutional language support services. Furthermore, the feedback given to the research participants on their academic writing was oftentimes ineffective and did not facilitate their learning. Besides university study, the study also presents participants' language use and settlement experiences outside university, a previously underexplored area. Domains, including church, accommodation, and romance, are examined and successful cases are presented of participants who were lucky to find a bridge to extend their social network as well as improve their language skills. Overall, the study argues that language is a manifestation of participation, which is a dynamic and constantly changing process. The findings have implications for education providers regarding the (language) learning support required by international students.