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The process of vocabulary learning:

Vocabulary learning strategies and beliefs about language


and language learning

Robert Michael Easterbrook

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of


Doctor of Philosophy in Education,
The University of Canberra, November 2013
Abstract

The process of learning a foreign language is an important and challenging component in foreign
language students’ lives due to the students’ limited language exposure and opportunities to
practice the language. While research in China has focused on vocabulary learning strategies and
the Chinese culture of learning beliefs about language and language learning, these have been
explored as individual factors. Research has not explored these factors as part of a process of
learning that is driven by both strategies and beliefs in the one research project. In attempting to
fill this gap, the present research thus explored the possible influence of vocabulary learning
strategy use and beliefs about language and language learning on the process of vocabulary
learning in the Chinese university context. The research was novel in that it compared
vocabulary strategy use, students’ language learning beliefs and examined potential impact on
vocabulary development across 4 grades at a university level.

Using mixed methods, quantitative and qualitative, the research explored vocabulary learning
strategy use (VLS), beliefs about language and language learning (BALLL), general and
specific, and English vocabulary size, in this order, to gain insights into the process of English
vocabulary learning. Data was collected using three questionnaires (one vocabulary learning
strategies questionnaire, and two beliefs questionnaires), a range of vocabulary size tests (e.g.
vocabulary size tests 1000, 2000, 3000 and Academic) and interviews with Chinese English
Majors in a university context. Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis and Spearman’s rho correlation
tests were run, the first to observe statistically significant differences in mean-scores, at the
individual level within a grade, and then between grades, and second, to observe the relationship
among strategies, beliefs and vocabulary size test scores. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to
observe relationships among the main factors (e.g. strategies, beliefs and vocabulary size test
scores), as well as between the main factors and age and years of English education. The
interviews underwent thematic analysis to highlight common themes which allowed students to
elaborate on some questionnaire responses.

The results show that there is consistency in strategy use and beliefs about language and
language learning in Chinese English Majors process of vocabulary learning. The process:
students often discover new vocabulary in written materials, sometimes TV/movies and songs,
and then use a small range of strategies to learn it using other strategies to complement the small

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range of strategies. The most frequently used strategies included guessing meaning, looking up
dictionary, learning its spelling, writing it down, learning its pronunciation, saying it aloud, and
connecting it with the Chinese meaning. This process was observed in and/or interpreted from
their VLS use and their BALLL, general and specific. The results of exploring these factors
highlighted 1) particular VLSs repeatedly used across four grades which included discovering
new vocabulary in textbooks, when reading English materials; memorizing the new word’s
pronunciation and spelling; connecting new words to the Chinese meaning; looking at the new
word several times; remember the new word by its meaning (when read again)), and 2) general
and specific beliefs about language and language learning, for example, it’s important to repeat
English words and practice often and I learn English to find a good job in the future.

Other strategies were used on occasion to complement the fixed set of strategies, depending on
the learning task such as remembering a new word by its meaning (when heard again); the way
the new word is used; trying to guess the word’s meaning from context (e.g. the sentence the
word is used in). There were strong correlations found among vocabulary learning strategies and
beliefs, both general and specific. There was no significant correlation found between strategy
use/ beliefs and vocabulary size tests. Vocabulary size grew incrementally but not dramatically
throughout the four-year degree. There was little difference in scores for all students in the 4
grades on the vocabulary size tests 1000 to 3000 and Academic, with scores decreasing from
vocabulary size tests 1000 to 3000. However, scores increased in each grade on the Academic
size test e.g. English vocabulary size ranged from 2400 to 5200 for grade 1; from 3900 to 6300
for grade 2; from 1900 to 5900 for grade 3; from 3500 to 6100 for grade 4. The result can be
attributed to students following a fairly fixed regime of vocabulary learning strategy use, driven
by a range of beliefs that reflect how students conceptualise language and how to learn it, as well
as a lack of opportunity to use it and limited exposure. The fixed regime of vocabulary learning
strategy use might also be explained by classroom pedagogy which tends not to focus on oral
communication therefore limiting or constraining English vocabulary size and language
development. The discussion provides recommendations for teaching vocabulary and strategy
training in the Chinese university context.

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Acknowledgements

This thesis would never have been completed if it hadn’t been for the help and support of so
many people. I want to express my thanks to them here.

Dr. Stracke, Dr. Houston, Dr. Jones, Dr. Hill, Dr. Petraki and Dr. Zhang who willingly accepted
to supervise me at some stage during the research project but soon found it tough supervising,
their warm encouragement and dedication to perfection, and their excellent assistance and
abundant ideas and suggestions contributed to the completion of the thesis. Dr. Petraki,
especially, for her commitment and hard work in the final stage when much revision and work
was achieved.

The Chinese English Majors who willingly participated in the research. If these willing few
hadn’t have agreed to participate, the project would never have seen full fruition. They made my
life very interesting when I taught many of them, and by giving their time and effort to informing
me about themselves and their lives without hidden agenda.

The university research site teachers and administrators. If the administrators hadn’t have given
permission for the research to go ahead at the site, it would have had to have searched for and
used another site. And there was no telling how enthusiastic or how indifferent the administrators
at another site would have been to the research given the context of the research. I thank the
many teachers at the research site for the support and friendship.

‘Dean’ Wang Lei, a dedicated Chinese English language teacher, excellent research assistant and
very good friend. Firstly, I thank him for his enduring friendship despite the hassles associated
with being involved in the research project, secondly, for his willing assistance without which
the data collection process would have been more trouble than it was, and thirdly, for carry the
burden of association beyond the use by date.

Yu Hong, excellent Chinese English teacher, research assistant, and partner during the many
years spent in northern China. Firstly, I thank her for her willingness to commit her time and

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energy to assisting with the administrative duties attached to the data collection process and
management of the questionnaires, and secondly, for her love and companionship without which
my life in northern China would have been more lonely and barren than it was.

I offer the University of Canberra a special thank you for offering me candidature. I thank the
university for giving me the chance to fulfil a childhood dream that was finally realized, but not
until I was in the autumn of my youth. And without the support of the university in several
important areas, completing the thesis might have been more challenging than it was.

Some of my fellow PhD candidates during the PhD program, Josh Rosner, Andrew Blythe,
Kilala Chi (now Dr. Chi), Sri Wahyuni (now Dr. Wahyuni), Yoshi Yamamoto (now Dr.
Yamamoto), Ross Hamilton, Walter Steensby, Dr. Man Chul and many others who, while I was
completing my thesis, supported me in many interesting and kindly ways; especially with
humour and great conversation. Firstly, I thank them for their camaraderie, and secondly, for the
special encouragement some of them gave me when the journey got very challenging and tough,
and thirdly, the small kindnesses some of them showed me that made the journey far more
bearable and sustained me through the toughest times.

To Dr. Judith Ascione, a special thank you, for the wonderful assistance on the statistics. Miss
Jee Lee, for additional brainstorming on the approach to statistical analysis. And a special thank
you to Belinda Henwood for the excellent editorial work.

To the many people who, though I was unknown to them, were role models and inspirational in
the most important ways. I give a special thank you to these people because if it hadn’t have
been for their lives and the milestones they each achieved, I might not have been inspired to
undertake one of the most interesting journeys ever during my short years on this planet.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract i
Form B: Certificate of Authorship of Thesis iii
Acknowledgements v
Table of contents vii
List of abbreviations xi
List of tables, graphs, charts and illustrations xiii

Section Page
1.0 Chapter 1: Introduction & Overview 1
1.1 Steps taken to explore the process of vocabulary learning 1
1.2 Background 2
1.3 Research questions 4
1.4 Definitions of Key Terms 5
1.5 Contribution to knowledge and significance of the research 7
1.6 The structure of the thesis 9
2.0 Chapter 2: Vocabulary, Vocabulary Learning, and Vocabulary 11
Learning Strategies
2.1 Vocabulary and vocabulary knowledge 11
2.2 Vocabulary learning 16
2.3 Definitions of vocabulary learning strategies 22
2.3.2 Classifications of vocabulary learning strategies 23
2.4 Vocabulary learning strategy research – a brief outline 28
2.4.1 Vocabulary learning strategy research conducted globally outside China 28
2.5 Vocabulary learning strategy research in a Chinese context 32
3.0 Chapter 3: Beliefs About Language and Language learning 41
3.1 Beliefs about language and language learning – research in a global 41
context
3.2 Beliefs in relation to language and language learning/strategies 42
3.3 Chinese culture of learning – English language education/learning in a
Chinese context 54
4.0 Chapter 4: Methodology & Procedures 63
4.1 Methods and selection of methods 63
4.2 Mixed methods design 65
4.3 Reliability and validity 69
4.4 Case and participants 71
4.5 Role of the researcher 74
4.6 Data collection method & Procedures 75
4.6.1 Data collection instruments, their nature and function 75
4.7 Procedures – administration, data management and data analysis 86
4.8 Intended outcomes of the research 104
5.0 Chapter 5: Results – Vocabulary learning strategies and beliefs about 107
language and language learning – descriptive statistics
5.1 Part 1: Research question No. 1: Which vocabulary learning strategies do 107
Chinese English Majors tend to use?

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5.2 Frequency-of-use strategy groupings 121
5.3 Questionnaire & Interview data compared 138
5.3.1 Question #1: Where do you meet new vocabulary? 138
5.3.2 Question #2: What do you usually do when you meet a new word? 140
5.3.3 Question #3: Do you practise the new vocabulary? What strategies do you
use? 141
5.3.4 Question #4: How do you memorise new words? 143
5.3.5 Question #5: Should vocabulary learning strategies be taught? 145
5.3.6 Strategies rarely or never used 147
5.3.7 The percentage of students often using a strategy 150
5.4 Research question No. 2: What is the difference in VLS use among the four
grades of CEMs? 151
5.5 Additional questions: Where do you often learn vocabulary during the
semester? and Of four possible sources to obtain VLS, which do CEMs
source the most? 155
5.6 Part 2: Research question No. 3: What are Chinese English Majors
Western and Chinese culture of learning beliefs? 160
5.6.1 Beliefs about language and language learning 160
5.6.2 Three general groupings 165
5.7 Chinese culture of learning 172
5.7.1 Some general groupings in the data 178
5.8 BALLLQ & CCLQ beliefs compared with interview data
Research question 187
6.0 Chapter 6: Results – Statistical Analysis of Vocabulary Learning 197
Strategy use, Beliefs About Language and Language Learning, and
Vocabulary Size Test
6.1 Correlational analysis of three factors – No. 4: Do Chinese English Majors
beliefs, general and specific, correlate with vocabulary learning strategy
use? 197
6.2 Spearman’s rho Correlational analysis of VLS use against VST/Academic
score-means in each grade 198
6.3 Correlational analysis of 7 factors in each grade 203
6.4 Kruskal-Wallis test of beliefs & strategies against 3 means of scores on
Academic size test 208
6.5 Boxplots analysis of beliefs against Academic size test means of scores 210
7.0 Chapter 7: Discussion 213
7.0 Section 1: Research question No. 1 & Research question No. 2:
Vocabulary learning strategies 213
7.1 CEMs’ memorization strategies compared to Schmitt (1997) 217
7.2 VLS use compared with Gu and Johnson (1996) 217
7.3 Patterning of VLS use compared to compared to Gu and Johnson (1996) 218
7.4 Use of discovery and consolidation strategies compared to Griffiths (2013) 219
7.5 The present research compared to Ma (2009) 222
7.6 Clustering of VLSs in four grades 225
7.7 Variable use of VLSs 227

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7.8 Research question No. 2: What is the difference in VLs frequency of use 229
among the four grades of CEMs? 232
7.8.1 Gu’s Tetrahedral Model
7.9 Section 2: Research question No. 3 & Research question No. 4: Beliefs 236
about language and language learning 237
7.9.1 Horwitz’ BALLI 237
7.9.2 The difficulty of language 238
7.9.3 Foreign language aptitude 238
7.9.4 The nature of language learning 239
7.9.5 Learning and communication strategies 239
7.9.6 Motivations and expectations
7.9.7 Additional research into the relationship between beliefs and VLs 241
generally 244
7.10 Shi’s CCL BALLL 245
7.10.1 Attitude to learning English 245
7.10.2 Learner’s aims for learning English 248
7.10.3 Criteria for being a good teacher of English 251
7.10.4 Teacher-student relationship
7.10.5 Perceptions of teachers’ attitudes towards students’ questions in the 253
classroom 254
7.10.6 Favoured teaching method 255
7.10.7 Attitudes to the content of textbooks 256
7.10.8 Memorising vocabulary 257
7.10.9 Practising reading skill 258
7.10.10 Practising speaking skill 258
7.10.11 Practising listening skill 259
7.10.12 Practising writing skill 260
7.10.13 Barriers to learning English 260
7.10.14 What makes a good learner?
7.11 Research question No. 6: Do BALLL and VLSs have an impact on EVS of 262
CEMs? 263
7.12.1 Section 3: The process of vocabulary learning uses strategy clusters 265
7.12.2 The PVL involves strategies and beliefs 271
7.12.3 The importance of the findings
8.0 Chapter 8: Conclusion 277
8.1 Summary of project aims 277
8.2 Major findings - summary 278
8.3 Theoretical implications & contribution
Practical implications 283
8.4 Limitations and Recommendations 289
List of References 291
Appendices 305
1 GDLB 305
2 VLSQ 307
3 BALLI 311
4 CCLQ 313

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5 VSTs 317
6 English vocabulary size – research question No. 4 323
7 Statistical formula for the Kruskal-Wallis test and Spearman’s rho
correlations 337
8 VLSQ tables of means, percentages, groupings graphs, and interview
tables 341
9 BALLI tables of means, percentages, groupings graphs, interview tables,
and comparisons 381
10 CCLQ tables of means, percentages, groupings graphs, interview tables,
and comparisons 405
11 Interview tables 445
12 Participant information sheets – for the questionnaire 457
13 Participant information sheets – for the interview 461
14 Informed consent form – for the questionnaire 463
15 Informed consent form – for the interview 465
16 Permission to conduct research 467

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

BA Bachelor of Arts degree


BALLI Beliefs about language and language learning inventory
BALLL Beliefs about language and language learning
BALLLQ Beliefs about language and language learning questionnaire
CCL Chinese culture of learning
CCLQ Chinese culture of learning questionnaire
CEMs Chinese English Majors
CET College Entrance Test
DV Dependent variable
EFL English as a foreign language
EGP English for general purposes
ELT English language teaching
ESL English as a second language
EVS English vocabulary size
FLC Foreign language community
FLL Foreign language learning
FLLs Foreign language learners
GDLB General demographics and language background
ICQ Abbreviation of ‘I seek you’
IV Independent variable
LLSs Language learning strategies
LTM Long term memory
MoE Ministry of Education
NET Native English teacher [online]
PVL Process of vocabulary learning
SD Standard deviation
SILL Strategy inventory of language learning
SLA Second language acquisition
SPSS Statistical package for the social sciences

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TEM Test for English Majors
USA United States of America
UU University of Utah
VLS Vocabulary learning strategy
VLSQ Vocabulary learning strategy questionnaire
VLSs Vocabulary learning strategies
VST Vocabulary size test

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LIST OF TABLES, GRAPHS, CHARTS & ILLUSTRATIONS

Table 2.1 Schmitt’s 26 memory strategies 22


Table 2.2 Schmitt’s 2001 VLS taxonomy 25
Table 2.3 Vocabulary learning strategy categories 25
Table 2.4 Vocabulary strategy categories & strategy function 26
Table 4.1 Researcher, method and factor researched 67
Table 4.2 ‘Multi-questionnaire’ data collection instruments and method 75
Table 4.3 General demographics and language background 77
Illustration
VLSQ Question No. 1 78
No. 1
Table 4.4 Three Means-score range analysis 80
Illustration BALLI Belief statement No. 5: English is structured in the same way
81
No. 2 as Chinese
Illustration CLQ Belief statement No. 3: A good teacher of English should be
82
No. 3 knowledgeable in his/her area
Table 4.5 VLT 1000 Question 1 85
Table 4.6 One student’s general characteristics and language background 89
Table 4.7 GDLB for whole of grade 1 90
Table 4.8 One student’s raw data of VLS use 91
Table 4.9 Percentage of student VLS and frequency of use at the grade 1 level 91
Table 4.10 VLS use raw data of grade 1 re: Question 1 92
Table 4.11 Raw data converted to percentages for all grades for each question 92
Percentage of students using a VLS and VLS frequency of use at grade
Table 4.12 93
1 level
Percentage of CEMs who use a VLS and VLS frequency of use of all
Table 4.13 94
grades
Table 4:14 Overall ranking of VLSs 94
Table 4.15 All students all grades responses to BALLI Belief Statement #1 96
All students in all grades responses to BALLI Belief Statement #1 as
Table 4.16 97
percentages

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Table 4.17 All students in all grades responses to CCL Belief statement #1 98
All students in all grades responses to CCL Beliefs statement #1 as
Table 4.18 99
percentages
Table 4.19 Known words at the 1,000 words size 100
Table 4.20 Discovery strategies 103
Table 5.1 Categories & Strategies and means suggesting use 109
Tables 5.2 Categories & Strategies for whole group 109
Table 5.3 Question 1: Where do you meet new words? 112
Table 5.4 Question 3: What do you do when you meet new vocabulary? 113
Table 5.5 Question 4: when learning new vocabulary, what aspects do you study? 114
Question 5: How do you put in order the info about then new
Table 5.6 115
vocabulary?
Table 5.7 Question 6: How do you memorize new vocabulary? [First group] 116
Table 5.8 Question 6: How do you memorize new vocabulary? [Second group] 117
Table 5.9 Question 7: How do you review vocabulary? 118
Table 5.10 Question 8: How do you remember words you have memorized? 119
Tables 5.11 Question 9: How do you make use of new vocabulary? 120
Graph 1 Increase 122
Graph 2 Increase then decrease 123
Graph 3 Increase, decrease then increase 125
Graph 4 Increase, decrease then unchanged 126
Graph 5 Increase, then unchanged 127
Graph 6 Increase, unchanged then increase 128
Graph 7 Increase, unchanged then decrease 129
Graph 8 Decrease 130
Graph 9 Decrease then increase 131
Graph 10 Decrease, increase then decrease 132
Graph 11 Decrease, increase then unchanged 133
Graph 12 Decrease then unchanged 134
Graph 13 Unchanged, increase then decrease 135
Graph 14 Unchanged, decrease then increase 136

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Graph 15 Unchanged then decrease 137
Table 5.12 Should vocabulary learning strategies be taught? 146
Table 5.13 Vocabulary learning strategies rarely or never used 148
Table 5.14 Ranked vocabulary learning strategies over all by percentage 151
Table 5.15 VLSs regularly used per grade 153
Table 5.16 Strategies that complemented the Eight 154
Percentage of students per grade who chose a place and frequency of
Table 5.17 157
use per Question 2
Percentage of students per grade who chose a source of VLSs and
Table 5.18 159
frequency of choice
Table 5.19 BALLI beliefs by percentage, frequency and mean 162
Table 5.20 BALLI beliefs by percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 163
Table 5.21 BALLI beliefs by percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 164
Graph 1 Agree 167
Graph 2 Disagree 168
Graph 3 Neither disagree or agree/agree 169
Graph 4 Disagree/neither disagree or agree/agree 170
Graph 5 Level of difficulty 171
Graph 6 Time till fluency 172
Table 5.22 CCL beliefs by grade percentage, frequency and mean 173
Table 5.23 CCL beliefs by grade percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 175
Table 5.24 CCL beliefs by grade percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 175
Table 5.25 CCL beliefs by grade percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 177
Table 5.26 CCL beliefs by grade percentage, frequency and mean [continued] 178
Graph 1 Agree 181
Graph 2 Disagree 182
Graph 3 Disagree, neither disagree or agree/agree 183
Graph 4 Agree/neither disagree or agree 185
Graph 5 Neither disagree or agree 186
Graph 6 Disagree/neither disagree or agree 187

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Table 5.27 What should the student-teacher relationship be like? 190
Table 5.28 Should vocabulary learning strategies be taught? 192
Table 6.1 Three factors correlated 198
Table 6.2 Category & strategies against VST & Academic scores for grade 1 199
Table 6.3 Category & strategies against VST & Academic scores for grade 2 200
Table 6.4 Category & strategies against VST & Academic scores for grade 3 201
Table 6.5 Category & strategies against VST & Academic scores for grade 4 202
Table 6.6 Analysis of all factors for grade 1 203
Table 6.7 Analysis of all factors for grade 2 204
Table 6.8 Analysis of all factors for grade 3 205
Table 6.9 Analysis of all factors for grade 4 206
Table 6.10 Differences in means-scores to show difference or no difference 209
Boxplot 1 Mann-Whitney for BALLI beliefs against Academic scores 210
Boxplot 2 Mann-Whitney for CCL beliefs against Academic scores 211
Table 7.1 Guessing from context, Dictionary & Rehearsal strategies 218
Table 7.2 Discovery & Consolidation strategies compared to Oxford’s SILL 219
Table 7.3 Categories & Strategies for whole group CEMs & Ma 2009 222
Table 7.4 Categories & Strategies and means suggesting use CEMs & Ma 2009 224
Table 7.5 Individual difference in VLS use Question 2 231
Table 7.6 Individual difference in VLS use Question 3 231
Table 7.7 Individual difference in VLS use Question 4 231
Table 7.8 Discovery-place strategies Question 2 233
Table 7.9 Determination-initial response strategies Question 3 233
Table 7.10 Determination-study strategies Question 4 233
Table 7.11 English vocabulary size in grade 2 Xiao A & Xiao B 234
Graph 1 I enjoy English CEMs & Shi 245
Graph 2 I learn English to improve myself/self-development CEMs & Shi 246
Graph 3 I learn English to find a good job in the future CEMs & Shi 246
Graph 4 I learn English for daily communication CEMs & Shi 247
Graph 5 I learn English for the honour of my family CEMs & Shi 247
Graph 6 I learn English to pass exams CEMs & Shi 248

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A good teacher of English should improve my English skills CEMs &
Graph 7 248
Shi
Graph 8 Good teachers should be knowledgeable CEMs & Shi 249
Graph 9 A good teacher should provide comprehensible notes CEMs & Shi 249
Graph 10 A good teacher should improve students’ language skills CEMs & Shi 250
Graph 11 A good teacher should help students pass exams CEMs & Shi 250
Graph 12 The teacher-student relationship should be friend-friend CEMs & Shi 251
Graph 13 The teacher-student relationship should be parent-child CEMs & Shi 252
Graph 14 I love my teacher, but I love the truth more CEMs & Shi 253
If not agreeing with teacher’s teaching, still follow teacher CEMs &
Graph 15 254
Shi
Graph 16 I prefer the teacher use different teaching activities CEMs & Shi 254
Graph 17 I prefer the teacher to encourage me to learn CEMs & Shi 255
Graph 18 I think textbook content is not totally correct CEMs & Shi 255
Graph 19 I think textbook knowledge is useful in real life CEMs & Shi 256
Graph 20 I memorize vocabulary using rehearsal strategies CEMs & Shi 256
Graph 21 I practice reading with textbooks CEMs & Shi 257
Graph 22 I practice speaking by reading aloud & reciting texts CEMs & Shi 258
Graph 23 I practice listening by listening to textbooks tapes CEMs & Shi 258
Graph 24 I practice writing with a diary CEMs & Shi 259
Graph 25 I think the main barrier is I don’t work hard enough CEMs & Shi 260
Graph 26 A good learner of English should respect teachers CEMs & Shi 260

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

1.0 Introduction

The foreign language learning process is a significant event in the life of the learner
attempting to learn a foreign language for various reasons in contexts like China, and interest
in exploring and highlighting its nature and impact on eventual foreign language proficiency
spans many decades. The present research explores the English vocabulary learning process,
a key aspect of foreign language learning (FLL), and in particular, two influential factors, that
of vocabulary learning strategies (VLSs) and beliefs about language and language learning
(BALLL), in order to provide useful insights into the English vocabulary learning process in
China. Section 1.1 discusses steps taken to explore the process of vocabulary learning (PVL),
1.2 discusses the background to the research, 1.3 research questions, 1.4 definitions of key
terms, 1.5 contribution to knowledge/significance of research and 1.6 structure of thesis.

1.1 Steps taken to explore the process of vocabulary learning

To better know the process of vocabulary learning (PVL) in a Chinese context, VLSs and
their use was explored. Early research (e.g. Stern, 1975) found VLSs influenced how
vocabulary is learned, and subsequent research confirmed it (e.g. Jiang, 2000; Schmitt, 2010).
But it was found that VLSs influenced the range of vocabulary eventually learned (e.g. Gu &
Johnson, 1996; Nation, 2001). Research (e.g. Oxford, 1990) suggests that language learning
strategies (LLSs) influence the outcome of language learning (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Gu,
2010), and that VLS use, specifically, can enhance vocabulary learning generally (e.g.
Schmitt, 1997).

Beliefs about language and language learning (BALLL) — general (e.g. Horwitz, 1988) and
specific, Chinese culture of learning beliefs (CCL) (Shi, 2006) — were explored. Beliefs
have been found to influence how language is learned (e.g. Wenden, 1987), and also the
range of language eventually learned (e.g. Horwitz, 1999). Research (e.g. Elbaum et al.,
1993) suggests that BALLL influence the initial stage of vocabulary learning. Language
learners initially create a mental representation of the object of learning, for example, a
foreign language is a ‘tool’ (see Everett, 2012), based on factors like experience and/or agent

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influence, such as parents and teachers. Secondly, they create a mental representation of the
process of learning the foreign language (e.g. rote memorisation of words and grammar (e.g.
Gu & Johnson, 1996), again based on factors like experience and/or agent influence, such as
parents and teachers. However, an established belief in the mind of the language learner
might be difficult if not impossible to change, even when the learner is faced with evidence
that contradicts the belief; for instance, the belief that learning another language, for example
English, is achieved primarily by imitation alone and doing nothing else.

The research explored the impact of VLSs and BALLL on English vocabulary size (EVS).
Research (e.g. Nation, 2001) suggests that vocabulary learning is incremental, the result of
not only repeated exposure to language (for instance, new language repeatedly exposed to
cognitive processes and consciously manipulated in working memory), but also repeated
opportunities to use it (for instance, recycling learned language). Nation (2001) identifies
three main aspects of vocabulary knowledge, 1) orthography, 2) pronunciation, and 3)
language use, which must be learned. This thesis supports this idea, and vocabulary is seen as
the learning objective of all English as a foreign language learners (EFL learners) in order to
have complete vocabulary knowledge of a foreign language, particularly English. EVS is
explored as an aspect of the process of vocabulary learning (PVL) as much as an outcome
(e.g. Levin & Pressley, 1985), and explored with a view to better understanding it and
subsequently improving vocabulary learning.

Using mixed methods, the research is exploratory, gathering quantitative and qualitative data
to explore VLS use, BALLL and EVS as aspects of the PVL, based on evidence from
questionnaires, interview and tests. The research is also interpretive, in that making sense of
the data collected on VLS use, BALLL and EVS was achieved through both quantitative
measures (e.g. non-parametric tests), qualitative analysis of qualitative data (e.g. thematic
analysis) and reference to prior research — see Chapter 4: Methodology and Procedures.

1.2 Background

In the foreign language learning (FLL) field, particularly in a Chinese context, no (known)
research has explored the English vocabulary learning process the way the present research
does (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996), researching the relationship among VLS use and BALLL,
general and specific, and vocabulary size test (VST) scores to gain insight into the PVL. Gu

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and Johnson (1996) suggested strategy use and beliefs were the whole process of FLL and a
process of vocabulary learning but did not show its details, other than list some VLSs and
beliefs that were somehow involved, and mentioned that time was a factor. Schmitt (1997)
hinted at it in his VLS taxonomy. Griffiths (2013) found patterns of LLS use and highlights
that patterns of use were correlated with course level. VLS use, beliefs about language and
language learning, general and specific, and EVS (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Gu, 2003; Tsai
& Chang, 2009) have been researched as individual factors affecting language learning
outcomes in Chinese contexts. Little is known of the actual process of vocabulary learning in
a Chinese context (e.g. Ma, 2009), though research has shown the initial phase of learning
vocabulary (e.g. Jiang, 2002). Research has been done on each variable as an individual
factor (in both non-Chinese and Chinese contexts) and conclusions drawn about the likely
impact on learning outcomes generally, and vocabulary size specifically — see Chapter 2,
section 2.3 and Chapter 3. The current research is predicated on previous research on each
factor, but explores VLS use and BALLL together in the one project. Although VLS use and
learning outcomes have been matched in a Chinese context (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Gu,
2002), albeit at a general level, theories posed to explain the outcome of using strategies, as
well as the impact of beliefs — for example, the beliefs of the Chinese culture of learning and
its impact on proficiency (e.g. Cortazzi & Jin, 1996; Shi, 2006) — there is a gap in the
research regarding the process of English vocabulary learning where VLS use and BALLL
play a role in the development of EVS in a Chinese context. The present research tries to fill
this gap.

English language teaching was not explored — English vocabulary teaching specifically, or
the direct relationship between language teaching and vocabulary learning. The research is
focused on the learning side of the equation. Learning is therefore explored without strong
reference to teaching, though the context of learning is English language teaching in a formal
learning context of higher education in China. Based on the literature (see Chapter 2, section
2.2), learning, especially in relation to English vocabulary learning, is viewed as the result of
prior (and continuing) formal education and training, and learning experiences associated
with formal education in China.

As will be discussed, learning is influenced by factors, such as cognitive style, learning style
and cultural style (e.g. Ehrman, 1996, p. 49), acquired in prior formal learning contexts
(primary and middle school) and other sociocultural experiences (such as family life) (e.g.

3
Cortazzi & Jin, 1996) as well as the one in which students presently find themselves (higher
education). Chinese English Majors (CEMs) primarily experience formal education (even
formal English education) in China — though they may experience a Westernized education
later as senior undergraduates and/or postgraduates — so their early experience of formal
education is culturally different from students, particularly university students, in either
Australia or the United States. This prior, and often continuing, educational and cultural
experience must be acknowledged in any analysis of EFL learning in China. Learning holds
strong implications for teaching generally, and teaching pedagogy specifically, so the results
will provide further insights for both teaching and pedagogy, and vocabulary teaching
specifically, in Chinese higher education contexts.

1.3 Research questions and their relationship to the research

In order to gain insights into the English vocabulary learning process in a Chinese context,
the research explored CEMs’ vocabulary learning, their VLS use and beliefs as well as their
EVS, and gathered pertinent data to answer the following questions:

Research question No. 1: Which vocabulary learning strategies do Chinese English Majors
tend to use? This will be determined using a questionnaire constructed by Ma (2009) with
slight modification. The idea is to observe which strategies are used and observe patterns of
strategy use across the four grades of a Bachelor degree.

Research question No. 2: What is the difference in vocabulary learning strategy frequency of
use among the four grades of Chinese English Majors? This will be determined using a
scaling that indicates frequency of use — for example, never, rarely, sometimes, often and
always, and, firstly, Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis and Spearman’s rho to observe
differences in mean scores among individuals within a grade. The students will be able to
indicate whether they use a particular strategy and whether they use it on a regular basis (e.g.,
rarely or often).

Research question No. 3: What are Chinese English Majors’ general ‘Western’ beliefs about
language and language learning and specific Chinese culture of learning beliefs about
language and language learning? Research question No. 4: Do their beliefs about language
and language learning correlate with vocabulary learning strategy use? These will be explored

4
using questionnaires validated in and out of China; one exploring general beliefs about
language and language learning (Horwitz, 1988), and the other exploring specific Chinese
beliefs — Chinese culture of learning (Shi, 2006). Non-parametric Correlations Test using
Spearman’s rho will be run.

Research question No. 5: What is the general English vocabulary size of Chinese English
Majors in each of the four grades (grade is used in China instead of year) of a four-year
Bachelor degree? This will be determined using Nation’s Vocabulary Size Test. Students’
vocabulary size will be observed across four grades to observe vocabulary development
patterns in each grade and then observe whether the vocabulary learning strategy use and
beliefs correlate with vocabulary size in each grade. Non-parametric Correlations Test using
Spearman’s rho will be run.

Research question No. 6: Do beliefs about language and language learning and vocabulary
learning strategy use influence English vocabulary size? Non-parametric Correlations Test
using Spearman’s rho will be run.

1.4 Definitions of key terms

1.4.1 Vocabulary

English vocabulary is viewed in the present research (see Chapter 2, section 2.1) as having
two main appearances, orthographical and phonological: a stand-alone language item (e.g.
dog), which possesses meaning, or a combination of stand-alone items often called a
multiword (e.g. three dogs) which may or may not consist of morphological components such
as prefixes, suffixes, or a lexical ‘chunk’ like ‘not least of all’, ‘well and good’ and ‘as well
as’, or acronyms that can carry meaning in an unusual way (e.g. ‘AIDS’) (e.g. Aitchison,
2003; McCarthy, 1990; Nunan, 2003; Proctor, 1996). The research agrees with these
definitions. These aspects of English are generally called English vocabulary, and Chinese
EFL learners will learn them as part of their continuing formal English language education in
a Chinese university.

5
1.4.2 Learning

Learning is viewed as a complex process that uses many cognitive resources (see Chapter 2,
section 2.2), not least of all a cognitive ‘tool’ to ‘acquire’ generally both skills and knowledge
and experience (Phye & Andre, 1986, pp. 142-144). These cognitive resources (Phye &
Andre, 1986) include general LLSs and specific VLSs (e.g. Schmitt, 1997) gained/developed
in the process of acquiring the first or other foreign language or skill/knowledge — see
Chapter 2, section 2.3. Illeris defines learning as any cognitive process that “leads to
permanent capacity change and which is not solely due to biological maturation or aging”
(2007, p. 3). In the case of FLL, or more specifically foreign language vocabulary learning,
the CEMs in this research are acknowledged as bringing VLSs with them to the English
vocabulary learning task, strategies gained in the process of learning a first language (e.g.
Chinese Mandarin) or another foreign language (e.g. Russian), as well as other knowledge
(such as mathematics and science) and experience which they may or may not modify for
learning English vocabulary.

1.4.3 Vocabulary learning strategies

VLSs include learning strategies widely accepted and known by other names: learning skills,
learning-to-learn, thinking skills and problem solving skills (e.g. Pan, 2005; Phye & Andre,
1986). These broad definitions and classifications of ‘learning’ are subsumed in the use of the
term ‘learning’ as it is used in the present research. Language learning isn’t viewed here as a
single factor activity. Explicit reference is made to Rubin’s (1987) definition of language
learning, which views it as a process — using many strategies — by which language
information is obtained, stored, retrieved and used, and which was co-opted by Schmitt
(1997), for instance, to define and classify VLSs. This definition is applied to the cognitive
‘tools’ employed in vocabulary learning, and the present research will do the same — see
Chapter 2, section 2.3.

1.4.4 Beliefs about language and language learning

Beliefs are viewed in the present research as “psychologically held understandings, premises,
or propositions about the world that are felt to be true” (Richardson, 1996, p. 103). Beliefs are
also described as the relation between two categories when neither defines the other (Open

6
University, 1975), for instance, VLSs and BALLL — see Chapter 3, section 3.2. Beliefs are
often categorised as mental representations. A mental representation is a presentation in the
mind in the form of an idea or an image (Mohamed, 2006) or common sense mental states —
for example, thoughts, beliefs, desires, perceptions and imaginings (Pitt, 2008). They are
about or refer to aspects of reality (e.g. ‘my girlfriend is a blonde’ or ‘the moon is made of
cheese’), and are evaluated with respect to consistency, truth, appropriateness and accuracy
(Pitt, 2008). For instance, in terms of truth, the moon is not made of cheese; it is made of
geological material similar to the planet Earth. Whatever the content of beliefs (e.g.
descriptive, evaluative or prescriptive), they are action oriented (Rokeach, 1968).

1.4.5 Cognitive and cultural learning styles

Ehrman (1996, p. 49) defined a ‘cognitive learning style’ as “broad preferences for going
about the business of learning”. Dörnyei (2005, p. 121) said a standard definition refers to
cognitive styles as “an individual’s natural, habitual, and preferred way(s) of absorbing,
processing, and retaining new information and skills.” Thus a profile of an individual’s
approach to learning (e.g. Benson & Lor, 1999), if one can be compiled, is “a blueprint of the
habitual or preferred way the individual perceives, interacts with, and responds to the
learning environment” (Dörnyei, 2005, p. 121). And with respect to the present research
involving CEMs, such a ‘blueprint’ is generally referred to as the beliefs of the Chinese
culture of learning — see Chapter 3, section 3.4.4.

1.5 Contribution to knowledge and significance of the present research

The research is significant and a worthy project. Firstly, the thesis will contribute to the field
of the PVL in China. In particular, the thesis will contribute to a deeper understanding of
CEMs’ English vocabulary learning in a university context in China (e.g. four years of a
Bachelor degree). Secondly, the thesis will contribute to theory — the PVL (for instance, how
students behave when they discover new vocabulary and what they do when consolidating
learning it). At the time of undertaking the research project, there appeared to be no other
studies that explore the PVL in China. Some studies have been conducted in China, firstly, on
vocabulary learning strategies and learning outcomes (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Ma, 2009;
Tsai & Chang, 2009; Wei, 2007), and secondly, on BALLL (e.g. Shi, 2006). The present
research findings will be useful for: a) Chinese and non-Chinese academics, teachers and

7
students who study vocabulary development, vocabulary learning specifically, language
learning generally; b) course designers; and c) improving understanding of learning in
Chinese contexts, the impact of Chinese beliefs on learning behaviour specifically.

Academics will find the information on vocabulary development, the vocabulary learning
process, useful; as well as how learners behave according to their BALLL, and how beliefs
impact VLS use. Curriculum designers will find this research useful because the insights into
vocabulary learning may suggest ways to improve it, for example, explicit vocabulary
teaching vs. incidental vocabulary learning.

The present research extends previous research (e.g. Ma, 2009; Horwitz, 1988; Shi, 2006;
Nation, 2001). The thesis provides insight into CEMs’ English vocabulary development (in a
Chinese university) which Chinese teachers can use to assist their students achieve a larger
vocabulary size. Moreover, the research will extend the research on the relationship between
VLS use, beliefs and their relationship to vocabulary development.

Improving the understanding of the PVL in China will benefit Australian universities,
particularly the number of Chinese students that attend them. If the universities are aware of
the learning patterns of Chinese students, they may wish to modify existing programs to
accommodate or alleviate culturally specific learning styles, and improve Chinese student
participation in Australian higher education.

The contribution this thesis makes to vocabulary learning is that beliefs and VLS use impact
vocabulary development. This is clear in the research literature (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996;
Gu, 2010), though the specific gain from using particular strategies is not clear; this is known
only in a general sense. With regard to beliefs and their relationship to learning: beliefs
impact learning behaviour, language learning generally, and vocabulary learning specifically.
Therefore, the thesis will show that VLS use is significant to the process of vocabulary
learning, and indirectly to teaching, and worth investigating, and that beliefs are resilient and
difficult to change once established early in a learner’s life (e.g. Mohamed, 2006). Research
(e.g. Gao, 2006) suggests beliefs may change in new learning contexts outside those where
the beliefs were established and away from influencing agents (such as parents and teachers)
which pressure learners to maintain the beliefs of local culture established early in life, but
this needs further research, and therefore, makes local beliefs a worthy research topic.

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1.6 The structure of the thesis

The thesis consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1 outlines the background to the research, its
significance, as well as the research questions and boundaries, in addition to some details
about the research context which impact higher education — the EFL university context.
From the literature it is revealed that CEMs’ VLS use and vocabulary learning outcomes are
influenced by their VLS use and BALLL, and act as a restraining influence on choice of VLS
and consistent use of VLSs over time. Exploring VLS use, BALLL and EVS will help EFL
learners become more aware of their VLS use as well as their BALLL, and the impact these
have on their vocabulary learning and development (as outlined above). This research does
not explore whether increased awareness of VLSs has a positive impact on VLS use or
encourages CEMs to become more autonomous learners (Pan, 2005). To answer the research
questions, the research focuses on the contemporary university context where young adult
Chinese nationals pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English, in which they learn EFL. The
research focus, therefore, is understanding the learning behaviour(s) and beliefs of CEMs in a
real-life context.

Chapter 2 provides a literature review of the conceptual background of English vocabulary,


vocabulary learning, establishing learning to be in the cognitive domain and VLSs. The
conceptual background of VLSs is discussed in Chapter 2 as well as the research literature on
VLSs globally, and then in China.

Chapter 3 provides a literature review of the conceptual background of beliefs generally,


BALLL and their influence on language learning, specifically vocabulary learning.

Chapter 4 sets out the methodological framework of the research and the procedures used to
achieve the research goals. It also outlines the rationale for the research design, the mixed
methods as well as its quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Chapter 5 presents other findings not observed in the statistical analysis but in descriptive
statistics to examine individual and group differences in VLS use. It also presents other
findings not observed in the statistical analysis but in descriptive statistics to examine
individual and group differences in BALLL/CCL.

9
Chapter 6 presents the results of the statistical analysis of differences in individual and group
differences in VLS use, BALLL/CCL and EVS as well as correlations among the main
factors explored. Correlational analysis is also conducted among sub-aspects of the research
concerning the main factors against age and years of English language education.

Chapter 7 discusses the results and interprets their meaning in relation to the research. This
chapter highlights the contribution to knowledge, providing recommendations, suggesting
what teachers and learners should do to be aware of the requirements and discusses the
overall result.

Chapter 8 concludes the thesis and provides a general discussion of the research, its aims,
the results and its implications for the research stakeholders, and makes suggestions for
further research.

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CHAPTER 2: VOCABULARY, VOCABULARY LEARNING AND
VOCABULARY LEARNING STRATEGIES

2.0 Introduction

The literature review in this chapter discusses the research background to the research topic:
the PVL in a FLL context. This chapter highlights research on two of the three main factors
explored: vocabulary (2.1), learning (in relation to vocabulary learning) (2.2), including
learning theory, definitions of VLSs (2.3), and VLS research outside China (2.4), and then
research in a Chinese context (2.5). The literature review on BALLL is found in Chapter 3.

2.1 Vocabulary and vocabulary knowledge

The discussion begins with definitions of English vocabulary (e.g. Proctor, 1996). What it
means to learn and eventually possess vocabulary knowledge (e.g. Nation, 2001) is then
discussed. The thesis does not present a theory of vocabulary, rather, how it is generally
defined in the literature. This is used as a basis for discussion. The importance of defining
English vocabulary is highlighted by the fact that Chinese EFL learners, besides other EFL
learners, think learning vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of learning a foreign
language (e.g. Horwitz, 1988; Law, 2003; Yang, 1999). The literature on vocabulary is
substantial, both on what it is and what it means to possess it (e.g. Aitchison, 2003; Ellis,
1997; Field, 2005; Laufer, 1997; Laufer, 2001; Ma, 2009; McCarthy, 1990; Nation, 2001;
Nation & Waring, 1997; Nunan, 2003; Proctor, 1996; Schmitt, 1997). Vocabulary is discussed
first because this is the object of learning, the knowledge EFL students are trying to learn.

2.1.1 Definitions of words/word families/morphemes/lemmas and lexemes

Words are used every day but few stop to ask what they are. According to Procter (1996, pp.
1628–678), the word vocabulary means “all the words used by a particular person or all the
words which exist in a particular language or subject”. The present research is not concerned
with all the words used or all the words in a particular language, English specifically. It is
concerned with the exact meaning of the noun word. For instance, in a general sense the
meaning is given as ‘language unit’; and in a more specific sense, as “a single unit of
language which has meaning and can be spoken or written” (Proctor, 1996, pp. 1628–678).

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However, McCarthy (1990, p. 3) offers this clarification: “it is most convenient to think of
words as freestanding items that have meaning”. But what is a freestanding item?

A freestanding item is discussed in contrast to a bound item, or what are generally referred to
as bound and freestanding words or morphemes. The word ‘eating’ is an example. ‘Eat’ in
eating and the ‘-ing’ in eating are viewed as separate ‘morphemes’, yet one is a freestanding
morpheme while the other is a bound morpheme. The ‘eat’ in eating is a freestanding
morpheme whereas the ‘-ing’ in eating is not an English word with any specific meaning
(McCarthy, 1990). Freestanding morphemes are usually referred to as root words (possessing
meaning), while bound morphemes are referred to as prefixes or suffixes, depending on
whether they appear at the end or at the front of a root word. Placing a suffix or prefix on a
root word results in either deriving a new word from the root — for instance, eater, where ‘-
er’ is added or eating, where ‘-ing’ is added (Nation, 2007). The process of adding ‘-er’ is
derivation, where a new word is derived from the root word, while the process of adding ‘-
ing’ is inflection, where the root word is inflected for grammatical meaning — for instance, ‘-
ing’ indicates tense, in the sense that it highlights a particular aspect of the verb.

Vocabulary is clearly words. However, words are often discussed more technically in terms of
‘lemmas’ and ‘lexemes’. A lemma is a word’s generalised or glossed meaning and its word
class — for instance, noun, verb and adjective (Aitchison, 2003; Field, 2005) — whereas a
‘lexeme’ is a word’s morphology and form (Aitchison, 2003, pp. 220–21), highlighted above
in the example ‘eating’. Nunan (2003) and Schmitt (2010) include multiword units in the
category of lexemes, for example, ‘absolutely fantastic’, ‘at once!’, ‘in a minute’, ‘portable
TV’, ‘the United States of America’. These multiword units are emphasised in the discussion
of word families, in which a word can be either a single word item (e.g. ‘die’) or a multiword
item (e.g. ‘give up the ghost’) (Nation, 2001; Nunan, 2003). Multiword items obviously
highlight the combinatorial nature of words, and are often referred to as ‘lexical chunks’
(Schmitt & McCarthy, 1997), for example, ‘There’s no answer’ vs. ‘There is no answer’,
‘heavy rain’ vs. ‘severe rain’, ‘take medicine’ vs. ‘have medicine or drink medicine’ (Nunan,
2003, p. 130).

McCarthy (1990) also says that categorising vocabulary proves to be a rather complicated
undertaking due to issues like morphology. Morphology is used here to refer to the basic
word building patterns found in words, for example, plural, past tense, present tense, stem +

12
ing, stem + ed, possessive, (highlighted above) (Nunan, 2003, p. 131). Vocabulary is
distinguished according to word families (for instance, walk, walks, walked, walking)
(Nation, 2000, p. 2), as well as by ‘token’ or a ‘type’. Word types can be type-tokens and
word classes, such as lexical, functional, and inserts (Biber et al., 1999), where the tokens are
simply every word counted in a text, while types are every word that has been counted at
least once in a text (highlighting word class); a word that appears twice is not counted a
second time (Nation, 2001; Schmitt, 1997). Thus words are basically freestanding objects that
possess meaning, can be combined with other ‘morphemes’ (e.g. suffixes) to make new
words or can be combined to make bigger ‘lexical items’, and initially exist as phonological
objects (spoken words) but can be made into orthographic objects (written words). What a
word is seems clear enough, but what about the idea of word meanings?

2.1.2 Definitions of word meanings/core meanings

A lexeme refers to a word’s morphology and form but a lemma refers to a word’s generalised
or glossed meaning and its role in syntax. The present research concerns words and word
meanings and does not cover syntax. Word meaning is often associated with its dictionary
meaning, but word meaning also “consists of the relationship between a word and its referent
(the person, thing, action, condition, or case it refers to in the real or an imagined world)”
(Nation, 2001, pp. 22–23). The relationship, often untidy and indirect, is said to be arbitrary,
that is, until a community of speakers of a language all tend to agree on a word’s ‘referent’
(Nation, 2001, p. 23). According to Nation (2000), because relationships between word and
referent can be untidy and indirect, it is better to talk of relationships between a word and its
concept. Therefore, establishing the meaning of a word often means describing the concept it
represents (Nation, 2001; Ungerer & Schmid, 1996). The relationship aspect of words to
concepts is not within the scope of this discussion because the main research concern is
learning words, but it is accepted to mean that words possess meanings. In most cases words
possess a ‘core meaning’. Core meanings are discussed next.

The idea that a word has a ‘core meaning’ can be demonstrated using any content word. A
content word is one that contains knowledge/information, and is not therefore a function
word — for example, ‘the’, ‘but’, ‘a’, ‘of’. But take the word ‘neutral’, for example (Nunan,
2003). The Collins COBUILD dictionary lists ten different meanings (in 2003) for the word
‘neutral’. These meanings, of course, are not just ten different meanings; they are in fact ten

13
different ‘senses’ of the word, or its ‘core meanings’ (Aitchison, 2003; Nation, 2001; Nunan,
2003; Schmitt, 1997). But what is really meant by the idea of a ‘core meaning’? A policy of
dictionary editors in relation to the order of senses — how they appear in a dictionary — will
help clarify the idea of a ‘core meaning’:

As a general rule, where a headword has more than one sense, the first sense given is the
one most common in current usage. Where the editors consider that a current sense is the
‘core meaning’, in that it illuminates the meaning of other senses, the core meaning may
be placed first.
(Jackson & Amvela, 2000, p. 178)

On the denotative level, word meaning is its commonly accepted dictionary meaning, or
current usage according to the dictionary. According to Procter (1996, p. 776), for example,
the word ‘keep’ has an initial meaning or ‘core meaning’ of “to have or to continue to have in
your possession”. Core meaning also suggests that the commonly accepted usage can be
found in a given community of speakers at a given time, a word’s referent however can
change over time. On the connotative level, word meaning also includes a commonly
accepted additional meaning or socio-cultural meaning, above and beyond the dictionary
denotative meaning (Procter, 1996; see Richards et al., 2002). For example, the word
‘chocolate’ connotes pleasure and indulgence. Word core meanings can, therefore, be quite
diverse depending on how and when a word is used and quite ambiguous if the meaning isn’t
clear.

The idea that words possess a strong ‘societally’ imposed element is significant. According to
Schmitt (2000, p. 27), societally imposed meaning is a common meaning shared by members
of the society that imposes meaning on a word or words. While words can also be defined in
isolation from context, some word meaning is still attached by societal convention. According
to Schmitt (2000), encyclopaedic information, for instance, is a substantial part of a word’s
meaning, so there is some dependence on a word’s basic core meaning in order to construct
encyclopaedic information. And such information, which can be idiosyncratic from individual
to individual, will often include an individual’s experience and beliefs. Such information can
vary from individual to individual, even though they are members of a society, so word
meaning will necessarily be communal to a certain extent. Schmitt (2000) uses the word
‘bachelor’ as an example — that everyone would need to agree that the word bachelor refers

14
to a male person who is definitely not married, which, consequently, becomes its core
meaning. While defining what a word is and how it carries meaning seems clear, Aitchison
(2003) says that there were difficulties associated with defining what constitutes vocabulary
and where word meaning begins and ends. However, these definitions provide a strong sense
of what a word is and what a word may mean, and of vocabulary, generally. The next section
discusses is what it means to know a word.

2.1.3 Definition of vocabulary knowledge

According to Nation (2001), the different aspects of a word or vocabulary can be generally
referred to as vocabulary knowledge. But what does it mean to possess vocabulary
knowledge? For Nation (2001), vocabulary knowledge should be discussed in terms of
possessing the item and system features of vocabulary. Possessing vocabulary knowledge,
according to Nation, means being able to recognise word items (‘item knowledge’) and being
able to understand the various features of word items (‘system knowledge’) (Nation, 2001, p.
23). Nation (2001) explains item knowledge as the individual word or form of the word, for
instance, ‘dog’ (the orthographic form), and system knowledge to mean the various features of
the word (e.g. phonological, orthographic, semantic) including the word’s relationship with
other words in a person’s mental lexicon. Mental lexicon is used here and glossed to mean
what a person knows about words (Aitchison, 2003; McCarthy, 1990; Nation, 2001). A three-
category framework was devised by Nation to discuss what it means to possess this
vocabulary knowledge. It comprises: 1) word form — the spoken form (phonological), the
written form (orthographic) and the word parts (e.g. base, affixes); 2) word meaning —
including connecting form and meaning (of a word), concepts and referents, and associations;
3) word use — including grammatical functions, collocations and constraints on use (e.g.
register, frequency) (Nation, 2001). Nation’s framework underpins the vocabulary size test
used in the current research.

Now that vocabulary has been defined, and how it is defined as knowledge and knowledge to
be learned, how vocabulary knowledge can be learned, more specifically, how it can be
learned by EFL learners is discussed next.

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2.2 Learning vocabulary

2.2.1 A view of learning (in relation to vocabulary learning)

According to Seedhouse (2010, p. 242), it would help greatly if research projects would
“adopt a simple protocol briefly detailing the conceptualization of learning” used in the
research. Nation, though, was quoted (in Chacón-Beltrán et al., 2010, p. 2) as saying (in
1995) that “there isn’t an overall theory of how vocabulary is acquired,” and Chacón-Beltrán
et al. (2010) agrees. Therefore the present research will, in the interim, do the same.

Chacón-Beltrán et al. (2010, p. 2) also say that unsuccessful attempts have been made “to
provide a theory or model that can explain vocabulary learning … it will require the
coordinated work of linguists, SLA [second language acquisition] researchers, psychologists
and neurobiologists” in order to create one. Working within the constraint of the absence of
an established theory of vocabulary learning, the present research will posit vocabulary
learning and VLS use, in particular within the cognitive domain (Schmidt, 1990). Huitt
(2009) refers to it as the learning domain, and the present research adopts this view.
Tomasello (2000) tries to place learning entirely in the social domain. However, social theory
is concerned with what happens in the environment immediately outside the brain — for
instance, the language learner interacts with an interlocutor or language material in a social
context and somehow learning results. This approach bypasses the process involved and goes
directly to the product of learning; such views talk of language or vocabulary acquisition as a
spontaneous event (e.g. Franceschini, 2003). Therefore, they do not address what happens
inside the brain while social interaction happens or immediately after social interaction, and
is more a ‘cause and affect’, ‘stimulus-response’ theory, or, perhaps even implies that
spontaneous acquisition occurs while the learner is engaged in social interaction. Social
theory is not rejected here; it is criticised for not providing a complete picture of the process
of learning in social interaction. Strategy research highlights the use of social strategies, for
example, ‘ask a classmate for the meaning’, in both language learning generally and
vocabulary learning specifically — its cognitive dimension is the focus in relation to
vocabulary learning.

The research recognises the important role social interaction plays in vocabulary learning
(e.g. Ellis, 2010; Rosenthal, 1978), but here the cognitive domain is the focus. ‘Cognitive

16
domain’ is used here to mean that learning is generally “connected with thinking or conscious
mental processes” (e.g. Procter, 1996, p. 255; Schmidt, 1990; LeFrançois, 2000). The view of
vocabulary learning adopted in the present research is this rather broadly defined process: the
process by which (language) information is obtained, stored, retrieved and used (Schmitt,
1997).This leads us to the next step, how learners can get vocabulary knowledge into
memory.

Britton (1971, pp. 128–29) states that “the idea that learning [as] something you do sitting in
a seat is a highly sophisticated notion.” He was referring to learning in formal contexts, of
course. Learning in formal contexts is the focus here; how EFL students learn English
vocabulary, specifically in formal learning contexts. According to Schmitt (2007), vocabulary
learning is an incremental process, and therefore a complicated process — in any learning
context. The incremental nature of vocabulary learning strongly suggests “words must be met
and used multiple times to be truly learned” (Schmitt, 2007, p. 830). The number of
exposures though, cannot be easily known, because of factors like “how salient the word
itself is, how necessary the word is for a learner’s present needs, and whether the word is met
incidentally while pursuing some other purpose or studied with the explicit goal of learning
it” (Schmitt, 2007. p. 830). Certainly, aspects of word knowledge may require a high number
of exposures before permanency is achieved. However, is there something that the learner can
do to begin the process of achieving permanency?

Britton (1971) hints at the process of learning well before SLA research began — that if
something remains in ‘consciousness’ long enough, it can be ‘modified’. This is the opposite
of Altman and Gray’s (2002, in Willingham, 2004) contention. Therefore the act of modifying
is not a one-off event, but one that is often done to prevent decay and proactive interference
from new information. Getting something to remain in ‘consciousness’ long enough to
actually ‘modify’ it is referred to as a ‘cognitive process’ (Malim, 1994) — this refers to
working memories’ storage capacity. Many cognitive processes are to do with ‘cognition’.
Cognition, Malim says, is concerned with conscious rather than unconscious processes.
Cognition includes issues like selective attention, perception, memory, language and thought
(Schmidt, 1990). This is the framework in which the present research is understood.

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2.2.2 Learning vocabulary (for example, words, units) as generally conceived

Dörnyei (2005) describes the origins of learning strategy research as beginning in the late
1960s, when information processing theories were applied to memory strategies. Out of this
research came “a broader conceptualization of planful and self-directed cognitive strategies”
(Dörnyei, 2005, pp. 188–89), and resulted in learning strategies becoming a ‘hot’ topic.
Attempts to theorise the concept ensued. Those of Schmeck (1988) and Kirby (1988)
produced the most far-reaching implications (see Dörnyei, 2005). The term strategy
purportedly originated as a military term, but used in a non-military sense, the term means
“the implementation of a set of procedures (tactics) for accomplishing something” (Schmeck,
1998, pp. 3–19). Schmeck conceived the notion that a learning strategy is, in a general sense,
“a sequence of procedures for accomplishing learning” (see Dörnyei, 2005, p. 189). The idea
developed further in an effort to specify the relationship between strategies, skills and
abilities. The argument was that “skills are existing cognitive routines for performing
specified tasks, and strategies are the means of selecting, combining, or redesigning those
cognitive routines” (see Dörnyei, 2005, p. 189). Schmeck (1988) further defined skills as
either knowledge skills or action skills; knowledge skills are used to access stimulus patterns
of stored representations and associations and action skills are used to transform input
information to obtain desired results. For Dörnyei (2005, p. 189), “learning strategies offered
a unique insight into the mechanisms of the learning process in general and they also
represented a significant mutable factor in promoting academic achievement for students”.
This is the heart of the present research.

While learning is generally defined as being “connected with thinking or conscious mental
processes” (e.g. Procter, 1996, p. 255; LeFrançois, 2000), some of the factors involved in
learning the vocabulary of another language — ones that might make learning the vocabulary
relatively easy or relatively difficult — should also be appreciated. According to Paribakht
and Wesche (1998), knowing a word is sometimes not an easy task. They also say the
complexity and amount of information needed, the knowledge associated with a word, is
considerable. The learner must establish relationships between form, meaning and function,
both in utterances and in texts; they must establish the elaborate knowledge about individual
words so they can be used communicatively; and they must establish an associational
network of words. The learner must know the meanings associated with stand-alone
vocabulary items, bound items or multiword items, in the case of English. These ‘cluster’

18
features represent how the vocabulary items, of English for instance, will mostly appear (as
single words, phrases and chunks), and, of course, they will vary from language to language.
If the meaning of one of these vocabulary items is already known, there is no need to learn it
— the meaning, that is. Initially the learner simply links the new language item, whether
phonological or orthographic, with its already known L2 (second language) meaning, for
instance, ‘hello’ in English is linked to ‘ni hao’ in Chinese (see Jiang, 2000). Research
suggests orthographies tend to be re-coded acoustically (Baddeley, 1964, in Willingham,
2004) — auditory input is converted to a visual image. This is a two-way street — audio is
translated into visual and visual re-translated into audio — as demonstrated by Willingham’s
(2004) acoustic translation experiment. This happens in working memory and is manipulated
by the person doing the learning. A factor that can significantly make learning the vocabulary
of another language difficult, however, is said to be its distance from the L1, or the learner’s
first language. Nation (2001) refers to this aspect as the additional language’s receptive
learning burden. This factor is significant for CEMs and their English vocabulary learning
because the distance can be said to be significant at the orthographic level (e.g. written), and
less so at the phonological level (e.g. spoken).

2.2.3 Receptive learning burden of words

The idea that the vocabulary items of another language can possess a ‘receptive learning
burden’ has been discussed from different perspectives, and is said to play an important role
in vocabulary learning (e.g. Nation, 2001). When Nunan (2003) discusses this issue, however,
he seems to mean that the existence of word families makes it easier to learn words — for
instance, learning a base/root word like ‘farm’ makes any derivations/inflections easier to
learn (see Nation, 2001; Jiang, 2000). Derivations are derived words, for instance, farmer,
‘farm+er’, whose word class has been changed, for instance, adjective, noun, verb (Schmitt,
2000), whereas inflections are inflected words, for instance, farms, ‘farm+s’, farmed,
‘farm+ed’, farming, ‘farm+ing’, whose grammatical category has been changed, for instance,
plural, tense (see Schmitt, 2000). Learning derivations/inflections is presumably easier if the
learner knows the base/root word, s/he can then easily learn a derived form like ‘farmer’ or an
inflected form like ‘farming’, because learning units is “made easier in most cases if the
meanings of the single words that make up the multiword units are also understood” (Nunan,
2003, p. 131). Put another way, there are fewer affixes (for instance, -er, -ate, -ion, -ably)
used to derive or inflect words (Bursuck & Damer, 2010) and should be easy to learn as one

19
learns vocabulary as a whole — meaning, the whole word with suffixes and affixes attached
(Nation, 2001). But this is not what Nation means by the term receptive learning burden.

Discussing the receptive learning burden of words in relation to single vocabulary items,
Nation (2001, pp. 23–24) grounds it in this warning, that “[vocabulary learning is] very
demanding, [and] often [an] impossible task to [achieve]”. This contrasts sharply, of course,
with notions of implicit or unconscious acquisition (e.g. Krashen, 2002). In terms of learning
vocabulary items, whether single or multiword, ‘learning burden’ has to do with “the amount
of effort required to learn [vocabulary]” (Nation, 2001, pp. 23–24). Nation’s general principle
is that “the more a word represents patterns and knowledge” already familiar to a learner,
then “the lighter its learning burden” (Nation, 2001, pp. 23–24; see Jiang, 2000). If the L2
sound patterns, for instance, are similar to the L1, L2 spelling patterns are similar to the L1,
L1 contains L2 cognates, L2 words appear in similar grammatical patterns to L1, with similar
collocations/constraints, then the learning burden is very light, making vocabulary easier to
learn (Nation, 2001; Laufer, 2001; Jiang, 2000). So when the distance between L1 and L2 is
minimal then the learning burden is light; when the distance between L1 and L2 is great, then
the learning burden is heavy (Nation, 2001; Jiang, 2000). The assumption here is that the
receptive learning burden of English, for instance, is heavy for Chinese EFL learners because
the distance between English and Chinese is great, and therefore may present a significant
learning issue for CEMs. However, discussing the learning burden of words only goes so far
into the PVL; it is necessary to take a step back and review the process by which words can
be entered into the mental lexicon, through the use of VLSs (Jiang, 2000; Ma, 2009).

2.2.4 The formal stage of the development of a lexical entry

Jiang (2000) describes the formal stage of the development of a lexical entry or how words
can be entered into a person’s mental lexicon in great detail. Ma (2009, p. 57) summarises
Jiang’s (2000) discussion of the formal stage of the development of a lexical entry as follows:

In the initial stage of learning an L2 word, the learner’s main task is to connect the L2
word form with an existing meaning in the mind, [whose] form [is/must be] an L1
translation or [an L1] definition.

For clarification, word form equals Nation’s item knowledge. Besides clarifying the idea of

20
receptive learning, this particular process of learning was initially referred to as ‘associative
learning’ (Malim, 1994) —that is, learning which happens when an association or a
connection is made, usually between two things (Richards et al., 2002; Jiang, 2000; Schmitt,
2000; Nation, 2001; Oxford & Nyikos, 1989). However, a recent development in
understanding this process now sees it referred to as ‘connectionism’, meaning 1) information
processing takes place through the interconnections of a large number of simple units,
organised into networks and operating in parallel; 2) learning takes place through the
strengthening and weakening of the interconnections in a particular network in response to
examples encountered in the input; and 3) the result of learning is often a network of simple
units that acts as though it ‘knows’ abstract rules, although the rules themselves exist only in
the form of association strengths distributed across the entire network (Richards et al., 2002;
Ellis, 2001; MacWhinney, 2001; Ellis, 2003; Hulstijn, 2001; Harrington, 2001).

Jiang (2000, p. 51) summarises ‘connectionism’ in relation to vocabulary learning:

As one’s experience in L2 increases, stronger associations are developed between L2


words and their L1 translations … What these strong associations mean, among other
things, is the simultaneous activation of L2 word forms and the lemma information
(semantic and syntactic specifications) of L1 counterparts in L2 word use … Such
simultaneous activation of L2 word form and language lemma information may result in
a strong and direct bond between L2 word and the lemma of its L1 translation.

Jiang’s account of the initial stage of the development of a lexical entry brings the discussion
to a precise understanding of how L2, or English vocabulary in this case, can be learned in
the initial stage of learning an L2, or an English vocabulary item.

To conclude this section, Schmitt’s (1997) classification of cognitive and memory strategies
(Table 2.1) are used to focus the discussion at this point. Schmitt (1997) lists cognitive
strategies to be, for example, verbal repetition, written repetition, using word lists, using flash
cards, taking notes in class, using the vocabulary section in a textbook, listening to audio
recordings of vocabulary lists, putting English labels on physical objects and keeping a
vocabulary notebook. The strategies (Schmitt, 1997, pp. 207–08) are listed below.

21
Table 2.1: Schmitt’s 26 memory strategies
studying words with a grouping words together using the Keyword Method
pictorial representation of its spatially on a page
meaning
imaging a word’s meaning using a new word in a remembering affixes and
sentence roots
connecting a word to grouping words together in a remembering parts of
personal experience storyline speech
associating a word with its studying the spelling of a paraphrase a word’s meaning
coordinates word
using a semantic map studying the sound of a word using cognates in study
using ‘scales’ for gradable saying a new word aloud learning the words of an
adjectives when studying idiom together
using the Peg Method imaging a word’s form using physical action when
learning a word
using the Loci Method underlining the initial letter using semantic feature grids
of a word
using configuration connecting a word to
synonyms and antonyms

Section 2.3.1 discusses the development of definitions of VLSs, and section 2.3.2.1 discusses
the development of classifications of VLSs.

2.3 Definitions of vocabulary learning strategies — a brief outline

Early definitions of LLSs implicitly subsume VLSs within them (e.g. Oxford, 1990;
O’Malley & Chamot, 1990). Oxford (1990, p. 1) defines LLSs as, “steps taken by students to
enhance their own learning”. She classifies LLSs in relation to the four skills (speaking,
listening, reading and writing). O’Malley and Chamot (1990, p. 1), working on LLSs at the
same time as Oxford, also subsume VLSs within a broad definition of LLSs, defining them as
“the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn, or
retain new information”. However, unlike Oxford, O’Malley and Chamot (1990) were
working on situating LLSs within an information processing theory of cognition and memory,
while researchers like Gao (2006) tried to situate LLSs within a critical/political sociocultural
perspective. Schmitt’s (1997) work, however, extends LLSs research by expanding and
clarifying Oxford’s work with his VLS taxonomy, which brings us closer to a clear definition
of VLSs. However, while creating his VLS taxonomy, Schmitt (1997) used Rubin’s early
broad definition of LLSs as a definition of VLSs, which Rubin (in Schmitt, 1997) defines as
the process by which information is obtained, stored, retrieved, and used.

22
This initial foray into the field of VLSs found definitions that situate them within a broader
definition of LLSs. This research contends with VLS definitions which seem to be
inconsistent, attracting only general agreement (Oxford, 1990; Gu & Johnson, 1997; Schmitt,
1997), and general criticism (Dörnyei, 2005), and defined in a very general way. Schmitt’s
(1997) general definition of VLSs is the guiding reference in the present research, and defers
to Rubin’s early definition adopted by Schmitt (1997), which sees VLSs as any which affect
(Rubin’s (1987)) rather broadly defined process: the process by which information is
obtained, stored, retrieved and used.

2.3.2 Classifications of vocabulary learning strategies — a brief outline

With observed inconsistencies in definitions of VLSs, any discussion of their classification


may show signs of inconsistency and imprecision (Gan et al., 2004). The present study keeps
all general classifications in mind but relies on Schmitt’s (1997) approach to classifying
VLSs because his taxonomy is developed from Oxford’s LLSs list, and clarifies which LLSs
are specifically VLSs.

Amid the early search for strategies, work progressed on a categorisation framework.
O’Malley and Chamot (1985) began by categorising LLSs as ranging from the metacognitive
(our understanding of our own learning experiences), cognitive (the mental activities in our
conscious mind) and the social/affective (our interaction with others and the emotions
attached to learning). This categorisation describes a large range of strategies, which at the
time challenged researchers to create a more detailed classification. Oxford (1990) seems to
be the first to produce one of the most comprehensive LLS classification systems. She
developed six categories: memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective and
social. Gu and Johnson (1997) appear to be the first to produce a list of VLSs, which
includes, for instance, BALLL as a strategy. This is important to the present research because
it views BALLL as one of two major factors involved in the PVL.

Schmitt (1997, p. 205), however, believed Oxford’s classification system “unsatisfactory in


categorizing vocabulary-specific strategies”. Schmitt believed it was unsatisfactory in several
ways: firstly, it failed to “describe the kind of strategies used by an individual when faced
with discovering a new word’s meaning without recourse to another person’s expertise”
(1997, p. 205). Secondly, Oxford’s categories were a little imprecise, or too general, in that

23
“some strategies could easily fit into two or more” categories, making their classification
problematic (Schmitt, 1997, p. 205). Thirdly, that “it was often unclear whether some
strategies should be classified as Memory Strategies or Cognitive Strategies” (Schmitt, 1997,
p. 205). Not all cognitive strategies are employed for the purposes of storage — putting
words in memory. Schmitt (1997, p. 205) believes that “the goal of both [Memory Strategies
and Cognitive Strategies generally] was to assist recall of words through some form of
language manipulation, so some other criteria [for categorizing them] must be invoked” —
for example, consolidating learning, hence Schmitt’s new category of consolidation strategies
(as mentioned in Table 2.1) and discussed next.

Schmitt created his taxonomy of VLSs by subdividing storage or memory strategies (see
Table 2.2 below), and in turn further subdivided these into six areas: a) repeating, b) using
mechanical means, c) associating, d) linking with prior knowledge, e) using imagery, and f)
summarising. He thinks a) and b) are closer to cognitive strategies and c), d), and e) are
clearly memory strategies (1997, p. 205). Storage refers to working memory and how it
allows the holding of ‘input’ — the incoming information being deliberately focused on —
for a certain length of time before the student must engage a memory strategy like say the
word several times or write the word several times (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.1, Table 5.4).
Repeating and using mechanical means are cognitive strategies because their manipulation of
information is less obvious, whereas associating, linking with prior knowledge, and using
imagery are traditionally closer to mnemonic techniques that “organize mental information
together or transform it in a way which makes it more memorable” (Schmitt, 1997, p. 205).

Schmitt makes a distinction between activities useful for, “a) the initial discovery of a word’s
meaning and b) remembering that word once it had been introduced” (1997, p. 205). He also
says that, “when encountering a word for the first time, learners must use their knowledge of
the language, contextual clues, or reference materials to figure out the new meaning
(Determination Strategies), or ask someone else who knows (Social Strategies)” (Schmitt,
1997, p. 205).

Besides learning the meaning of vocabulary (if that is required), there are “various other
kinds of knowledge about words, such as word class, spelling, collocations, and register” that
students must learn (Schmitt, 1997, p. 206; see also Nation & Waring, 1997). In addition,
“determining the meaning appropriate to the situation must normally be the most fundamental

24
task on initial introduction” (Schmitt, 1997, p. 205).

Table 2.2: Schmitt’s 1997 VLS taxonomy


Discovery Consolidation
Determination strategies Social strategies
Social strategies Memory strategies
Cognitive strategies
Metacognitive strategies

Thus the additional category of consolidation strategies is born (see Table 2.2), the idea being
that “once learners have been introduced to a new word, it is worthwhile to make some effort
to remembering it using strategies from the Social, Memory, Cognitive, or Metacognitive
Strategy groups” (Schmitt, 1997, p. 206). While initially criticising Oxford’s classification
system as unsatisfactory in categorising vocabulary-specific strategies, Oxford’s (and others’)
work inspired Schmitt to develop a VLS taxonomy — see Table 2.2. In fact, his taxonomy
includes Oxford’s and others’ work on LLSs. For the purposes of the present research, the
category names have been expanded to highlight their function and goal.

Table 2.3: Categories and strategies


for whole group
Categories and strategies
Discovery: place to find
Determination: initial response
Determination: study
Consolidation: organisation
Consolidation: memorisation
Consolidation: review
Consolidation: remember
Consolidation: production

In addition, Schmitt’s taxonomy categorises six strategy groups under the two new main
strategy groups of discovery strategies and consolidation strategies. Discovery strategies
include 9 types of determination strategies and 5 types of social strategies, while
consolidation strategies include 3 types of social strategies, 27 types of memory strategies, 9
types of cognitive strategies and 5 types of metacognitive strategies. The present research will
use Schmitt’s taxonomy as a reference when presenting the results in Chapters 5 and 6, and
the discussion of the results in Chapters 7 and 8. The discussion now turns to some of the
research into VLSs. Table 2.4 below shows the main categories and the associated strategies
and a brief about function and how they will be thought of in the present research.

25
Table 2.4: Categories and strategies and function
Categories and strategies Function
Discovery: place to find
1a in textbooks and classroom activities Discovery-place strategies are where a learner
1b in vocabulary lists arranged in alphabetical meets new vocabulary, the specific place (e.g.
order a textbook, vocabulary lists), such an
1c in vocabulary lists arranged by meaning encounter may not directly result in the new
1d during English conversation with others language item being learned, but will trigger a
1e when reading English materials response of some kind, referred to as a
1f when singing English songs and watching determination strategy
English movies/TV
1g when using/surfing the internet
Determination: initial response
3a pay no attention to and never go back to it
3b pay no attention to it, but go back to later
3c I try to guess the new word’s meaning from Determination-response strategies are the
the context initial response to meeting a new vocabulary
3d study the word’s prefixes, suffixes and root item (e.g. pay no attention to it and never go
word for meaning back to it), but whose goal is generally to
3e ask a classmate or teacher for the meaning acquire the meaning of the new vocabulary
3f read a Chinese-English or an English- item
Chinese dictionary
3g read an English-only dictionary
Determination: study
4a its pronunciation Determination-study strategies concern
4b the spelling determining what else to do after encountering
4c the prefixes, suffixes and root words a new vocabulary item if not to ignore it (e.g.
4d the Chinese translation study its pronunciation, study its Chinese
4e the English explanations translation), and may or may not result in the
4f the example sentences new vocabulary item being learned, but will
4g the way the new word is used certainly result in added meaning and
4h the new word’s relationship with other understanding about it
words
4i the new word’s part of speech
Consolidation: organisation
5a write it down Consolidation-organisation strategies concern
5b order the information in a vocabulary action taken to order the information about the
notebook new vocabulary item (e.g. write it down, make
5c make vocabulary cards vocabulary cards), which will make it easier to
5d use the vocabulary lists in the textbooks manage and learn
5e use a vocabulary list like those in the
VOCABULARY 5000 and TEM4EasyTest
Consolidation: memorisation
6a say the word aloud several times Consolidation-memory strategies refer to
6b write the word several times action taken to memorise new vocabulary (e.g.
6c look at the word several times say the word aloud several times, link the new
6d memorise Chines-English/English-Chinese word with to similar meaning words or
lists opposite meaning words), whose goal is to try
6e do vocabulary exercises to permanently store new vocabulary in
6f link the word to similar meaning words or memory by these various means, and which
opposite meaning words may be called surface learning but can
6g link the word with already known words contribute to deep learning
and have similarities
6h compare words with similar meaning and
study together
6i group words in order e.g. meaning, part of
speech
6j place word in a context e.g. sentence,
conversation

26
6k use the new word to make up a sentence
6l listen to tape/CD recordings of words
6m make up rhymes to link new words
together
6n practise new words by acting them out e.g.
verbs
6o try to imagine what the new word looks
like (in a sentence)
6p draw pictures to illustrate the meaning of
the new words
6q try to imagine in my head what the new
word looks like
6r remember the prefix, suffix and root word
of the new word
Consolidation: review
7a say the new word 2 or 3 times the first day
7b say the new words the next time I read
Consolidation-review strategies refer to action
them, and again after that
taken after memorisation has been attempted
7c read the new words the first day, but not
to deflect decay and forgetting (e.g. say the
after that
new word 2 or 3 times the first day, read the
7d read the new words 2 or 3 times first, then
new word words 2 or 3 times the first day,
again a few days later, a week later, a month
then a gain a few days later, a week later, a
later
month later), and contribute to permanency
7e test the new words on my own
7f test the new words with classmates
Consolidation: remember
8a remember the new word the way I learned Consolidation-remember strategies are
it remembering new vocabulary that has been
8b remember the new word by its meaning memorised and reviewed but which doesn’t
(when heard again) not often get used (e.g. remember the new
8c remember the new word by its meaning word the way I learned it, remember the new
(when read again) word’s meaning first, then think about its
8d remember the new word’s meaning first, meaningful parts, e.g. prefix, suffix and root
then think about its meaningful parts e.g. word), which can contribute to deep learning
prefix, suffix and root word and permanency
8e try to remember where I first met the word
Consolidation: production
Consolidation-production strategies are using
9a try to use words in speaking and writing
what has been memorised, reviewed and
9b try to use idioms when I speak
remembered in social interaction (e.g. try to
9c try to think in English with the new
use words in speaking and writing, try to think
vocabulary
in English with the new vocabulary), and
9d try having conversations using the new
deeper process knowledge making it part of an
words with English speakers e.g. teachers
existing system of communication
9e try to e-chat on the internet using QQ,
MSN

The reader will notice the emphasis on Schmitt’s work on VLSs, because Schmitt is
considered the most suitable and authoritative on the subject of VLSs. Schmitt’s VLSs
taxonomy is viewed as more useful, practical and less ambiguous than other lists. The present
research, while concerned with VLS use, defers to Schmitt’s definition of VLSs, and delimits
the exploration of VLS use to Ma’s (2009) list of VLSs — see Appendix 2.

27
2.4 Vocabulary learning strategy research — a brief outline

This subsection has two main parts: 1) VLSs in a global context outside China (2.4.1), and 2)
the VLSs research in a Chinese context (2.5).

2.4.1 Vocabulary learning strategy research conducted globally outside China

LLSs research began in the 1970s, and was viewed as a move away from teaching-oriented
perspectives to an interest in how the actions of learners might affect their language learning
(Schmitt, 1997). The view that aptitude governs language learning waned, implying that it
must be determined more by learner effort (e.g. Ahmed, 1989; Cohen & Aphek, 1981;
Horwitz, 1988; Coady & Huckin, 1997; O’Malley & et al., 1985; Oxford, 1990; Pressley et
al., 1982; Schmitt, 1997; Stern, 1975).

The following brief research review gives an overview of the field in the areas of: the ‘good
learner’ (Stern, 1975); word list, contextualised words and association tasks (Cohen & Aphek,
1981); keyword method (Pressley et al., 1982); strategy training (O’Malley & Chamot,
1985); guessing from context (Coady & Huckin, 1997); and five types of learner (Ahmed,
1989).

The ‘good learner’


Stern (1975) explored the LLSs of the ‘good language learner’ and found that they are
different from the so-called ‘poor learner’. He listed (Stern, 1975, p. 316) no less than ten
speculative features that might mark a good language learner: 1) a personal learning style or
positive learning strategies; 2) an active learning approach to the learning task; 3) a tolerant
and ongoing approach to the target language and empathy with its speakers; 4) technical
know-how about how to tackle a language; 5) strategies of experimentation and planning
with the object of developing the new language into an ordered system and of revising this
system progressively; 6) constantly searching for meaning; 7) willingness to practise; 8)
willingness to use the language in real communication; 9) self-monitoring and critical
sensitivity to language use; and 10) developing the target language more and more as a
separate reference system and learning to think in English.

Today (e.g. Posser & Trigwell, 1999; Ramsden, 2003), the implied idea in the ‘good’ vs.

28
‘poor’ learner, which can be extended to language learning, is that good and poor learners are
equally motivated, just that one is a poor learner. That is, their motivation for learning is
identical but their approach to learning is different (for example, shallow vs. deep learning).
Such a view doesn’t take into consideration true motivation for learning (e.g. exams (shallow
learning) vs. learning for understanding (deep learning)), as well as cognitive and cultural
styles, and learning styles particularly.

2.4.1.1 Use of strategies by L2 learners

Word lists, rote repetition, contextualised words, and association tasks


Cohen and Aphek (1981) found that beginner learners find word lists beneficial while more
advanced learners find contextualised words more beneficial, and if learners are more
proficient they can better use associations in recall tasks. Associations are a ‘peg method’, in
which the L1 word is linked to the L2 word and meaning, and sometimes just to the meaning
(e.g. a semantic encoding). Some even find using a word that is dissimilar or sounding
different as a ‘peg’ to help them learn the new word. Nation (1982) found that using a word
list was an effective way to quickly learn large amounts of vocabulary. Cohen and Aphek
(1981), Nation (1982) and O’Malley and Chamot (1985) found word lists and rote repetition,
what they called ‘shallow strategies’ (e.g. exam oriented (shallow learning)) were effective.

Keyword Method
Pressley et al. (1982) found the keyword method had a positive long-term effect. The word to
be learned is linked to a keyword, one that sounds like the native word (an auditory
encoding), but is also an interactive image involving both the foreign word and the native
word, so it can also be an imagery link (a visual encoding).

Repetition, manipulation of information and mechanical strategies


O’Malley et al. (1985) found that repetition was a common strategy, but active manipulation
of information (imagery, inferencing, keyword method) was used less frequently. Mechanical
or basic strategies, for instance repetition, tend to be used rather than more complex ones like
keyword method (Schmitt, 1997).

Guessing from context


Coady and Huckin (1997) explored guessing from context, which means guessing the

29
meaning of the new word from the context of its use, for example, in a conversation or in a
passage of written text. Highlighting its sophistication, guessing, however, involves using
background information about previously learned language knowledge and encyclopaedic
knowledge.

2.4.1.2 The importance of strategy use

Efficacy of strategies
Politzer and McGroarty (1985) warned that the frequent use of a strategy does not necessarily
mean that it is a ‘good’ strategy and that strategy use depends on the context of use. Context
of use mostly refers to the social, cultural and political environment in which learning occurs,
and includes aspects like the teacher, the students, the classroom, the classroom culture, the
learner’s family support, the social and cultural tradition of learning, the syllabus and
curriculum, and the learning materials (Gu, 2003). Cohen and Aphek (1981) found that
shallower strategies (for example, rote memorisation) can be more beneficial for beginner
learners. Active management of strategies (e.g. metacognitive strategies) is found to be an
important factor too. Schmitt (1997, p. 201) argues that evidence from cognitive psychology
suggests that, “activities requiring a deeper, more involved manipulation of information
promoted effective learning” (the surface vs. deep approaches to learning (e.g. Prosser &
Trigwell, 1999)).

Five types of learner and awareness of learning


Ahmed (1989) isolated five types of learner who use certain strategies. ‘Good learners’ are
“aware of their learning, [know] the importance of learning words in context, and [are]
conscious of the semantic relationships between new and previously-learned L2 words”
(Ahmed 1989, cited in Schmitt, 1997, p. 202); ‘poor learners’, on the other hand, “[use] fewer
strategies, [show] little awareness of how to learn new words or how to connect the new
words to old knowledge” (Ahmed, 1989, cited in Schmitt, 1997, p. 202). The research then
returns to notions of the ‘good’ vs. ‘poor’ learner (Stern, 1975; Prosser & Trigwell, 1999).
Sanaoui (1995) found two distinct types of learner, those that structure their vocabulary
learning, independently engage in a variety of learning activities, review and practise the
target words, and those that do not.

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Learner characteristics
Chamot and Rubin (1994, p. 774) say that the effectiveness of the strategies used “will
depend on a number of variables, including proficiency level, task, text, language modality,
background knowledge, context of learning, target language, and learner characteristics”.
Cohen and Aphek (1981), O’Malley and Chamot (1985), Politzer and McGroarty (1985),
Chamot and Rubin (1994) and Schmitt and Meara (1997) found that learner characteristics
and learner culture were influential.

Cultural differences
Schmitt and Meara (1997) found that different cultural groups sometimes have quite different
opinions about the usefulness of various VLSs.

Extent of vocabulary learning strategy use vs. language learning strategy use
Schmitt (1997) found that VLSs appears to be used more than other LLSs. He adds that VLS
use was more than strategy use for listening comprehension, oral presentation and social
communication. Schmitt makes some suggestions for the frequent use of VLSs. Firstly,
vocabulary learning tends to be a private activity compared to an oral presentation which is a
public activity, so VLS use may be easier and applied more effectively given it is undertaken
privately in the learner’s own time away from the pressure of public performance. Secondly,
classroom work reportedly emphasises learning activities over integrated activities (e.g.
learning grammar and vocabulary vs. learning culture and pragmatics). Thirdly, VLS use is
more than general LLS use because learners tend to place great importance on vocabulary
learning.

The importance of learning vocabulary


Horwitz (1988) found 25 to 39 per cent of the participants in her study agreed with the idea
that vocabulary learning was the most important part of learning a foreign language — see
Section 2.6 for a discussion. This highlights the importance of exploring BALLL (see Tweed
& Lehman, 2002).

Prioritising word learning


Nation (1994) found that teaching learners the strategies to deal with low frequency words
was more efficient than teaching learners the strategies to deal with high frequency words. He
also argued that vocabulary can be considered from a cost/benefit point of view. High

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frequency words are essential to comprehending language so the cost (time and effort) of
teaching them is justified. Teaching low frequency words, on the other hand, is not so
beneficial and should be left to the learner. Nation suggests three strategies for dealing with
low frequency words: guessing from context (e.g. sentences, conversation), using mnemonic
techniques (e.g. peg method, keyword method), and using word parts (e.g. prefixes, root
word).

Frequency of strategy use


Unlike Politzer and McGroarty (1985), Schmitt (1997) found that certain strategies (allegedly
the most effective) tended to be used with increasing frequency. Increasing frequency of use
suggests the strategy is useful and assists the learner in achieving their learning goal.

Section summary

This section discussed vocabulary learning strategy research in a global context outside
China. Research began in the 1970s, and was viewed as a move away from teaching-oriented
perspectives to how learner actions affect language learning. In this move, aptitude was no
longer viewed as governing language learning. The ‘good learner’ study of 1975 produced
some speculative features that mark a good learner. Some of those features included a
personal learning style, an active learning approach, and willingness to practise. The notion
of a good versus poor learner appears to have been revisited in later research into surface
versus deep learning, the former to do with quantity of knowledge, the later to do with
understanding knowledge. However, these are equally important for the language learning,
where quantity deeply affects later proficiency. A range of strategies have been explored since
the mid-1970s, such as learning from word lists, using mnemonic methods, repetition, and
guessing form context. The importance of strategy use was also observed, in terms of the
efficacy of strategies, types of learning and awareness, learner characteristics, cultural
differences and frequency of strategy use.

The discussion now turns to research into VLS use in China or in a Chinese context.

2.5 Vocabulary learning strategies research in a Chinese context — a brief outline

Research on VLSs in a Chinese context has generally focused on strategy use in a formal

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language learning context, for example, middle school and college/university, and use by
non-majors or low achievers (e.g. Gu, 2003; Gu & Johnson, 1996; Law, 2003; Wu, 2008;
Hwang, Tsai & Yang, 2008; Sun, 2003; Zhang et al., 2004). These studies have also generally
looked at all LLSs subsuming vocabulary learning, or on a small group of strategies (for
instance, mnemonics, guessing from context) used to learn vocabulary as a whole.
Participants in these studies tended to speak Chinese-Cantonese rather than Chinese-
Mandarin, as in the present research and come from a background where English plays a
larger role. Sometimes speakers’ native language was not mentioned but assumed to be one of
the two. Many Chinese in Hong Kong — the site of many studies — tend to be speakers of
Cantonese rather than Mandarin. The participants in mainland China studies were assumed to
speak Chinese-Mandarin (if not clearly stated) since the studies were situated in Beijing, and
‘Beijingers’ tend to be speakers of ‘putonghua’ or standard Chinese, such as Mandarin. These
studies are important to the present research because they highlight VLS use in China and
provide the research foundation.

This section is divided into four subsections: 1) China mainland studies of VLSs as a whole
group of interrelated strategies (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996) (2.5.1); 2) Hong Kong studies of
LLSs (2.5.2); 3) Hong Kong studies of VLSs as a whole group of strategies (2.5.3); and 4)
Hong Kong studies of strategies as a small group (2.5.4). Hong Kong studies are categorised
as studies in a Chinese context though Hong Kong was ruled by the British for about 100
years (e.g. Evans, 2000; Poon, 2004) and only recently returned to China’s governance. In
Hong Kong, schools teach certain subjects in English and the majority are bilingual.

2.5.1 Studies of whole groups of VLSs in mainland China

Gu and Johnson (1996) investigated the VLSs of 850 sophomore Chinese non-English
Majors at Beijing University in relation to learning outcomes. They correlated questionnaire
data with results on a vocabulary size test and the College English Test (CET) Band 2, or
CET 2. Students reported using a wide variety of VLSs and a multiple regression analysis
revealed that self-initiation and selective attention, both classified as metacognitive strategies,
proved positive predictors of scores on the CET 2, the College Entrance Test for students
wishing to enter university.

In terms of beliefs, they found three were prominent: words should be memorised, acquired

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in context and learned and put to use. Other VLSs included the following: metacognitive
regulation, selective attention and self-initiation; guessing strategies, wider context and
immediate context; dictionary strategies, comprehension, extended dictionary strategies and
look-up strategies; note-taking strategies, meaning-oriented note-taking and use-oriented
note-taking; rehearsal strategies, using word lists, oral repetition and visual repetition;
encoding strategies, association/elaboration, imagery, visual and auditory encoding, using
word-structure, semantic and contextual encoding; and activation strategies.

In terms of outcomes, they matched VLSs against English proficiency and vocabulary size. A
belief in memorisation was negatively correlated with both English proficiency (CET 2) and
vocabulary size. Visual repetition negatively correlated with English proficiency and
vocabulary size. However, the two metacognitive strategies, the two guessing strategies
positively correlated with the two dependent variables, while only two of the three dictionary
strategies showed a significant correlation, and the other a negative correlation. The
mnemonic devices (imagery, visual and auditory) were either insignificantly or negatively
correlated with the dependent variables, or thought to be related more to vocabulary size. The
vocabulary size was found to be the same for the semantic encoding strategies, while word
list learning negatively correlated with English proficiency but significantly correlated with
vocabulary size. Contextual encoding, on the other hand, positively correlated with both
dependent variables. Vocabulary size, however, was found to positively correlate with
English proficiency.

They found seven variables significantly predicted scores on the CET 2. The two
metacognitive strategies were found to significantly predict overall English proficiency,
including contextual encoding and oral repetition. While significant, visual repetition,
imagery mnemonics and a belief in memorisation were found to be negative predictors of
overall English proficiency. Self-initiation was found the best predictor of vocabulary size,
closely followed by dictionary look-up strategies, extra-curricular time spent on English and
intentional activation of new words. Semantic encoding was found to “only seem to play a
role in predicting vocabulary size” (Gu & Johnson, 1996, pp. 658–59). Visual
repetition/imagery encoding were found to be “strong negative” predictors of vocabulary
size.

This study provides a research foundation for the present research to explore the relationship

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among VLS use and BALLL in relation to the PVL.

2.5.2 Studies of whole groups of LLSs in Hong Kong

Wu’s (2008) more recent study of the LLSs of ten Chinese ESL students at a vocational
institute in Hong Kong also provides some clues about LLS use in a Chinese context. (Note:
Wu studied Chinese ESL students as many schools are bilingual, whereas the current research
is done on Chinese mainland students where English is learnt as foreign language.) Wu tried
to identify the contextual influences on LLS use, as well as the learning strategy use among
Chinese students in Hong Kong. The participants were students who had completed their five
years of secondary schooling.

Wu focused on the use of metacognitive, cognitive and social/affective strategies.


Metacognitive strategies included advance organisation, advance preparation, organisational
planning, selective attention, self-monitoring, self-evaluation and self-management.
Cognitive strategies included resourcing, grouping, note-taking, summarising, deduction,
imagery, auditory representation, elaboration, transfer, inferencing and practising.
Social/affective strategies included questioning for clarification, co-operation and positive
self-talk. In terms of contextual influences, Wu also found that there was “a lack of
knowledge of LLSs and a perception that they were too difficult to use” (2008, p. 77). He
concluded that a number of contextual factors influenced strategy use: the role of English in
the society, the education system and Confucianism, as well as low English language
proficiency.

Wu’s study is significant for the present research because it highlights the widespread use of
LLSs generally in Chinese contexts and that the belief that certain contextual factors
influence strategy use.

2.5.3 Studies of whole groups of VLSs in Hong Kong

Law (2003) investigated 80 Form One, Form Three and Form Four Chinese medium-school
students’ VLSs in a Hong Kong Band 4 secondary school context. Her aims were: 1) to
explore and describe VLS use through interviews, a survey and think-aloud tasks, and 2) to
identify specific strategies or a combination of strategies likely to promote vocabulary

35
acquisition, both with a view to causing changes in vocabulary teaching as well as promoting
strategy training.

The results of Law’s study indicate that most students thought “vocabulary was particularly
important in reading comprehension and writing where they needed to comprehend and
produce messages with the use of vocabulary” (2003, p. 44). However, difficult, boring and
troublesome were words used to describe how they felt about learning vocabulary. Fifteen
(15) strategies were highlighted and ranked, and included the following (ranked 1 to 15): 1)
guessing from contextual context, 2) using an electronic or online dictionary, 3) learning from
the mass media (newspapers, TV, radio), 4) taking notes in class, 5) using a conventional
Chinese-English dictionary, 6) asking the teacher for the meaning, 7) asking classmates or
peers for the meaning, 8) analysing available pictures/gestures, 9) analysing the part of
speech (e.g. noun, verb or adjective), 10) analysing prefixes, suffixes and roots, 11) learning
words through ICQ online chat or chat room communication [‘ICQ’ is an abbreviation for ‘I
seek you’], 12) learning words from English learning or vocabulary websites, 13) interacting
with native speakers (for example, the Native English Teacher online or NET teacher for
short), 14) discovering new meaning through group work activity, and 15) singing English
songs.

Law (2003) concluded that, while her findings may not be generalisable, the themes
generated by her study may well be relevant to students in similar situations. In addition, she
believes that “the choice and the effects of VLSs are likely to be highly influenced by
individual styles, preferences, personalities, and motivations” (Law, 2003, p. 84).

Law’s study is important because it highlights that choice and effect of strategy use is
probably influenced by individual learning style, preference, personality and motivations,
which the present research indirectly explores by exploring BALLL.

2.5.4 Studies of small groups of VLSs in Hong Kong

Chan (2000) conducted a comparative study of two instructional methods for mnemonics in
an EFL secondary teaching context in Hong Kong using 47 Cantonese-speaking students. The
two instructional methods studied were 1) the context method that puts the target word,
together with its L1 equivalent and a linguistic context exemplifying its meaning, and 2) a

36
combined context + keyword method, where an acoustic and imagery link is developed
between the target word and its referent. Results of the study indicated that the combined
context + keyword method proved superior in helping the students retain their learning over
time, though more effort and time were required when using this method.

Cheung (2004) investigated the effectiveness of the VLSs of 40 Cantonese-speaking Chinese


students in a ‘low band’ (assumed to be ‘low ranked’) secondary school in Hong Kong. The
primary aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of combined context method and
the keyword method on vocabulary retention. A secondary aim was to observe and describe
the different ways to employ the keyword method. In particular, whether students use L1 or
L2 keywords or whether they create their own.

The results of Cheung’s study indicate that of the 18 strategies covered, 5 were used often
and were found very useful. They were: I remember words by doing dictations, I link the
word to a Chinese word with similar sound, I repeatedly spell the word in my mind, I
repeatedly write the word and I repeatedly say the word in my mind. These strategies indicate
that these students often used repetition and formed an acoustic link from L1 sound to
remember the word. Two strategies ‘least often used’ and ‘least useful’ were I group words
together in a story line and I use sound and meaning associations. These students seemed to
prefer to use cognitive strategies and also seemed “not to favor strategies like using
associations and imagery in learning vocabulary” (Cheung, 2004, p. 46).

Cheung’s (2004, p. 47) findings indicated that secondary school “students remembered more
words when taught with the Keyword Method”. However, a question remained about whether
it was beneficial or not, since a delayed test one week later indicated that students in the
keyword condition had lost approximately 52 per cent of the words, while students in the
combined context condition had lost approximately 76 per cent. The results seem to support
what many studies said about the keyword method, even though its use was queried by some.
Cheung’s study demonstrates that the keyword method can be practical in a public classroom
context and that it can be beneficial to low achievers. Results also indicate that the keyword
method is more conducive to cued recall conditions regardless of L1 or L2 keywords. Cheung
says that “the proportion of words with L1 keywords and L2 keywords recalled, both L1 and
L2 keywords are a better receptive retrieval cue while L2 keyword also enhanced productive
performance” (2004, p. 53). Cheung believes that a L2 vocabulary size issue remained when

37
using L2 keywords, that these students’ vocabulary size was not large enough. This was
indicated by the fact that no L2 keywords were generated by the students.

Cheung (2004) concludes that the keyword method is superior to the combined context
method in enhancing retention. In addition, the combined context method, which was being
used at that time, may not benefit low achievers in recall, while the keyword method may
benefit recall of vocabulary meanings.

The studies discussed in this section are significant because they highlight the prevalence of
some individual strategies (for instance, combined context method and keyword method), and
their effectiveness in teaching and learning.

Section summary

This review of the research into LLSs generally and VLSs specifically in a Chinese context
shows that Chinese EFL students use strategies, but that this research is still in its infancy and
at a general level of investigation. The research into LLSs generally and VLSs specifically
and strategy use is substantial and suggests that EFL learners use strategies; that strategy use
is widespread; and that it produces outcomes for learners. The present research will expand
research on VLS use in the university context of CEMs, where research is limited. The
research will also discuss VLSs and BALLL and their impact on EVS. The present research
relies on the cognitive aspect of language development as it investigates conscious use of
VLSs.

Chapter summary

This review of the literature demonstrates that English vocabulary can be described and
defined according to its phonological shape (spoken item) and/or its orthographic shape
(written item), and can exist as a single item (e.g. people) or multiword item (e.g. farm
animal) or even as a large chunk (e.g. the United States of America). These descriptions and
definitions of vocabulary are widely accepted and uncontroversial.

There has been significant work defining VLSs by Oxford (1990), Gu and Johnson (1997),
and Schmitt 1997, but less agreement on a list or taxonomy that is exhaustive. This seems to

38
be due to questions remaining regarding their nature and existence in cognition. But methods
found reliable and valid in other contexts (e.g. outside China) or similar contexts (e.g. China)
have been used to extend understanding of this issue. Learning English vocabulary seems
somewhat of a challenge for many EFL learners (Nation, 2001). This is due to many factors,
including the linguistic distance between the native language and the language being learned,
personality factors and preferred learning styles, motivation and the language itself (Dörnyei,
2007). If, for instance, the language being learned is similar to the known or native language,
less effort seems to be needed to learn it (Nation, 2001).

Besides personality factors, preferred learning styles, motivation and the language itself,
learning vocabulary involves the use of novel, consciously controlled strategies (Oxford,
1990; Schmitt, 2001). These strategies can range from what learners do when they first meet
a new vocabulary item (discovery strategies), whether heard or seen, to what they do when
they store it in LTM (consolidation strategies), including retrieving it from LTM (rehearsal
strategies), so it becomes part of their mental lexicon (Schmitt, 2001; Jiang, 2000). Strategy
use may vary between individuals, including intra-group (within the same/similar groups of
EFL learners — for example, Chinese EFL learners) (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Wu, 2008; Yu
et al., 2004), and variable inter-group (within all EFL/ESL learners whether, for example,
Chinese, French, Italian, Russian) (e.g. Ahmed, 1989; Cohen & Aphek, 1981; Coady &
Huckin, 1997; Oxford, 1990).

Why VLS use varies from individual to individual and within and between groups of
individuals isn’t thoroughly understood, but several factors may account for it. Some of the
factors found to cause variable VLS use include those mentioned above: personality
differences, preferred learning style differences and differing motivations for learning a
language, as well as differing experiences of being taught language in formal learning
contexts. One significant factor, however, is individual and/or collective beliefs (for instance,
within-group beliefs) about language and language learning (e.g. Benson & Lor, 1999;
Horwitz, 1988; Mohamed, 2006; Yang, 1999), which is included in this study. Chapter 3 will
review the literature on BALLL.

39
40
CHAPTER 3: BELIEFS ABOUT LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE
LEARNING

3.0 Introduction

This chapter will highlight and discuss selected samples of the literature in two main areas: 1)
BALLL outside China (3.1), and 2) the beliefs of the Chinese culture of learning (3.3).

3.1 Beliefs about language learning — research outside China

In section 3.1.1 a general definition of BALLL is provided to aid discussion, then 3.2 BALLL
is discussed in a general and global sense (e.g. Benson & Lor, 1999; Elbaum et al., 1993;
Horwitz, 1988, 1999; Jones & Gerard, 1967; Mohamed, 2006; Seedhouse et al., 2010; Open
University, 1975; Yang, 1999), including a discussion of research into the effect of beliefs on
vocabulary learning (e.g. Bernat & Gvozdenko, 2005; Gao, 2006; Gu & Johnson, 1997;
Oxford & Nyikos, 1989; Wenden, 1987). In section 3.3, the research into the Chinese culture
of learning is discussed (e.g. Hird 1995; Li 1984; Ma 2009; Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Xing
2009). In the section following this, the beliefs of the CCL are discussed in more detail (e.g.
Cortazzi & Jin, 1996; Kelen, 2002), in relation to language education in China, and
specifically English language education in China (e.g. Chan, 2000; Kee & Wang, 2004;
Samuelowicz, 1987).

3.1.1 General definition of beliefs

Beliefs are defined as something that “denotes an assertion about some aspect of the world or
the relation between two such aspects” (Open University, 1975, p. 16): the relation between
two categories when neither defines the other (Jones & Gerard, 1967, cited in Open
University, 1975). The words opinion, value and ideology have also been used to denote
beliefs (Open University, 1975). Opinion is usually a verbal statement of an attitude or belief,
value denotes what is believed to be good and desirable, while ideology denotes a cluster of
related values, attitudes and beliefs. Mohamed (2006) lists several terms that have been used
to define beliefs: explicit propositions, subjectively reasonable beliefs, implicit theories,
conceptions, personal theories, judgments, untested assumptions, perceptions, images,

41
maxims. But what needs to be known is how beliefs are defined in relation to language and
language learning.

Horwitz (1988, p. 283) pointed out that “if beliefs about language learning are prevalent in
the culture at-large” then EFL teachers “should consider that students bring these beliefs with
them into the classroom.” Elbaum et al., (1993, p. 333; emphasis in the original) found that
“adults’ strategy beliefs are … fairly-well matched to the demands of the learning task as the
learners themselves define it,” however, they did not specifically define beliefs either. Yang
(1999) found that beliefs and strategy use correlate, and proposes a theoretical construct that
centres on metacognitive and motivational strategy use, but still does not provide a definition
of beliefs. Horwitz (1999), ten years after her landmark 1988 study, found no unambiguous
differences between cultural groups, but did find a number of intriguing group differences.
However, she still said that it was premature to conclude that beliefs about language vary by
cultural group. Yet despite this conclusion, she did not provide a succinct definition of beliefs.
Benson and Lor (1999) bring us closer to a succinct working definition of beliefs in their
research into conceptions of language and language learning. They place beliefs in the
cognitive realm saying that, “learning attitudes and behaviours are conditioned by a higher
order of mental representations concerning the nature of language and language learning”
(Benson & Lor, 1999, pp. 459–72). They developed a framework for discussing beliefs in
relation to conceptions of and approaches to language and language learning (see Seedhouse
et al., 2010). While conceptions of learning were found to be concerned with “what a learner
thinks the objects and processes of learning are … beliefs were found to be concerned with
what the learner holds to be true about these objects and processes, holding a certain
conception of what they are” (Benson & Lor, 1999, p. 464; emphasis in the original). While
beliefs can be inferred directly from the data (one collects on beliefs), conceptions must be
analysed in a different way. And, most importantly, conceptions and beliefs are related to and
responsive to context, but beliefs were found to manifest in the approaches learners took to
learning. The present research will employ Benson and Lor’s definition of beliefs as this
seems to be the most comprehensive.

3.2 Beliefs in relation to language and language learning/strategies

The literature review of BALLL begins with the early work of Horwitz (1988) followed by
notable research on differing aspects of the phenomenon (e.g. Benson & Lor, 1999; Bernat &

42
Gvozdenko, 2005; Elbaum et al., 1993; Gao, 2006; Gu & Johnson, 1997; Horwitz, 1988;
Horwitz, 1999; Oxford & Nyikos, 1989; Yang, 1999).

Earlier research (Horwitz, 1988) demonstrates that language learners possess beliefs about
language and language learning; in particular, EFL students. Horwitz (1988) investigated
beliefs about language learning and new university foreign language students. She says that if
beliefs about language learning are ubiquitous in any culture, then foreign language teachers
must realise that students do not dump them at the classroom door but bring them in
(Horwitz, 1988). She also says that while the focus of much research has been learner
errors/interlanguage systems with a view to documenting learner hypotheses about the
language system they’re learning, the research seems to have ignored “conceptions of the
language learning task” (Horwitz, 1988, p. 283). The discussion will now take a step back
and explore the cognitive realm to get a better understanding of beliefs in relation to language
and language learning, and then move forward.

The individual beliefs of and definitions of the learning task reflect “the demands and
opportunities of” students “in and out of school foreign language learning experience,” the
type of instruction experienced and experience of living in a foreign language community
(Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 320–23). Students’ definitions of the learning task are related to
their beliefs about strategies. Elbaum et al. (1993) surveyed 194 undergraduates at the
University of Utah (UU) in order to ascertain previous FLL experience, as well as the type of
instruction experienced. Sixteen LLSs were given to ten of these UU undergraduates to
classify as either a formal strategy or a functional strategy. They were also asked to select
what they believed to be the best combination of strategies from the previous exercise. They
were then asked to rate how much they would enjoy using these strategies. In terms of
definition of the learning task, they were also asked to “read descriptions of four types of
knowledge that contribute to communicative competence,” and assign a percentage to each
type of knowledge reflecting the contribution they felt this knowledge makes to a person’s
ability to communicate in another language.

Benson and Lor (1999) investigated conceptions of language and language learning. They
begin with the “cognitivist assumption that learning attitudes and behaviours are conditioned
by a higher order of mental representations concerning the nature of language and language
learning” (Benson & Lor, 1999, p. 459). They also say that preferred learning styles can

43
enable learning, however, “certain attitudes and behaviours may be more enabling than
others” (Benson & Lor, 1999, p. 459). So after reviewing much of the literature on the topic,
they drew three broad conclusions: 1) it is helpful to distinguish between two levels of
representation in learners’ thinking about their learning: conception and belief; 2) conceptions
of learning characterise learners’ thinking at a higher level of abstraction than beliefs; and 3)
conceptions and beliefs are understood as relational and responsive to context.

Dart et al. (2000) explores students’ conceptions of learning, the classroom environment and
approaches to learning, surveying 457 from 22 classes in two metropolitan secondary schools
in Australia. Referring to Allan (1996, p. 264), they say that an assertion was made that the
critical variable in determining how students learn was their conception of learning. The
results of Dart et al.’s (2000, p. 267) research suggest important associations between
conceptions and approaches to learning. Students holding quantitative conceptions of
learning tend to use deep approaches to learning and suppress surface approaches (see Biggs,
1999). Quantitative conceptions tend to view the acquisition of knowledge above meaning
(the more you know, the better student you are), while qualitative conceptions tend to view
the acquisition of understanding and meaning above quantity of knowledge. The problem
with this notion is that it cannot be applied to FLL because quantity is very important to the
language learner; especially those with goals of further higher education (for example,
postgraduate study in an English-speaking country). A high level of proficiency, even
vocabulary range, needs to have been achieved to succeed in this environment, especially in
universities in English-speaking countries where the notion of surface vs. deep approaches to
learning is being adopted.

Data collected through interviews with 16 first-year Arts undergraduates at the University of
Hong Kong between 1996 and 1997, identified three broad domains of belief: beliefs about
language learning, beliefs about self and beliefs about the learning situation. “Within the
domain of beliefs”, roughly “14 discrete beliefs” were identified, which appear repeatedly in
the data (Benson & Lor, 1999, p. 465). The discrete beliefs were categorised under three
major headings: work, method and motivation. They concluded that conception does
constitute “a higher and more abstract order of representation that constrains beliefs” (Benson
& Lor, 1999, p. 471). This is relevant to the present research because the research explored
whether CEMs’ conceptions of language and language learning, and the process of language
learning specifically, constrains their beliefs about how best to learn a foreign language.

44
Wenden (1987, cited in Horwitz, 1988), however, explored the connection between students’
theories about language learning and students’ self-reports of LLSs. In a series of interviews,
she found that “students described language learning strategies consistent with their professed
beliefs about language learning” (Horwitz, 1988, p. 284). While Wenden explored the
connection between students’ theories about language learning through interviews, she did so
in a general language learning sense (e.g. Oxford, 1990), not in a specific vocabulary learning
sense (e.g. Schmitt, 1997) like the present research. Furthermore, Wenden explored the
connection between students’ theories and language learning strategies in a Western context
of language learning. The present research explores the connection between BALLL in a
general Western sense (i.e. Horwitz, 1988) and a specific Chinese sense (i.e. Shi, 2006) in a
Chinese context of language learning (China), for comparative purposes (recognising that
Western beliefs may have infiltrated the thinking of Chinese students since the late 1970s),
thereby making it methodologically different if not conceptually different from Wenden’s
research.

Horwitz (1988) investigated the beliefs of new university students about language learning,
and focused on “individual learner beliefs and belief systems by student type” — for
instance, foreign or second, country of origin, instructional setting, target language (1988, p.
284). She developed a BALLI (Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory) (Horwitz, 1988,
p. 284) to collect data on beliefs in relation to five major areas:

1) difficulty of language learning;


2) foreign language aptitude;
3) the nature of language learning;
4) learning and communication strategies; and
5) motivations and expectations.

Horwitz’s findings on BALLI item 4, the nature of language learning, revealed that 67 per
cent of her respondents in each of the three language groups (German, French, Spanish)
agreed with the idea that “learning a language differs from learning other school subjects”
(1988, p. 288). Her respondents also appeared to have “endorsed statements indicative of a
restricted view of language learning” (Horwitz, 1988, p. 288). Restricted view here means
learning for examinations and social status. Twenty-five to 39 per cent of those respondents

45
also appeared to endorse the BALLI item “the most important part of learning a language is
learning vocabulary” (1988, p. 288). This tells us how important vocabulary learning is to
foreign language learners and FLL generally, and the significance of it to the present research.

Elbaum et al. (1993) investigated self-regulated learning in relation to previous learning,


strategy beliefs and task definition. They defined self-regulated learning as a type of learning
in which individuals “personally initiate and direct their own efforts to acquire knowledge
and skill rather than relying on teachers, parents, or other agents of instruction” (Elbaum et
al., 1993, pp. 318–20). They thought by the time of their study beliefs had not been
considered a factor influencing choice of learning strategy, so they investigated two aspects
of beliefs about learning: 1) individuals’ beliefs about the efficacy of different learning
strategies, and 2) individuals’ definitions of the learning task. Furthermore, Elbaum et al. held
the belief that there was a relationship between definitions of the learning task and strategy
choice. They also wanted to understand “the role of school experience in shaping beliefs
about learning” (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 318–20). Learning strategies were investigated from
the perspective of two general categories in the literature: formal and functional learning
strategies. Formal was defined (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 318–20) as “activities that focus
attention on the language itself, such as doing pattern drills or memorizing vocabulary,” while
functional was defined as “activities that use the language for communicative purpose, such
as conversing with native speakers or reading foreign language newspapers for news about
events in other countries”.

However, Elbaum et al. (1993) say that the distinction between formal and functional
learning strategies has been equated with the distinction between implicit and explicit
learning, but do not say how these concepts have been equated. This suggestion is important
because, even though it was made in the early 1990s, it implies that formal learning strategies
are implicit learning or unconscious learning. Regarding the meaning of implicit learning, the
suggestion that formal learning strategies are unconscious learning strategies is problematic.
However, to investigate “individuals’ definition of the learning task,” they drew on
conceptualisations of learning to acquire communicative competence (Elbaum et al., 1993, p.
320).

The results of Elbaum et al.’s (1993, p. 324) study show that “no significant group differences
were found with regard to participants’ age, major, or reported average grade received in

46
previous foreign language courses”, but group differences “did differ with regard to gender”.
A significant difference was found between groups, for example, “TRADONLY [traditional
instruction only] group had studied foreign language significantly longer than had individuals
in the TRAIN + FLC [training in a foreign language community] group” (Elbaum et al.,
1993, p. 324). However, results indicate that “neither gender, length of previous language
study, or the interaction between the two accounted for a significant proportion of the
variance in hours assigned to functional learning strategies” (Elbaum et al., 1993, p. 324).

Elbaum et al. (1993, pp. 324–26) also found a correlation between “length of previous
foreign language study and the two principal dependent variables”, but not between “length
of previous foreign language study and enjoyment”. There was significant correlation,
however, between “previous length of study and hours assigned to functional strategies”
(Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 324–26). A significant difference was found between the groups’
assigned hours to functional strategies; the IMMERSION group assigned significantly more
hours than the other groups, while the TRAD + FLC (foreign language community) and
TRAIN + FLC groups were not significantly different. These results, however, “confirmed
the hypothesis that individuals with immersion or community foreign language experience
would place greater emphasis on functional language learning strategies than individuals with
only traditional instruction” (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 324–26). So those individuals who had
thought certain strategies more enjoyable had assigned more hours to them, but individuals
with more classroom language learning experience had assigned more hours to functional
strategies. Differences were not therefore due to perceptions of enjoyment of strategy. It
would interesting to find whether CEMs in this study, because they receive traditional
instruction, will have assigned less hours to functional strategies.

The results of Elbaum et al.’s (1993, pp. 327–28) study also indicate significant differences
among groups per strategy beliefs. In terms of opportunities to use either formal or functional
strategies, results indicated that TRADONLY groups “had many opportunities to use formal
strategies rather than functional strategies” (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 327–28), while
IMMERSION groups were the opposite. TRAIN + FLC and TRAD + FLC groups appeared
to be equal with respect to using formal and functional strategies. Also, the TRADONLY
group tended to use foreign language for classroom language exercises, while the TRAIN +
FLC group tended to use foreign language primarily for conversing with native speakers and
the memorisation of religious texts. The TRAD + FLC and the IMMERSION groups, on the

47
other hand, appeared to be equal in terms of using the foreign language for in-class and out-
of-class communicative purposes.

Significant differences were found among groups in terms of the relative importance assigned
to different types of knowledge (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 328–29). The IMMERSION and
TRAD + FLC groups were not significantly different, and placed less importance on
grammar than either the TRADONLY or TRAD + FLC groups. Neither of these groups
differed from each other. The hypothesis that “individuals with either immersion or foreign
language community experience would place less importance on grammar than individuals
with only traditional instruction” (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 328–29) was only partially
confirmed, meaning that the individuals, despite their experience in a foreign language
community (for example, TRAIN + FLC), placed as much importance on grammar as
individuals with only traditional instruction. Furthermore, “the IMMERSION group placed
more importance on this type of knowledge [grammar] than any of the other groups”; TRAD
+ FLC individuals “placed greater importance on communication strategies” (Elbaum et al.,
1993, pp. 328–29) than the TRADONLY group, while the TRAIN + FLC group, was not
significantly different from either the TRAD + FLC or the TRADONLY group, and did not
differ significantly from either group. These results appear to confirm the hypothesis “that
individuals with experience in either a foreign language community or an immersion program
would place greater importance on communication strategies than individuals with only
traditional instruction” (Elbaum et al., 1993, pp. 328–29). The TRAIN + FLC group,
however, placed less emphasis on knowledge of communication strategies and this was an
unexpected finding.

The relationship between individuals’ strategy beliefs and their definition of the language
learning task, and the number of hours that participants assigned to functional learning
strategies was correlated with the percentage assigned to each type of knowledge (Elbaum et
al., 1993, p. 329). Vocabulary and grammar were negatively correlated, while communication
strategies were positively correlated. There was not a significant correlation between
sociolinguistic knowledge and hours assigned to functional strategies. These results partially
support the hypothesis “that individuals who define the language learning task as involving
more declarative knowledge tend to advocate more formal learning strategies [implicit
learning], while individuals who define the task as involving more procedural knowledge
tend to favour more functional learning strategies [explicit learning]” (Elbaum et al., 1993, p.

48
329).

The relevance of Elbaum et al.’s findings cannot be overlooked, given the present research
focus on BALLL. This research may find that CEMs frequently use more formal learning
strategies given the emphasis on declarative knowledge at the research site, and therefore
may rely heavily on this approach undermining the value of explicit learning, and
underutilising functional learning strategies.

Oxford and Nyikos (1989) investigated variables affecting choice of language learning
strategies by university students. The 1200 participants were equally balanced between male
and female university students whose majors were humanities/social and science/education.
Using a SILL (Strategy Inventory of Language Learning) to collect data on LLSs and a
background questionnaire covering several different variables (for instance, motivation),
Oxford and Nyikos found that certain variables do affect choice of LLSs. Five significant
general categories emerged from Oxford and Nyikos’s (1989) data on strategy use: formal
rule-related practice strategies, functional practice strategies, resourceful independent
strategies, general study strategies and conversational input elicitation strategies. From their
second research question, which variables affect choice of strategy, motivation emerged as
the single most influential factor. Other factors included proficiency ratings (including
speaking, reading and listening), elective vs. required status of a course, years of study, sex
(gender) and major. Motivation was found to have significantly interacted with several of the
variables. Other interactions included major and elective vs. required status of a course, and
years of study and course status.

Horwitz (1999) investigated cultural and situational influences on foreign language learners’
beliefs about language learning and at the same time conducted a review of BALLI studies.
She says, “learner beliefs have the potential to influence both their experiences and actions as
language learners” (Horwitz, 1999, p. 558). In addition, “although beliefs about language
learning would seem to be naturally related to culture and situational differences … no
examination of how they differ across learner groups” (Horwitz, 1999, p. 558) had been
conducted before her study. She then reviewed the BALLI research to observe any cultural
and situational differences across learner groups in the data. She focused on the data from
seven studies, which included her earlier 1988 study, Kern (1995), Oh (1996), Kunt (1997),
Park (1995), Truitt (1995) and Yang (1992).

49
While Horwitz (1999, pp. 558–71) began with a note that the BALLI was initially “designed
to demonstrate individuality in beliefs about language learning,” it could also be used “to
look for similarities as well as differences in beliefs among groups of learners”. She found
that there are similarities and differences across learner groups. For example, there were a
number of belief differences among the American groups. Primary differences appeared
between the French instructors and American learners, students of Japanese and students of
more commonly studied languages. The data showed that, “Both groups of French learners
and French instructors differed on a wide range of belief items having to do with the
difficulty of language learning, language learning aptitude, the nature of language learning,
the importance of accent, and motivation for language teaming” (Horwitz, 1999, pp. 558–71).
The French instructors and French learners belonged to the same cultural group, which
suggests that beliefs were influenced by factors other than culture; perhaps age, stage of
learning and professional status.

Horwitz (1999, p. 575) concludes that the “data did not point to any unambiguous differences
in the groups examined; that in spite of a number of intriguing group differences, it seems
premature to conclude that beliefs about language learning vary by cultural group”. Within-
group differences, in fact, might be accounted for by individual characteristics/different
instructional practices. And while there appears to be much commonality across beliefs held
by the groups of learners in this study, these BALLI studies did not survey the beliefs of all
cultural groups. However, the BALLI has proven validity for identifying learner beliefs. And
this is important for the present study because it explores CEMs’ BALLL in order to observe
whether they are strongly those of the so-called Chinese culture of learning or more of so-
called Western culture, given that China has opened up to the West and is modernising. These
culture-specific beliefs are discussed in more detail later, because as will be seen, Shi (2006)
found significant differences between Chinese students’ beliefs and Horwitz’s participants.
And individual differences and instructional practices for the CEMs in the present study may,
in fact, prove a significant finding.

Gu and Johnson (1997) investigated the VLSs and language learning outcomes of 850
sophomore non-English majors at Beijing Normal University. The participants had
experienced six years of English language education prior to participating in the study. Data
was collected using a questionnaire designed by Gu and Johnson specifically for the study.

50
The questionnaire was administered in the native language of the participants, and though not
stated was presumably Mandarin. The questionnaire contained three sections: personal data,
beliefs about language learning and VLSs. The three beliefs were vocabulary should be
memorised, acquired in context, and learning vocabulary and putting it to use. They found
that the beliefs that vocabulary should be memorised received a higher score than the beliefs
acquire vocabulary in context and learning vocabulary and putting it to use. They also
suggested that beliefs are strategies. While the idea that beliefs are a strategy is appealing, it
isn’t a strong argument because a belief is not protocol for achieving a goal (e.g. the way to
do that); a belief is a statement about what you believe to be true. Believing that vocabulary
should be acquired or learned in context does not tells us exactly how the learner goes about
learning vocabulary in context, though it may hint at it.

Yang (1999) investigated the relationship between EFL learners’ beliefs and learning strategy
use. Yang surveyed 505 Taiwanese university students about their beliefs. Yang uses a
combined BALLI and SILL, plus Yang-designed questions. Yang’s participants had
experienced at least six years of English language education, including their first year of
university. A factor analysis revealed that at least four factors represented participants’ beliefs
about language learning:

1) self-efficacy and expectation about learning English;


2) perceived value and nature of learning spoken English;
3) beliefs about foreign language aptitude; and
4) beliefs about formal structural studies.

About 80 per cent of Yang’s participants held the belief that they would learn to speak
English very well. About 32 per cent held the belief that they had a special ability to learn
foreign languages. About 22 per cent held the belief that Chinese were good at learning
foreign languages. About 50 per cent judged English to be of medium difficulty to learn, 37
per cent designated it an easy language to learn, while 2 per cent designated it as either very
difficult or very easy to learn. The difficulty rating was correlated with expectations and
commitment to the learning task, so ‘easy to learn’ correlated with ‘expect to speak English
very well’, but those who thought English was difficult to learn invested less commitment in
the venture. The remainder of the discussion of Yang’s findings will be paraphrased as much
as possible given the extent of the findings.

51
In terms of self-efficacy and expectation about learning English, Yang’s participants indicated
that they had “a strong sense of self-efficacy about learning English” (1999, p. 522). In terms
of the perceived value and nature of learning spoken English, there was a “general belief in
the importance and usefulness of speaking English and a strong interest in learning spoken
English” (Yang, 1999, p. 522). In terms of beliefs about foreign language aptitude,
participants “generally endorsed the concept of special abilities for learning” (Yang, 1999, p.
522). In terms of beliefs about formal structural studies, more than half of the participants,
those influenced by traditional teaching methods, held strong beliefs about it and agreed that
“the most important part of learning a foreign language is learning vocabulary” (Yang, 1999,
p. 522). Some thought grammar was the most important, while some thought translation and
memorizing language were important. Some even rejected the formal structural approach.

Yang (1999) applied a factor analysis to the results of the SILL which revealed six categories
of LLSs. They included 1) functional practice strategies, 2) cognitive-memory strategies, 3)
metacognitive strategies, 4) formal oral-practice strategies, 5) social strategies and 6)
compensation strategies. As discussed above, beliefs are statements about the things or the
relations between things that the learner believes to be true, of language and language
learning particularly; however, they do not reveal the actual process/the protocol followed by
the learner to affirm the belief as true or valid. Furthermore, beliefs can change when the
learner enters a new and different cultural learning context and finds the cultural pressure to
adhere to a particular belief isn’t there anymore. Yang’s findings are compared with the
findings of the present research in Chapter 7.

Gao (2006) studied changes in Chinese students’ use of learning strategies from a
sociocultural perspective. An analysis of 14 Britain-based Chinese learners’ “experiential
[interview] narratives” — interviews he conducted for his 2002 Masters dissertation – “lent
tentative support” for the hypothesis “that the popular language learning discourses,
assessment methods, and influential agents that had been influencing” (Gao, 2006, p. 55)
frequency of use and choice of strategy while getting an education in China either
disappeared or were undermined by the new sociocultural educational setting sometime after
settling in Britain.

Gao (2006) found that the 14 Chinese learners’ narrative accounts of their strategy use while

52
based in China revealed some interesting things. For example, these students had been
“subject to a predominant learning discourse that had conceptualized English as a means or
tool to pursue social promotion in mainland China” (Gao, 2006, p. 58). Gao said this
‘discourse of English as a tool’ was “particularly useful in mobilizing their learning effort and
directly associated with the frequency and intensity of strategy uses” while in China. Strategy
use was found to be “closely related to popular perceptions of ‘exams’ under this ‘tool’
discourse” (Gao, 2006, p. 58). Mediating or influencing agents, including teachers, learning
experts and parents, in China had advised these learners to pursue language learning in
relation to exams, as well as advising them to engage in strategy use oriented to exam
settings.

Focusing only on mediating agents in China, Gao’s procured narratives revealed much about
the ‘beliefs about language learning’ of mediating agents in China. For instance, mediating
agents had “directly or indirectly caused these Chinese learners to adopt certain strategies, for
instance, rote memorization” (Gao, 2006, p. 62). The participants are quite clear on this issue,
saying the teacher made them recite all classroom texts, suggesting it was compulsory, or that
an expert suggested they could learn words through at least seven revisions aloud of a word.
With regard to family members as a mediating influence, some students’ parents were English
language teachers. These parents encouraged their children to learn English while young and
sent them to private providers of English language education. These learners experienced a
certain type of mediating-agent influence while living in China; however, on relocating to
Britain, the mediating agent’s influence disappeared or was undermined by the new
sociocultural educational setting and so the learner was therefore forced to devise new ways
of learning to compensate, because the ‘old’ ways weren’t as effective in achieving academic
goals.

This last point raises an important question about the efficacy of learned beliefs and
behaviours in China if they must be changed in order to achieve academic goals in a new
cultural setting. This does not question the value of the beliefs and behaviours in the home
setting, just queries why they seemed ineffective in another setting.

Section summary

This discussion tells us that investigations into beliefs about language and language learning

53
since Horwitz’s (1988), investigations into beliefs in relation to LLSs specifically, VLSs
generally, as well as research into beliefs about language and language learning in relation to
other factors has been substantial (e.g. Benson & Lor, 1999; Bernat & Gvozdenko, 2005;
Elbaum et al., 1993; Gao, 2006; Gu & Johnson, 1997; Horwitz, 1988; Horwitz, 1999; Oxford
& Nyikos, 1989; Yang, 1999). All of this research affirms that beliefs about language and
language learning are strongly linked to and can affect language learning strategies (LLSs)
generally, vocabulary learning strategies (VLSs) specifically. There is limited research on
VLSs and BALLL and their influence on vocabulary learning, which this thesis addresses. In
the next section 3.3, the discussion of beliefs progresses but narrowly focuses on beliefs
about language and language learning in a Chinese context; specifically, the beliefs of the
Chinese culture of learning.

3.3 Chinese culture of learning beliefs about language and language learning and
English language education/learning in a Chinese context

Previous research has affirmed the importance of learning culture to BALLL. The discussion
of research into the nature of Chinese culture of learning beliefs about language and language
learning begins with early research (e.g. Hird, 1995) into Confucian beliefs about language
learning and then includes later notable research (e.g. Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Ma, 2009;
Xing, 2009).

An early discussion by Hird (1995, p. 23) on the nature of Confucian beliefs about language
learning began by characterizing it as a Chinese tradition of language study involving “a
meticulous analysis in a textbook-based approach,” and included “a systematic unlocking of
the meaning of each fragment of language”. Other characterizations included the following:
perfection through a painstaking undertaking of every language item; no personal creations
and interpretations; care and certainty favoured above quantity and experimentation; rote
memorization; passive classroom learning; teacher-centred approach; social distance and
formality. A principle of ‘learning sparingly but well’, however, was thought to place a
particular constraint on language ‘output’, “the obligation to be error-free”. Such an approach
to language learning would appear 1) to place a significant teaching burden/constraint on
Chinese English language teachers who “are strongly aware of a personal responsibility” they
have “for their students’ fortunes in English courses,” and 2) a significant restricted learning
burden/constraint on students of English language.

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In a detailed discussion by Phuong-Mai et al. (2005) of the Confucian heritage culture’s
(CHC) collectivism in relation to education, teaching and learning, group learning was
highlighted. A study of group learning within the CHC reveals the inter-dependency of CHC
students when it comes to learning. Such strong inter-dependency suggests that
autonomous/independent learning might be a challenge for many Chinese students. However,
the preferred learning styles – in relation to teaching – of CHC learners appeared to be
didactic and teacher-centred. Fourteen per cent of CHC respondents in one study had
indicated that they “prefer to be spoon-fed by the teacher” while 21 per cent of CHC
respondents in the same study had indicated that “they learn well when most of the
information is given by the teacher”. Other studies (Samuelowicz, 1987, Chan, 1999, cited in
Phuong-Mai et al., 2005, p. 407) reveal that CHC respondents/learners are “more likely to
depend on the teacher and not on themselves in order to engage in group learning”.

The Phuong-Mai et al. (2005) study of the nature and character of CHC inter-dependency
learning seem to imply that the other 86 per cent/79 per cent of CHC learners engage in
independent learning when not engaged in such inter-dependent/group learning. While the
findings may characterise CHC learners as having a strong inter-dependency condition or
prefer group learning over individual/autonomous learning, another reading of the findings
suggests something else, if Phuong-Mai et al.’s opening statement about the experience of an
American teacher called Samantha Burk is any indication. Samantha had assigned some
group work activity to her students, and two weeks later got the group work assignments
back. She was stunned to learn that in two of the groups, students had paid money to one of
the members of the group, who did all of the assignments for all the members of that group.
Another interpretation of the findings then, might be one that suggests that the behaviour of
Samantha Burk’s students is rather more common and widely spread than might appear from
her lone anecdotal. In other words, even when faced with individual learning, though passive,
learning in the classroom, students’ strong inter-dependency condition might result in
students more often than not relying on one or two of the best students in the classroom group
– study groups are in fact a microcosm of the larger macrocosm of classroom group (see Ma,
2009) – to do their work for them; even going so far as to pay them to do it for them. This, in
fact, has also been my observation and experience as an EFL teacher in China.

This situation is alluded to in Phuong-Mai et al.’s (2005) discussion of student-student

55
relationships. It would appear that in a learning group (for instance, classroom group),
“power distance does affect” (2005, pp. 407–08). A chief characteristic of a Confucian
society is its unequal relationships, and patriarchal orientation. The father is the leader of the
family, the teacher is the leader of the school, and the class monitor [a student] is the leader of
a classroom. There are strong hierarchy rules in a Confucian society: “If there is a group,
there is a leader” (2005, pp. 407–08). In a collectivist society like China, as opposed to an
individualist society like the U.S.A., “people … from birth onwards are integrated into
strong, cohesive in-groups which continue to protect them throughout their lifetime in
exchange for unquestioning loyalty” (2005, pp. 407–08).

More insights can be gleaned from Phuong-Mai et al.’s (2005, pp. 409–10) discussion of
whether “collectivism can actually act as cultural supportive background for group-working
success”. Harmony seems to be viewed as a virtue in a collectivist classroom; therefore,
confrontations and conflicts should be avoided at all cost. Losing face seems to be viewed as
a very serious issue, apparently, and can result in “serious personal damage”, so it too should
be avoided at all cost. Fear of losing face, which appears a belief of CHC students, tends to
constrain students’ behaviour in the classroom: remain silent in the classroom to avoid being
thought of as silly or to avoid humiliating others. Saving face is more important than telling
the truth, apparently. The ‘silent way’ in the classroom appears to satisfy ‘giving face’,
‘saving face’, and ‘asserting face’ all in the same approach. A CHC student’s objective
appears to be “to maintain harmony”.

The above discussion highlights the significance of the present research, in that beliefs can
have a strong influence on learning, English vocabulary learning specifically, in a Chinese
context, but again, though they may serve a particular cultural predilection for certain cultural
behaviours in China, but not be so useful in a non-Chinese context.

The above discussion of the nature and characterization of apparent Confucian constraints on
learning behaviour is also referred to as the Chinese culture of learning (CCL). One
prominent discussion of the CCL describes it as being “associated with traditional beliefs and
attitudes to teaching and learning, often under the influence of the specific culture of a group”
(Ma, 2009, pp. 243–46). Such a description seems to agree with another prominent
description by Cortazzi and Jin (1996, p. 169, cited in Ma, 2009, p. 243):

56
[…] behaviour in language classrooms is set within taken-for-granted frameworks of
expectations, attitudes, values and beliefs about what constitutes good learning, about
how to teach or learn, whether and how to ask questions, what textbooks are for, and how
language teaching relates to broader issues of the nature and purpose of education.

This particular description or framework for the taken-for-granted ‘norms’ [the term used
here after to refer to the framework above] has been referred to as the “hidden curriculum”.
While the CCL appears to be “subject to the influence of the socio-economic environment”
within which it exists, understanding it means understanding the learning process and
learning outcome of language learning” (2005, pp. 407–08). Hird (1995) and Phuong-Mai et
al. (2005), above, have discussed in detail some of these characteristics.

The taken-for-granted norms, Ma (2009) said, are heavily rooted in culture and tradition. This
appears to be particularly true for the Chinese culture of learning (CCL). The CCL is said to
have been deeply influenced by both Confucianism and Taoism – apparently, more than 2000
years of influence. The ideas of Confucianism and Taoism are said to permeate the Chinese in
China, “influencing their daily behaviour, their thinking and attitudes” (2009, pp. 243–44).
They have been passed down from generation to generation, and have come to be known as
the so-called “Chinese orthodoxy”. And this ‘orthodoxy’ persists in influencing the lives of
the Chinese in China despite the influx of Western philosophies and ideologies. The influence
can be seen, apparently, in “the conception of language, assumptions about language learning,
and the way language learning should be conducted in the classroom” (2009, pp. 243–44).

Ma (2009) said the Chinese conception of language has been found to differ from the Western
conception of language. The Chinese conception is said to be “prescriptive and pragmatic”
while the Western conception is said to be “descriptive and semantically motivated” (2009,
pp. 243–44). This conception of language, therefore, assumes “that language can be learned
and taught in a prescriptive manner” (2009, pp. 243–44). Such a conception also defines the
role of the teacher, and indirectly, the student: “the teacher prescribes the correct words, their
correct uses; the teacher corrects the students’ errors” (2009, pp. 243–44). This is a Confucian
view of the teacher no less, and indirectly, the Chinese student. A fundamental assumption of
this conception of language is that (italics mine) “language is the ‘means by which right
action is achieved’ or a ‘system of appropriate discursive acts …’” (2009, pp. 243–44). This
assumption raises an important question: Were Samantha Burk’s students (and mine)

57
behaving like they possessed a language which helps them achieve ‘right action’? If they
were behaving according to their cultural expectation in China, they would, yes. But what
effect does this behaviour have on the learning of a foreign language; the learning of English
vocabulary, specifically?

While Kelen (2002) purportedly approaches his discussion of the CCL from a philosophical
point of view, Hu (2002, cited in Ma, 2009, p. 245) purportedly approaches his discussion of
the CCL from a more education-oriented point of view. Hu (2002) observes a series of
features in the CCL which he believes to be innate:

1) A high respect for education


2) That education involves gaining knowledge/developing moral qualities
3) Education is perceived as a process of increasing knowledge (rather than constructing
it)
4) An insistence placed on keeping hierarchical yet harmonious relationships between
the teacher and the students
5) That education can be achieved by individual effort (including determination and will
power) regardless of intelligence/ability/family background

Ma (2009, p. 245), however, says “these traditional Chinese educational features are heavily
rooted in Confucianism”. Such a view of education is closely linked with “the close bond
between knowledge and power” (2009, p. 245).

Ma (2009) concludes her discussion of some of the consequences of the CCL ‘perceptions
and practice’ with the Cortazzi and Jin (1996, cited in Ma, 2009, p. 246) summary, which is
reproduced here to conclude this section:

Chinese approaches to language teaching have a long-standing concern with mastery of


knowledge, which is focused on the four centers of the teacher, the textbook, grammar
and vocabulary. Knowledge of English is transmitted through the teacher, as an authority,
a source of knowledge and an intellectual and moral example. This knowledge is also in
the textbook, which is a key element in Chinese learning; texts are taught and learned in
exhaustive detail. They are often memorized. Grammar and vocabulary are further
elements of knowledge which are explained and transmitted. Students engage heavily in

58
memorizing hundreds, even thousands, of words each year.

Section summary of the CCL beliefs about language / language learning

The discussion of the so-called Chinese tradition of language study found it defined,
characterized and discussed extensively in the literature (e.g. Chan, 1999; Cocroft & Ting-
Toomey, 1994; Cortazzi & Jin, 1996a; Cortazzi & Jin, 1996b; Hansen, 1999; Hird, 1995;
Hofstede, 2003; Hu, 2002; Wong, 2004; Kelen, 2002; Li, 1984; Ma, 2009; Phuong-Mai et al.,
2005; Samuelowicz, 1987; Ting-Toomey, 1988; Xing, 2009). The characterization of
Confucian beliefs is viewed by some as a constraining force on language learning (Hird,
1995), while others speak more positively of Confucian beliefs about language and language
learning (Gu, 1996). A strong interdependency condition appears to be instilled in Chinese
language learners (Phuong-Mai et al., 2005); which sometimes has a positive effect on
language learning or a negative one. That is to say, that while Chinese education invokes a
strong cooperative principle in a Chinese learning context, the strong interdependency is
positively applied in language learning contexts; in particular, English language education in
China (e.g. Cocroft & Ting-Toomey, 1994; Hofstede, 2003; Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Ma,
2009). This Confucian way of conducting language education, including English language
education, is called the Chinese culture of learning (CCL) (Cortazzi & Jin, 1996b; Ma, 2009).

The CCL is also referred to, in perhaps a negative sense, the “hidden curriculum” (Ma, 2009,
pp. 243–44). And understanding it means “understanding the learning process and learning
outcome of language learning” (2009, pp. 243–44). The ‘hidden curriculum’ in turn is
referred to as a “Chinese orthodoxy”. This ‘orthodoxy’ is said to persist in influencing the
lives of the Chinese in China despite the influx of other philosophies (Western philosophies
and ideologies). The influence can be seen, apparently, in “the conception of language,
assumptions about language learning, and the way language learning should be conducted in
the classroom” (2009, pp. 243–44). This conception of language and language learning is a
prescriptive one, describing not only how Chinese language should be taught in the classroom
but how it should be learned by Chinese students (e.g. Kelen, 2002), and such a prescription
seems also applied to English language teaching and learning in China (e.g. Chan, 1999;
Cortazzi & Jin, 1996b; Hansen, 1991; Hofstede, 2003; Hu, 2002; Samuelowicz, 1987; Ma,
2009). This situation may be a constraining factor for Chinese EFL learners both in the way
they experience ELT (English language teaching) in China and how they should go about

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learning English since the Confucian view of education is closely linked with “the close bond
between knowledge and power” (e.g. Ma, 2009, pp. 245–46; Phuong-Mai et al., 2005), strong
hierarchy rules, and an ‘orthodoxy’ that persists in influencing the lives of the Chinese in
China.

Hence to understand learning and teaching in the Chinese context, research into the Chinese
culture of learning is an essential first step in the aims to explore the extent to which beliefs
of the CCL permeate the thinking and learning behaviour of a group of Chinese EFL learners’
who use VLSs in the overall process of English vocabulary learning for mainly academic
purposes. As stated before, the gap in the knowledge regarding the process of English
vocabulary learning in a Chinese context, will be in identifying a relationship between
general BALLL/CCL beliefs and VLS use and the subsequent effect these working together
have on overall English vocabulary size.

Chapter summary

The review of the literature of language learning beliefs suggests they are universal. That is,
they can be found in every culture (e.g. Horwitz, 1987). Such ‘universal’ beliefs have been
found in several diverse cultures as well as shared within the same culture, for instance, intra-
group. However, beliefs tend not to be particularly contrastive intra-group. Though they have
been found in shared intra-group contexts, they tend not to have a specific historic-cultural
origin in such contexts (e.g. Horwitz, 1987). That is, the beliefs appear to originate from a
general, global culture of language learning rather than a specific historic-culture of learning,
for instance, Anglo-Saxon. Beliefs found in some cultural groups, however, appear to share a
single historic-cultural origin, for instance, Asian cultures (e.g. Cortazzi & Jin, 1996; Shi,
2006). One cultural group in particular which appears to share a single set of beliefs about
language and language learning that originates from an historic-cultural origin is the Chinese
in China (e.g. Ma, 2009; Shi, 2006; Xing, 2009).

The Chinese in China generally share a set of beliefs about language and language learning
that originates in Confucianism and Taoism (e.g. Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Ma, 2009; Xing,
2009). The beliefs of Confucianism view language and language learning in a pragmatic and
prescriptive sense (e.g. Ma, 2009). In a pragmatic sense, language is viewed as something
that can lead one to achieve the right action, for instance, speaking Chinese Mandarin can

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lead one to the right action. In a prescriptive sense, language is viewed as a simple set of
discursive acts, for instance, every utterance made by one person has its counterpart in what
is uttered by another. However, for Chinese, at least, what one says must have its correct
corresponding utterance in someone else, not just any utterance; it must be the ‘right’
utterance, for example, face-saving activity. Thus behaviour will conform to the Chinese
culture of learning’s conception of language as a set of discursive acts (if one adheres strictly
to Grice’s (1975) ‘conversational maxims’, for instance), which has significant consequences
for learning a foreign language like English (in which Grice’s conversational maxims can be
regularly flouted).

Learning the English language according to the norms of Confucianism may be rather novel.
And novel here means learning English in an untypical or unusual way. For instance, learning
English in China will not be the same for French learners of English (e.g. Noels et al., 2001).
The French in Canada learn English according to some generalized collective European
ideals (e.g. Commission of the European Communities, 2004), whereas the Chinese in China
learn English according to some non-generalized ideas of Confucianism, or generalized to all
Chinese. Therefore, English language learning tends to be contrastive from a French,
European context to a Chinese, Confucian context.

Confucianism, therefore, may influence Chinese students’ learning of English. Research on


the influence of Confucianism on Chinese students’ learning of English isn’t extensive, less
than on other cultural groups. And the findings tend to be mixed; neither completely negative
nor completely positive.

Teaching and learning English vocabulary in a Chinese Confucian oriented context may be
quite customized. Customized teaching/learning here means that teaching English vocabulary
tends to apply Confucianism or Chinese culture of learning beliefs about education/learning
in every English language education context in China, whether private or public. While
studies suggest that English vocabulary learning can be characterized as involving a large
range of language learning strategies, the picture of the process of English vocabulary
learning through vocabulary learning strategy use in Chinese context is still far from being
solid. One estimate (see Cortazzi & Jin, 1996) put English vocabulary learning for Chinese
students of English at hundreds, even thousands of English vocabulary items every year and
use a range of strategies to learn it. Thus the present study extends the research on VLSs and

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BALLL in the Chinese context, for which research is not extensive. It specifically focuses on
university vocabulary learning of Chinese English Majors, which is a context overlooked.

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CHAPTER 4: METHODOLOGY AND PROCEDURES

4.0 Introduction

The first part of this chapter (4.1) outlines the approach or methodological framework
informing the research design (for example, mixed methods — questionnaire and interview),
the theoretical perspective (4.2.1) and the rationale behind the questionnaire and interview
method (4.2.2.1) in relation to the aims of the present research. The research design and the
administration of the data collection instruments (4.6), is discussed in the second part, along
with a discussion of the data collection methods, the questionnaires (4.6.1.2 to 4.6.1.4) and
interview method (4.6.1.6), to show the link between the research design and the research
questions. This discussion includes data management and data analysis (4.7.2.1 to 4.7.2.6). A
summary of the intended outcomes completes the chapter.

4.1 Methods and selection of methods

The focus of the present research is the process of English vocabulary learning in a Chinese
context. This automatically implies a path of some sort, or at least, a starting point and an end
point. The starting point is the moment a foreign language learner encounters a new piece of
vocabulary belonging to the foreign language and then behaves in such a way as to learn that
new piece of vocabulary. The end point of the process, viewed as achieving the goal of the
learning process, is that which is learned. To better understand this process in a FLL context,
the research firstly explored CEMs’ VLS use; secondly, their BALLL; and thirdly, their EVS.
Several LLS ‘taxonomies’ will be referenced (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996; Oxford, 1990), some
explicitly; Schmitt’s (1997) taxonomy is the primary VLSs reference; general BALLL are
explored with reference to Horwitz (1988); and specific CCL beliefs explored with reference
to Shi (2006). EVS is explored using Nation’s (2001) VST.

Selection of the data collection instruments can be viewed as an extension of the research
questions. According to Nunan (1992), the research questions by their very nature suggest
which method(s) of data collection to use to collect the necessary data. For example, the
construction of relationships in interview sessions cannot be done with a questionnaire.

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However, this immediately raises some questions about data collection methods and their
suitability to highlighting an almost invisible behaviour, vocabulary learning, given that it
occurs inside the head of the learner (see Illeris, 2007; Phye & Andre, 1986), whether
‘spontaneously’ as some researchers argue (e.g. Franceschini, 2003), or consciously as many
researchers have found through empirical research, through the use of some cognitive ‘tools’
(e.g. Anderson et al., 2001; Pan, 2009; Phye & Andre, 1986). Therefore, any investigation of
cognitive activity is going to be indirect. Thus any exploration of cognitive behaviour uses
indirect methods to collect data on what learners do in their heads when they learn something
(see Macaro, 2006); in this case, vocabulary.

4.1.1 Self-reports

According to Chamot (2005), self-reports can provide the best picture of the mental/cognitive
processes involved in a learning task. Self-reports can be defined as respondents’ generalised
statements, including the answers to multiple choice questions on a questionnaire about
his/her learning behaviour and descriptions of what he/she believes about him/herself
(McDonough & McDonough, 1997). The self-report instruments used to observe strategy use
tend to be the questionnaire, think-aloud, written diary and interview.

According to Chand (2007), there are two types of self-reports. One is when a learner is
instructed to use a particular strategy or set of strategies and asked to report what happened
when the strategies were used. The second type is when a learner is simply asked to report on
the strategy or set of strategies being used when engaged in a task but where the strategy use
is not predetermined by the researcher/instructor. The present research elicited the second
type of self-reports from learners/participants, but predetermined the questions (for example,
questionnaires, interview questions); the second type was collected because the first type is
associated with experimental research.

Zhang (2003), for instance, conducted a review of the data collection instruments used in
LLS research up until 2002 (it is assumed that no new data collection methods have been
added to this list): questionnaire, interview, think-aloud, diary and experiment. Of these, the
presented research used the questionnaire and interview method, because of 1) expediency,
working within a time constraint and the busy schedules of the participants, and 2) because it
can conveniently gather useful information when time is a factor and is a common form of

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data collection to understand the vocabulary learning process in terms of VLS use and
beliefs. Apart from the traditional methods, researchers are now using technology to collect
data — for example, online questionnaires and interviews (for instance, James & Busher,
2009).

4.2 Mixed methods design

4.2.1 Theoretical framework

The present research is informed by a combination of positions, the most prominent being the
constructionist and advocacy/participatory paradigms and a critical theory perspective
(Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006). The research uses a mixed methods approach; it uses
surveys, interviews, case study and grounded theory. The research recognises that all methods
have limitations, but that the results from one method can inform the other. The data
collection was sequential, in that quantitative data was collected first, then the qualitative
data. Creswell and Plano Clark (2006, p. 21) argue “a research problem … is an issue or a
concern that needs to be addressed.” A specific research approach is often called for “if a
concept or phenomenon needs to be understood because little research has been done on it”
(Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006, p. 22). The specific type of mixed methods design chosen is
the quantitative-to-qualitative, discussed by Creswell and Plano Clark (2011).

4.2.2 Definition of mixed methods

Generally speaking, a mixed methods approach is one in which elements of quantitative and
qualitative approaches are used (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006; Richards et al., 2012). This
may mean using both quantitative and qualitative points of view in data collection and
analysis methods. Such is the case in the present research.

The present research used questionnaires to collect quantitative data, which was collected
prior to the qualitative data. Administering the questionnaires first was more convenient
because the participants were students with a busy course program and their availability
depended on when they were free to participate. The interviews were also conducted later as
a result of participant availability. My interest was in collecting quantitative data first and,
based on the design, interview questions were used to probe further answers to the

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questionnaire. Participation in the interviews was different time-wise, because they were
required to make more time than for the questionnaires. Participation also depended on the
reliability of the online communication tool QQ. At the research site, while audio was
generally available on QQ, video was not, and vice versa. The research could not be
conducted face to face because participants weren’t available during the fieldwork.

Research exploring language learning in a classroom context or formal learning context tends
to employ a qualitative or quantitative design or a combination of both (Best & Khan, 1989).
The difference between qualitative and quantitative approaches lies generally in observing
and asking (qualitative) or counting and measuring (quantitative). If observing, as in
ethnography, the researcher watches people doing whatever it is they do, asks them questions
about what they do and aims to provide a ‘thick description’ of the activity and people
involved (see Fontana & Frey, 2005). If the researcher prefers to count the number of times
an incident occurs or to measure the time it takes to complete a task, then quantitative
research is undertaken. The present research design, in fact, satisfies one of Grotjahn’s (1987,
p. 59-60) ‘mixed forms’ paradigm — number six — in which the study:

1) is a non-experimental design;
2) collects quantitative and qualitative data;
3) applies an interpretive analysis of the data (e.g., thematic analysis).

The present research is exploratory, mixed methods, interpretive and collects data on:
1) VLS use;
2) frequency of VLS use across four grades;
3) BALLL, particularly, the beliefs of the CCL;
4) the EVS of CEMs.

The benefits of using mixed methods are the ability to generate and test theory, to answer
complex research questions and the possibility of corroborating findings (DeCuir-Gunby,
2008).

The use of mixed methods the present research followed the tradition of previous research in
exploring VLSs and beliefs. Table 4.1 highlights some LLSs researcher(s), their method(s) of
data collection and the factor they explored.

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Table 4.1: Researcher, method and factor researched
Researcher: Year: Questionnaire: Interview: Think- Diary: Factor:
aloud:
Oxford 1990 yes LLSs
Schmitt 1997 yes VLSs
Gu & 1996 yes VLSs
Johnson
Gu 1997 yes VLSs
Law 2003 yes yes yes VLSs
Wu 2008 yes VLSs
Horwitz 1988 yes Beliefs
Shi 2006 yes Beliefs
Elbaum et 1993 yes Beliefs
al.
Oxford & 1989 yes Beliefs
Nyikos
Yang 1999 yes Beliefs
Wenden 1987 yes Beliefs
Benson & 1999 yes Beliefs
Lor
Gao 2006 yes Beliefs
Ma 2009 yes VLSs

4.2.2 Benefits and influence of the self-report questionnaire and interview method

4.2.2.1 The questionnaire method

Some of the scholarly explorations into LLSs/VLSs were highlighted in Chapter 2: Literature
Review, section 2.3.1., and below in section 4.2.2.2. Many studies (e.g. Elbaum et al., 1993;
Gu, 1997; Gu & Johnson, 1996; Horwitz, 1988; Law, 2003; Oxford, 1990; Oxford & Nyikos,
1989; Schmitt, 1997; Shi, 2006; Wu, 2008; Yang, 1999) have used the questionnaire method
to research LLSs generally, VLSs specifically, and BALLL, and point to the method’s
dependability (McDonough & McDonough, 1997). Other reasons include: 1) the
questionnaire method provided easy access to suitable data (for example, VLSs use; BALLL;
EVS); and 2), the interruption to the participants was minimal. DeCuir-Gunby (2008) says
quantitative data is useful in generalising and studying large numbers of people. The
questionnaire was used to answer the research question about VLSs used and frequency of
use and BALLL — No. 1: Which VLSs do CEMs tend to use (as individuals and as a
group)?; No. 2: What is the difference in frequency of use of VLSs among individuals within

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and between grades (four grades) and as a group of CEMs?; No. 3: What are CEMs’
‘Western’ or Chinese BALLL?; No. 4: Do their specific BALLL correlate with VLS use?;
No. 5: What is the general EVS of CEMs in each of the four grades (years) of a four-year
Bachelor degree?; No. 6: Do BALLL and VLS use influence EVS?

4.2.2.2 The interview method

The interview method is widely used in strategy research, and most researchers have used
face to face (off line) and telephone methods. Wenden (1987) explored learners’ explicit
beliefs about how best to approach the task of learning a second language. She used a semi-
structured face-to-face approach, taking 90 minutes to complete. In her analysis, which used
adapted procedures for content analysis, she searched her transcripts for recurring statements
of beliefs. Benson and Lor (1999) also used the interview method to explore higher order
conceptions of BALLL, and analysed their transcripts for categories following
phenomenography.

According to Fontana and Frey (2005), the reliance on electronic outlets is only recent but
increasing. University campuses around the world are now, generally speaking, connected.
Electronic interviewing has the potential to reach 100 per cent of specialised populations,
which would include foreign language learners in countries distant from the researcher
(Fontana & Frey, 2005). The possibility of ‘virtual interviewing’, as they put it, “where
Internet connections are used synchronically or asynchronically to obtain information” must
be viewed as a positive development (Fontana & Frey, 2005, pp. 695-728). The immediacy of
internet communication tools like QQ and Skype allows for synchronised interviewing, and
thus can offset the effects of non-synchronised discussion and survey research (Gaiser &
Schreiner, 2009). When video is added, there is little to distinguish it from face-to-face
interviews, except that the environment (the space in which interaction occurs) is slightly
different (e.g., computers and screens) (James & Busher, 2009). The present research has
used the internet communication tool QQ to conduct interviews: 1) as this is a popular and
familiar tool to the participants and they frequently use it, and 2) they were not available for
interview on site due to their busy schedules.

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4.3 Reliability and validity

This thesis embraces a particular view of language and language learning, particularly
vocabulary learning. This has influenced the focus of the research to some degree. As an
English language teacher at the research site, the learning behaviours of most of the CEMs
were observed in their learning context without hindrance. However, VLS use was not
observed with any intensity as the CEMs used them to learn English vocabulary. The
assumption was that, most of the time, vocabulary learning happened, except when explicitly
observed in the classroom context or in class tests. Observing how vocabulary learning was
happening (though through self-reports), for this particular group of Chinese EFL learners,
was one of the aims of the research.

According to Yin (2005), reliability is concerned with whether the next researcher can follow
the procedures used and whether s/he can replicate the case study, and generate the same
findings and conclusions. The emphasis is on replicating the same case study, not on getting
the same results. The goal of reliability, according to Yin (2005), is to minimise the errors and
biases. Essentially, if there is no careful documentation of procedures, not even the researcher
could repeat his or her own work. The questionnaires were administered first, and then the
interviews were conducted at a later stage. Students were recruited from their home
classroom — students in Chinese universities are grouped and allocated a classroom where
they meet and study, called the home classroom — and a day and time agreed to complete the
questionnaires and tests. On this day, informed consent was obtained and instructions given
on how complete the activity. The questionnaires and tests were collected, scanned and
emailed. The completed questionnaires and tests were then checked for consistency and
errors.

On the issue of external validity, the issue is whether the findings can be generalised beyond
the immediate case study (Yin, 2005). This study involves replicating some of what others
have done: Horwitz’s (1987) exploration of general BALLL, Shi’s (2006) exploration of the
beliefs of the CCL, Ma’s (2009) exploration of VLSs and Nation’s (2001) exploration of
vocabulary size using units of analysis previously explored in other contexts validating the
test (e.g. Beglar, 2010), thus demonstrates replication is possible using the same methods of
data collection and analysis as previous studies. However, this research is conducted in the
context of CEMs in China combining questionnaire and interview. The questions in the

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questionnaires were not fundamentally changed, though they were, in some instances,
clarified to meet the needs of pre- to intermediate students and to sharpen the focus of the
research (for instance, the original questionnaire questions referred to a foreign language,
whereas the present research refers to the English language).

Paltridge and Phakiti (2010) discuss the dual concerns of reliability and validity and sampling
when the sample size is low. The sample size for the research was 105 — 80 for the
questionnaires and 25 for the interviews. The concerns are whether the data collection
instruments are reliable and valid in the context. Potential participants were informed of the
nature of the research, sufficient for participants at the research site to decide to participate
(see Appendix 11), to try to counter issues relating to the Hawthorne Effect (behavioural
change due to being observed) (Paltridge & Phakiti, 2010). Paltridge and Phakiti also (2010)
say the receptive vocabulary size test (e.g., 2000, 3000, 5000, 10,000 and academic
vocabulary) can be completed in 30 minutes, and imply that this time of completion can
satisfy the dual concerns of reliability and validity. However, during the pilot study for the
present research, the multi-questionnaire — the combined VLSs questionnaire, two beliefs
questionnaires, and the vocabulary size test (1000, 2000, 3000 and academic words) — took
an average of 30 and 55 minutes to complete; the VST took an average of 8 and 20 minutes to
complete. This is within Paltridge and Phakiti’s contention that 30 minutes would satisfy the
dual concerns of reliability and validity. Perhaps they think that if the time is longer,
reliability may decrease? The patterning of the data does not suggest that participants in the
present research rushed to complete the multi-questionnaire (see Chapter 5). The time taken
to complete the vocabulary learning strategies questionnaire VLSQ (see section 4.6.1.2
below) was between 30 and 50 minutes for grade 1 students — the time decreased with each
successive grade.

To increase validity of results, a variety of methods were used — questionnaires and


interviews — to achieve consistency in the results. The present research uses a form of
triangulation, by gathering data with two methods: questionnaire and interview (Creswell &
Plano Clark, 2006). The interviews aimed to provide support and explain some of the
questionnaires, depending on the Creswell and Plano Clark model (2011), the sequential
exploratory. A sequential design can apply to any sequence of data collection but the present
research begins with quantitative data collection (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). The
quantitative is collected and analysed first, then the qualitative. The qualitative is used to

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either help explain or elaborate on the quantitative result. The quantitative provides a general
understanding of the issue being explored, and the qualitative refines and possibly explains
the results.

While studies can be influenced by researcher bias, every effort was made to ensure that the
results and interpretations were reliable. This was achieved by providing a thick description
of the research activities and events throughout the research; by conducting an extensive
search of the literature; by using reliable and valid data collection methods; by doing a pilot
study; by holding briefing and debriefing sessions with the CEMs wherever possible; and by
allowing Chinese nationals to review the interpretations of the data. Such an approach aimed
to minimise the threats to the reliability and validity (Yin, 2005).

4.4 Case and participants

4.4.1 The case study of a Chinese university

According to Nunan (1992, pp. 75–76), the case study can be “initiated in two ways”. The
first can be “when an issue or hypothesis is proposed, and an instance drawn from that class
is selected and studied” (Nunan, 1992, pp. 75–76). The other way is “when a case is selected
and studied in its own right rather than as an exemplar of a class” (Nunan, 1992, pp. 75–76).
Whichever way is chosen, “the case will be a ‘bounded system’ or ‘single instance’, such as
an individual teacher, a classroom, or even a school district” (Nunan, 1992, pp. 75–76). Best
and Khan (1993, p. 193), however, say a case can be an exemplar, “even a prototype for, a
category of individuals”. McDonough and McDonough (1997, p. 205) highlight aspects such
as key players, key institutions, group characteristics and critical incidents as a guide, which
includes issues such as geographical parameters, group characteristics and organisational and
institutional arrangements. Case study is an empirical enquiry investigating a contemporary
phenomenon, and a range of evidence is used, including both qualitative and quantitative data
(Yin, 2005). The results can be used to extend our understanding of the issue studied, the
relationship between phenomena, and even offer suggestions about how to better manage it
and its effects.

The present exploratory research of the PVL concerns English — an instance of it drawn
from a university context — in which a group of CEMs learn English vocabulary. The

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university context and English vocabulary learning of CEMs was selected as a case study for
this group of Chinese students. English vocabulary learning usually happens in this higher
education context in China. The research site enrols several hundred English Majors every
semester and, as is the case at most if not all universities in China, enrolled students are
placed in a course of study. Students do not normally choose their course of study but are
placed in different disciplines depending on exam scores.

An English Majors’ curriculum is supported by China’s MoE. The curriculum has an


emphasis on grammar, reading, writing and listening. The teaching method is also supported
by the China MoE. The method is, therefore, a typical Chinese traditional teaching method,
(e.g., teacher-centred), where students are generally viewed as recipients of teaching
(Richards et al., 2002). Teaching typically involves the grammar–translation method.
Grammar–translation here means that teaching makes use of “[Chinese] translation and
grammar study as the main teaching and learning activity” (Richards et al., 2002, pp. 231,
563). According to Richards et al. (2002), this type of lesson typically involves presenting
grammar rules, lists of vocabulary and a translation exercise. Learned language knowledge is
measured through formal tests such as the Test of English Majors Band 4 (TEM 4) and the
Test of English Majors Band 8 (TEM 8). Passing these formal tests is believed to demonstrate
language proficiency. Students can sit these tests twice; if they fail the first time they sit it the
same time the following year. There are no specific vocabulary classes or vocabulary training
on site.

Anecdotal evidence from both students and teachers at the research site (and other sites)
suggests most students fail formal English tests the first time and many fail the second time.
This provided a strong incentive to conduct this research, to investigate vocabulary learning
strategies and because they have been found to contribute to language learning. This research
aimed to find out if students employed VLSs in general, and how they approached their
vocabulary learning.

4.4.2 Participants in the research

This research offers an exploration into the process of English vocabulary learning by pre- to
intermediate CEMs. The research does this by focusing on their VLS use, their beliefs and
EVS in a university context in China. The students were categorised by different factors —

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grade, VLS use, BALLL and EVS.

The CEMs were mostly speakers of Mandarin, although some spoke Cantonese. They had
experienced roughly six years of formal English language education prior to entering
university. As English Majors they study English for general purposes (EGP) (Richards et al.,
2002). EGP here also means EFL — “someone who learns English [for general purposes] in a
formal classroom setting, with limited or no opportunities for use outside the classroom, in a
country in which English does not play an important role in internal communication (China,
Japan and Korea, for example)” (Richards et al., 2002, p. 233). Although these students learn
English in an EFL context, they are expected to continue learning English vocabulary
throughout their undergraduate degree program. Most have plans either for further study at a
university in an English-speaking country such as the USA or Australia, or work as a
translator/interpreter in their home country. However, informal observations suggest learning
English vocabulary in at least one Chinese university seems to be viewed as an implicit
activity (by teachers and university administrators) in the classroom and an explicit activity
outside the formal activities of the classroom. That is, these particular university students do
not have a class with a specific focus on vocabulary. The researcher was a teacher in some of
their institutions and is aware of the system. The classes these students generally attend
emphasise reading (for instance, intensive, extensive), pure linguistics (for instance,
phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics), and compulsory traditional grammar, in which
vocabulary is presented as part of the class content but not explicitly focused on — for
example, vocabulary is viewed as incidentally learned. An ‘adjunct class’ here means that the
class uses a topic-centred approach, “in which content and teaching and learning activities are
centred around topics or themes, i.e. the family” (Richards et al., 2002, p. 717).

Therefore, vocabulary is expected to be learned in preparation for the formal tests that must
be completed, but not as explicit activity in the classroom — and cannot be monitored. Given
the pressure of time to learn vocabulary, this possibly contributes to the observed
phenomenon that students do not often pass the formal tests on their first attempt and must try
a second time (see section 4.4.1 above).

Participants in the research were English Majors in one of the four grades (years) of a four-
year undergraduate degree course. The partitioning of the CEMs by grade is deliberate, since
the present research tries to capture not only the experience of grade one students but the

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experience of continuing students in an effort to capture a snapshot of VLS frequency of use
and beliefs in each of the four years of their undergraduate degree program (as well as the
development of EVS). This is the main contribution of this research, which hasn’t been
addressed before.

The expectation was that 120 CEMs would be surveyed but the actual number was 80. The
research goal was to survey 30 students from each of the four grades. The reduced sample
size was due mainly to students’ busy study schedules and student numbers at the research
site. Fewer grade four students participated in the research. Twenty-five participants were
interviewed after the questionnaire phase to gain further insight into VLS and beliefs.
Participants were randomly chosen from among the CEM cohort at the university based on
membership in this group.

A gender imbalance was expected since more females than males were enrolled as English
Majors at the research site — a ratio of roughly 25 females to 1 male. The CEMs (n=105 (80
+ 25) were presumed to hold a particular English proficiency level; although proficiency
levels were not measured, it was estimated to be somewhere in the vicinity of pre-
intermediate to intermediate, according to the ACTFL Proficiency guidelines (SIL
International, 1999).

4.5 Role of the researcher

The present research was exploratory and interpretive, using mixed methods (questionnaires
and interview). The approach involved providing explicit reasons for the focus of the
research, views about the research and my relationship with the people/issue/phenomenon
being explored. I was initially an outsider, who at one time was a teacher of CEMs. As a
result, I possess ‘insider’ knowledge of the CEMs’ learning behaviour and their BALLL.
Some of the CEMs may not have known me as well as other CEMs, since I did not teach
them English language instruction or they did not interact with me when I worked at the
research site, though they may have been aware of me or have known of me. In addition, I
was an Australian conducting research in a Chinese context, which means that some of the
participants or interested parties may view my interest in their learning behaviour and beliefs
with suspicion (for instance, threats to integrity, threats to ‘face’) (Phuong-Mai et al., 2005),
though none of the participants involved in the research experienced this view. These issues

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were dealt with by discussing them with Chinese nationals (e.g., students and teachers) at the
research site and at other times. Most of the participants, however, seemed to be open and
sincere in their interactions with me because I was not their teacher.

While studies can be influenced by researcher bias, the study addressed the limitations by
providing a thick description of the research activities and events throughout the research; by
conducting an extensive search of the literature; by using reliable and valid data collection
methods; by doing a pilot study; by holding briefing and debriefing sessions with the CEMs
wherever possible; and by allowing Chinese nationals to review the interpretations of the
data. These measures were taken to minimise the threats to the reliability and validity (Yin,
2005).

4.6 Data collection method and administration procedures

4.6.1 Data collection instruments, their nature and function

This subsection is divided into two: section 4.6.1 discusses the multi-questionnaire data
collection instrument, its nature and function, as well as the interview method and interview
questions; and section 4.7 discusses the administration of the multi-questionnaire data
collection instrument and interview protocol, and management of the collected data and data
analysis. The Table 4.2 below shows all data collection instruments in the multi-questionnaire
instrument and the interview method in the research and in which section each is discussed:

Table 4.2: ‘Multi-questionnaire’ data collection instruments and methods


Items: Section:
1 General Demographics and Language Background (GDLB) 4.6.1.1
2 Vocabulary Learning Strategies Questionnaire (VLSQ) 4.6.1.2
3 Beliefs about Language and Language Learning Questionnaire (BALLLQ) 4.6.1.3
4 Chinese Culture of Learning Questionnaire (CCLQ) 4.6.1.4
5 Vocabulary Size Test (VST) 4.6.1.5
6 Interview (Int.) 4.6.1.6

Five main data collection instruments, collectively known as the multi-questionnaire data
collection instrument, plus the interview, were employed in the present study:

1) Characteristics and Language Background (Appendix 1);

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2) Vocabulary Learning Strategies Questionnaire, the first data collection instrument
(Appendix 2) — to answer research questions No. 1 and No. 2;
3) Beliefs about Language and Language Learning Questionnaire, the second data
collection instrument (BALLI – Appendix 3) — to answer research questions No. 3
and No. 4;
4) Chinese Culture of Learning Questionnaire, the third data collection instrument (CLQ
— Appendix 4) — to answer research questions No. 3 and No. 4;
5) Vocabulary Size Test, the fourth data collection instrument (Appendix 5) — to answer
research question No. 5;
6) Statistical tests to observe relationships between the main factors and answer research
question No. 6; and,
7) Interview — to answer research questions No. 1 to No. 3.

The quantitative data collection instruments, referred to as the multi-questionnaire, were


collectively employed at a particular moment in time to collect data cross-sectionally (e.g.,
between grades, but were not different nominally because they were all English Majors; they
were different in terms of being in a different grade while in the same major) and pseudo-
longitudinally (e.g., providing a snapshot of four different grades in a BA) (Jarvis &
Pavlenko, 2008; Chun & Quaddus, 2012). Each data collection instrument is highlighted and
discussed below, including a discussion of which research question(s) was answered by
which research instrument. The interviews were conducted at a later stage, to gain qualitative
insights into students’ VLS use and beliefs and strengthen the validity of the research.

4.6.1.1 Characteristics and language background

The characteristics and language background questionnaire (GDLB) was designed to collect
the characteristics of the CEMs participating in the research (see Table 4.4 below). The data
collected were name, age, gender, native language spoken, number of years of English
language education, grade (at the time of the survey) in university, and College Entrance Test
score (CET 2) (if known). It was collected at the time the student participated in the study
(see Table 4.3 below and see Appendix 1). This data answered several aspects of the research
questions for the present study — for instance, inter-group differences and strategy use trends
in one of the four grades were gathered through the questionnaires (VLSQ, BALLLQ, CLQ,
and VST), the multi-questionnaire. Collecting this demographic information allowed

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participants’ data to be cross-referenced (though coded) with the information obtained by all
the data collection instruments. Students took on average five minutes to complete the
GDLB.

Table 4.3: General demographics and language background


Category: Details: Averages:
Ethnicity Han 97.5%
Hui 1.25%
Bai 1.25%
Year of enrolment Grade 1 27.5%
Grade 2 27.5%
Grade 3 30%
Grade 4 15%
Age 19 to 20 21.25%
21 to 22 53.75%
23 to 24 plus 25%
Gender Female 88.75%
Male 11.25%
Degree English 100%
Years of English language 7 to 9 57.5%
education
10 to 12 36.25%
13 to 15 plus 3.75%
Mother tongue Mandarin 80%
Cantonese 13.75%

4.6.1.2 Vocabulary Learning Strategies Questionnaire

The VLSQ was used to gather information on VLSs and VLS use of the CEMs. A distinction
is made because one can talk about strategies without talking about their actual use, which is
what the present research is more concerned with. The VLSQ was a slightly modified version
of Ma’s (2009) VLSQ used in a Chinese context (see Appendix 2). The version in the present
research includes two new questions, one about where students obtain or acquire the VLSs
they use (for instance, teacher, classmate), and one about the location or space in which the
VLSs are used, as well as where vocabulary is generally learned (for instance, classroom,
library, dormitory room), given that the broadened definition of a formal learning context
goes beyond the classroom but includes it. The first question was included because the
present research explores the idea that CEMs are not necessarily born with VLSs, which are
therefore obtained from an external source (or developed through experience and reflection),

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and from this the research can infer training practices (e.g., strategy training). The second
question was included because CEMs did not attend a class in which vocabulary is explicitly
a focus, so they were asked where in the broader conception of the formal learning context at
the research site VLSs were used, where they tended to learn vocabulary the most if not in the
classroom. This will provide useful suggestions for student learning and how they generally
approach vocabulary learning. This might also provide insights into language teaching.

The main goal of the questionnaire, however, was to collect data on VLSs and VLS use, those
listed by Ma (2009) in her questionnaire. Question 1 asks ‘Where do you discover new
words?’ and provides participants with seven choices of place of discovery — for instance,
textbooks and classroom activities, lists of vocabulary arranged alphabetically, lists of
vocabulary arranged semantically. This type of question reflects Schmitt’s (1997) idea that
learners discover a word — initially a strategy in its own right (discovery strategies) — and
then determine what to do with it, and employ a strategy or group of strategies to learn it
(consolidation strategies). Thus it is viewed as belonging to Schmitt’s first group of
strategies: discovery strategies (see Chapter 2: Literature Review 2.3.1). However, certain
words and phrases in the questionnaire have been simplified, where necessary, to cater for
students with a lower than expected English proficiency — for instance, ‘arranged
semantically’ was replaced with ‘arranged by meaning’ (see Appendix 2). Questions which
seemed vague were modified to make them more specific. For example, Q1: Where do you
discover new words? – with the strategy choice ‘When using/surfing the Internet (for
example, English websites, e-chatting)’ (see Appendix 2). Students took on average 10
minutes to complete the VLSQ. Cronbach’s Alpha of 0.877 suggests the slight modification
of the questionnaire did not affect the questionnaire’s reliability.

The rating scale (Likert) measured the ‘frequency’ of VLS use (Dörnyei, 2007) — never,
rarely, sometimes, often, always — with which the discovery of a new word occurs in a
particular place, such as textbooks, classroom activity, and was numbered 1 to 5. Illustration
No. 1 shows the Likert rating scale as it appears in the questionnaire.

Illustration No. 1:
1. Where do you discover new words?
In textbooks and from classroom learning activities F: 1 2 3 4 5
Frequency of use (F:) 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=always

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Participants only needed to draw a circle around the number that represented the frequency.

The data generated by the questionnaire answered the following research questions:

No. 1: Which VLSs do CEMs tend to use (as individuals and as a group)?
No. 2: What is the difference in frequency of use of VLSs among individuals within and
between grades (four grades) and as a group of CEMs?; and, provides a basis for
answering part of research question No. 3: What are CEMs’ ‘Western’ or Chinese beliefs
about language and language learning? No. 4: Do their specific beliefs about language
and language learning correlate with vocabulary learning strategy use?

Statistical analyses conducted were non-parametric tests to produce descriptive statistics


(e.g., means, standard deviations, minimum, maximums), Kruskal-Wallis Test to produce a
student mean (to show variability in individual scores), as well as correlational analysis
(Spearman’s rho) to show how strong the relationship is among the factors. Factor here
means an aspect of the phenomenon being explored — for example, the PVL. The two main
factors in the process of vocabulary being explored are VLS use and BALLL. The tests were
used to observe individual differences within a grade and between grades on each factor (e.g.,
VLS use, BALLL and VST), as well as to observe statistically significant relationships
between individuals within a grade and between grades, and overall (e.g., to observe
relationships between VLSs, BALLL and CCL, and VST). Non-parametric tests were used
because 1) the sample is less than 100, 2) because normality could not be determined with a
sample below 100, and 3) these factors are viewed as unevenly distributed among the
population.

The statistical justification for observing between grade differences was the Kruskal-Wallis
(ANOVA-type) Test, shown below in Table 4.4.

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Table 4.4: three mean-scores ranking against factor mean-scores
Range: N Mean Rank Chi-square df Asymp. Sig.
CCLTOTAL Upper 29 39.31
Middle 28 49.20 7.521 2 0.023*
Lower 23 31.41
BALLLTOTAL Upper 29 37.17
Middle 28 49.48 6.724 2 0.035*
Lower 23 33.76
VLSTOTAL Upper 29 42.74
Middle 28 44.29 3.370 2 0.185
Lower 23 33.07
* p < 0.05

Table 4.4 shows that null hypothesis (H0) is rejected and that the between grade scores would
be the same as the individual scores within a grade between beliefs and academic size test
scores, except for VLS use and academic size test scores. There is a significant difference for
general BALLL and CCL beliefs and academic scores, therefore, we accept H 1 that they
would be the same or similar at the all-students level or between grades for VLS use and
academic scores, at least, if observed in the ranges of mean-scores of upper, middle and lower
academic mean-scores.

The data generated by the two additional questions in the questionnaire, ‘Do you remember
who taught you how to learn a foreign language?’ and ‘Where do you often learn English
vocabulary during the semester?’ allowed the indirect exploration of the influence of context
and culture on learning (e.g. O’Malley & Chamot, 1985). The assumption behind the first
question is that if the ‘strategy’ is one that was taught and/or promoted by a teacher (or
parent) during the student’s early or later education (for instance, university education), then
it might be a strategy that is promoted by a particular point of view or is a culturally based
BALLL (for instance, the CCL). Statistical analyses were applied to the data generated by
these questions and the result can be found in Chapter 6: Statistical Analysis. The data
generated by these two questions is not used in the main discussion of the process of
vocabulary learning, but as an aside to it.

4.6.1.3 Beliefs about Language and Language Learning Questionnaire

The BALLI was designed and validated by Horwitz (1988) and demonstrates BALLL.

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Horwitz (1988) used the BALLI (the BALLLQ in the present research) to collect data on
BALLL in a non-Chinese context (see Appendix 3), but the present research uses it in a
Chinese context. As far as is known, it has not been used before in China, therefore, this is an
important contribution of this study.

The BALLI’s reliability and validity is discussed by Kuntz (1996). The present research used
a modified version of the BALLI, which refers to learning English since the participants are
CEMs. Students took about seven minutes to complete the BALLLQ for the present research.
Cronbach’s Alpha was calculated for this modified version of the questionnaire and the result
was 0.622. This finding suggests that the slight modification and reducing the scaling from 6
to 5 maintained a good reliability rating.

The rating scale (Likert) measured the strength of the ‘belief’ held by the participant
(Dörnyei, 2007, p. 36) — strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree, strongly
disagree. Illustration No. 2 shows Question 5 and the rating scale as it appears in the
questionnaire but later coded to reflect the scaling on the other instruments (for instance,
A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5):

Illustration No. 2:
Q.5 English is structured in the same way as Chinese S: A B C D E
(A) strongly disagree (B) disagree (C) neither agree or disagree (D) agree (E) strongly agree

The respondents only had to draw a circle around the letter representing the strength of
opinion about the belief statement. The order in which the values appeared in the
questionnaire used in the present research is the reverse of Horwitz’s. The reason for the
reverse order was consistency. The VLSQ values begin with a negative (‘never’) and the
CCLQ values begin with a negative (‘disagree’). Beginning the value range in the BALLLQ
with a negative value (‘strongly disagree’) averts any confusion that might have been created
by the switch from a negative value to a positive value from one instrument to the next.

The data generated by the BALLLQ answered research question No. 3: What are CEMs’
‘Western’ and Chinese beliefs about language and language learning? No. 4: Do their specific
beliefs about language and language learning correlate with each other and their vocabulary
learning? This relationship was shown running a Kruskal-Wallis Test.

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4.6.1.4 Chinese Culture of Learning Questionnaire

The CCLQ was designed by Shi (2006) and validated in a Chinese context, and was used to
gather information on the beliefs that Shi (2006) classified as belonging to the CCL. The
questions were designed to elicit culturally biased responses (Shi, 2006) from participants
(see Appendix 4).

The rating scale (Likert) used an odd number of values (5) and the Shi questionnaire used an
even number (4) (see Illustration No. 3 below). The decision to use five values in the present
research was for consistency; the other questionnaires use a 5-point rating scale.

Illustration No. 3
3. A good teacher of English should …
a) Be knowledgeable about his/her area 1 2 3 4 5
b) Often use games/activities when s/he teaches 1 2 3 4 5
c) Be light-hearted 1 2 3 4 5
d) Be serious 1 2 3 4 5
e) Provide clear and comprehensive notes 1 2 3 4 5
f) Help me pass exams 1 2 3 4 5
g) Improve my English skills (reading, writing, listening,
1 2 3 4 5
speaking)
Other (Please explain):

1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree; 5=strongly agree

The respondent only has to do draw a circle around the number that represents the strength of
his/her belief. Besides increasing the rating scale to 5 points, extra formatting was added (see
Appendix 5) to increase participant accuracy when rating a statement. The 5-point Likert
scaling was chosen because it is the most common, and because it was used in the other
questionnaire. Changes were made so there wouldn’t be any confusion in scaling from one
questionnaire to the next. The Shi questionnaire does not have the content in boxes and, when
it was initially reviewed, the numbering was not very clear. Students took about 10 minutes to
complete the CCLQ. To ensure reliability of the modified questionnaire, Cronbach’s Alpha
was calculated and was found to be 0.790, which suggests reliability was not affected.

The data generated by the CCLQ provided information on whether the beliefs held by the
students within a grade were strongly those of the CCL. In particular, the data answered

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research question No. 3: What are CEMs’ ‘Western’ or Chinese beliefs about language and
language learning? and No. 4: Do their specific BALLL correlate with vocabulary learning
strategy use? The beliefs of the CEMs in the present research are presumed to belong
strongly to the CCL (Cortazzi & Jin, 1996b; Flowerdew, 1998; Hird, 1995; Jin & Cortazzi,
2006; Ma 2009; Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Shi, 2006; Xing, 2009), given that the participants
are Chinese. For instance, the belief that a good teacher should be ‘knowledgeable about
his/her area’ is a belief of the CCL, whereas ‘often uses games/activities when s/he teaches’ is
not. The results were compared with Shi’s (2006) classification of the beliefs of the CCL and
the results of her exploration, and can be found in Chapter 5.

Gaining insights into the beliefs of the CCL will suggest, by the strength of the belief (e.g.,
strongly agree, disagree), a possible influence on CEMs and subsequently on whether they
tend to learn English vocabulary from this particular cultural point of view. Such data allows
inferences be made about their role in the PVL. This can also inform vocabulary teaching
pedagogy.

4.6.1.5 Vocabulary Size Test

In the present research the VST was used to collect data on the vocabulary size (according to
Nation’s measurement tools) of the CEMs (see Appendix 5). The data generated by the VST
was expected to answer research question No. 5: What is the general English vocabulary size
of CEMs in each of the four grades (years) of a four-year Bachelor degree? And part of
research question No. 6, with the help of non-parametric tests. Students took on average 15
minutes to complete the VST.

Initially, the question was posed and explored as a logical extension of research question No.
1: VLS use. It was also asked in response to Cortazzi’s and Jin’s (1996) statement that
Chinese EFL learners memorise thousands of words each year in the standard six years of
English language education prior to university. ‘Memorise’, however, can mean remember
forever once memorised. But remembering must be discussed in relation to forgetting
(Schmitt, 2000; Anderson, 1995). The research does not take for granted that all the English
vocabulary a CEM encounters and memorises is remembered forever. The vocabulary size of
the CEMs at the research site, for instance, were estimated at entry to university to be
somewhere between 1500 and 2000 vocabulary items (see Appendix 6). The estimate seemed

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low and was far less than the vocabulary size suggested by Cortazzi and Jin (1996) —
thousands of words each year.

Vocabulary size is the logical outcome of learning, though only a rough outcome when all
factors are taken into consideration (e.g., forgetting). If one learns, there will be a result:
something. But is the result of learning always remembered? No, it is not. What will remain
is the learner’s vocabulary size at the moment in time it is measured regardless of how much
has been learnt; basically, what is retained after learning. Vocabulary size is therefore
explored merely as a reflection of learning, not as the exact outcome of learning but to argue
that learning happens; retaining what is learned is not explored in this research.

Nation (2001) devised the VST and argued that knowing a word involves being able to
recognise it when it is seen/heard (item knowledge) and being able to understand it
systemically — for instance, the various meanings and relations with other words (see
Chapter 2, section 2.1). Even if the CEMs in the present research had merely undertaken to
memorise thousands and thousands of words, as Cortazzi and Jin (1996) suggest, it implies
remembering everything always. However, Nation (2001) implies that English language
learners might still be able to recognise words, despite the fact that a certain amount of
forgetting may have occurred since they initially memorised the vocabulary. Therefore, the
bilingual version was used at the lower levels but not for the size tests. The present research
did not explore vocabulary testing, but explored vocabulary size because, according to entry
levels, only a certain amount of vocabulary seemed to have been retained.

The VST 1000, a test of the first 1000 most frequently used English words, contains four
sections of 10 vocabulary points (see Appendix 6). The VST 1000 tests a learner’s knowledge
of the first 1000 words in which a vocabulary item is presented in context. See illustration
VST 1000 Question 1 (Table 4.5) with four vocabulary items. One item represents the
meaning, while the other three are distracters. Distracters are items like a polysemous word,
an antonym or an unrelated item. Table 4.5 provides an illustration of the bilingual version of
VST 1000 Question 1. As will be seen, the first answer to Question 1 is a polysemous word
while the other two possible answers are unrelated.

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Table 4.5: VST 1000 Question 1
1. see: They saw it.
a. 切 (cut)
b. 等待 (wait for)
c. 看 (looked at)
d. 始 (started)

The testee only had to draw a circle around one of four multiple-choice answers. The correct
answer is c, and the others (a, b and d) are distracters. The VST appears to test reading skills
rather than listening skills but the present research explores English vocabulary learning from
the perspective of reading rather than learning vocabulary from the perspective of listening.
(The VST does not test retention, but retention may result when other strategies are regularly
used, for example, consolidation strategies.) The listening aspect is acknowledged to have
been a feature of the CEMs’ prior English language education. However, the present study is
premised on the notion that a substantial amount of an EFL learner’s vocabulary, especially
the students in the present research, is gained through reading. The CEMs would have learned
much of the English vocabulary required for their formal tests from a vocabulary book (for
instance, TEM 4EasyTest). Therefore, the version of the VST used in the present study is
viewed as valid, reliable and practical, given the circumstances of its use (Nation, 2001).

4.6.1.6 Interviews

Wenden (1999), Benson and Lor (1999) and Gao (2006) all used the interview method;
Wenden, and Benson and Lor, on beliefs and Gao on Chinese students’ strategy use in an
English learning context. Gan et al (2004) used interviews to collect data on successful and
unsuccessful Chinese EFL learners. Peacock (2009) used interviews to collect data on learner
attributions, that is, what learners attributed to their success or failure in FLL.

The benefits of the interview method were discussed in section 4.2.2.2 above. Generally, they
give additional insight into a phenomenon, complement quantitative data and help strengthen
validity. They gather respondents’ generalised statements about learners’ learning behaviour,
as well as descriptions of what they believe about themselves. These mental/cognitive
processes, generally invisible, are exposed with targeted, useful questioning.

Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted in an effort to gain further insight

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into the PVL by CEMs. Semi-structured interviews were used where questions were used to
guide the responses of the participants (Cohen, 2010). These questions were asked to enhance
the quantitative data and strengthen reliability.

The following questions from the three questionnaires (VLS use, general BALLL and CCL)
were used to further explore the vocabulary learning process, and as a guide to data
gathering:

1. Where do you meet/encounter new words?


2. What do you usually do when you meet a new vocabulary item?
3. Do you practise vocabulary items? What strategies do you use?
4. How do you memorise vocabulary items?
5. How would you rate your English competence?
6. What are the characteristics of a good teacher?
7. What do you think the relationships between the teacher and the student should be like?
8. What does learning another language involve in your opinion?
9. Do you think vocabulary learning strategies should be taught?

Such questions are designed to delve deeper into the PVL (see Section 4.7.2.6 below and
Chapter 5). This design is also part of the mixed methods approach.

4.7 Procedures: administration, data management and data analysis

The multi-questionnaire was administered in the following order: the GDLB section 4.7.2.1
(see Appendix 1; 4.6.1.1 above), VLSQ section 4.7.2.2 (see Appendix 2; 4.6.1.2 above),
BALLLQ section 4.7.2.3 (see Appendix 3; 4.6.1.3 above), CCLQ section 4.7.2.4 (see
Appendix 4; 4.6.1.4 above), VST section 4.7.2.5 (see Appendix 5; 4.6.1.5 above) and the
interview section 4.7.2.6 (see Appendix 11; 4.6.1.6 above). The questionnaires were
administered together, and the interviews separately, and to all who participated (n=105 (80
questionnaires and 25 interviews post-questionnaires).

The researcher visited the ‘home’ classrooms of all the CEMs at the research site, inviting
them to participate. At the same time on a specified day, students were briefed on the nature
of the project and a time was organised for students to complete the multi-questionnaire. On

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the day, the students were briefed about informed consent (see Appendix 12), and those
agreeing to participate completed the informed consent form (see Appendices 13 and 14)
prior to completing the multi-questionnaire data collection instrument. Students were asked to
record start and completion times on each data collection instrument. When the multi-
questionnaire was administered, students indicated they did not have time for immediate
interview.

The completed multi-questionnaires were then collected and processed by the on-site
research assistant. Processing involved, among other things, collecting and counting the
number of questionnaires, and then scanning them and emailing the digital file. Two research
assistants, Chinese English teachers — one was a teacher at the research site, the other was a
student at the research site (but soon after graduated as a teacher) — were briefed on and
assisted with the procedure for administering the multi-questionnaire. Before the data was
analysed important checks were carried out to ensure that all questionnaires contained the
relevant and appropriate information.

4.7.1 Pilot study

A pilot study was conducted to ascertain the impact on students of such a large data collection
process, and to improve validity of questionnaire items. There were concerns that students
may find completing three consecutive questionnaires, followed immediately by a set of
VSTs, overwhelming. Seven CEMs participated in the pilot study; six females and one male;
ages 19 to 21; 7 to 12 years of English language education; enrolled in grade 2 of a Bachelor
degree.

The time taken by students to complete three questionnaires was commensurate with times
taken to complete each individual questionnaire when administered in previous research (e.g.
Ma, 2009; Horwitz, 1987; Shi, 2006). Students were asked if they encountered any problems
in the questionnaires (e.g., structure and language) and how they felt after completing them
(e.g., tiredness) and the response was positive. No problems were encountered with length of
questionnaires and/or time taken to complete them; no problems were encountered with the
structure and/or language used in them.

The pilot study helped to validate questionnaire items and provide insight into potential

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practical problems.

4.7.2 Data management and data analysis

The data management was similar for all the data collection instruments — VLSQ,
BALLLQ, and CCLQ — except the VST, which received additional and slightly different
data analysis because it was a test. All the quantitative data generated by the instruments —
GDLB, VLSQ, BALLLQ, CCLQ and VST — was initially managed and analysed in Excel
data tables, generating descriptive statistics such as means and standard deviations. The
means present an average of scores while the standard deviation shows the closeness or
distance of scores from each other (e.g., individual scores were slightly further apart than
overall scores).

The data was entered into SPSS [statistical package for the social sciences] for further
analysis using Non-parametric Tests to observe mean differences and correlational analysis
using Spearman’s rho. Non-parametric analysis was run because the factors (for example,
VLS use, BALLL) were not viewed as being normally distributed in the population of CEMs,
and because the sample size was less than 100 (StatSoft, 2003) — a sample above 100 will
provide evidence of normality. Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Test was used to observe
differences in scores on the three questionnaires and the four VSTs to see if they are related.
The Spearman’s rho was run to observe correlations among three factors (VLS use, general
beliefs and CCL beliefs) and between five factors including age and years of English
language education (see Chapter 6, section 6.3, Tables 6.6 to 6.9).

The descriptive statistics show, for instance, averages of students’ VLS use within a grade,
and percentages provide a general range of the most students using VLSs within a grade. The
results of the analyses can be found in Chapter 6: Statistical Analysis.

The multi-questionnaire instruments were all offered in English with a Chinese translation in
order to cater for students with lower than expected proficiency (see Appendices 2 to 5).
There were no reports of a translation being needed. All instruments were checked to ensure
that all had been properly completed. There were no invalid or excessively incomplete
questionnaires (for instance, a few questions were not answered by only one student).
Questionnaire data was then transferred to computer storage and/or data storage disk while

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the paper copy of the questionnaire was stored in an appropriate folder in a lockable cupboard
(in a Chinese research assistant’s home).

The interview data was transcribed and analysed for themes and categories (see section
4.7.2.6 below). Following a phenomenographic analysis (Paltridge and Phakiti, 2010), in
which key data are coded into categories (e.g., ‘informal behaviour’, ‘gender division’), then
depending on the frequency of the ‘codes’, grouped in themes.

4.7.2.1 Characteristics and language background, analysis and management

Students took, on average, a few minutes to complete the short general demographics part of
the multi-questionnaire: 11 questions in all (see Appendix 1).

Participants’ names were coded where necessary (see Table 4.6). The research was not
initially anonymous because names were used to match up an individual’s data on each of the
data collection instruments and with other data in the correlation analyses. Names were
preserved until after the analysis phase, but were coded (made anonymous) as data in Chapter
5. Each student provided GDLB data which was entered into a table like Table 4.6 below.

Table 4.6: One student’s general characteristics and language background


2010 RESEARCH DATA from Multi-Questionnaire: GRADE 1 Xiao A
Part 1: General Demographics and Language Background
Name: A G E NL YoELE D YoE CET Date:
Xiao A 20 f Han Cantonese 7 English 1 124 12/03/2010

Note: A for Age, G for gender, E for Ethnicity, NL for native language, YoELE for years of
English language education, D for BA degree, YoELE for year of enrolment or grade and
CET for College Entrance Test score. The research ran correlational tests on the explored
factors (e.g., VLS use, BALLL, VST) against Age and Years of English language education
(see Chapter 6, section 6.3, Tables 6.6 to 6.9).

The whole grade GDLB data was collated and presented in extended versions of Table 4.6 in
Table 4.7 below.

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Table 4.7: GDLB for whole of grade 1
RESEARCH DATA 2010: CEMs GRADE 1
Part 1: Characteristics and Language Background of GRADE 1
Name: A G E NL YoELE D YoE CET Date:
1. Xiao A 20 f Han Cantonese 7 English 1 124 21/04/2010
2. Xiao B 20 f Han Mandarin 7 English 1 111 21/04/2010
3. Xiao C 20 f Han Mandarin 9 English 1 107 21/04/2010

The data generated by this can be viewed in the table in section 4.6.1.1.

4.7.2.2 Vocabulary Learning Strategy Questionnaire

Students took, on average, about 40 minutes to complete the VLSQ which contained 62
questions (see Appendix 2).

The VLSQ was a slightly modified version of Ma’s (2009) questionnaire which was used in
China (see Appendix 2). The survey had a strict structure but allowed respondents to add new
strategies not mentioned in the questionnaire on some questions, but not in all questions. This
was done to cut completion time and focus students’ attention on the strategies offered.
Following Ma (2009), participants ranked each strategy in terms of frequency of use, but not
for helpfulness. Helpfulness was not explored in the present research. Comparisons were
made between the four grades of students in terms of the percentage of students using the
strategy and the frequency of strategy use.

Each student’s raw data of response choices was entered into a table like Table 4.8 below to
observe individual VLS use.

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Table 4.8: One student’s raw data of VLS
use
Part 2: VLS use of Xiao A GRADE 1 Question 1
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
Q.1 Where do you meet new words?
1a 1 1
1b 1 1
1c 1 1
1d 1 1
1e 1 1
1f 1 1
1g 1 1
max: 0 1 3 2 1

Key to scaling: 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, and 5=always


Key to Q.1 codes: 1a to 1g represent sub-aspects or strategies of the main question seen in
Table 4.9

Table 4.8 above revealed patterns in the data of individual VLS use. It shows the total number
of response choices, with the heading ‘max’ meaning maximum number of response choices
per response range. Table 4.9 below shows which strategy is used and the frequency with
which it is used.

Table 4.9: Percentage of students using a VLS and VLS frequency of use at grade 1 level
grade 1: Vocabulary Learning Strategy Used by Frequency of use
Discovery strategies: Where do you meet new
Q1 % Response item
vocabulary?
1a In textbooks and learning activities 50 often
1b In vocabulary lists arranged in alphabetical order 45 sometimes
1c In vocabulary lists arranged by meaning 50 sometimes
1d During English conversations with others 45 rarely
1e Reading English materials e.g. newspapers, magazines 45 often
When singing English songs and watching English
1f 41 often
movies/TV
1g When surfing/using the internet 50 sometimes

Each individual’s raw data was then entered into a table like Table 4.10 below to show the
whole grade’s raw data.

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Table 4.10: VLS use raw data of grade 1 re: Question 1
Part 2: VLS use of CEMs in GRADE 1
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
Q.1 Where do you meet new words?
1a 0 2 6 11 3 22
1b 0 1 10 9 1 21
1c 0 5 11 4 2 22
1d 0 10 7 3 2 22
1e 0 3 7 10 2 22
1f 1 2 8 9 2 22
1g 1 4 11 2 4 22
max: 1 10 11 11 4 22

Key to scaling: 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, and 5=always


Key to Q.1 codes: 1a to 1g represent sub aspects or strategies of the main question seen in
Table 4.9 above

Table 4.10 above revealed patterns in the data in terms of whole grade VLS use. Note that
VLS 1b in Table 4.10 only has 21 respondents because one student did not respond to the
sub-aspect.

Table 4.11 also revealed patterns in the data in terms of the percentage of students using a
particular VLS (e.g., roughly 60 per cent of grade 3 students often use VLS 1a: In textbooks
and classroom learning activities). While Table 4.10 above shows the largest response to a
question and then made a percentage (e.g., 50% of students often use strategy 1a), Table 4.11
below shows what all the raw data converted to percentage looks like for a single question. A
table containing all results like this can be found in Appendix 8.

Table 4.11: Raw data converted to percentages for all grades for each question
item never % rarely % sometimes % often % always %
1. In textbooks and
classroom learning
activities
grade 1 0 9.1 27.1 50.0 13.6
grade 2 0 0 22.7 54.5 22.7
grade 3 0 0 16.7 62.5 20.8
grade 4 0 0 33.3 50.0 16.7

Key: item = sub-aspect of question 1; never % = response item in the scale 1 to 5 which
equals 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=always.

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Differences in the data were highlighted with tables highlighting percentages (see Table 4.11
above) and frequencies (e.g., the percentage of students generally using a particular strategy
and the frequency with which it is generally used) (see Chapter 5). Tables like Table 4.12
below were used to help show percentages and frequencies within a grade; the highest
response percentage is shown.

Table 4.12: Percentage of students using a VLS and VLS frequency of use at grade 1 level
grade 1: Vocabulary Learning Strategy Used by Frequency of use
Consolidation strategies: How do you put in order the
Q5 % Response item
info about the new vocabulary?
5a Write it down 45 sometimes
5b Order the info in a vocabulary notebook 32 often
5c Make vocabulary cards 55 rarely
5d Use the vocabulary lists in a textbook 41 often
Use a vocab list like those in the VOCABULARY
5e 32 often
5000/TEM4EasyTEST

Key: Q5=Question 5; 5a to 5e are question sub aspects or strategies; Used by % = the


percentage of students using a strategy; Frequency of use/Response item = the frequency
scaling; scaling = never, rarely, sometimes, often, always; in the far left column and at the top
is the phrase grade 1, this is just indicate that the table highlights the analysis of grade 1
students response to Question 5, indicated with Q5, and its sub aspects or strategies 5a to 5e.

Table 4.12 above revealed differences in VLS use and VLS frequency of use in grade 1. The
table shows all the necessary information to highlight the question and strategy offered, the
data converted to show the percentage of students who use it, and the response choice that
shows the frequency with which the strategy is used. In the above table, colour highlights the
grade, and italics the question asked.

To highlight all grades percentages and frequencies, Table 4.13 showed all four grades
(represented by the code: g1, g2). The highest response percentage is shown, meaning the
most students.

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Table 4.13: Percentage of CEMs who use a VLS and VLS frequency of use of all grades
Consolidation strategies: How do you
Q5 put in order the info about the new g1 g2 g3 g4 Response item
vocabulary?
5a Write it down 45 45 38 42 sometimes
Order the info in a vocabulary
5b 32 41 33 42 sometimes/often
notebook
5c Make vocabulary cards 55 59 50 42 rarely
5d Use the vocabulary lists in a textbook 41 45 42 42 rarely/sometimes/often
Use a vocab list like those in the
5e 32 36 42 50 sometimes/often
VOCABULARY 5000/TEM4EasyTEST

Key: Table 4.13 highlights the analysis of data for all four grades on each sub aspect of
Question 5 (Q5 – top of far left column), 5a to 5e; grade has been abbreviated to ‘g’ – g1
(grade 1); Response item (top of far right column) indicates the frequency item from the
scaling, for example, 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5-always.

However, VLSs were ranked by the percentage of students using it, see Table 4.14 (see
Chapter 5, Table 5.1). The table shows, in the first column the ranking (for example, 1 to 62),
1 being that students used it the most, in the second column the VLS code (for example, 8c,
1a, 4g), highlighting where it appears in the questionnaire (for example, 8c is Question 8
subpart c), in the third column the name of the VLS (for example, Remember a new word by
its meaning (when read again)), and in the last column the percentage of CEMs that used it.
The ranking was calculated by percentage rather than by the mean because the present
research was more concerned with the percentages of students using a strategy and the
frequency of use.

Table 4.14: Overall ranking of VLSs


Rank: S#: Ranked vocabulary learning strategies over all: %
1 8c Remember a new word by its meaning (when read again) 63%
2 1a In textbooks and classroom learning activities 55%
3 1e When reading English materials 50%
4 8b Remember a new word by its meaning (when heard again) 49%
5 4g The way the new word is used 48%
6 3c I try to guess the word's meaning from the context 48%
7 6b Write the word several times 46%
8 3f Read a Chinese-English or an English-Chinese dictionary 45%
9 4d The Chinese translation 41%
10 6c Look at the word several times 40%

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Key: Table 4.14 highlights the results of analysing strategy use based on the percentage of
students using a strategy (based on the highest response percentage), but the analysis is based
on one the response item ‘often’, for example, 63 per cent of all students often use strategy
8c: Remember a new word by its meaning (when read again).

Two additional questions were added to the VLSQ (see Appendix 2). One asks ‘Where do
you obtain the VLSs you use?’. A VLS or all VLSs used may have been acquired from a
teacher, a classmate or a textbook, or be self-generated. The source of the VLSs the students
use was believed familiar to students and also believed that students would be able to say
whether they obtained the strategies they use from one of these possible sources, and this
knowledge contributed to the research. Other sources conceivably exist, but these were not
explored in the present research. The other question asks ‘Where do you often learn
vocabulary during the semester?’ This question relates to the fact that an inclusive view of the
learning context (for instance, the university) has been adopted in the present research.
Obtaining data that reflects vocabulary learning in this broader view of the learning context
was thought advantageous, rather than a traditionally narrow view of the formal learning
context as the classroom.

However, to conduct the statistical analysis, the raw data were analysed in SPSS (see Chapter
6: Statistical Analysis).

4.7.2.3 Beliefs about Language and Language Learning Questionnaire

The BALLLQ was designed to collect contextual data on BALLL. The questionnaire
contains 57 belief statements. The questionnaire is an exploratory tool and the data generated
by it answers the general question of whether CEMs BALLL can be classified as
‘Westernized’ and then compared with the results of data generated by Shi’s (2009) CCL
questionnaire (see Appendix 3) to observe any differences and whether they correlate.

Table 4.15 below was created to show the raw data generated by the BALLLQ.

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Table 4.15: All students all grades responses to belief statement
#1 (BS#1)
BS#1 It's easier for children than adults to learn a foreign language
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
grade 1
0 0 6 10 6 22
grade 2
0 3 1 10 8 22
grade 3
0 4 1 12 6 23
grade 4
1 1 2 6 2 12
min: 0 0 1 6 2
max: 1 4 6 12 8
mean: 0.3 2.0 2.5 9.5 5.5
SD: 0.5 1.8 2.4 2.5 2.5

Key to scaling: 1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree;


5=strongly agree; Table 4.15 highlights raw data responses by each grade to belief statement
No. 1.

Table 4.15 above revealed patterns in the data at the grade level. It shows all the information
needed to highlight the actual question, or, in this case, the belief statement, and the raw data
(not converted to a percentage — see Table 4.16 below) showing the total number of
responses per response choice. The most responses per response choice are highlighted with
colour, along with the grade and the raw data for the whole grade as a total number, and the
belief statement. The largest number (for instance, 12 – the cell is highlighted in green)
indicates the number of students that agreed with the belief statement. In all grades, most
students (12 in grade 3) tend to agree with the belief statement BS#1.

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Table 4.16: All students all grades responses to belief statement
#1 (BS#1) as percentages
BS#1 It's easier for children than adults to learn a foreign language
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
grade 1
0 0 27.3 45.4 27.3 22
grade 2
0 13.6 4.5 45.4 36.4 22
grade 3
0 16.7 4.2 50.0 25.0 23
grade 4
8.3 8.3 16.7 50.0 16.7 12

Key to scaling: 1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree;


5=strongly agree; Table 4.16 shows raw data (highlighted in Table 4.16 above) converted to a
percentage.

The raw data was analysed using SPSS, running Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Tests and
correlations by Spearman’s rho — for example, for grade 1, grade 2 — per instrument. The
tables generated are the same as the tables shown in 4.7.2.2 above. The results of the
statistical analysis can be found in Chapter 6: Statistical Analysis.

4.7.2.4 Chinese Culture of Learning Questionnaire

The CCLQ was designed to answer the general question of whether and to what extent the
participants (CEMs) BALLL are those of the CCL, generally. The questionnaire has 18
questions (see Appendix 4). The quantitative data generated affirmed/disaffirmed whether
CEMs beliefs are distinctly those of the CCL (see Chapter 3, section 3.4). Whether beliefs
actually drive VLS use was inferred from the data.

Tables like Table 4.17 below were created to show the raw data generated by the CCLQ.

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Table 4.17: All students all grades responses to CCL Beliefs #1
B#1 I enjoy learning English
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
grade 1
0 1 4 9 6 20
grade 2
0 1 6 13 0 20
grade 3
0 0 5 10 3 18
grade 4
0 1 0 8 2 11
min: 0 0 0 8 0
max: 0 1 6 13 6
mean: 0.0 0.8 3.8 10.0 2.8
SD: 0.0 0.5 2.6 2.2 2.5

Key to scaling: 1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree;


5=strongly agree; Table 4.17 highlights raw data responses by each grade to CCL belief
statement No. 1

Table 4.17 above was useful in revealing patterns in the data at the grade level. It shows all
the information needed to highlight the actual question, or, in this case, the belief statement
asked about, the raw data (not converted to a percentage — see Table 4.18 below) showing
the total number of responses per response choice. The most responses per response choice is
highlighted by colour. The reader can also see in the above table, with the added help of
colour, the grade and the raw data score for the whole grade as a total score. The largest
number (for instance, 13) indicates the number of students who agree with the belief
statement (for instance, in grade 2) and the strength of their belief (e.g., agree). The table
shows that most grade 1 students (9) agree with B#1 and that, in all four grades, most
students tend to agree with the CCL B#1.

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Table 4.18: All students all grades responses to CCL Beliefs #1 as
percentages
B#1 I enjoy learning English
Scale: 1 2 3 4 5 Total
grade 1
0 4.5 18.2 40.9 27.3 20
grade 2
0 4.5 27.3 59.1 0 20
grade 3
0 0 20.8 41.7 12.5 18
grade 4
0 8.3 0 66.7 16.7 11

Key to scaling: 1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree;


5=strongly agree; Table 4.18 shows raw data (highlighted in Table 4.17 above) converted to a
percentage.

Mean analyses using SPSS, Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Test and then the correlations by
Spearman’s rho were conducted — for instance, for grade 1, grade 2 — per instrument. The
tables generated look the same as the tables shown in 4.7.2.2 and 4.7.2.3. The results can be
found in Chapter 6: Statistical Analysis.

4.7.2.5 Vocabulary Size Test

The VST collected data on the vocabulary size of CEMs. The goal was to roughly ascertain
vocabulary size at entry to university and a snapshot of each of the four years of a Bachelor
degree post entry to observe changes in vocabulary size. The VST was designed by Nation
(2001) and had been shown to be a valid and reliable instrument for ascertaining ESL/EFL
learners’ vocabulary size (Schmitt et al., 2001) (see Appendix 5). The VST used in the present
study includes the bilingual Mandarin version (Nation, 2009) of the VST 1000 word size, but
not for the other sizes. There are 10 vocabulary items per size and each item represents 100
vocabulary items for that size (for instance, 10 items in a test represent 100 vocabulary items
for the respective 1000 word size or 10 X 100 = 1000). Therefore, if a student gets one wrong
answer in the VST 1000, for instance, it would generally mean that less than 1000 words are
known in this range, or approximately 900 words are known at that particular size (Nation,
2009).

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The raw data was collated and presented in tables like Table 4.19 below showing students
general vocabulary size in grade 1 at the first 1000 most frequent English words (1000 word
size).

Table 4.19: Known words at the 1000


word size
Words: No. K % Total
1. saw 21 95 22
2. time 21 95 22
3. period 16 73 22
4. figure 10 45 22
5. poor 21 95 22
6. drives 19 86 22
7. jump 21 95 22
8. shoe 21 95 22
9. standards 19 86 22
10. basis 3 14 22

Key: No. K = number of students who knew the word; % = the number of students who knew
the word converted to a percentage.

Table 4.19 above revealed patterns in the data at the grade level, or individual differences
within a grade. Tables show all the information needed to highlight the actual question, or the
word asked about, the raw data showing the total number of students who gave an answer or
knew the word, and a percentage, meaning the percentage of students who knew the word
(Table 4.19). The left-hand column lists the word asked about; the second column lists the
number of students who knew the word; the third column lists the number of students who
knew the word, converted to a percentage; the far right-hand column lists the total number of
students who did the test. A whole grade mean of the total number of students who knew the
word was used to make comparisons between grades and the whole group level (80); the
means were used to make general observations about group differences in known words at a
particular word size (e.g., an average of 17 grade 1 students knew all the words at the 1000).
The scores can be found in Appendix 6.

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4.7.2.6 Interviews

Interviews were conducted after questionnaires were collected and analysed using QQ, an
internet communication tool (see section 4.2.2.2 above). QQ is widely used in China by
Chinese students, and therefore is more familiar to them than Skype. QQ and Skype are
virtually identical allowing the same applications to run — for example, written chat, audio
and video. However, many of the students in China do not have access to the video app. (or
restrictions on use apply) and therefore interviews were restricted to written chat — most of
the time the student was seen.

Students were initially invited to participate (through a contact at the research site) and asked
to provide an email address so the details of the interview could be sent them, as well as an
informed consent form to sign and return. Students provided details of availability and a time
suggested to conduct the interview. They could negotiate the time, but most were happy with
the time suggested and they made themselves available at that time.

The initial interview began with ‘ice-breakers’ in an effort to relax the student. A range of
general demographic questions was asked prior to the interview proper (e.g., age, gender,
year of enrolment). Then the main interview began (see Chapter 5). When responses to the
main questions appeared to be exhausted, the student was thanked for their participation and
asked if they would like to receive the results of the interview.

The analysis of interviews for themes and categories can be found in Chapter 5. An example
of the interview transcript and a first-look analysis appear below:
FriendshipOn11:11:37 AM
So you meet new words when surfing internet websites?
Donna 11:11:44 AM
yes

FriendshipOn11:11:55 AM
What about when you [are] chatting in QQ?

FriendshipOn11:12:08 AM
... when you’re chatting in QQ
Donna 11:13:18 AM
in [the] website there are many professional words [belief – experience]

FriendshipOn11:13:38 AM

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Are the websites English websites?
Donna 11:13:50 AM
but in QQ a little better [belief - experience]
Donna 11:13:56 AM
yes [the websites are English websites]

FriendshipOn11:14:05 AM
Why is QQ a little better?
Donna 11:14:24 AM
we can communicate [goal of strategy use]
Donna 11:14:38 AM
with each other

FriendshipOn11:14:51 AM
So you meet more new words when chatting [on QQ]
than reading English websites?
Donna 11:15:55 AM
no, chatting is better than reading [quality of activity - experience]

FriendshipOn11:16:10 AM
Ok

The part interview above occurred on the internet communication tool QQ in chat form. The
combined video/audio aspects were not available at the time of the interview. QQ
automatically transcribes the chat and can be easily printed. My membership name is
FriendshipOn and the interviewee’s membership name appears in Chinese characters with a
question mark either end, though she used the English name Donna.

Paltridge and Phakiti (2010, pp. 102–103) say the classic method for analysing qualitative
data usually follows these steps:
1 Coding: converting the comments on each piece of data to key words or phrases —
for example, ‘informal behaviour’, ‘gender division’, ‘teacher control’. There may be
more than one such code for each piece of data; but basically this is a method for
seeing how each code is distributed throughout the data.
2 Determining themes: the codes which occur with significant frequency are then
grouped within themes.
3 Constructing an argument: The themes are then used as headings and subheadings
for constructing an argument about what can be learnt from the data. Under each
thematic heading, extracts from the data which exemplify the theme are collected and
used as evidence for the points made in the argument.

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4 Going back to the data: Collecting extracts to support the argument will involve
going back to the data, reassessing the codes and refining or possibly changing the
themes. The process of drafting and redrafting the argument will also add to this
process of refinement.

This was the general approach to analysing the interview data. It was analysed quantitatively
by putting the themes in a table in categories and counting them. Table 4.20 below shows the
discovery strategies students suggested. Discovery-place strategies concern the place where
new words are met. Excerpts from the interview are shown below and show how students
responded to the question. How the interview data was analysed and mined for the themes
that appear in table 4.20, is also shown.

Table 4.20: Discovery-place strategies


Theme #: Theme: No.:
1 in books 3
2 in textbooks 16
3 in newspapers 8
4 in magazines 8
5 extensive readers 1
6 in passages 1
7 in novels 4
8 educational books 1
9 vocabulary books 1
10 other books 1
11 listening resources 1
12 in tests 2
13 in exams 2
14 in school 1
15 in class 1
16 in conversation 1
17 on computer 1
18 computer games 1
19 in libraries 1
20 on internet 4
21 news websites 1
22 on TV 10
23 on radio 1
24 in public 1
25 on trains 1

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26 in hotels 1
27 restaurant menu 1
28 in advertising 4
29 in posters 1
30 in movies 9
31 in music 1
32 in songs 3
33 everywhere 1

Interview data tables were constructed after the interview. This allowed the interview
response to be placed in the appropriate place after the initial question and subsequent
questions (see table below). The interview data as it appeared in QQ was simply cut-and-
pasted into the table to be analysed.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


1) Xiao HONG 21 English 3 111 f 12
Question: Answer:
1) Where do you meet/encounter new English English text books, newspapers and
words? magazines.
Ok Anywhere else? On the internet
Anywhere else? Anywhere around where I live; life; yeah, and
on billboard, on the street, and in the
product Introductions.
When you meet them in your textbook, are they When I am in grade1 and grade 2 there
by themselves in a list or in sentences and is a new word list but now,
passages? there is no word list in text books;
we learn it in the sentences.
Why is there no word list now? Because when we are freshmen, we need to
learn new words to be the foundation.
Now I'm a junior and
the textbooks focus on other abilities;
like rhetorical device.
Which abilities? What the author want to tell the readers.
What kind of words do you learn as a freshman? Many kinds of new words; in our text books,
each lesson will have a word list, and belong to
the lesson.
They belong to the lesson? What kind of lesson Maybe some essays and novels.
will you have?
So the new words are in the essays and novels? Yeah
Are the words you learn as a freshman different Yeah, the words I learn now are longer and
from the words you learn now? more difficult to remember.

To make the responses to the questions more legible, some spacing was added between some
words. The questions elicited responses about where new words are met or found by the
student. The first response shows ‘English text books’, which is expected given the

104
respondent is a student, ‘newspapers’ and ‘magazines’. Subsequent probing questions elicit
more places new words are met by the student. The nominals (‘newspapers’; ‘on the
internet’; ‘on the billboard’) were extracted from the responses and tabled. If a response
could be generalised, for example, ‘on the billboard’, then it was classified under the rubric
‘Advertising’.

4.8 Intended outcomes of the research

The intended outcomes reflect the main objectives of the research. As mentioned in 4.1
above, and throughout the methodology, the research questions for the present research
reflect the main objectives of the study:

1) Observe CEMs’ VLS use and frequency of use in a higher education context;
2) Observe any differences in VLS frequency of use in each grade of a four-year
Bachelor degree;
3) Compare and contrast strategy use among the four grades of strategy users and with
previous research;
4) Observe CEMs’ beliefs, generally and specifically, and observe differences and
compare with previous research;
5) Compare and contrast the findings of all four factors (VLS, BALLL, CCL, VST) and
observe the relationship among them; and,
6) Observe patterns in the data that reveal aspects of the PVL.

The research generated data that:

1) explored CEMs’ VLSs and frequency of use in a Chinese university context in


mainland China;
2) explored CEMs’ BALLL, generally, and CCL, specifically; and,
3) explored CEMs’ EVS.

This was done to better understand the process of English vocabulary learning by CEMs in
China. The term ‘factor’ to label VLS use and beliefs isn’t a substitute for the label ‘variable’
or ‘status variable’ (Heppner et al, 1999), they are synonymous because these factors (e.g.,
VLS use and beliefs), as with status variables, are liable to change. A VLS or belief may not

105
change its nature, however its utility may change given a learner’s experience and/or
reflection, and depending on the circumstances of use (e.g., learning task). A VLS or set of
strategies will be employed during the learning task (for instance, use X to do Y); a belief,
depending on the learner’s experience of learning — whether a learning goal was achieved,
for instance — is part of the learner’s particular learning approach and a belief or set of
beliefs will be activated during the learning task (for instance, use X to do Y because X is the
best way to do Y or because X is expected to be used to do Y). The utility of the factor being
liable to change, they are never-the-less the process (VLSs being procedural knowledge and
beliefs action directed) of vocabulary learning, the independent variable (IV), if you will,
whose utility is dependent on the demands of the learning task (for example, preparing for an
exam). The IV, the process of vocabulary learning (VLS use and beliefs), has some effect on
the dependent variable (DV), in this case, vocabulary learning. The present research does not
conduct an experiment (Kerlinger, 1986) or try to manipulate the IV to observe the impact on
the DV (vocabulary learning), it explores the process of vocabulary learning — the IV; it
explores VLS use and beliefs to better understand the process (IV), and infers the impact or
effect on vocabulary learning (DV) through observing vocabulary size.

A mixed methods approach was used. Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods
were used. The quantitative was collected with three questionnaires and vocabulary tests. The
qualitative was collected with an interview. The research is exploratory, interpretative and a
case study. The research explores the PVL, focusing on two important aspects, VLSs and
BALLL. The possible effect on EVS was explored using several VSTs. Chapter 5 presents the
results of the research.

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CHAPTER 5: VOCABULARY LEARNING STRATEGIES AND
BELIEFS ABOUT LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE LEARNING —
DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS

5.0 Introduction

This chapter discusses the results of descriptive analysis to observe trends and patterns in the
data. There are two main sections: Part 1, section 5.1, Vocabulary learning strategies, and Part
2, section 5.6, Beliefs about language and language learning. Section 5.1 discusses the results
by research question, and begins with research question No. 1: Which vocabulary learning
strategies do Chinese English Majors use?; and 5.2 discusses research question No. 2: What
is the difference in vocabulary learning strategy use among the four grades of Chinese
English Majors?. Part 2, section 5.6, discusses research question No. 3: What are Chinese
English Majors’ ‘Western’ beliefs about language and language learning and Chinese culture
of learning beliefs about language and language learning?, but only the presentation of
similarities and differences; meaning, where general beliefs and CCL beliefs are similar or
different.

5.1 Research question No. 1:

Which vocabulary learning strategies do Chinese English Majors tend to use?

The purpose of this section is to highlight through descriptive statistics significant trends and
patterns in the data. Percentages rather than means are preferred when discussing frequency
because the latter highlights general use (yes/no) whereas scaling (e.g., rarely, often)
highlights frequency of use. The means are also included, however, to strengthen confidence
in percentages. The discussion begins with the questionnaire data, then interview data is
presented and compared with the questionnaire data.

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5.1.2 General differences in students VLS use and the frequency of VLS use

5.1.2.1 VLSQ data

The aim of the research question was to explore CEMs’ use in relation to Ma’s (2009) list of
VLSs and their frequency of use. The view was that CEMs do use VLSs, since the existence
of VLSs have been empirically confirmed (see Chapter 2: section 2.3 Definitions of
vocabulary learning strategies — a brief outline) and research has shown that Chinese EFL
learners do use VLSs (see Chapter 2: section 2.4.1 Vocabulary learning strategies research in
a Chinese context — a brief outline). Therefore, the research explored VLS use by CEMs in
relation to Ma’s (2009) list and Schmitt’s (1997) general classification of VLSs (for example,
discovery and consolidation strategies).

5.1.2.2 Means of strategy use show level of strategy use

The following means tables are used to highlight and add support to the observation in
descriptive statistics that strategy use is medium. Table 5.1 presents the means for the whole
group and all VLSs, while Table 5.2 presents the means for individual strategies.

CEMs showed average VLS use, generally, shown in the means (see Tables 5.1 and 5.2
below). Using the idea that 1.00 to 2.49 is low use, 2.50 to 3.49 is medium use, and 3.50 to
5.00 is high use (see Wahyuni, 2013), 15 out of 62 VLSs experienced high use and only one
category (determination-study strategies) experienced high use. Table 5.13 provides another
view of the spread of strategies not used in each grade. In grade 1, a total of 19 strategies
were not generally used, 15 were not used in grade 2, 18 were not used in grade 3 and 12
were not used in grade 4 (see Table 5.15). However, while strategy use happened to a greater
or lesser extent in each grade, strategy use was variable.

Key to Table 5.1: table shows means of categories and strategies for the whole group; left-
hand column shows the categories; the three right-hand side columns shows mean, standard
deviation and sample number.

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Table 5.1: Categories and strategies and means suggesting use
Categories and strategies M SD n
1. Discovery: place to find 3.39 0.57 80
2. Determination: initial response 3.03 0.64 80
3. Determination: study 3.64 0.60 80
4. Consolidation: organization 3.06 0.71 80
5. Consolidation: memorization 2.95 0.56 80
6. Consolidation: review 2.92 0.63 80
7. Consolidation: remember 3.46 0.49 80
8. Consolidation: production 2.93 0.57 80

Table 5.1 shows the means of the 8 categories of vocabulary strategies. The means firstly,
show use, specifically, the first four groups and seventh group seemed to experience medium
use, whereas categories 5, 6 and 8 seem to experience less use.

Key to Table 5.2: left-hand column shows the categories and all sub-strategies; the three
right-hand side columns show mean, standard deviation and sample number. Category 3
experienced high use, the rest experienced medium use.

Table 5.2: Categories and strategies for whole group


Categories and strategies M SD n
Discovery: place to find
1a in textbooks and classroom activities 3.89 0.72 80
1b in vocabulary lists arranged in alphabetical 3.33 0.95 80
order
1c in vocabulary lists arranged by meaning 3.15 0.94 80
1d during English conversation with others 2.71 0.75 80
1e when reading English materials 3.75 0.79 80
1f when singing English songs and watching
English movies/TV 3.55 0.92 80
1g when using/surfing the internet 3.31 0.97 80
Determination: initial response
3a pay no attention to and never go back to it 1.92 0.74 80
3b pay no attention to it, but go back to later 2.94 1.00 80
3c try to guess the new word’s meaning from
the context 3.67 0.80 80
3d study the word’s prefixes, suffixes and
root-word for meaning 3.28 0.82 80
3e ask a classmate or teacher for the meaning 2.65 0.91 80
3f read a Chinese-English or an English-
Chinese dictionary 3.98 0.82 80
3g read an English-only dictionary 2.76 1.03 80
Determination: study
4a its pronunciation 4.27 0.78 80
4b the spelling 4.21 0.87 80
4c the prefixes, suffixes and root words 3.13 0.89 80
4d the Chinese translation 4.29 0.71 80
4e the English explanations 3.32 0.99 80

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4f the example sentences 3.23 0.97 80
4g the way the new word is used 3.69 0.83 80
4h the new word’s relationship with other
words 3.05 0.88 80
4i the new word’s part of speech 3.59 1.08 80
Consolidation: organisation
5a write it down 2.98 0.91 80
5b order the information in a vocabulary
notebook 3.43 1.09 80
5c make vocabulary cards 2.26 1.04 80
5d use the vocabulary lists in the textbooks 3.44 0.97 80
5e use a vocabulary list like those in the
VOCABULARY 5000 and TEM4EasyTest 3.19 1.00 80
Consolidation: memorisation
6a say the word aloud several times 3.17 0.96 80
6b write the word several times 3.81 0.92 80
6c look at the word several times 3.27 1.03 80
6d memorise Chinese-English/English-
Chinese lists 3.50 0.99 80
6e do vocabulary exercises 3.01 0.91 80
6f link the word to similar meaning words or
opposite meaning words 3.04 0.91 80
6g link the word with already known words
and have similarities 3.21 0.79 80
6h compare words with similar meaning and
study together 3.02 0.92 80
6i group words in order e.g. meaning, part of
speech 2.76 0.92 80
6j place word in a context e.g. sentence,
conversation 3.32 0.83 80
6k use the new word to make up a sentence 2.89 1.05 80
6l listen to tape-/CD recordings of words 2.64 0.98 80
6m make up rhymes to link new words
together 2.45 0.92 80
6n practise new words by acting them out e.g.
verbs 2.44 1.01 80
6o try to imagine what the new word looks
like (in a sentence) 3.05 1.01 80
6p draw pictures to illustrate the meaning of
the new words 1.85 0.83 80
6q try to imagine in my head what the new
word looks like 2.64 1.10 80
6r remember the prefix, suffix and root word
of the new word 3.09 0.95 80
Consolidation: review
7a say the new word 2 or 3 times the first day 3.09 0.93 80
7b say the new words the next time I read
them, and again after that 3.13 0.84 80
7c read the new words the first day, but not
after that 2.55 1.12 80
7d read the new words 2 or 3 times first, then
again a few days later, a week later, a month 2.98 1.08 80
later
7e test the new words on my own 3.19 1.12 80
7f test the new words with classmates 2.61 0.98 80
Consolidation: remember
8a remember the new word the way I learned
it 3.41 0.73 80
8b remember the new word by its meaning
(when heard again) 3.63 0.88 80

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8c remember the new word by its meaning
(when read again) 3.87 0.62 80
8d remember the new word’s meaning first,
then think about its meaningful parts e.g. 3.23 0.81 80
prefix, suffix and root word
8e try to remember where I first met the word 3.17 1.08 80
Consolidation: production
9a try to use words in speaking and writing 3.60 0.89 80
9b try to use idioms when I speak 2.83 0.92 80
9c try to think in English with the new
vocabulary 3.18 1.00 80
9d try having conversations using the new
words with English speakers e.g. teachers 2.76 0.90 80
9e try to e-chat on the internet using QQ,
MSN 2.30 0.95 80

In Table 5.2 above we see the individual strategies within a category and the whole group
mean for each strategy is highlighted. Five determination-study strategies appeared to
experience high use, with means 3.50 or higher: 15 strategies experienced high use, 41
medium use and 6 low use.

5.1.2.3 Frequency of vocabulary learning strategy use

The following subsection presents the highest percentage of students using a VLS and
frequency of use to observe patterns and in relation to Schmitt’s (1997) categorisation of two
main VLS groups — discovery/determination strategies and consolidation strategies (see
Chapter 2, section 2.2.4, Table 2.1). When reading this presentation of a specific finding, the
reader is asked to think about how strategy use may affect the way students learn in each
grade of their Bachelor degree.

Tables 5.3 to 5.11 show which VLSs were often/always, rarely/never or sometimes used, or a
combination of these, by CEMs. A total of 26 VLSs of 62 strategies were rarely or never
used. A total of 17 VLSs were rarely or never used in grade 1, 15 VLSs were not used in
grade 2, 16 VLSs were not used in grade 3 and 12 VLSs were not used in grade 4 (see Table
5.15 below). Five VLSs were consistently not used across all grades: VLSs 3a, 5c, 7c, 7f and
9e (highlighted in soft orange — see Appendix 8, Table 4). While 3a was a discovery strategy
(‘Pay no attention to a new word, and never go back to it’), the others were consolidation
strategies (5c: make vocabulary cards; 7c: read the new words the first time, but not after
that; 7f: test new words with classmates; and 9e: try to e-chat on the Internet using QQ, MSN
Messenger).

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The combination of the total number of response choices shows which strategy was regularly
used and the frequency of VLS use (for instance, ‘never’ (1), ‘rarely’ (2), ‘sometimes’ (3),
‘often’ (4) and ‘always’ (5)). The data shows whether 1) the same VLS was used in
successive grades, and 2) the frequency of its use. The strength of the frequency of VLS use
can be seen in terms of use [not means] (for instance, the frequency of VLS use was
unchanged in each a grade (for example, ‘rarely’ used in each grade), or increased (for
example, went from ‘rarely’ to ‘often’), or decreased (for example, went from ‘often’ to
‘rarely) (see section 5.2 Three frequency-of-use strategy groupings below).

Tables 5.3 to 5.11 below also highlight the grade percentage, frequency, mean and standard
deviation of CEMs’ strategy use and the frequency. Key to Table 5.3: the left-hand column
lists the question and its parts, with its code at the top, for example, 1/1a, 1/1b, and the name
of the strategy next to it; the second column shows grade; the third column shows the
percentage of students using the strategy in each grade; the fourth column lists frequency
item — all percentages and frequencies for each grade can be seen in Appendix 8, Table 2;
the fifth column shows the mean for each grade; the sixth column shows the standard
deviation (SD); and the end column shows the number of students in each grade who
completed the questionnaire.

Table 5.3: Question 1: Where do you meet new words? [Discovery-place strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 50 often 3.68 0.84 22
1/1a: In textbooks and 2 55 often 4.00 0.69 22
classroom learning activities
3 63 often 4.04 0.62 24
4 50 often 3.83 0.72 12
1 45 often 3.32 0.99 22
2/1b: In vocabulary lists 2 36 often 3.59 0.96 22
arranged in alphabetical order
3 54 sometimes 3.17 0.64 24
4 33 sometimes 3.25 1.22 12
1 50 sometimes 3.14 0.89 22
3/1c: In vocabulary lists 2 41 sometimes 3.18 0.85 22
arranged by meaning 3 33 sometimes 3.21 0.93 24
4 50 often 3.08 1.08 12
4/1d: During English 1 45 rarely 2.82 1.01 22
conversation with others 2 50 rarely 2.41 0.59 22

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3 42 rarely/often 2.96 0.91 24
4 67 sometimes 2.67 0.49 12
1 45 often 3.50 0.86 22
5/1e: When reading English 2 59 often 3.91 0.75 22
materials 3 42 often 3.83 0.92 24
4 58 often 3.75 0.62 12
1 41 often 3.41 0.96 22
6/1f: When singing English 2 45 sometimes 3.59 0.80 22
songs and watching English
movies/TV 3 38 often 3.71 0.91 24
4 33 often 3.50 1.00 12
1 41 sometimes 3.18 1.10 22
7/1g: When using/surfing the 2 55 sometimes 2.91 0.87 22
internet 3 42 sometimes 3.33 1.09 24
4 58 often 3.83 0.83 12

Table 5.3 shows frequency of use of a discovery-place strategy in each grade — there are
seven in this category. This information tells us about the popular strategies used in each
grade. Knowing this also suggests what type of learning is being done in each grade or what
students did or didn’t do in each grade — for instance, they often meet new words in
textbooks but they rarely find new words during English conversations with others. Three
were used often, three sometimes and one rarely.

Table 5.4: Question 3: What do you do when you meet new vocabulary items? [determination
initial response strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 50 rarely 2.05 0.65 22
8/3a: Pay no attention to it 2 68 rarely 1.77 0.53 22
and never go back to it
3 50 rarely 2.13 0.80 24
4 50 never 1.75 0.97 12
1 41 often 3.50 1.01 22
9/3b: Pay no attention to it, 2 64 rarely 2.73 0.77 22
but go back to it later
3 29 sometimes 2.46 1.14 24
4 42 sometimes 3.08 1.08 12
1 41 often 3.86 0.94 22
10/3c: I try to guess the 2 59 often 3.59 0.73 22
word’s meaning from the
context 3 54 often 3.71 0.62 24
4 50 sometimes 3.50 0.90 12
11/3d: Study the word’s 1 50 sometimes 3.32 0.84 22
prefixes, suffixes and root 2 45 sometimes 3.14 0.83 22

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word for meaning 3 50 sometimes 3.00 0.72 24
4 42 often 3.67 0.89 12
1 45 rarely 2.91 1.15 22
12/3e: Ask a classmate or 2 41 rarely/sometimes 2.36 0.79 22
teacher for the meaning 3 42 rarely 2.67 0.82 24
4 42 rarely 2.67 0.89 12
1 41 often 3.86 1.08 22
13/3f: Read a Chinese- 2 50 always 4.45 0.60 22
English or an English-
Chinese dictionary 3 50 often 3.83 0.87 24
4 42 sometimes/often 3.75 0.75 12
1 45 rarely 2.55 1.22 22
14/3g: Read an English-only 2 45 rarely 2.64 0.90 22
dictionary 3 29 rarely/sometimes 2.79 1.10 24
4 50 sometimes 3.08 0.90 12

Table 5.4 shows the use of a determination initial response strategy, concerning what a
student does when meeting a word for the first time. We can see that students often try to
guess the new word’s meaning from the context but rarely ask a classmate or teacher for the
meaning. Two were used often, one sometimes and the rest had a mix of frequencies.

Table 5.5: Question 4: When learning new vocabulary, what aspects do you study?
[determination-study strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 41 often 4.09 0.87 22
2 45 often/always 4.36 0.66 22
15/4a: Its pronunciation
3 50 always 4.38 0.71 24
4 50 always 4.25 0.87 12
1 45 often 4.27 0.70 22
2 45 often/always 4.36 0.66 22
16/4b: The spelling
3 63 always 4.38 1.01 24
4 33 often/always 3.83 1.11 12
1 45 sometimes 3.32 0.95 22
17/4c: The prefixes, suffixes 2 55 sometimes 3.14 0.77 22
and root word 3 46 sometimes 3.08 0.88 24
4 67 sometimes 3.00 0.95 12
1 50 often 4.18 0.80 22
18/4d: The Chinese 2 55 always 4.50 0.60 22
translation 3 58 always 4.46 0.72 24
4 50 often 4.00 0.74 12
19/4e: The English 1 32 sometimes 3.36 1.05 22

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explanations 2 50 sometimes 3.59 0.85 22
3 42 sometimes 3.33 0.92 24
4 42 often 3.00 1.13 12
1 27 sometimes/often 3.45 1.14 22
20/4f: The example 2 50 sometimes 3.27 0.77 22
sentences 3 58 sometimes 3.04 0.69 24
4 58 often 3.17 1.27 12
1 41 sometimes 3.64 0.90 22
21/4g: The way the new 2 64 often 4.00 0.62 22
word is used 3 42 often 3.54 1.02 24
4 50 often 3.58 0.79 12
1 64 sometimes 3.05 0.84 22
22/4h: The new word's 2 41 sometimes 3.14 0.77 22
relationship with other words 3 46 sometimes 2.92 0.83 24
4 42 sometimes 3.08 1.08 12
1 45 sometimes 3.32 1.09 22
23/4i: The new word's part 2 41 often 3.91 1.06 22
of speech 3 38 sometimes 3.54 0.93 24
4 33 often 3.58 1.24 12

Table 5.5 shows the use of a determination-study strategy. This is a range of strategies
concerning studying a new word a student has just met for the first time. We can see that
students often study the new word’s pronunciation but sometimes its prefixes, suffixes and
root word. Four were used often, four sometimes and one a mix of frequencies.

Table 5.6: Question 5: How do you put in order the info about the new vocabulary?
[consolidation-organisation strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 45 sometimes 3.05 0.84 22
2 45 sometimes 2.91 0.92 22
24/5a: Write it down
3 38 sometimes 3.04 1.08 24
4 42 sometimes 2.92 0.79 12
1 32 often 3.41 1.14 22
25/5b: Order the 2 41 sometimes 3.59 1.05 22
information in a vocabulary
notebook 3 33 often 3.29 1.16 24
4 42 sometimes 3.42 1.00 12
1 55 rarely 2.27 0.98 22
26/5c: Make vocabulary 2 59 rarely 2.05 0.84 22
cards 3 50 rarely 1.96 1.12 24
4 42 rarely 2.75 1.22 12

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1 41 often 3.73 1.08 22
27/5d: Use the vocabulary 2 45 sometimes 3.36 0.85 22
lists in the textbooks 3 42 often 3.50 0.93 24
4 42 rarely 3.17 1.03 12
1 32 often 3.32 1.25 22
28/5e: Use a vocabulary list
like those in the 2 36 sometimes 2.68 1.13 22
VOCABULARY 3 42 sometimes 3.75 0.90 24
5000/TEM4EasyTEST
4 50 sometimes 3.00 0.74 12

Table 5.6 shows how students organise the information about a new word they have just met
in preparation to engage in learning it. Sometimes write it down, and they rarely make
vocabulary cards. Two were used sometimes, one rarely and the rest was a mix of
frequencies.

Table 5.7: Question 6: How do you memorise new vocabulary? [consolidation-memory strategies
— the first 9]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 32 often 3.36 1.36 22
29/6a: Say the word aloud 2 45 sometimes 3.23 0.97 22
several times 3 58 sometimes 3.08 0.65 24
4 58 sometimes 3.00 0.85 12
1 50 often 3.55 1.18 22
30/6b: Write the word 2 45 often 4.14 0.83 22
several times 3 42 often 3.96 0.86 24
4 50 often 3.58 0.79 12
1 36 often 3.59 0.96 22
31/6c: Look at the word 2 36 often 3.05 1.09 22
several times 3 50 often 3.21 1.10 24
4 33 sometimes/often 3.25 0.97 12
1 45 often 3.45 1.14 22
32/6d: Memorise Chinese- 2 36 often 3.77 1.02 22
English/English-Chinese
lists 3 38 sometimes 3.54 0.93 24
4 50 sometimes 3.25 0.87 12
1 41 rarely/sometimes 2.77 0.75 22
33/6e: Do vocabulary 2 45 sometimes 3.14 0.99 22
exercises 3 38 rarely 2.96 0.86 24
4 33 rarely/often 3.17 1.03 12
34/6f: Link word to 1 50 sometimes 2.82 0.80 22
similar meaning words or 2 36 sometimes 3.09 1.11 22
opposite meaning words 3 46 sometimes 3.00 0.98 24

116
4 67 sometimes 3.25 0.75 12
1 59 sometimes 3.14 0.64 22
35/6g: Link the word with 2 45 often 3.41 0.96 22
already known words and
have similarities 3 54 sometimes 3.13 0.85 24
4 50 sometimes 3.17 0.72 12
1 55 sometimes 2.73 0.83 22
36/6h: Compare words 2 55 sometimes 3.18 1.01 22
with similar meaning and
study together 3 33 sometimes 3.25 1.07 24
4 42 sometimes 2.92 0.79 12
1 55 rarely 2.82 0.91 22
37/6i: Group words in 2 45 rarely 2.50 0.91 22
order e.g. meaning, part of
speech 3 42 sometimes 2.79 0.98 24
4 42 rarely 2.92 0.90 12

Table 5.7 shows the first range of consolidation-memory strategies; how a student will
attempt to memorise a new word. They often write the new word several times, but rarely
group words in order. Two were used often, four sometimes, one rarely and the rest were a
mix of frequencies.

Table 5.8: Question 6: How do you memorise new vocabulary? [consolidation-memory strategies
— the second 9]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 36 sometimes/often 3.23 0.87 22
38/6j: Place word in a 2 41 sometimes 3.05 0.95 22
context e.g. sentence,
conversation 3 54 sometimes 3.25 0.74 24
4 42 sometimes/often 3.75 0.75 12
1 32 rarely/often 3.00 1.02 22
39/6k: Use the new word 2 50 sometimes 2.68 0.99 22
to make up a sentence 3 33 rarely 2.79 1.02 24
4 33 often 3.08 1.16 12
1 45 rarely 2.27 0.88 22
40/6l: Listen to tape-/CD 2 45 rarely 2.36 0.85 22
recordings of words 3 42 sometimes 2.67 0.96 24
4 33 sometimes 3.25 1.22 12
1 36 sometimes 2.86 0.89 22
41/6m: Make up rhymes 2 45 rarely 2.23 0.81 22
to link new words together 3 50 rarely 2.38 0.82 24
4 33 rarely/sometimes 2.33 1.15 12
42/6n: Practise new words 1 41 sometimes 2.77 1.07 22
by acting them out e.g. 2 41 rarely 1.95 0.95 22

117
verbs 3 50 sometimes 2.54 0.93 24
4 42 sometimes 2.50 1.09 12
1 41 often 3.09 1.11 22
43/6o: Try to imagine 2 36 sometimes 3.09 0.97 22
what the new word looks
like (in a sentence) 3 46 sometimes 3.08 0.97 24
4 33 sometimes/often 2.92 1.00 12
1 64 rarely 1.64 0.49 22
44/6p: Draw pictures to 2 41 never/rarely 1.82 0.85 22
illustrate the meaning of
new words 3 58 rarely 1.88 0.74 24
4 42 sometimes 2.08 1.24 12
1 41 sometimes 2.55 1.06 22
45/6q: Try to imagine in 2 32 rarely/sometimes 2.68 1.09 22
my head what the new
word looks like 3 50 sometimes 2.92 1.02 24
4 33 never 2.42 1.24 12
1 45 sometimes 2.91 0.92 22
46/6r: Remember the 2 59 sometimes 3.27 0.88 22
prefix, suffix and root
word of the new word 3 46 sometimes 3.08 0.83 24
4 33 often 3.08 1.16 12

Table 5.8 is the second list of consolidation-memory strategies to memorise a new word.
Students in grades 1 and 2 rarely listen to tape-/CD recordings of new words, but sometimes
do this in grades 3 and 4. They sometimes remember the prefix, suffix and root word of the
new word in grades 1 to 3, but often do this in grade 4. All strategies experienced a mix of
frequencies.

Table 5.9: Question 7: How do you review vocabulary? [consolidation-review strategies]


By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 41 rarely 2.91 1.11 22
47/7a: Say the new word 2 41 sometimes 3.36 0.95 22
2 or 3 times the first day 3 58 sometimes 2.92 0.83 24
4 42 often 3.17 0.83 12
1 59 sometimes 3.05 0.65 22
48/7b: Say the new words 2 41 sometimes 3.00 1.02 22
the next time I read them,
and again after that 3 46 often 3.29 0.86 24
4 42 often 3.17 0.83 12
1 45 rarely 2.55 1.10 22
49/7c: Read the new 2 27 never/rarely 2.41 1.14 22
words the first day, but not
after that 3 54 rarely 2.67 0.87 24
4 33 rarely 2.58 1.38 12

118
50/7d: Read then new 1 36 sometimes 2.86 1.25 22
words 2 or 3 times first, 2 36 sometimes 3.09 1.11 22
then again a few days
later, a week later, a month 3 29 never/rarely 2.88 1.08 24
later 4 50 sometimes 3.08 0.90 12
1 27 never/rarely 3.41 1.10 22
51/7e: Test the new words 2 41 sometimes 3.27 0.98 22
on my own 3 33 rarely/sometimes 3.00 1.02 24
4 33 rarely 3.08 1.38 12
1 36 rarely 2.91 0.97 22
52/7f: Test the new words 2 50 rarely 2.45 1.06 22
with classmates 3 50 rarely 2.50 0.88 24
4 50 rarely 2.58 1.00 12

Table 5.9 shows a range of consolidation-review strategies used to review a new word and
any information about it that students are trying to learn. Grade 1 students rarely say the new
word aloud 2 or 3 times the first day they meet it. Grades 2 and 3 sometimes do this, but
grade 4 does it often. One was rarely used and the rest had a mix of frequencies.

Table 5.10: Question 8: How do you remember words you have memorised? [consolidation-
remember strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 32 sometimes/often 3.32 1.09 22
53/8a: Remember the new 2 50 sometimes 3.32 0.65 22
word the way I learned it 3 50 sometimes 3.58 0.65 24
4 58 sometimes 3.42 0.51 12
1 41 sometimes 3.82 0.96 22
54/8b: Remember the new 2 55 often 3.86 0.77 22
word by its meaning
(when heard again) 3 71 often 3.75 0.61 24
4 42 sometimes/often 3.08 1.16 12
1 55 often 4.18 0.66 22
55/8c: Remember the new 2 50 often 4.00 0.82 22
word by its meaning
(when read again) 3 88 often 3.88 0.34 24
4 50 often 3.42 0.67 12
1 55 sometimes 3.14 0.77 22
56/8d: Remember the new
word’s meaning first, then 2 36 sometimes 3.18 0.96 22
think about its meaningful 3 58 sometimes 3.33 0.76 24
parts e.g. prefixes 4 42 sometimes/often 3.25 0.75 12
1 41 rarely 2.95 1.17 22
57/8e: Try to remember
2 36 sometimes/often 3.36 0.90 22
where I first met the word
3 38 often 3.21 1.22 24

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4 50 often 3.17 1.03 12

In Table 5.10 there is a range of consolidation-remember strategies used to try to remember


the new word students are trying to learn. Students in all grades often remember the new
word by its meaning when read again, but sometimes remember the new word’s meaning
first, then think about its meaningful parts, but some students in grade 4 do this often. One
was often used, two sometimes and the rest had a mix of frequencies.

Table 5.11: Question 9: How do you make use of new vocabulary? [consolidation-production
strategies]
By grade, highest percentage, frequency, mean and SD
strategy grade % freq. mean SD n
1 36 sometimes 3.64 1.05 22
58/9a: Try to use words 2 50 often 3.50 0.74 22
in speaking and writing 3 25 rarely/often/always 3.50 1.14 24
4 58 often 3.75 0.62 12
1 36 rarely/often 3.00 0.87 22
59/9b: Try to use idioms 2 50 sometimes 2.64 0.73 22
when I speak 3 38 rarely 2.83 0.96 24
4 33 rarely/sometimes 2.83 1.11 12
1 41 often 3.32 0.99 22
60/9c: Try to think in 2 50 sometimes 3.18 1.01 22
English with the new
vocabulary 3 42 sometimes 3.13 0.99 24
4 58 sometimes 3.08 1.00 12
1 36 rarely/sometimes 2.86 1.04 22
61/9d: Try having
conversations using the 2 45 rarely/sometimes 2.50 0.67 22
new words with English 3 42 rarely 2.75 0.90 24
speakers e.g. teachers 4 58 sometimes 2.92 1.00 12
1 55 sometimes 1.95 0.79 22
62/9e: Try to e-chat on 2 41 sometimes 2.05 1.00 22
the internet using QQ,
MSN 3 50 sometimes 2.38 1.10 24
4 50 sometimes 2.83 0.94 12

In Table 5.11 there is a range of consolidation-production strategies, which involve making


use of the new vocabulary students are trying to learn. Students in grade 1 sometimes try to
use words in speaking and writing, grade 2 students often do this, grade 3 are mixed in this
activity, and grade 4 often use the strategy. Most students in all grades sometimes try to e-
chat on the internet using communication tools like QQ (a popular Chinese communication
tool), MSN Messenger, or Skype. One was used sometimes, and the rest had a mix of

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frequencies.

Tables 5.3 to 5.11 above show the highest percentage of student response to a question and its
frequency, highest percentage of students using it and grade mean. Appendix 8 shows all
student responses to the questions as percentages and frequency of use. The major finding is
that CEMs’ VLS use is on a range of frequencies ‘never’ to ‘always’.

Section summary

This section presented the results of the analysis of the data collected to answer the question
of VLS frequency of use among CEMs, and discussed in relation to Schmitt’s (1997) general
list of VLSs (e.g., discovery and consolidation strategies) — see Table 5.1 above. The
questionnaire data revealed 1) that the CEMs sampled in this research indicate that they use
many of the strategies on the questionnaire to a greater or lesser degree (never, rarely,
sometimes, often or always), 2) that they generally use VLSs frequently (often) or
infrequently (rarely) as the case may be (in each grade of a four-year Bachelor degree), and 3)
that VLS use tends to be variable. Interview data extended the range of VLSs in discovery
strategies generally (e.g., where new vocabulary is met), determination strategies (e.g., the
response to the new word and what to do with it), consolidation-practice strategies (e.g., ways
to practise new vocabulary), and consolidation-memorisation strategies (e.g., ways to
memorise the new word) — see section 5.3 below.

5.2 Three frequency-of-use strategy groupings

Three general groupings of frequency of VLS use were observed in Tables 5.3 to 5.11
according to the highest percentage of students using a strategy. For instance, if the lowest
percentage was in grade 1, a higher percentage in grade 2, the highest percentage in grade 3,
and a lower than grade 3 percentage observed in grade 4, the pattern of frequency of use is
increasing then decreasing. From this grouping we can determine which strategies are used
and which never or rarely used in each grade, when strategies are used and for which learning
activity and task, generally.

One graph will be used to highlight the patterning for the group. A certain percentage of
students in all grades, the highest percentage, often or always or sometimes or rarely or never

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use the strategy. The distribution of the remaining percentages can be seen in Appendix 3.

5.2.1 – 1) Increase grouping

In the increase group, the trend in strategy use increased from grade 1 and either kept
increasing or experienced one of several other trends (e.g., decreasing; decreasing then
increasing; decreasing then unchanged). There are 33 strategies in this grouping. Only the
highest percentage of responses to questions is discussed because it suggests what the most
students are doing.

Increase (1) in percentages of students using a strategy

graph 1 - increase
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 32

strategy 28/5e Use a vocabulary list like sometimes 36


those in the VOCABULARY
5000/TEM4EasyTEST sometimes 42

sometimes 50

Here there is an increase in the percentage of students using of S#5e in each grade. Maybe it
is not surprising given that English language learning in China appears to be exam oriented
and the two vocabulary books are used when preparing for an exam, so students would have
relied heavily on these vocabulary resources to organise vocabulary for learning. For grade 1,
it was often, but for the other grades it was an increase in the percentage of students
‘sometimes’ using lists.

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Increase then decrease (11) in percentage of students using a strategy

There are 11 strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
in textbooks and from when meeting new
1 1/1a
classroom activities
a discovery-place strategy
words
when singing English
when meeting new
2 6/1f songs and watching a discovery-place strategy
words
English movies
I try to guess the new
a determination initial when meeting new
3 10/3c word’s meaning from the
response strategy words
context
when deciding how to
4 18/4d the Chinese translation a determination-study strategy
study a new word
when deciding what to
a consolidation-organise
5 26/5c make vocabulary cards
strategy
do with a new word to
try to learn it
a consolidation-memory when trying to learn a
6 33/6e do vocabulary exercises
strategy new word
place the new word in a a consolidation-memory when trying to learn a
7 38/6j
context e.g. a sentence strategy new word
make up rhymes to link a consolidation-memory when trying to learn a
8 41/6m
words together strategy new word
try to remember the
a consolidation-memory when trying to use a new
9 46/6r prefix, suffix and root
strategy word
word of the new word
remember the new word
a consolidation-remember when trying to
10 54/8b by its meaning (when
strategy remember a new word
heard again)
try to use idioms when I a consolidation-production when trying to use a new
11 59/9b
speak strategy word

graph 2 - increase then decrase


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 50

often 55
Strategy 1/1a In textbooks and from
classroom activities
often 63

often 50

The above graph shows an example of the highest percentage of students in each grade who

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use the strategy, in this case 1/1a, a discovery-place strategy, In textbooks and from classroom
activities, when meeting new words.

This grouping appears perhaps because students focus on English language learning
throughout their degree program but may focus on different aspects of the language at
different times through their degree program. Their focus may not be always on vocabulary;
it may be on vocabulary during one semester — for example, in preparation for tests like the
Test of English Majors (TEM) Band 4, focused on in grade 2, and the TEM Band 8, focused
on in grade 4.

Increase, decrease then increase (9) in percentage of students using a strategy

There are nine strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
when reading English the place students meet
1 5/1e
materials
a discovery-place strategy
new words
when using/surfing the the place where students
2 7/1g a discovery-place strategy
internet meet new words
what students initially do
pay no attention to it and a determination initial
3 9/3b when they meet a new
never go back to it response strategy
word
what students study
the prefixes, suffixes and
4 17/4c a determination-study strategy when learning a new
root-word
word
the way the new word is what students do to learn
5 21/4g
used
a determination-study strategy
a new word
organising information
order the information about a new word in
a consolidation-organise
6 25/5b about a new word in a order to learn it or
strategy
notebook review it as part of the
process of learning
what students do to use
try to use words in a consolidation-production
7 58/9a what they are learning to
speaking and writing strategy
establish it in memory
what students do to
try to think in English a consolidation-production make what they are
8 60/9c
with the new vocabulary strategy learning permanent in
memory
what students do to
try having conversations
a consolidation-production make what they are
9 61/9d using new words with
strategy learning permanent in
English speakers
memory

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graph 3 - increase, decrease then increase
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 45

often 59
Strategy 5/1e when reading English
materials
often 42

often 58

In the example above the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 5/1e,
when reading English materials, a discovery-place strategy, is shown. The strategy concerns
the place students meet new words. A certain percentage of students in all grades often use
the strategy.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning
increases from grade 1 to grade 2, decreasing from grade 2 to 3, and increasing from grade 3
to grade 4. Why a decrease from grade 2 to 3 is unclear, but suggests less focus on reading
English materials in grade 3.

Increase, decrease then unchanged (5) percentage of students using a strategy

There are five strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
what students do when
pay no attention to it and a determination initial
1 8/3a
never go back to it response strategy
they first meet a new
word
what students decide to
2 19/4e the English explanations a determination study strategy study of the new word
after they first meet it
use the vocabulary lists a consolidation-organise what students do to learn
3 27/5d
in the textbooks strategy new words
what students do to
use the new word to a consolidation-memory
4 39/6k memorise the new words
make up a sentence strategy
they meet

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what students do to
test the new words on my a consolidation-review review the new
5 51/7e
own strategy vocabulary they are
trying to learn

graph 4 - increase, decrease then unchanged


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

rarely 50

rarely 68
Strategy 8/3a
rarely 50

never 50

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students using strategy 8/3a, pay no
attention to it and never go back to it, a determination initial response strategy. The strategy
concerns what students do when they first meet a new word. We see that students in grade 1
to 3 grades rarely do this and grade 4 students never do it.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning; it
increases from grade 1 to grade 2, decreases from grade 2 to 3 and is unchanged from grade 3
to grade 4. Why the others are rarely used is unclear, given for instance, that students are
preparing for exams in grades 2 and 4 but rarely use the vocabulary lists in the textbooks and
do use the vocabulary test books (strategy 28/5e above).

Increase then unchanged (4) in percentage of students using a strategy

There are four strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
what a student decides to
1 15/4a its pronunciation a determination-study strategy study of the new word in
order to learn it

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what a student decides to
2 20/4f the example sentences a determination-study strategy study of the new word in
order to learn it
say the new word aloud a consolidation-memory what a student does to
3 29/6a
several times strategy memorise the new word
what a student does to
test the new words with a consolidation-review
4 52/7f establish the new word
classmates strategy
in memory

graph 5 - increase, then unchanged


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 41

often/always 45
Strategy 15/4a its pronunciation
always 50

always 50

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 15/4a,
its pronunciation, a determination-study strategy. The strategy concerns what a student
decides to study of the new word in order to learn it. Grade 1 students often do this, grade 2
students often and always do it, while grade 3 and 4 students always do it.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus on the pronunciation of English does
change; it increases from grade 1 to grade 2, decreases from grade 2 to 3 and is unchanged
from grade 3 to grade 4. Knowing the pronunciation of English vocabulary helps to make the
connection between written words and spoken, or their syllabic nature.

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Increase, unchanged then increase (1) in percentage of students using a strategy

graph 6 - increase, unchanged then increase


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

sometimes/often 32

sometimes 50
Strategy 53/8a remember the new word
the way I learned it
sometimes 50

sometimes 58

In the above graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 53/8a,
remember the new word the way I learned it, a consolidation-remember strategy, is shown.
The strategy concerns how a student remembers a new word they have tried to learn. We see
grade 1 students sometimes and often do this, while grade 2 to 4 students sometimes do this.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning and
students do not have much time to do revision; it increases from grade 1 to grade 2, decreases
from grade 2 to 3 and is unchanged from grade 3 to grade 4. The result seems to suggest that
students progressively reduced the use of this strategy.

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Increase, unchanged then decrease (1) in percentage of students using a strategy

graph 7 - increase, unchanged then decrease


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 41

sometimes 50
Strategy 6/1f when singing English songs
& watching movies & TV
often 50

often 42

In the above graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 6/1f, when
singing English songs and watching English movies/TV, a discovery-place strategy, is shown.
The strategy concerns where students meet new words. We see that grade 1, 3 and 4 students
often meet new words in entertainment, whereas grade 2 students sometimes do.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
students desire variety in their classroom and learning activities; it increases from grade 1 to
grade 2, decreases from grade 2 to 3 and is unchanged from grade 3 to grade 4. The result
seems to suggest that students progressively reduced the use of this strategy.

5.2.2 – 2) Decrease grouping

In the decrease group, the trend in strategy use decreased from grade 1 and either kept
decreasing or experienced one of several other trends (e.g., increase; increase then decrease;
increase then unchanged). There are 19 strategies is this grouping.

129
Decrease (1) in percentage of students using a strategy

graph 8 - decrease
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

sometimes 45

often 41
Strategy 23/4i the new word's part of
speech
sometimes 38

often 33

In the above graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 23/4i, the
new word’s part of speech, a determination-study strategy, is shown. The strategy concerns
what a student will study of the new word in order to learn it. Grade 1 and 3 students
sometimes do this, while grade 2 and 4 students often do it.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
students tend not to do this by grade 3; it increases from grade 1 to grade 2, decreases from
grade 2 to 3 and is unchanged from grade 3 to grade 4. The result seems to suggest that
students progressively reduced the use of this strategy.

Decrease then increase (4) in percentage of students using a strategy

There are four strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
in vocabulary lists where students meet new
1 3/1c
arranged by meaning
a discovery-place strategy
words
memorise Chinese-
a consolidation-memory what students do to
2 32/6d English and English-
strategy memorise a new words
Chinese lists
link new word to similar
a consolidation-memory what students do to
3 34/6f meaning words or
strategy memorise new words
opposite meaning words
4 57/8e try to remember where I a consolidation-remember what students do to

130
first met the word strategy remember a word they
are trying to learn

graph 9 - decrease then increase


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

sometimes 50

sometimes 41
Strategy 3/1c in vocabulary lists
arranged by meaning
sometimes 33

often 50

In the example graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 3/1c, in
vocabulary lists arranged by meaning, a discovery-place strategy, is shown. The strategy
concerns where students meet new words. We see grade 1 to 3 students sometimes meet new
words, whereas grade 4 students often do.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
students don’t meet this type of list until grade 4, decreasing from grade 1 to grade 3, and
then increasing from grade 3 to 4. The result seems to suggest that students increasingly use
these strategies.

Decrease, increase then decrease (9) in percentage of students using a strategy

There are nine strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
in vocabulary lists
the place where students
1 2/1b arranged in alphabetical a discovery-place strategy
meet new words
order
during English
the place where students
2 4/1d conversations with a discovery-place strategy
meet new words
others
study the word’s prefixes, what students do when
a determination initial
3 11/3d suffixes and root word they meet a new word
response strategy
for meaning for the first time

131
what students do when
the new word’s
the meet a new word,
4 22/4h relationship with other a determination-study strategy
what they will do to
words
study it
draw pictures to
a consolidation-memory what students do to
5 44/6p illustrate the meaning of
strategy memorise a new word
new words
try to imagine in my head
a consolidation-memory what students do to
6 45/6q what the new word looks
strategy memorise a new word
like
say the new words next what students do to
a consolidation-review
7 48/7b time I read them, and review new words they
strategy
again after that are trying to learn
remember the new word what students do to
a consolidation-remember
8 55/8c by its meaning when read remember a new word
strategy
again they are trying to learn
remember the new word’s
meaning first, then think what students do to
a consolidation-remember
9 56/8d about its meaningful remember a new word
strategy
parts e.g. prefixes, they are trying to learn
suffixes and root word

graph 10 - decrease, increase then decrease


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

sometimes 45

often 36
Strateg 2/1b in vocabulary lists arranged
in alphabetical order
sometimes 54

sometimes 33

In the example graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 2/1b, in
vocabulary lists arranged in alphabetical order, a discovery-place strategy, is shown. The
strategy concerns the place where students meet new words. Grades 1, 3 and 4 sometimes
meet new words in these lists, but grade 2 students often do.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning and
such lists are found in textbooks and vocabulary books used for exams, decreasing from
grade 1 to grade 2, then increases from grade 2 to 3 and then decreases from grade 3 to grade
4. The result seems to suggest that students increasingly used the strategy in grade 2, but in

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other grades less so, perhaps due to the time pressure to focus on other aspects of language.

Decrease, increase then unchanged (2)

There are two strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
ask a classmate or what students do when
a determination initial
1 12/3e teacher for the meaning they meet a new word
response strategy
of a new word for the first time
try to e-chat on the what students do to try
internet using a consolidation-production to use the new
2 62/9e
communication tools like strategy vocabulary they are
QQ, MSN Messenger trying to learn

graph 11 - decrease, increase then unchanged


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

rarely 55

rarely 41
Strategy 62/9e try to e-chat on the
internet
rarely 50

rarely 50

In the example graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 62/9e,
try to e-chat on the internet using communication tools like QQ, MSN Messenger, a
consolidation-production strategy, is shown. The strategy concerns what students do to try to
use the new vocabulary they are trying to learn. Students in all grades rarely do this.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
students rarely have time to chat in English on QQ as they use it to chat with their parents and
friends; it decreases from grade 1 to 2, then increases from grade 2 to 3 and then decreases
from grade 3 to 4. The result seems to suggest that students rarely used the strategies due to
rarely meeting English speakers on QQ but perhaps increased their use of it in grade 2.

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Decrease then unchanged (1)

graph 12 - decrease then unchanged


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

rarely 55

rarely 45
Strategy 37/6i group words in order eg
meaning
sometimes 42

rarely 42

In the above graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 37/6i,
group words in order, for example, by meaning, a consolidation-memory strategy, is shown.
The strategy concerns what students do with new vocabulary in order to memorise it. We can
see students in grades 1, 2 and 4 rarely do this, while students in grade 3 sometimes do this.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
their focus is on translation rather than the English meaning; it decreases from grade 1 to 3,
and then is unchanged from grade 3 to 4. The result seems to suggest that students rarely used
the strategy in grade 1 but perhaps increased their use of it by grade 3, due to a focus on
translation.

5.2.3 – 3) Unchanged grouping

In the unchanged group, the trend in strategy use was unchanged from grade 1 and either
remained unchanged or experienced one of several other trends (e.g., increase; decrease;
increase then decrease; decrease then increase). There are seven strategies is this grouping.

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Unchanged, increase then decrease (4)

There are four strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
what students do when
1 16/4b the spelling a determination-study strategy studying the new word
to learn it
look at the word several a consolidation-memory what students do to
2 31/6c
times strategy memorise a new word
practise new words by
a consolidation-memory what students do to
3 42/6n acting them out e.g.
strategy memorise a new word
verbs
what students do to
say the new word 2 or 3 a consolidation-review
4 47/7a
times the first day strategy
review new vocabulary
they are trying to learn

graph 13 - unchanged, increase then decrease


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

often 45

often/always 45
Strategy 16/4b the spelling
always 63

often/always 33

In the example graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 16/4b,
the spelling, a determination-study strategy, is shown. The strategy concerns what students do
when studying the new word to learn it. Grade 1 students often do this, grade 2 and 4 students
often and always do this, while grade 3 students always do this.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
aspects like 16/4b, 31/6c and 47/6c and 47/7a are often a focus; it was unchanged from grade
1 to 2, increased from grade 2 to 3 and then decreased from grade 3 to 4. The result seems to
suggest that students increased their use of these strategies by grade 3 then decreased their
use in grade 4, due to the constant focus.

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Unchanged, decrease then increase (2)

There are two strategies highlighted in this section.


Occurrence of
#: Code: Strategy used: Type of strategy:
strategy:
what students do when
read an English-only a determination initial
1 14/3g they meet a new word
dictionary response strategy
for the first time
read the new words 2 or
what students do to
3 times first, then again a a consolidation-review
2 50/7d
few days later, a week strategy
review new vocabulary
they are trying to learn
later, a month later

graph 14 - unchanged, decrease then increase


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

rarely 45

rarely 45
Strategy 14/3g read an English-only
dictionary
rarely/sometimes 29

sometimes 50

In the example graph the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 14/3g,
read an English-only dictionary, a determination initial response strategy, is shown. The
strategy concerns what students do when they meet a new word for the first time. Students in
grade 1 and 2 rarely do this, students in grade 3 rarely and sometimes, while grade 4
sometimes do this, due to focus on translation and time pressure to review.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
translation is common and was unchanged from grade 1 to 2, decreased from grade 2 to 3,
and then increased from grade 3 to 4. The result seems to suggest that students increased their
use of these strategies by grade 3.

136
Unchanged then decrease (1)

graph 15 - unchanged then decrease


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

rarely 45

rarely 45
Strategy 40/6l listen to tape and CD
recordings of words
sometimes 42

sometimes 33

The graph above shows the highest percentage of students in each grade using strategy 40/6l,
listen to tape-/CD recordings of words, a consolidation-memory strategy. The strategy
concerns what students do to memorise new words. Students in grade 1 and 2 rarely do this,
while students in grade 3 and 4 sometimes do this.

This grouping appears perhaps because the focus changes on English language learning but
listening is not emphasised in grades 1 and 2, was unchanged from grade 1 to 2, then
decreased from grade 2 to 4. The result seems to suggest that students increased their use of
the strategy by grade 4.

Section summary

This section discussed three groupings of VLS use that appeared in the highest percentage of
students using a strategy table (see Appendix 8): increasing strategy use, decreasing strategy
use and unchanged strategy use. This patterning of strategy use not only reveals trends in
strategy use but that at certain times during the CEMs’ education, strategy use either
increased, decreased or was unchanged. This gives insights into student learning behaviour,
vocabulary learning specifically — that it is variable and may depend on the type of learning
activity and tasks they engaged in during their four-year Bachelor degree, or the value and
efficacy of using certain strategies. Perhaps it shows that vocabulary learning is not a

137
constant activity, a steady increasing activity, but a variable one that experiences bouts of
action and lulls (e.g., preparing for exams).

5.3 Questionnaire data compared with interview data

This section presents the interview data by each question about strategy use: 1) Where do you
meet new words?; 2) What do usually do when you meet a new vocabulary? 3) Do you
practise new vocabulary? What strategies do you use?; 4) How do you memorise new
words?; and, 9) Do you think VLSs should be taught? (see Chapter 4, section 4.6.1.6). It then
compares it with the questionnaire data — a single percentage is calculated from the four
grades data. Students’ responses to the interview questions are provided in each of the
sections below in support of the strategies elaborated in the data.

Interview data was collated and placed in tables. The tables show how the students responded
to the questions, and the analysis of interview data involved extracting the nominals – nouns,
noun phrases and other indicators. The information is summarised and the most popular
answers presented (see Appendix 3). For convenience and anonymity, students’ names have
been changed to English names but the number before the name, e.g. 1) Susan, indicates their
ranking in the data. Students’ responses have been edited for reading convenience.

5.3.1 Question #1: Where do you meet new vocabulary?

The first question asked in the interview Where do you meet new vocabulary? is the same as
the first question on the questionnaire (see Appendix 8, Table 2). The answers were presented
as discovery themes because they concern where students meet new words, and were
classified as discovery-place strategies.

Seven discovery strategies were asked about on the Ma VLSQ (see Tables 5.3 to 5.11 above),
however, interviews were open about where students might meet new vocabulary. Thirty-
three places were gleaned from the interview answers. The list highlights 27 more than the
Ma questionnaire. The strategies repeated in both interview and the questionnaire are: #2: in
textbooks, #9: in vocabulary books — assumed to contain lists; #16: in conversation; #1 to
10: English materials; #32: in songs; #30: in movies; #22: on radio; #20 and 21: on the
internet and news websites. The interview result showed additional places where new

138
vocabulary may be encountered. The most popular strategies coming from the interview were
#2: in textbooks; #22: on TV; #30: in movies; #3: newspapers; #4: magazines; #7: novels;
#20: on the internet; and then #28: in advertising.

Here are some examples from the electronic interview from two of the students mentioning
the source of new vocabulary are novels, newspapers and magazines.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


1) SUSAN 21 English 3 111 f 12
Question: Answer:
1) Where do you meet/encounter new English English text books, and newspapers and magazi
words? nes.
Ok Anywhere else? On the internet
Anywhere else? In any place around where live; life.
Yeah, and on billboards, on the street, in the
product Introductions.
When you meet them in your textbook, are they When I am in grade 1 and grade 2.
by themselves in a list or in sentences and There is a new word list, but now,
passages? there is no word list in text books, and
we learn it in the sentences.
Why is there no word list now? Because when we are freshmen, we need to
learn new words to be the foundation.
Now I'm a junior, so
the textbooks focus on other abilities,
like rhetorical devices.
Which abilities? What the author wants to tell the readers.
What kind of words do you learn as a freshman? Many kinds of words, in our text books, each
lesson will have a word list; they belong to
the lesson.
They belong to the lesson? What kind of lesson Maybe some essays and novels.
will you have
So the new words are in the essays and novels? Yeah.
Are the words you learn as a freshman different Yeah, the words I learn now are longer and
from the words you learn now more difficult to remember.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


2) CHRISTINE 22 English 3 124 f 10
Question: Answer:
1) Where do you meet/encounter new English In some English magazines or movies.
words?
Can you name some of the magazines? and movies Too many to mention.
Just one or two is enough Readers' taste; the movie ... such as Oliver twist.
Anywhere else? No.

Student 1 is more verbose than student 2. Students 1 mentions more places than 2 where new
vocabulary is met. The contrast is interesting because 1) student 2 is older than 1 (by one
year), student 2 achieved a higher CET score than 1, but student 2 has 2 years less English

139
language education. Years of English language education may account for the difference but
temperament may better account for 2’s response.

The 27 potentially new strategies emerging from the interview are: 1) in books; 2) in
newspapers; 3) in magazines; 4) in extensive readers; 5) in passages; 6) in novels; 7) in
educational books; 8) in vocabulary books; 9) in listening resources; 10) in tests; 11) in
exams; 12) in school; 13) in class; 14) in conversation; 15) on computer; 16) in computer
games; 17) in libraries; 18) on the internet; 19) on news websites; 20) on TV; 21) on radio;
22) in public; 23) on trains; 24) in hotels; 25) restaurant menus; 26) in advertising; and, 27) in
posters. The most popular of these were #2, in books, 64 per cent; #22, on TV, 40 per cent;
#30, in movies, 36 per cent; #3, in newspapers, 32 per cent; and #4, in magazines, 32 per
cent.

5.3.2 Question #2: What do you usually do when you meet a new word?

The themed interview data from Question 2 is found in Appendix 8, Table 3. Determination
strategies concern a learner’s initial response to meeting a new word and what they’ll do to
study it.

Seven determination strategies were asked about on the Ma VLSQ (see Tables 5.3 to 5.11
above) (e.g. Schmitt, 1997). There were more responses about the initial response of students
when meeting new vocabulary in the interview than for the questionnaire. Forty-eight
responses to the question were listed, and that is 41 more VLSs than the Ma questionnaire.
Some of the responses were similar to the Ma questionnaire: #48: ignore it; #1: guess its
meaning; #18: notice its suffixes; #31 to 32, ask a teacher or classmate; #9 and 10: look up
Chinese-English and English-Chinese dictionary; #6: look up English dictionary.

The 41 potentially new strategies were: #5: look up dictionary; #11: look up phone/pc
dictionary; #12: search the internet for it; #13: note its meaning; #14: note its background
history; #15: note its history; #16: find its function; #20: separate short from long words; #21:
read it; #22: try to read it; #23: learn how to read it; #24: read it aloud; #27: recite it; #28:
recite its syllables; #29: recite it when I meet it again; #33: ask friends about it; #34: use it in
daily life; #37: connect sentences with new word in it; #38: make a phrase with it; #41:
memorise it; and #44: remember it through its context.

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The most popular strategies from the interview were: #5: look up dictionary; 72 per cent; #1:
guess its meaning, 32 per cent; #27: recite it, 24 per cent; #6: look up English dictionary, 20
per cent; #8: look up internet dictionary, 20 per cent; #26: know its pronunciation, 20 per
cent; #35: write it down, 20 per cent; #9: look up English-Chinese dictionary, 16 per cent; and
#17: know its usage, 16 per cent. The responses from the two students below demonstrate
their preference for guessing the meaning and revision and recital as their most popular
strategies.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


3) SHEILA 23 English 3 130 f 10
Question: Answer:
2) What do you usually do when you meet a new First, I will guess,
vocabulary item? and then look up the new word in the dictionary.
Do you often guess correctly? Sometimes.
What helps you guess correctly? The context.
What is usually the context? What’s the meaning?
Oh, you said the context helps sometimes guess According to the context,
correctly, what is the context? maybe you can understand the general idea; yes?
Do you mean the sentence the word is in?
Maybe the paragraph too? Yes
So the other words in the sentence help you Yes; that is it.
make a good guess, yes?
Anything else? Maybe sometimes the background information.
What is usually the background information? There are so many, I can’t say them all now.
Can you name one of them? Maybe a historical event.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


4) FREDIKA 20 English 2 120 f 8
Question: Answer:
2) What do you usually do when you meet a new I usually write it down and recite it when I have
vocabulary item? free time.
What else do you do? I use it when I have a chance to speak English.
Anything else? Nothing else.

Student 3 is more verbose than student 4. Student 3 is older than 4, is in a grade higher than
4, student 3 achieved a higher CET score than 4, and student 4 has had 2 years less English
language education. Again, temperament maybe account better for 4’s response.

5.3.3 Question #3: Do you practise the new vocabulary? What strategies do you use?

The themed interview answers yielded a number of consolidation-practice strategies, used to


practise a new word (see Appendix 8, Table 4). Student 5 below discusses his preference for

141
using example sentences to remember new words and student 5 suggests he rehearses it.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


5) KAREN 22 English 3 121 f 10
Question: Answer:
3) Do you practice vocabulary items? What I’m sorry, what do you mean by "practice"?
strategies do you use?
Practice means what you do with the new word to First, I will remember the pronunciation; then the
learn it or remember it. spelling; finally, how to use it.
What do you do when you use it? I mean grammar.
Can you explain this more? For example, I have to know how to use the word
to form a sentence correctly.
So you make sentences using the new word? No; let me think. If the new word is a verb, I
should know some phrases that can be made with
that word.
What other ways do you practice new words? I also look at some example sentences.
Ok anything else? That's all.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


6) JESSICA 23 English 3 121 f 13
Question: Answer:
3) Do you practice vocabulary items? What Yeah; write and remember.
strategies do you use?
How else do you practice new words? Listen to new words.
How do you practice new words when listening? I imitate the audio; to read in it.
So imitating the new Yes, I think it is important.
word is practicing its pronunciation, yes?
What other ways do practice new words? Language is a tool, no?
You mean you don't practice new words other ways? Those are all the ways I practice new words.

Student 5 is slightly more verbose than student 6. However, student 5 does not catch the
meaning of the question immediately and requires it to be restated. Student 5 mentions more
ways to practice new words than 6 though 5 did not initially catch the meaning of the
question, both have the same CET score, though 6 is one year older (though both are in the
same grade), and 6 has three years more English language education. Again, temperament
may better account for 6’s response to the question.

Students provided 62 consolidation-practice strategies not asked about on the Ma VLSQ (see
Table 5.3 to 5.11 above) (e.g. Schmitt, 1997); however, interviews were open about how
students might practise new vocabulary. Sixty-two ways to practise new words were gleaned
from the data. Given that Ma (2009) and Schmitt (1997) did not explicitly ask their
respondents about how they practise new words, the responses therefore extend research into
VLS use.

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However, some of the practice strategies do appear on Ma’s questionnaire classified as other
strategies with other uses, for example, consolidation-memorisation, consolidation-review,
and consolidation-study strategies (see Table 5.3 to 5.11 above or Appendix 2). Some of the
themes are repeated on the questionnaire: #1: write it down; #8: vocabulary notebook; #20:
vocabulary book; #45: by reciting; #2: write it many times; #22: look at it; #10: doing
exercises; #32: noticing synonyms and comparing; #4, 5 and 6: making phrases, sentences
and composition (with the new word); #54, 56, 58, 59 and 60: talk about it, using in essays, in
class, in dialogues, in life; #49 and 50: listening to new words, pronunciation; #40: using
imagery (in the mind); #41: drawing pictures; #38: memorising suffixes; #14: reading new
words again; #53: practise with classmates; #25 and 26: know its meaning (first), know its
Chinese meaning; #15, 17 and 18: reading paragraph (with new word in it), reading books,
reading English books; #55 and 56: sing along to a song, watch and recite lyrics; #62: leaving
it alone; #28: guessing meaning; #34: studying; #23 & 24: look up dictionary, look up
internet dictionary; #44: its pronunciation; #12: with spelling; #27: remember English and
Chinese meanings; #11: using examples; and #31: noting usage.

Students provided an additional 24 practise strategies compared to Ma’s list: #6: write
composition; #9: writing it in a diary; #13: reading it; #15: reading a paragraph with the new
word in it; #16: read it while I write it; #17: reading books; #18: reading English books; #19:
re-read word lists; #23: look up a dictionary; #24: look up internet dictionary: #25: know its
meaning first; #29: reviewing for exams; #30: noting sentence context; #37: learning high
frequency words; #39: memorising sentences; #43: knowing its phonetic symbols; #51:
imitating audio; #52: through dictation; #54: talk about it; #56: watch and recite lyrics; #57:
using in essays; #58: using in class; #59: using in dialogues; and #60: using in life.

The most popular strategies from the interview were: #45: by reciting, 28 per cent; #1:
writing down, 20 per cent; #20: vocabulary book, 20 per cent; #36: memorising words, 20 per
cent; #49: listening to new words, 20 per cent; #12: with spelling, 16 per cent; #53: practising
with classmates, 16 per cent. Sixteen students said they meet new words in textbooks. Only
one student said they meet new words in class. Students indicated they meet new words in
English materials (for example, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, extensive readers,
educational books, vocabulary books, computer games, libraries, TV, radio advertising,
movies and songs). Students consolidated learning through a new word’s pronunciation, its
spelling, through translation, by writing the new word down, by looking at the new word and

143
by remembering the new word when read again. Determining whether interview participants’
strategy use is grade specific could not be ascertained given the majority were grade 3
students.

5.3.4 Question #4: How do you memorise new words?

The interview answers to question 4 show consolidation-memorization strategies for


memorising a new word. Student 7 and 8 below explain their preference for learning the new
word’s pronunciation, and sometimes getting help from other students.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


7) THELMA 22 English 3 128 f 11
Question: Answer:
4) How do you memorize the new words? It seems that I have already finished question 4.
Maybe ... but practicing new words isn't the same as I memorize new words by practicing them.
memorizing them, yes?
So reciting and writing them down from dictation, Yes.
etc, this is your way of memorizing the new words?

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


8) THERESA 23 English 3 120 f 10
Question: Answer:
4) How do you memorize the new words? NA
You said before that you memorized the word, how I memorize mechanically.
did you do it?
How do you do that? According to the pronunciation of the new
word to be memorized.
So reciting is your way of memorizing? No; according to the pronunciation of the word.
Yes, but you will have to say the word to know its pr I look at its phonetics.
onunciation?
Ah so you learn the phonetics and just read the word Sometimes I am uncertain how to read, so
according to the phonetics, yes? I will listen to the mobile phone about
how to read it.
Did you do anything else? Ask another student.
Did you ever ask the teacher in class? Yes, of course.
Did you do anything else No, I only ask other people or listen to the phone.

Student 7 is less verbose than student 8. Student 8 provides more ways to memorize new
words compared to 7, though 7 achieved a higher CET score and has one more year of
English language education. Perhaps temperament may account for the difference.

Students provided 57 memorisation strategies, also asked about on the Ma VLSQ (see Tables
5.1 to 5.11 above or Appendix 2, Table 5) (e.g. Schmitt, 1997). Fifty-seven ways to memorise

144
new words were suggested in the interview answers. Although Ma (2009) and Schmitt (1997)
asked their respondents how they memorise new words, the interview responses extend the
research into VLS use.

However, some of the memorisation strategies do appear on Ma’s questionnaire (and


Schmitt’s list (1997)) as other strategies with other uses. The repeated strategies were #1: by
looking at the word many times; #10 and 11: by reciting, by reciting many times; #12: by
reciting in my head; #14: by reciting sentences; #15: by imaging new word; #17: by linking
known words; #18: by constructing meronyms; #20: by using flash cards; #21: by using a
vocabulary book (lists); #22: by guessing meaning (determination strategy); #23 and 24: look
up dictionary, look up internet dictionary (determination strategy); #25: by thinking about
meaning; #26: by learning its spelling; #27: by knowing its part of speech; #28: by learning
its suffixes; #29: by learning synonyms; #30: by noticing similarity; #31: by knowing how to
read it; #32: by reading while I write it; #33, 34 and 35: by reading, by reading aloud, by
reading many times; #37: by learning roots; #38: by learning affixes; #39: by learning
antonyms; #40 and 41: by writing it down, by writing it down many times; #42: by making
sentences; #44: by learning usage; #45: by studying examples (determination-study strategy);
#12: by doing exercises; #47: by repetition; #48: by reviewing for exams; #52 and 53: by
listening to new words, by dictation; #54: by asking others (about it); #55: by practising with
classmates; and #56: by thinking in English. Students provided an additional 18
memorisation strategies with accompanying sub-strategies. This is the largest contribution
from the interviews, making it significant. The new strategies are: 1) by following the rules of
memorisation; 2) by memorising; 3) by memorising frequently; 4) by remembering it; 5) by
memorising high frequency words; 6) by memorising sentences; 7) by knowing phonetics; 8)
by pronunciation; 9) by reciting many times; 10) by reciting in my head; 11) by reciting in
class; 12) by reciting sentences; 13) by constructing meronyms; 14) by memorising large
chunks of textbooks; 15) by looking up dictionary; 16) by looking up internet dictionary; 17)
by thinking about meaning; 18) by knowing how to read it; 19) by reading it while I write it;
20) by reading; 21) by reading aloud; 22) by reading many times; 23) by reading books; 24)
by writing down; 25) by remembering through grammar; 26) by repetition; 27) by reviewing
for exams; 28) by answering questions; 29) by using it immediately; 30) by finding new
words in newspapers; 31) by dictation; and 32) by paying more attention next time.

The additional 21 (or similar to Ma’s list) practice strategies are: #1: by following the rules of

145
memorisation; #2: by memorising; #3: by memorising frequently; #4: by remembering it; #5:
by memorising high frequency words; #6: by memorising sentences; #7: by knowing
phonetics; #8: by pronunciation; #9: by reciting many times; #10: by reciting in my head;
#11: by reciting in class; #12: by reciting sentences; #13: by constructing meronyms; #14: by
memorising large chunks of textbooks; #15: by looking up dictionary; #16: by looking up
internet dictionary; #17: by thinking about meaning; #18: by knowing how to read it; #19: by
reading it while I write it; #20: by reading; #21: by reading aloud; #22: by reading many
times; #23: by reading books; #24: by writing down; #25: by remembering through grammar;
#26: by repetition; #27: by reviewing exams; #28: by answering questions: #29: by using it
immediately; #30: by finding new words in newspapers; #31: by dictation; and #32: by
paying more attention next time.

The most popular strategies from the questionnaire were: #40: by writing down, 52 per cent;
#9: by pronunciation, 28 per cent; #10: by reciting, 24 per cent; #47: by repetition, 20 per
cent; #35: by reading many times, 16 per cent; #42: by making sentences, 16 per cent.

It should be noted that responses to interview questions do not show frequency of use because
the questionnaire provides a range of frequencies, ordinal data, whereas the interview did not
ask students to indicate frequency of use, it just asked what was done (nominal data). So no
comparison can be made about frequency of use between the questionnaire data and the
interview, except on a very general level: interviews indicate used whereas questionnaire data
indicates used/not used and frequency of use.

5.3.5 Question #5: Should vocabulary learning strategies be taught?

In Table 5.12 below, the interview answers from Question 9 are presented.

Table 5.12: Should VLSs be taught?


Number of
#: Answer:
students
1 Yes 18
2 Not sure 1
3 No 3
4 Not at all 2
5 Maybe 1

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This question was not asked on the Ma VLSQ (see Tables 5.3 to 5.11 above) (e.g. Schmitt,
1997), but was asked in this research as previous research advocated strategy training. Out of
25 students, 18 said Yes, while 5 said No. The response highlights the need for strategy
training. This provides further insight into Question 10 on the VLSQ, where students were
asked where they get their strategies (see section 5.5.1 below). The majority of respondents
on the questionnaire suggested they get their strategies from a teacher. Given the research that
suggests strategy training enhances vocabulary learning, training is important. Implications
for language teaching are discussed in Chapter 7: Discussion.

Section summary

When analysing the interview data, many strategies used were similar to Ma’s list, but some
were new strategies. In terms of discovery-place strategies, the place where new words are
met, 26 other places were found in the interview data. In terms of determination initial
response strategies, initial response to the new word and what to do with it, 41 other ways to
respond and deal with the new word were found. In terms of consolidation-practice strategies,
how to practise new vocabulary, 21 other ways to practise were found. In terms of
consolidation-memorisation strategies, how to memorise new vocabulary, 18 other ways were
found. This result extends the range of strategies involved in English vocabulary learning and
gives us insights into CEMs’ English vocabulary learning.

Sometimes a strategy was not used (see Appendix 8) in grade 1 (for instance, 8e: try to
remember where I first met the word), the first 2 grades (for instance, 3g: read an English-
only dictionary), or the first 3 grades (for instance, 9d: try having conversations using the
new words with English speakers — for instance, teachers). Sometimes a strategy was not
used in grade 2 (for instance, 6l: listen to tape- / CD recordings of words), grade 3 (for
instance, 3b: pay no attention to it but go back to it later), or grade 4 (for instance, 5d: use
the vocabulary lists in a textbook). Sometimes a strategy was not used in grade 1 and 4 (for
instance, 9b: try to use idioms when I speak).

At least one strategy was not used in all grades: 4f: the example sentences; one was not used
in two grades: 6q: try to imagine in my head what the new world looks like; one was not used
in three grades 1d: during English conversations; and one was not used in any of the four

147
grades: 9e: try to e-chat on the internet using QQ, Messenger. Why students indicated on the
questionnaire that they tended not to use these strategies in all grades or one or two grades is
unclear. The interview did not elaborate on this, and students provided answers that suggest
that they did use these strategies.

5.3.6 A range of strategies were rarely or never used

The following 26 strategies, roughly 42 per cent, were not used in a grade or all grades, based
on the highest percentage of use on the questionnaire.

Key to Table 5.13: left-hand column just indicates a number, not ranking; the second column
is the code representing the strategy, for example, 1d, the number 1 represents the question it
belongs to on the questionnaire, and the letter d represents its subpart in the question; the
third column is the strategy; the last column is the briefing on it not being used by a grade or
in all grades.

Table 5.13: rarely or never used VLSs


S#: Vocabulary learning strategy name: Meaning:
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
1 1d during English conversations with others
did not meet new vocabulary during
English conversations with others
was not used in all four grades, meaning
pay no attention to it, and never go back to that the majority of students indicated that
2 3a
it they did not ‘pay no attention’ to new
vocabulary and ‘never go back to it’
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
3 3b pay no attention to it, but go back to it later did not ask a classmate or a teacher for the
meaning of a new word when they first met
it
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
4 3e ask a classmate or teacher for the meaning
did not meet new words ‘during English
conversation with others’
was not used in most grades, meaning that
5 3g read an English-only dictionary the majority of students indicated that they
did not read an English-only dictionary
was not used in most grades, meaning that
6 4f the example sentence the majority of students indicated that they
generally don’t use the example sentences
was not used in all four grades, meaning
7 5c make vocabulary cards that the majority of students indicated that
they did not make vocabulary cards
was not used in most grades, meaning that
8 5d use the vocabulary lists in a textbook
most students said they did not use the

148
vocabulary lists found in textbooks to order
new vocabulary
was not used in most grades, meaning that
9 6e do vocabulary exercises the majority of students indicated that they
did not do the vocabulary exercises
was not used in most grades, meaning that
group words in order e.g. meaning, part of the majority of students indicated that they
10 6i
speech did not group words in order (e.g. meaning,
part of speech)
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
11 6k use the new word to make up a sentence
do not use the new word to make up a
sentence
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
12 6l listen to tape-/CD recordings of words
did not listen to tape-/CD recordings of new
words
was not used in most grades, meaning that
13 6m make up rhymes to link new words together the majority of students indicted that they
did not make up rhymes to link new words
was not used in most grades, meaning that
practise new words by acting them out i.e.
14 6n the majority of students did not practise
verbs
new words by acting them out (i.e. verbs)
was not used in most grades, meaning that
draw pictures to illustrate the meaning of the majority of students did not draw
15 6p
the new word pictures to illustrate meaning of the new
words
was not used in most grades, meaning that
try to imagine in my head what the new the majority of students did not try to
16 6q
word looks like imagine in their head what the new word
looks like
was not used in most grades, meaning that
17 7a use word to make up a sentence/phrase the majority of students tend not to use
words in this way
was not used in all four grades, meaning
read the new words the first day, but not that the majority of students indicated that
18 7c
after that they did not read new words the first day,
and rarely after that
was not used in most grades, meaning that
most students indicated that they did not
read the new words 2 or 3 times first, again
19 7d read the new words 3 or 3 times the first
a few days later, a week later, a month later
day, a few days later, a week later, a month
later
was not used in most grades, meaning that
20 7e test the new words on my own the majority of students indicated that did
not test new words on their own
was not used in all grades, meaning that the
21 7f test the new words with a classmate majority of students indicated that they did
not test new words with classmates
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
22 8e try to remember where I first met the word
did not try to remember where they first
met the new word
was not used in some grades, meaning that
try to use new words in speaking and the majority of students indicated that they
23 9a
writing did not try to use the new words in speaking
and writing
was not used in most grades, meaning that
24 9b try to use idioms when I speak
the majority of students indicated that they

149
did not try to use idioms when they speak
was not used in most grades, meaning that
the majority of students indicated that they
try having conversation using the new
25 9d did not try having conversation using the
words with English speakers e.g. teachers
new words with English speakers (e.g.
teachers)
was not used in all grades, meaning that the
majority of students indicated that they did
try to think in English with the new
26 9c not try to e-chat on the internet using an
vocabulary
internet communication tool such as QQ,
MSN Messenger

Table 5.13 shows which strategies were either rarely or never used. This information is
important because it is the other side of the coin. Why students tended not to use the above
strategies is puzzling. There is a range of strategies in this group: 1d is a discovery-place
strategy; 3a, 3b, 3e, 3g, are determination initial response strategies; 4f, is a determination-
study strategy; 5c, 5d, are consolidation-organisation strategies; 6e, 6i, 6k, 6l, 6m, 6n, 6p, 6q
are consolidation-memory strategies; 7a, 7c, 7d, 7e, 7f are consolidation-review strategies; 8e
is a consolidation-remember strategy; and 9a, 9b, 9d and 9e are consolidation-production
strategies. The highest number of never or rarely used strategies are the consolidation-
memory strategies, 8 in all. The tendency not to use these suggests students spend less time
on memorisation strategies. Most of the consolidation-review strategies were never or rarely
used, 5 in all. The result suggests students tend not to engage in revision of vocabulary. Most
of the consolidation-production strategies were never or rarely used, and suggests a tendency
not to use what is being learned.

Appendix 8 Table 2 shows the ‘often’ used VLSs of all students by percentage. Often used
reflects the ‘often’ response choice. The 62 strategies were ranked according to the
percentage of students using it. The 10 with the highest percentages were: 1) 8c: remember a
new word by its meaning (when read again) (consolidation-remember strategy); 2) 1a: in
textbooks and classroom activities (discovery-place strategy); 3) when reading English
materials (discovery-place strategy); 4) 8b: remember a new word by its meaning (when
heard again) (consolidation-remember strategy); 5) 4g: the way the new word is used
(determination-study); 6) 3c: I try to guess the word’s meaning from the context
(determination-response strategy); 7) 6b: write the word several times (consolidation-
memorisation strategy); 8) 3f: read a Chinese-English or an English-Chinese dictionary
(determination-response strategy); 9) 4d: the Chinese translation (determination-study
strategy); and 10) 6c: look at the new word several times (consolidation-memorisation

150
strategy).

5.3.7 The percentage of students often using a strategy

The number of VLSs often used in each grade can be found in Appendix 8 Table 2. The often
used strategies are highlighted to provide a clearer picture of strategy use among the surveyed
students.

The listing provided a clearer picture of students often using a strategy and a deeper picture
of the most often to the least often used strategy than the analysis of grade means did. The
most often used strategy was 8c: remember a new word by its meaning (when read again),
with 63 per cent of students; the least often used strategy was 3a: pay no attention to it, and
never go back to it, with 3 per cent of students. The 10 most often used strategies are found in
Table 5.14:

Table 5.14: Top 10 ranked VLSs over all:


Rank: S#: Strategies %
1 8c Remember a new word by its meaning (when read again) 63%
2 1a In textbooks and classroom learning activities 55%
3 1e When reading English materials 50%
4 8b Remember a new word by its meaning (when heard again) 49%
5 4g The way the new word is used 48%
6 3c I try to guess the word’s meaning from the context 48%
7 6b Write the word several times 46%
8 3f Read a Chinese-English or an English-Chinese dictionary 45%
9 4d The Chinese translation 41%
10 6c Look at the word several times 40%

The percentage of students often using a strategy drops by 20 per cent by number 10, strategy
6c. However, the top 10 most often used strategies hint at something significant: the favoured
approach to learning English vocabulary. This idea is elaborated in section 5.4.1 below.

Section summary

Analysing the grade means of strategies produced a more generalised observation of strategy
use than percentages. Fifteen strategies had more use according to the mean analysis, with

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most experiencing average use and a few experiencing low use — if means are interpreted
through this measure: 1.00 to 2.49 is low use, 2.50 to 3.49 is medium use, and 3.50 to 5.00 is
high use (see Wahyuni, 2013) — while 13 were often/always used, and 10 often/sometimes.
The average mean score was 3.17 for the whole group and suggests medium use. Roughly 26
strategies were found to be rarely or never used. The percentage of students using the
remaining strategies decreased from 39 per cent to 3 per cent — see Appendix 8. This result
and other findings are discussed further in the Discussion chapter.

5.4 Research question No. 2:

What is the difference in VLS use among the four grades of CEMs?

This section discusses the observation of trends in the data not seen in the formal statistical
tests in Chapter 6. The discussion begins with the finding that there is a difference, variability
in individual students’ VLS frequency of use and in the percentage of students using a VLS.
Then strategy clustering is highlighted to provide further evidence of variability within a
grade and between grades.

5.4.0 Is there a difference?

There is variability in VLS use in each of the four grades (as shown in Tables 5.3 to 5.11).
The students in each grade indicated they use VLSs. Frequency of use of a VLS is discussed
in terms of unchanged (e.g., all students in all grades ‘rarely’ use the VLS), or changed, in
terms of either increased use (e.g., most students in grade 2 ‘often’ use the VLS though
students in grade 1 ‘rarely’ used it) or decreased use (e.g., most students in grade 2 ‘rarely’
use the VLS though students in grade 1 ‘often’ use it). A major finding was the VLS
clustering in each grade (for instance, a small set of VLSs were used in each grade), and this
is discussed next. Interview data is only used to affirm ‘use’ but not to add to the discussion
of frequency of use (see section 5.3 above and Chapter 7).

5.4.1 Vocabulary learning strategy clustering

A particular patterning of strategy use was observed in each grade.

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Table 5.15 below shows the number of VLSs regularly used and the type of VLSs used in
each grade. Key to Table 5.15: each column lists the strategy often or always used in a grade;
at the top of each column representing the grade in which the strategy is used; colour is used
to highlight a repeated strategy, for example, strategy 1a is used in all four grades; use is
determined by ‘often’ and ‘always’ frequencies.

Table 5.15: VLSs regularly used per grade


g1 g2 g3 g4
1a 1a 1a 1a
1e 1b 1b 1c
1f 1e 1e 1d
3b 1f 1f 1e
3c 3c 3c 1g
4a 3f 3f 4a
4b 4a 4a 4b
4d 4b 4b 4d
4f 4d 4d 4e
5b 4g 4g 4f
5d 4i 5b 4g
5e 6b 5d 4i
6a 6c 6b 6b
6b 6d 6c 6c
6c 6g 7b 6d
6d 8b 7d 6e
6j 8c 8b 6f
6k 8e 8c 6j
6o 9a 8e 6k
7e 9a 6o
8a 6r
8c 7a
9b 7b
9c 8b
8c
8d
8e
9a
24 19 20 28

Students in grade 1 regularly used 24 VLSs; students in grade 2 regularly used 19 VLSs;
students in grade 3 regularly used 20 VLSs; students in grade 4 regularly used 28 VLSs — an

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average of 22 VLSs. The number of regularly used VLSs was different in each grade, and the
type of VLS regularly used in each grade was generally different. Except for the repeats in at
least two grades, eight VLSs experienced repeated use in all four grades. Eight VLSs were
used in all four grades:

1) 1a: in textbooks and classroom learning activities (discovery-place strategy);


2) 1e: when reading English materials (discovery-place strategy);
3) 4a: its pronunciation (determination-study strategy);
4) 4b: the spelling (determination-study strategy);
5) 4d: the Chinese translation (determination-study strategy);
6) 6b: write the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy);
7) 6c: look at the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy); and
8) 8c: remember a new word by its meaning (when read again) (consolidation-remember
strategy).

This strategy clustering suggests that the trend is to focus on reading and writing rather than
speaking and listening.

The eight VLSs above are a process or route to vocabulary gain. The data showed that 36
other strategies complemented the eight. Some of these strategies were used in one grade,
while others were used in three. Key to Table 5:16: the far left-hand column just numbers the
range of strategies; the middle column lists the name of the strategy; the far right-hand
column shows the grade in which the strategy was used.

Table 5.16: strategies that complemented the eight


#: Complementary strategies: grade:
1b: I meet new words in vocabulary lists arranged in
1 2, 3
alphabetical order
2 1c: I meet new words in vocabulary lists arranged by meaning 4
1d: I meet new words during English conversations with
3 4
others
4 1g: I meet new words when using/surfing the internet 4
1f: I meet new words when singing English songs and
5 1, 2, 3
watching English movies/TV
3b: I meet new a word, pay no attention to it, but go back to it
6 1
later
7 3c: I try to guess the word’s meaning for the context 1, 2, 3
8 3f: read a Chinese-English or English-Chinese dictionary 2, 3
9 4e: study the English explanations 4
10 4f: study the example sentences 1, 4

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11 4g: study the way the new word is used 2, 3, 4
12 4i: study the new word’s part of speech 2, 4
5b: I order the information about the new word in a
13 1, 3
vocabulary notebook
5d: I order the information about the new word by using the
14 1, 3
vocabulary lists in the textbooks
5e: I order the information about new words by using the
15 vocabulary lists in vocabulary books like VOCABULARY 1
5000 and TEM4EasyTEST
6a: I memorise the new word by saying the new word aloud
16 1
several times
6d: I memorise the new word by memorising Chinese-English
17 1, 2, 4
and/or English/Chinese lists
18 6e: I memorise the new word by doing vocabulary exercises 4
6f: I memorise the new word by linking it with similar
19 4
meaning words or opposite meaning words
6g: I memorise the new word by linking it with already known
20 2
words and have similarities
6j: I memorise the new word by placing the new word in a
21 1, 4
context e.g. a sentence, conversation
6k: I memorise the new word by using the it to make up a
22 1, 4
sentence
6o: I memorise the new word by trying to imagine what it
23 1, 4
looks like (in a sentence)
6r: I memorise the new word by remembering its prefix, suffix
24 4
and root word
7a: I review new vocabulary by saying the new word 2 or 3
25 4
times the first day
7b: I review new vocabulary by saying the new words the next
26 3, 4
time I read them, and again after that
7d: I review new vocabulary by reading the new words 2 or 3
27 3
times first, then a few days later, a week later, a month later
7e: I review new vocabulary by testing the new words on my
29 1
own
8a: I remember words I have memorised by remembering it by
30 1
the way I learned it
8b: I remember words I have memorised by remembering it
31 2, 3, 4
by its meaning (when heard again)
8d: I remember words I have memorised by remembering its
32 meaning first, then think about its meaningful parts e.g. 4
prefixes
8e: I remember words I have memorised by trying to
33 2, 3, 4
remember where I first met them
9a: I use new words by trying to use them in speaking and
34 2, 3, 4
writing
35 9b: I use new words by trying to use idioms when I speak 1
36 9c: I use new words by trying to think in English with them 1

The range of use of a particular strategy is from 1 to 3. Sixteen strategies were used in grade
1; 11 were used in grade 2; 12 in grade 3; and 20 were used in grade 4. So 44 per cent were
used in grade 1, 30 per cent were used in grade 2, 33 per cent in grade 3, and 55 per cent were
used in grade 4. Sixteen strategies were used to complement the eight in grade 1 (8 + 16 =
24); 11 were used to complement the eight in grade 2 (8 + 11 = 19); 12 were used to
complement the eight in grade 3 (8 + 12 = 20); and, 17 used in grade 4 to complement the

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eight (8 + 20 = 26).

While VLS clustering was observed in VLS use in four grades (Macaro, 2006; and discussion
in Chapter 7), it was not observed in either general BALLL or specific CCL (see Part 2
below).

Section summary

While 26 VLSs were never or rarely used in each grade, 36 were often/always or sometimes
or rarely/never or a combination of these used in each grade. While 63 per cent of all students
often remembered a new word by its meaning (when read again), 55 per cent often met new
words in textbooks and classroom activities. All other strategies experienced a decrease from
50 to 3 per cent. VLS use clustered in each grade. Eight VLSs were repeatedly used in each
grade. 1) 1a: in textbooks and classroom learning activities (discovery-place); 2) 1e: when
reading English materials (discovery-place); 3) 4a: its pronunciation (determination-study);
4) 4b: the spelling (determination-study); 5) 4d: the Chinese translation (determination-
study); 6) 6b: write the word several times (consolidation-memory); 7) 6c: look at the word
several times (consolidation-memory); and 8) 8c: remember a new word by its meaning
(when read again) (consolidation-remember). This suggested a core set of VLSs — a plus
strategy group according to Griffiths (2013). The eight core set of VLSs was complemented
with a range of VLSs among the 36 often/always used VLSs (see Table 5.17 above). Grade 1
students often/always used 24 VLSs, grade 2 used 19, grade 3 used 20, and grade 4 used 28.

5.5 Additional questions (No. 2 and No. 10 on the VLSQ):

Q.2: Where do you often learn vocabulary during the semester?


Q.10: Of four possible sources to obtain VLSs, which do CEMs source the most?

Two questions that did not appear on Ma’s (2009) questionnaire or Schmitt’s (1997) list were
added to the VLSQ, Questions no. 2 and no. 10 (see Appendix 2), and concerned the location
or space in which students tend to learn vocabulary. The questions reflect the expanded
definition of the formal learning context used in the present research to include the entire
university campus. The questions are asked because learning also happens in the library and

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even in the students’ dormitory room. These are major features of the formal learning
environment in higher education because most if not all undergraduate students live on
campus.

5.5.1 Q.2: Where do you often learn vocabulary during the semester?

Table 5.17 below shows the highest percentage of students per grade who indicated that they
learned vocabulary in one of three general locations within a broad definition of the formal
learning context of a university, as well as how frequently they learned vocabulary in these
locations.

Key to Table 5.17: the far-left column shows the code for the question asked about (Question
2 and subparts a to c); column two shows the issue or ‘place of learning’; column three shows
the grade and percentages of students; and the final column shows the response item and
frequency with which students choose the item as a place of learning.

Table 5.17: Percentage of students per grade who chose a place and frequency of use
% of student who chose
Place of vocabulary learning Frequency
place
Discovery-space strategies: the physical
Q2 g1 g2 g3 g4 Response item
space in which word learning takes place
2a In my classroom 45* 41* 46* 42^"* sometimes/often
2b In the library 32" 32" 46* 42* sometimes/often
2c In my dormitory room 41* 41" 46" 42* sometimes/often
Key: * means frequency of use was ‘often’; ˇ means ‘always’; ” means ‘sometimes’; ˜ means ‘rarely’; ° means
‘never’; ^ means frequency of use was split, shared with another frequency

P#2a: In my classroom

The small variation in the frequency of use of place of vocabulary learning #2a
(‘sometimes’/‘often’) indicates that students supported the idea. However, the percentage of
students indicating they often learn in the classroom is lower than expected. The result
suggests that most students tend not to learn in the classroom, which is puzzling.

P#2b: In the library

The small variation in the frequency of use of place of vocabulary learning #2b

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(‘sometimes’/‘often’) indicates that students generally supported the idea. However, grade 1
and 2 students said they only sometimes do learning in the library. Perhaps grade 1 and 2
students are too busy or have less time for English than with other subjects in the library.

P#2c: In my dormitory room

The small variation in the frequency of use of place of vocabulary learning #2c
(‘sometimes’/‘often’) indicates that students generally supported it. Only certain grades do
learning in the dormitory, for example, grades 1 and 4. Perhaps this reflects the needs of
exam preparation. That is, the extra learning done in the dormitory may reflect the fact that
grade 1 and 4 students are preparing for English exams and make use of their dormitory space
at such times in their education.

5.5.2 Q.10: Where did you acquire the VLSs you use?

Table 5.18 below shows where the highest percentage of students acquired the VLSs they
use. This is another question that does not appear in the Ma (2009) version of the
questionnaire (see Chapter 3, section 3.7.2). The question was included because it is believed
important to the research focus, and because it is often only implied or assumed in the
research literature that either EFL learners already possess VLSs before they embark on
learning a foreign language (for instance, unconscious mechanisms), or acquire VLSs from
an external source over the course of FLL or at the time they engage in it (for instance,
consciously employed strategies). For instance, strategies are either 1) assumed to exist inside
the learner’s brain and automatically engage when the learner learns another language (e.g.,
second/foreign language learning is the same as first language learning), as in the innatist
view, or 2) VLSs are not assumed to exist inside the learner’s brain and therefore will be
obtained from an external source (e.g., a teacher, a classmate, a textbook, or elsewhere), but
not in the first instance from inside the learner. Of course, the fact that a language learner
could conceivably use a learning strategy honed in the process of learning some other
knowledge or skill is not discounted.

The view taken in the present study is that, if the literature does not explicitly state whether
VLSs are already present in the learner before they engage in learning or are acquired from
an external source, then the literature must be assuming one of the positions above, and

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therefore the literature offers an unclear position on the issue. However, if the literature does
explicitly state where VLSs come from, then the literature is not making any explicit
assumptions about the origin of VLSs, and therefore implicitly holds one of the positions
above. The present research does not empirically explore whether VLSs are naturally
occurring phenomena that exist inside an EFL learner’s brain prior to beginning to learn a
foreign language, but takes the view that learners use a combination of acquired learning
skills (see Chapter 2, section 2.2). The EFL learner simply uses what s/he already knows
(prior learned general learning and language learning skills) or acquires strategies through the
process of learning a foreign language — modifying existing strategies. In either case, the
view taken here is that the learner consciously employs a strategy to learn English
vocabulary.

Table 5.18 highlights grade differences regarding where students think they got or get their
VLSs. Key to Table 5.18: the far-left column shows the code for the question asked about
(Question 10 and subparts a to d); column two shows the issue or ‘source of strategies’ (e.g.,
my teacher, my classmates); column three shows the grade and percentages of students
choosing item; and the final column shows the response item and frequency of experience
with which students choose the item as a source of strategies.

Table 5.18: Percentage of students per grade who chose a source of VLS and
frequency of choice
% of students choosing source
Source of VLS Frequency
of strategy
Do you remember who taught you how
Q10 g1 g2 g3 g4 Response item
to learn new words?
10a My Chinese English teacher 36 41 38 67 always
10b My classmates 32^˜" 36^˜" 50" 50" rarely/sometimes
10c My textbooks 36" 32* 50* 42" sometimes/often
I taught myself/seemed natural to learn
10d 50* 36* 38* 42* often
words this way
Key: * means frequency of use was ‘often’; ˇ means ‘always’; ” means ‘sometimes’; ˜ means ‘rarely’; ° means
‘never’; ^ means frequency of use was split shared with another frequency

SS#10a: My Chinese English teacher

The lack of variation in the frequency of source #10a (‘sometimes’/‘often’/‘always’)


indicates that students strongly supported the idea. Given that this asked specifically about

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strategies for learning English vocabulary, the result seems reasonable. One would expect that
students would learn how to learn English vocabulary from a teacher.

SS#10b: My classmates

The small variation in the frequency of choice of #10b (‘rarely’/‘sometimes’) indicates that
students generally supported the idea. This does not seem unreasonable given that these
students indicate above in #10a that they always learn them from their teachers. One would
not expect them to automatically know VLSs for learning English, though they would know
plenty for learning Chinese and may modify them to meet the demands of learning English.

SS#10c: My textbooks

The small variation in the frequency of choice of #10c (‘sometimes’/‘often’) suggests that
students generally supported the idea. There is low support for the idea of strategies for
learning English vocabulary from a textbook. Given English is being taught in a foreign
language context, one would expect to find strategies for learning, generally, if not
specifically, in a textbook.

SS#10d: I taught myself/seemed natural to learn words this way

The lack of variation in the frequency of use of #10d (‘sometimes/‘often’), though in the
percentage of students experiencing it (36–50%), suggests that students tended to support the
idea. This is not so surprising; students, if motivated enough and left to their own devices to
learn English vocabulary, should be quite capable of devising VLSs for learning English
vocabulary given that they already possess a range of VLSs for learning Chinese vocabulary.
It is conceivable that some strategies for learning Chinese vocabulary can be used, even
modified, to learn English vocabulary.

Section summary

The raw data indicates that students tended to learn new words mostly in the classroom,
sometimes in their dormitory and rarely in the library. Students indicated they always get
VLSs from their English teacher and that they often get them from themselves, less so from a

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textbook and even less so from a classmate.

Part 2: Beliefs about language and language learning

5.6 Research question No. 3:

What are CEMs’ general ‘Western’ beliefs about language and language learning and
Chinese culture of learning BALLL?

The BALLLQ questionnaire asked about 34 beliefs (see Chapter 3, section 3.7.3), and the
CCLQ asked about 18 general beliefs with accompanying sub-parts, 57 beliefs in total (see
Chapter 3, section 3.7.4). Respondents indicated on the questionnaires whether they agreed
with the particular ‘belief’ by circling a number from 1 to 5, where 1 represents ‘Strongly
disagree’, 2 represents ‘Disagree’, 3 represents ‘Neither disagree or agree’, 4 represents
‘Agree’, and 5 represents ‘Strongly agree’. The results from the BALLLQ (5.6.1) are
highlighted first, followed by the results from the CCLQ (5.7). Interview participants were
asked nine general questions and the data was themed — three concerned beliefs.

5.6.1 Beliefs about language and language learning

The data generated by the BALLLQ questionnaire is presented first using percentages,
frequencies and means, then the data generated by the CCLQ (section 5.7). The data indicate
1) that the surveyed CEMs hold BALLL, and 2) that they tend to maintain their beliefs about
the issues, rarely deviating from them in each of the four grades of a four-year undergraduate
degree.

Tables 5.19 to 5.21 below show by grade the percentage, frequency and mean of students
indicating a preference for a belief statement, the strength of agreement with it and the grade
mean (see Appendix 9 for just means and SDs). The mean provides a general measure of
agreement strength. Subsection 5.6.2, highlights an observed patterning of the data, three
general groupings: strongly agree/agree, strongly disagree/disagree and neither disagree or
agree. Interpreting mean scores as 1.00 to 2.49 as low agreement, 2.50 to 3.49 as medium

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agreement, and 3.50 to 5.00 as high agreement (see Wahyuni, 2013), gives a general idea of
CEMs’ agreement with these general ‘Western’ BALLL. The tables have been divided into
smaller tables to create a more manageable table.

Key to the tables: the left-hand column lists the number of the belief statement as it appears
on the questionnaire; the second column lists the grade; the third column lists the highest
percentage of students in the grade indicating a position on the belief; the fourth column lists
frequency of the belief in terms of agreement; the fifth column lists the grade mean; the sixth
column lists the SD; and the final column lists the number of students in each grade;
shorthand indicators: NDoA = neither disagree or agree, and s.agree = strongly agree.

Table 5.19: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
1 1 45 agree 4.05 0.72 22
2 45 agree 4.05 1.00 22
3 50 agree 3.92 1.02 24
4 50 agree 3.58 1.16 12
2 1 50 agree 3.59 0.96 22
2 41 agree 3.95 0.95 22
3 46 agree 3.50 1.22 24
4 42 agree 3.33 1.44 12
3 1 64 agree 3.64 0.73 22
2 54 agree 3.55 0.91 22
3 54 agree 3.46 0.88 24
4 33 NDoA/agree 3.42 1.16 12
4 1 68 NDoA 3.18 0.50 22
2 45 NDoA 3.09 0.75 22
3 75 NDoA 3.00 0.51 24
4 58 NDoA 3.25 0.62 12
5 1 54 disagree 3.15 0.45 22
2 82 disagree 2.92 0.40 22
3 71 disagree 3.11 1.08 24
4 50 disagree 3.05 0.90 12
6 1 32 NDoA 3.68 1.04 22
2 64 agree 4.09 0.61 22
3 33 agree 3.67 1.05 24
4 33 agree 3.33 1.23 12
7 1 64 s.agree 4.41 1.05 22
2 50 agree/s.agree 4.50 0.51 22
3 58 agree 4.21 0.59 24
4 42 agree 3.50 1.09 12

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8 1 54 agree 4.23 0.75 22
2 68 agree 4.00 0.69 22
3 50 agree 4.17 0.87 24
4 58 agree 4.00 0.85 12
9 1 64 s.disagree 1.45 0.67 22
2 50 disagree 1.64 0.73 22
3 37 disagree 2.04 1.08 24
4 50 disagree 2.08 0.90 12
10 1 41 NDoA 3.14 0.83 22
2 50 agree 3.32 0.95 22
3 37 disagree/agree 2.92 0.97 24
4 50 agree 3.33 1.15 12
11 1 50 agree 4.41 0.59 22
2 64 s.agree 4.50 0.80 22
3 67 s.agree 4.54 0.72 24
4 50 s.agree 4.42 0.67 12
12 1 54 agree 3.73 0.88 22
2 50 agree 3.68 0.65 22
3 50 agree 3.88 0.80 24
4 50 agree 3.83 0.72 12

Table 5.20: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
13 1 73 agree 4.00 0.53 22
2 68 agree 4.00 0.69 22
3 54 agree 3.92 0.97 24
4 83 agree 3.92 0.67 12
14 1 64 disagree 2.27 0.83 22
2 41 disagree 2.55 1.18 22
3 46 disagree 2.21 1.02 24
4 50 NDoA 2.50 0.90 12
15 1 50 NDoA 2.77 1.07 22
2 50 NDoA 3.14 0.71 22
3 46 NDoA 3.42 0.72 24
4 42 NDoA 3.08 0.79 12
16 1 41 agree 3.00 0.98 22
2 50 disagree 2.86 0.94 22
3 50 NDoA 3.29 0.75 24
4 42 disagree 3.08 1.08 12
17 1 68 agree 4.05 0.84 22
2 50 agree/s.agree 4.50 0.51 22
3 63 agree 4.21 0.59 24
4 58 agree 4.00 0.85 12
18 1 36 agree 2.82 1.50 22

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2 50 agree 3.41 0.67 22
3 37 NDoA/agree 3.50 0.88 24
4 75 agree 3.58 0.90 12
19 1 32 disagree 2.59 1.22 22
2 41 agree 3.23 1.11 22
3 42 NDoA 3.17 0.92 24
4 50 disagree 2.58 1.08 12
20 1 36 agree 3.05 1.09 22
2 45 agree 3.00 1.07 22
3 37 NDoA 3.17 1.01 24
4 58 NDoA 2.83 0.83 12
21 1 50 agree 3.59 1.10 22
2 64 agree 3.73 0.83 22
3 54 agree 3.67 1.13 24
4 42 agree 3.25 1.14 12
s.disagree/
22 1 41 1.73 0.94 22
disagree
2 45 s.disagree 1.77 0.87 22
3 37 disagree 1.92 0.88 24
4 42 s.disagree 2.00 1.13 12
23 1 50 agree 4.23 0.92 22
2 68 agree 4.00 0.69 22
3 37 agree 3.96 0.95 24
4 58 agree 4.25 0.62 12
24 1 54 agree 2.45 1.01 22
2 54 disagree 2.73 1.08 22
3 42 NDoA 2.63 1.10 24
4 58 disagree 2.75 1.06 12

Table 5.21: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
25 1 54 agree 3.41 0.73 22
2 45 agree 3.45 1.06 22
3 50 agree 3.63 0.88 24
4 42 NDoA/agree 3.42 1.00 12
26 1 50 disagree 2.32 0.84 22
2 50 disagree 2.45 0.86 22
3 33 disagree 2.96 1.00 24
4 42 disagree 2.58 0.90 12
27 1 59 agree 4.05 0.90 22
2 64 agree 4.09 0.61 22
3 50 agree 4.25 0.68 24
4 50 agree 3.75 1.14 12
28 1 41 agree 3.32 1.09 22

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2 36 agree 3.32 1.09 22
3 37 agree 3.17 1.17 24
4 42 NDoA/agree 3.67 0.65 12
29 1 50 disagree 2.09 0.81 22
2 41 disagree 2.36 0.95 22
3 50 disagree 2.25 0.74 24
4 67 disagree 2.17 1.03 12
30 1 68 agree 4.05 0.58 22
2 64 agree 4.05 0.72 22
3 58 agree 3.58 0.93 24
4 75 agree 4.00 0.74 12
31 1 41 agree 3.18 0.96 22
2 50 NDoA 3.55 0.60 22
3 54 agree 3.54 0.72 24
4 58 agree 3.67 0.78 12
32 1 41 agree 3.05 1.17 22
2 41 NDoA 3.14 0.94 22
3 46 agree 2.96 1.16 24
4 42 agree 3.08 0.90 12
33 1 36 NDoA/agree 3.32 0.99 22
2 77 NDoA 3.18 0.59 22
3 54 NDoA 3.25 0.74 24
4 42 agree 3.58 1.00 12
34 1 64 agree 3.59 0.80 22
2 59 agree 4.00 0.76 22
3 54 agree 4.08 0.78 24
4 58 agree 4.00 0.85 12

The above tables show the highest percentage of students indicating a position with respect to
each of 34 general BALLL. Eighteen beliefs were generally agreed with; roughly 53 per cent.
This suggests that CEMs do not exclusively hold beliefs belonging to the CCL, and that
‘Western’ BALLL have infiltrated their belief systems. These and other groupings of
positions on the beliefs are presented next.

5.6.2 Three general groupings

Three general groupings appear in the questionnaire data (seen in the tables above), based on
the highest percentage of students in each grade (see Appendix 9). Two belief statements
concern the time taken to become fluent in English (BS#14: If you spent 1 hour a day
speaking/learning English, how long would it take for you to become fluent? 1/1 year; 2/1–2

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years; 3/3–5 years; 4/5–10 years; 5/you can’t), and the level of difficulty learning English
(BS#4: the English I am learning is: 1/very difficult, 2/difficult, 3/medium difficulty, 4/easy,
5/very easy), and are separated from the rest. A brief running analysis will appear for each
belief discussed and expanded in the discussion chapter. The following beliefs are in relation
to learning behaviour and how they might affect behaviour.

Section 5.6.2.1: Agree and strongly agree

There are 18 general beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
it’s easier for children than adults to learn a foreign language
1 #1
foreign language aptitude
some people are born with a special ability which foreign language
2 #2
helps them learn a foreign language aptitude
the difficulty of
3 #3 some languages are easier to learn than others
language
the difficulty of
4 #6 I believe I will ultimately speak English very well
language
learning and
it’s important to speak English with an excellent
5 #7 communication
accent
strategies
English culture should be known to speak English
6 #8 the nature of language
very well
it’s better to learn English in an English-speaking
7 #11 the nature of language
country like the United States
if I heard someone speaking English, the learning and
8 #12 language I am trying to learn, I would try to communication
speak with them in order to practise my English strategies
learning and
it’s ok to guess the meaning of an English word if
9 #13 communication
you don’t know it
strategies
learning and
it’s important to repeat English words and
10 #17 communication
practise often
strategies
learning and
I feel self-conscious speaking English in front of
11 #18 communication
others
strategies
learning and
12 #21 it’s important to practise in a language lab communication
strategies
if I speak English very well I will have many motivation and
13 #23
opportunities to use it expectations
learning English is different from learning other
14 #25 the nature of language
university subjects
if learn to speak English very well it will help me motivation and
15 #27
get a good job expectations
it’s easier to read and write English than it is to the difficulty of
16 #28
speak it/listen to it and understand it language
motivation and
17 #30 Chinese think it is important to speak English
expectations

166
foreign language
18 #34 everyone can learn to speak English
aptitude

graph 1 - agree
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

45

45
B#1 it's easier for children than adults to
learn a foreign language
50

50

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating
agreement with belief statement BS#1 it’s easier for children than adults to learn a foreign
language, a general BALLL. A certain percentage of students in all grades agreed with it (see
Appendix 9 for the full spread of percentages). Five categories of beliefs were agreed with: 1)
foreign language aptitude, 2) the difficulty of language learning, 3) learning and
communication strategies, 4) the nature of language, and 5) motivation and expectations.

Perhaps the agreement in this grouping appears because CEMs’ English language learning
experience changes with each passing grade, so maturity and experience are a factor. Also,
because their English teachers, in university at least, can be native speakers from English-
speaking countries like the USA and Australia they bring their beliefs with them into the
classroom. Access to the internet may well play a role too. The logical assumption was to
assume that agreement would increase as well, because CEMs are interested in English
culture and English-speaking countries generally.

Section 5.6.2.2: Strongly disagree and disagree

There are four general beliefs highlighted in this section.

167
#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
the nature of language
1 #5 English is structured in the same way as Chinese
learning
you should not speak English until you can speak learning and
2 #9
it correctly communication
learning English is mostly a matter of translating the nature of language
3 #26
English into Chinese learning
people who are good at maths and science are foreign language
4 #29
good at learning English aptitude

graph 2 - disagree
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

54

82
B#5 English is structured in the same
way as Chinese
71

50

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students indicating a preference for beliefs
statement BS#5 English is structured in the same way as Chinese. A certain percentage of
students in all grades disagree with it. However, the disagreement increases from grade 1 to
grade 2 then decreases from grade 2 to grade 4. Three categories of beliefs were disagreed
with: 1) the nature of language, 2) learning and communication strategies, and 3) foreign
language aptitude.

This disagreement grouping appears perhaps because CEMs can recognise certain differences
in different languages, for example, Chinese vs. English structure. Other beliefs are more
perceptions about learning not necessarily based on experience. The logical assumption was
to assume that agreement would increase or decrease with additional experience, for instance,
if CEMs begin learning maths and science subjects and discover no difference or difference.
Three categories of beliefs experienced mixed preference: 1) foreign language aptitude, 2) the
nature of language learning, and 3) motivation and expectations.

168
Section 5.6.2.3: Neither disagree or agree/agree plus

There are six general beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
foreign language
1 #15 I have foreign language aptitude
aptitude
learning English is mostly a matter of its many the nature of language
2 #20
grammar rules learning
foreign language
3 #22 males are better than females at learning English
aptitude
I would like to speak English so I can learn more motivation and
4 #31
about English people expectations
people who can speak more than one foreign foreign language
5 #32
language are intelligent people aptitude
foreign language
6 #33 Chinese are good at learning foreign languages
aptitude

graph 3 - neither disagree or agree/agree


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

agree 36

agree 45
B#20 learning English is mostly a matter
of its many grammar rules
NDoA 37

NDoA 58

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
preference for belief statement BS#20 learning English is mostly a matter of its many
grammar rules. Students in grades 1 and 2 agree with this, while students in grades 3 and 4
neither disagree or agree [NDoA] with it. Four categories experienced mixed preference: 1)
foreign language aptitude, 2) the nature of language learning, 3) learning and communication
strategies, and 4) the difficulty of language.

This mix of agree and neither disagree or agree appears perhaps because CEMs focus on
grammar early. Other beliefs are more perceptions about learning not necessarily based on
experience. The logical assumption was to assume that agreement would increase or decrease

169
with additional experience, for instance, if CEMs begin learning grammar early and then drift
away to focus on other aspects of English.

Section 5.6.2.4: Disagree, neither disagree or agree, agree

There are four general beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
it’s easier to learn another foreign language if foreign language
1 #10
you already know one foreign language aptitude
learning English is a mostly a matter of learning the nature of language
2 #16
many new English vocabulary items learning
learning and
if you are allowed to make mistakes they will be
3 #19 communication
hard to get rid of later
strategies
it’s easier to speak English than it is to the difficulty of
4 #24
understand it language

graph 4 - disagree/neither disagree or


agree/agree
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

NDoA 41

B#10 it's easier to learn another foreign agree 50


language if you already know one
foreign language disagree/agree 37

agree 50

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
preference for belief statement BS#10 it’s easier to learn another foreign language if you
already know one foreign language. Grade 1 students neither disagree or agree [NDoA] with
it, grade 2 and 4 students agree with it, and grade 3 students disagree and agree with it.

This mix of agree and neither disagree or agree and disagree appears perhaps because CEMs
must learn more than one foreign language as part of their degree program — for example,
English and Russian. Other beliefs are more perceptions about learning not necessarily based
on experience. The logical assumption was to assume that agreement would increase or

170
decrease with additional experience, for instance, if CEMs begin learning another foreign
language in a four-year degree program, in languages as diverse as English and Russian, this
may be a unachievable challenge for everyone.

Section 5.6.2.5: English learning difficulty and time till fluency (2 beliefs)

graph 5 - level of difficulty


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

NDoA 68

NDoA 45
B#4 the English I am trying to learn is a
certain level of difficulty
NDoA 75

NDoA 58

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating the level
of difficulty learning English. Students in all grades indicate the level is ‘medium’ (by
choosing neither disagree or agree [NDoA]). Students indicated their agreement on a 5-point
Likert scale where 1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neither disagree or agree; 4=agree;
5=strongly agree.

171
graph 6 - time till fluency
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

disagree 64

B#14 if you spent 1 hour a day speaking disagree 41


learning English how long would it take
to become fluent disagree 46

NDoA 50

The above graph shows the highest percentage of students indicating agreement with belief
statement BS#14 if you spent 1 hour a day speaking/ learning English, how long would it
take you to become fluent? We can see that students in grades 1 to 3 indicated that they
‘disagree’, meaning they believed it would take them between 1 to 2 years to become fluent if
they acted on the belief statement, while grade 4 students indicated that they ‘neither disagree
or agree’ [NDoA], meaning they believed it would take 3 to 5 years to become fluent if they
acted on the belief statement.

Section summary

Some general groupings appeared in the data: 1) strongly agree/agree, 2) disagree/strongly


disagree, 3) neither disagree or agree plus something else, and 4) disagree/neither disagree or
agree (NDoA)/agree. Eighteen general BALLL were strongly agreed/agreed with, roughly 53
per cent. Four beliefs were disagree/strongly disagreed with, roughly 12 per cent. Six were
NDoA with, roughly 18 per cent. Four were disagree/neither disagree or agree/agree, 12 per
cent. Two beliefs concerned English learning difficulty and time till fluency. For level of
difficulty, students indicated English was generally medium difficulty, while time till fluency
for grades 1, 2 and 3 would take 1 to 2 years, but grade 4 students generally thought it would
take 3 to 5 years to achieve fluency in English.

172
5.7 The Chinese culture of learning (CCL) BALLL

The CCLQ was conducted to ascertain, firstly, whether CEMs hold beliefs consistent with the
CCL, and, secondly, whether those beliefs correlate with general BALLL and VLS use.
Whether beliefs actually influence strategy choice is inferred from the data.

Tables 5.22 to 5.26 show by grade, percentage, frequency, means and SDs for CCL beliefs
(see Appendix 10 for just the means). The total number of responses per belief statement (for
instance, ‘strongly disagree’ (1), ‘disagree’ (2), ‘neither disagree or agree’ (3), ‘agree’ (4), and
‘strongly agree’ (5)) have been tallied and converted to a percentage to illustrate general
trends in both the percentage of students indicating a position on the belief and the strength of
the beliefs in terms of frequency. Section 5.7.1 below discusses three general groupings found
in the data: 1) strongly agree/agree, 2) strongly disagree/disagree, and 3) neither disagree or
agree.

Key to the tables: the left-hand column lists the number of the belief statement as it appears
on the questionnaire; the second column lists the grade; the third column lists the highest
percentage of students in the grade indicating a position on the belief; the fourth column lists
frequency of the belief in terms of agreement; the fifth column lists the grade mean; the sixth
column lists the SD; and the final column lists the number of students in each grade;
shorthand indicators: NDoA = neither disagree or agree, and s.agree = strongly agree.

Table 5.22: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
1 1 41 agree 3.64 1.43 22
2 59 agree 3.27 1.20 22
3 42 agree 3.04 1.71 24
4 67 agree 3.67 1.37 12
2a 1 50 agree 4.32 0.65 22
2 86 agree 4.14 0.35 22
3 62 agree 4.08 1.02 24
4 67 agree 4.17 0.58 12
2b 1 45 agree/s.agree 4.32 0.78 22
2 68 agree 4.09 1.02 22
3 71 agree 4.13 0.54 24
4 67 agree 4.17 0.58 12
2c 1 36 NDoA 3.05 1.05 22

173
2 45 agree 3.23 0.97 22
3 42 agree 3.21 0.93 24
4 33 disagree 3.33 1.15 12
2d 1 41 agree 3.18 1.22 22
2 41 agree 3.55 1.10 22
3 37 NDoA 3.42 0.93 24
4 50 agree 3.83 0.83 12
2e 1 36 agree 3.64 1.05 22
2 41 NDoA/agree 3.50 0.80 22
3 46 agree 3.54 0.93 24
4 58 agree 4.08 0.67 12
2f 1 41 NDoA 3.41 0.85 22
2 45 NDoA 2.82 0.91 22
3 46 NDoA 3.25 0.94 24
4 33 disagree/NDoA/agree 3.00 0.85 12
3a 1 54 s.agree 4.45 0.74 22
2 54 agree 4.45 0.51 22
3 62 agree 4.38 0.49 24
4 50 agree 4.33 0.65 12
3b 1 36 agree 3.77 1.02 22
2 54 NDoA 3.41 0.67 22
3 67 agree 3.71 0.55 24
4 33 NDoA/s.agree 3.83 1.03 12
3c 1 32 s.agree 3.77 1.07 22
2 45 agree 3.55 0.96 22
3 50 agree 3.67 0.76 24
4 33 agree 3.42 1.08 12
3d 1 36 NDoA 3.27 0.94 22
2 45 agree 3.18 1.05 22
3 50 agree 3.46 0.88 24
4 33 disagree 3.25 1.14 12
3e 1 45 agree 3.86 0.99 22
2 59 agree 4.14 0.64 22
3 58 agree 4.00 0.83 24
4 42 agree 3.92 0.79 12
3f 1 41 NDoA 3.09 1.02 22
2 36 NDoA/agree 3.50 0.91 22
3 50 NDoA 3.17 0.87 24
4 67 NDoA 3.17 0.58 12
3g 1 73 s.agree 4.68 0.57 22
2 54 s.agree 4.59 0.50 22
3 54 agree 4.46 0.51 24
4 58 s.agree 4.58 0.51 12

174
Table 5.23: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean
#: grade % freq. mean SD n
4a 1 32 disagree 2.73 1.28 22
2 54 disagree 2.41 0.85 22
3 46 disagree 2.96 1.04 24
4 33 disagree/agree 2.67 1.15 12
4b 1 50 agree/s.agree 4.45 0.51 22
2 50 agree 4.32 0.65 22
3 67 agree 4.29 0.55 24
4 50 agree 4.25 0.87 12
5a 1 41 NDoA 3.41 0.85 22
2 41 agree 3.50 0.86 22
3 58 agree 3.46 0.88 24
4 42 NDoA 3.58 0.90 12
5b 1 45 agree 4.09 0.75 22
2 68 agree 3.86 0.64 22
3 42 NDoA/agree 3.46 0.72 24
4 33 agree 3.58 1.24 12
6a 1 41 disagree 2.50 1.10 22
2 54 disagree 2.32 0.72 22
3 46 disagree 2.50 1.02 24
4 33 disagree 2.58 1.08 12
6b 1 68 agree 3.91 0.87 22
2 77 agree 3.95 0.49 22
3 67 agree 3.83 0.56 24
4 67 agree 4.00 0.60 12
6c 1 45 disagree 2.50 1.01 22
2 45 NDoA 3.00 0.93 22
3 46 disagree 2.56 1.10 24
4 33 disagree/NDoA 2.75 0.97 12
7 1 64 agree 3.77 0.87 22
2 82 agree 3.82 0.39 22
3 62 agree 3.79 1.06 24
4 50 agree 3.67 0.98 12
8 1 41 NDoA 3.45 1.10 22
2 64 agree 4.18 0.59 22
3 54 agree 3.71 0.81 24
4 50 agree 3.58 0.79 12

Table 5.24: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
9a 1 41 NDoA 3.23 1.07 22
2 32 agree 3.64 1.09 22
3 37 NDoA 3.17 1.17 24

175
4 33 NDoA 3.33 1.07 12
9b 1 50 agree 4.14 0.89 22
2 54 agree 4.36 0.58 22
3 71 agree 4.21 0.51 24
4 50 agree 4.33 0.65 12
9c 1 41 agree 4.00 1.02 22
2 50 agree 4.22 0.65 22
3 67 agree 4.00 1.06 24
4 42 agree/s.agree 4.25 0.75 12
10a 1 41 disagree 2.82 1.01 22
2 59 disagree 2.50 0.91 22
3 42 disagree 2.54 1.02 24
4 33 disagree/NDoA 2.17 1.11 12
10b 1 50 agree 3.50 0.74 22
2 68 agree 3.68 0.95 22
3 62 agree 3.63 0.71 24
4 67 agree 3.75 1.14 12
11a 1 45 agree 3.41 1.14 22
2 45 agree 3.09 0.92 22
3 37 NDoA 3.17 0.87 24
4 33 NDoA 3.25 1.22 12
11b 1 41 NDoA 2.77 0.87 22
2 36 NDoA 3.09 0.97 22
3 37 disagree 2.75 0.99 24
4 25 disagree/NDoA/agree 2.83 1.27 12
12a 1 59 agree 3.59 0.96 22
2 73 agree 3.82 0.50 22
3 58 agree 3.58 1.02 24
4 58 agree 3.58 0.90 12
12b 1 50 agree 3.55 0.67 22
2 45 NDoA/agree 3.50 0.67 22
3 58 agree 3.67 0.56 24
4 42 NDoA 3.33 0.89 12
13a 1 59 agree 3.82 0.80 22
2 59 agree 3.59 0.73 22
3 87 agree 3.75 0.85 24
4 75 agree 3.50 1.00 12
13b 1 73 agree 3.86 0.47 22
2 54 agree 3.41 0.73 22
3 71 agree 3.79 1.02 24
4 75 agree 3.75 0.97 12
13c 1 45 agree 3.27 0.83 22
2 59 agree 3.55 0.80 22
3 79 agree 3.88 0.45 24

176
4 58 agree 3.83 0.83 12
13d 1 54 disagree 1.82 0.85 22
2 45 disagree 1.64 0.85 22
3 46 disagree 1.67 0.87 24
4 50 disagree 2.00 1.04 12

Table 5.25: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade % freq. mean SD n
14a 1 45 agree 3.68 0.99 22
2 73 agree 3.82 0.50 22
3 71 agree 3.67 1.01 24
4 50 agree 3.92 1.24 12
14b 1 50 agree 3.91 0.68 22
2 45 NDoA/agree 3.50 0.67 22
3 62 agree 3.67 1.05 24
4 58 agree 3.25 1.06 12
14c 1 32 agree 3.50 1.10 22
2 45 agree 3.41 1.10 22
3 46 agree 3.42 1.44 24
4 50 agree 4.08 0.90 12
14d 1 50 disagree 1.64 0.73 22
2 54 s.disagree 1.64 0.90 22
3 62 s.disagree 1.63 1.06 24
4 58 disagree 1.83 0.72 12
15a 1 64 agree 3.82 1.01 22
2 73 agree 3.68 0.78 22
3 62 agree 3.54 0.98 24
4 50 agree 3.50 1.00 12
15b 1 64 agree 4.05 0.79 22
2 82 agree 4.09 0.43 22
3 67 agree 4.25 0.53 24
4 67 agree 4.17 0.58 12
15c 1 59 agree 3.86 0.83 22
2 54 agree 3.91 0.68 22
3 50 agree 3.88 1.19 24
4 58 agree 3.75 1.06 12
15d 1 50 s.disagree 1.59 0.67 22
2 64 s.disagree 1.36 0.49 22
3 58 s.disagree 1.46 0.93 24
4 58 disagree 1.92 0.67 12
16a 1 36 agree 3.18 1.10 22
2 54 NDoA 3.09 0.87 22
3 29 s.disagree/agree 2.63 1.50 24
4 25 disagree/s.agree 3.42 1.16 12

177
16b 1 59 agree 3.95 0.84 22
2 86 agree 4.05 0.38 22
3 71 agree 3.79 0.72 24
4 50 agree 3.58 0.79 12
16c 1 59 agree 3.91 0.75 22
2 64 agree 3.59 0.85 22
3 58 agree 3.38 1.10 24
4 33 disagree/agree 3.33 1.15 12
16d 1 54 s.disagree 1.45 0.51 22
2 54 s.disagree 1.45 0.51 22
3 67 s.disagree 1.38 0.92 24
4 67 disagree 1.83 0.58 12

Table 5.26: By grade, percentages, frequency and mean


#: grade %. freq. mean SD n
17a 1 59 agree 3.36 1.05 22
2 45 agree 3.59 1.26 22
3 67 agree 3.46 1.10 24
4 42 agree 3.67 0.89 12
17b 1 50 disagree 2.00 0.82 22
2 59 disagree 2.36 0.73 22
3 58 disagree 2.33 0.92 24
4 42 disagree 2.83 1.11 12
17c 1 41 agree 3.32 0.99 22
2 36 agree 3.41 1.01 22
3 42 agree 3.71 0.95 24
4 58 agree 3.83 1.19 12
17d 1 50 disagree 2.45 0.91 22
2 41 NDoA 2.95 0.95 22
3 33 disagree/agree 2.88 1.03 24
4 25 NDoA/agree 3.08 1.38 12
18a 1 50 agree 4.18 0.80 22
2 68 agree 4.18 0.66 22
3 54 agree 4.17 1.05 24
4 58 agree 3.83 1.19 12
18b 1 64 agree 4.00 0.62 22
2 82 agree 3.77 0.53 22
3 62 agree 3.88 1.08 24
4 50 agree 3.83 0.94 12
18c 1 41 NDoA 3.82 0.80 22
2 45 agree 3.95 0.95 22
3 46 agree/s.agree 4.38 0.65 24
4 50 agree 4.17 0.94 12
18d 1 54 agree 4.14 0.89 22

178
2 50 agree/s.agree 4.50 0.51 22
3 46 s.agree 4.21 1.10 24
4 50 agree 4.17 0.94 12
18e 1 50 agree 4.14 0.83 22
2 68 agree 4.05 0.90 22
3 58 agree 4.27 0.55 24
4 50 agree 4.33 0.89 12

As with general beliefs, the results were presented using the highest percentage of students to
show a preference with respect to each of the 57 CCL BALLL. Agreement is suggested by
the highest percentage of students agreeing with it. Thirty-three beliefs were generally agreed
with, roughly 58 per cent. Therefore CEMs tended to agree with many beliefs of the CCL
BALLL. These and other groupings of positions held on the above beliefs are presented next.

Section 5.7.1: Some general groupings in the data

Some general groupings appear in the questionnaire data and categorised: 1) strongly
agree/agree, 2) strongly disagree and disagree, 3) neither disagree or agree (NDoA) and
agree, and 3) disagree, NDoA, agree. Two single findings were 1) NDoA, and 2)
disagree/NDoA. This finding is not merely a position on a range of beliefs about relations
between two phenomena but about the effect on learning behaviour.

Section 5.7.2: Beliefs statements students strongly agree/agree with

There are 33 CCL beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
attitude to learning
1 #1 I enjoy learning English
English
learner’s aims for
2 #2/2a I learn English to find a good job in the future
learning English
learner’s aims for
3 #5/2d I learn English to pass exams
learning English
a good teacher of English should be criteria for being a
4 #8/3a
knowledgeable about their area good teacher
a good teacher of English should be light-hearted criteria for being a
5 #10/3c
when teaching good teacher
a good teacher of English should provide clear criteria for being a
6 #12/3e
and comprehensive notes good teacher
a good teacher of English should improve my
criteria for being a
7 #14/3g English skills e.g. reading, writing, speaking,
good teacher
listening
8 #16/4b I prefer the teacher-student relationship to be like teacher-student

179
a friend-friend relationship relationship
perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes
how much do you agree with the statement, I love
9 #18/5b towards students’
my teacher but love the truth more
questions in the
classroom
perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes
if you do not agree with the teacher’s teaching in
10 #20/6b towards students’
the classroom do you ask the teacher after class
questions in the
classroom
perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes
my English teacher likes me asking questions in
11 #22/7 towards students’
the classroom
questions in the
classroom
perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes
my English teacher likes me asking questions
12 #23/8 towards students’
after class
questions in the
classroom
favoured teaching
13 #25/9b I prefer the teacher to encourage me to learn
method
I prefer the teacher use different activities to help favoured teaching
14 #26/9c
me learn method
I think the contents of textbooks are not totally attitudes to the
15 #28/10b
correct content of textbooks
I memorize vocabulary by rehearsal strategies memorising
16 #31/12a
like word lists, oral and visual repetition vocabulary
I practice reading English by reading the practising reading
17 #33/13a
materials in the textbooks skills
I practice reading in English by reading the practising reading
18 #34/13b
materials in other textbooks skills
I practice reading in English by reading practising reading
19 #35/13c
newspaper skills
I practice speaking in English by reading aloud practising speaking
20 #37/14a
or reciting the texts in books skills
I practice speaking in English by talking with practising speaking
21 #39/14c
native English speakers skills
I practice listening to English by listening to the practising listening
22 #41/15a
tapes that accompany the textbook skills
I practice listening to English by watching practising listening
23 #42/15b
English movies and TV shows skills
I practice listening to English by listening to practising listening
24 #43/15c
English radio skills
I practice writing in English by finishing the
25 #46/16b practising writing skills
writing tasks assigned by my teachers of English
I practice writing in English by writing in my
26 #47/16c practising writing skills
diary in English
the main barrier to improving my English is I do barriers to learning
27 #49/17a
not work hard enough English
the main barrier to improving my English is I do barriers to learning
28 #51/17c
not have a good English learning environment English
what makes a good
29 #53/18a a good learner of English should work hard
learner?

180
what makes a good
30 #54/18b a good learner of English should respect teachers
learner?
a good learner of English should practise using what makes a good
31 #55/18c
English all the time learner?
a good learner of English should never give up what makes a good
32 #56/18d
learning English learner?
a good learner of English should have their own what makes a good
33 #57/18e
opinion about language and language learning learner?

graph 1 - agree
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

41

59
B#1 I enjoy learning English
42

67

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on the belief BS#1 I enjoy learning English. Students in all grades agreed with it.

Agreement with the CCL beliefs is because they are held by CEMs, Chinese nationals, and
therefore reflective of the belief systems of the Chinese culture. There are 11 categories of
beliefs agreed with: 1) attitude to learning English, 2) learner’s aims for learning English, 3)
criteria for being a good teacher of English, 4) teacher-student relationship, 5) perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes towards students’ questions in the classroom, 6) favoured teaching method,
7) attitude to the content of textbooks, 8) memorising vocabulary, 9) practising reading skills,
speaking skills, listening skills and writing skills, 10) barriers to learning English, and 11)
what makes a good learner? The logical assumption was to assume that this range of beliefs is
fairly normal for Chinese foreign language learners, but more so because these are specific
cultural BALLL.

181
Section 5.7.3: Beliefs students strongly disagree and disagree with

There are eight CCL beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
I prefer the teacher-student relationship to be like teacher-student
1 #14/4a
a parent-child relationship relationship
perceptions of
teachers’ attitudes
If you do not agree with what the teacher is
2 #19/6a towards students’’
teaching, do you still follow the teacher’s idea?
questions in the
classroom
attitudes to the
3 #27/10a I think the contents of textbooks are totally correct content of the
textbooks
practising reading
4 #36/13d I practise reading in English by reading nothing
skills
practising speaking
5 #40/14d I practise speaking in English by doing nothing
skills
I practise listening to English by listening to practising listening
6 #44/15d
nothing skills
7 #48/16d I practise writing in English by doing nothing practising writing skills
The main barrier to improving my English is that barriers to learning
8 #50/17b
my teacher of English does not teach well English

graph 2 - disagree
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

disagree 32

B#14/4a I prefer the teacher student disagree 54


relationship to be like a parent child
relationship disagree 46

disagree/agree 33

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on belief statement BS#14/4a I prefer the teacher-student relationship to be like a
parent-child relationship. Students in grades 1 to 3 disagree with it, while students in grade 4
disagree and agree with it.

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Agreement with the CCL beliefs are because they are held by CEMs, Chinese nationals, and
therefore reflective of the belief systems of the Chinese culture. There are five categories of
beliefs: 1) teacher-student relationship, 2) perceptions of teachers’ attitudes towards students’
questions in the classroom, 3) attitude to the content of textbooks, 4) practising reading skills,
speaking skills, listening skills and writing skills, and 5) barriers to learning English. The
logical assumption was to assume that this range of beliefs is fairly normal for Chinese
foreign language learners; they are negatives, beliefs they disagree with. However, a reason
for B#27/10a: I think the content of textbooks are totally correct is challenging. Students are
suggesting that the contents of their textbooks are not totally correct, which seems
counterintuitive.

Section 5.7.4: Belief statements students disagree, neither disagree or agree, agree with

There are six CCL beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
learner’s aims for
1 #4/2c I learn English for the honour of my family
learning English
learner’s aims for
2 #7/2f I learn English because it is compulsory
learning English
a good teacher of English should be a serious criteria for being a
3 #11/3d
teacher good teacher
the knowledge from textbooks is not useful in real attitudes to the
4 #30/11b
life content of textbooks
I practise writing in English by exchanging letters
5 #45/16a practising writing skills
with a my pen pals in English
the main barrier to improving my English is that barriers to learning
6 #52/17d
our learning materials are already out of date English

graph 3 - disagree, NDoA, agree


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

NDoA 36

agree 45
B#11/3d a good teacher of English
should be serious
agree 50

disagree 33

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The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on belief statement BS#11/3d a good teacher of English should be a serious teacher.
Students in grade 1 neither disagree or agree with it, students in grades 2 and 3 agree with it,
and students in grade 4 disagree with it.

The mixed agreement of the CCL beliefs appears because they are held by CEMs, Chinese
nationals, and therefore reflective of the belief systems of the Chinese culture. There are five
categories of beliefs: 1) learner’s aims for learning English, 2) criteria for being a good
teacher of English, 3) attitude to the content of textbooks, 4) practising writing skills and 5)
barriers to learning English. The first two concern a CCL belief that a foreign language might
be learned to honour the family, but there are mixed feelings about it, perhaps because
‘Western’ beliefs have displaced this traditional belief. There are mixed feelings about
learning English being compulsory, which is puzzling: students should be able to say whether
learning English is compulsory or not. Perhaps students’ developing experience of FLL is a
reason for mixed feelings about this small group of issues.

Section 5.7.5: Beliefs statements students neither disagree or agree/ agree with

There are seven CCL beliefs highlighted in this section.


#: Code: Belief statement: Type of belief:
learner’s aims for
1 #6/2e I learn English for daily communication
learning English
a good teacher of English should often use games criteria for being a
2 #9/3b
and other activities when teaching good teacher
perceptions of
being a teacher for a day entitles them to lifelong teachers’ attitudes
3 #17/5a respect from students in the same way students towards students’
respect their fathers question in the
classroom
I prefer the teacher to tell me everything I should favoured teaching
4 #24/9a
learn method
I think the knowledge from the textbooks is useful attitudes to the
5 #29/11a
in real life content of textbooks
I memorise vocabulary by using other mnemonic memorising
6 #32/12b
techniques vocabulary
I practise speaking in English by talking with my practising speaking
7 #38/14b
classmates in English skills

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graph 4 - agree/NDoA
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

agree 36

NDoA/agree 41
B#6/2e I learn English for daily
communication
agree 46

agree 58

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on belief statement BS#6/2e I learn English for daily communication. Students in
grades 1, 3 and 4 agreed with it, and students in grade 2 neither disagreed or agreed and
agreed with it.

The mixed agreement and neither disagree or agreement of the CCL beliefs appears because
increasingly they perceive the need to communicate using the new language, gaining
confidence every year. There are seven categories of beliefs: 1) learner’s aims for learning
English; 2) criteria for being a good teacher of English; 3) perceptions of students question in
the classroom; 4) favoured teaching method; 5) attitude to the content of textbooks; 6)
memorising vocabulary; and 7) practising speaking skills. Finding a reason for the mixed
feelings about these issues is challenging. Perhaps #32/12b is a complex topic, a mnemonic
being a strategy for improving their memory of English vocabulary apart from those already
being used (see section 5.1.2.1 above on VLSs), using cognitive phenomena like visual, audio
and semantic aspects of English vocabulary. Students may have been hard pressed to think of
other strategies they may have been using at the time they were surveyed. However, during
the interviews (see section 5.8) many students were able to offer alternatives to those on the
questionnaire. Students’ developing experience of FLL may be a reason for these mixed
feelings about this small group of issues.

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Section 5.7.6: Beliefs statements students neither disagree or agree

graph 5 - neither disagree or agree


grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

NDoA 41

NDoA/agree 36
B#13/3f a good teacher of English
should help me pass exams
NDoA 50

NDoA 67

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on belief statement BS#13/3f a good teacher of English should help me pass exams.
Students in grades 1, 3 and 4 neither disagree or agree with it, while students in grade 2
neither disagree or agree and agree with it.

The mixed feelings about this issue is interesting because students should pass exams to
progress given that learning a foreign language is their major, and learning English is what
they are trying to achieve as part of their degree program. There is some agreement with it so
there are some students who think this is something a teacher should help them with.

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Section 5.7.8: Disagree/neither disagree or agree

graph 6 - disagree/NDoA
grade 1 grade 2 grade 3 grade 4

disagree 45

B#21/6c if you do not agree with the NDoA 45


teacher's teaching do you ask the
teacher immediately in the classroom disagree 46

disagree/NDoA 33

The above example graph shows the highest percentage of students in each grade indicating a
position on belief statement BS#21/6c if you do not agree with what the teaching is teaching,
do you ask the teacher immediately in the classroom? Students in grades 1 and 3 disagree
with it, students in grade 2 neither disagree or agree with it, and students in grade 4 disagree
and neither disagree or agree with it.

The mixed feelings, though mostly disagreement on this issue, are hard to account for.
Students are suggesting that if they disagree with what the teacher teaches, they will not ask
about it in the class. Perhaps this is a form of respect for the teacher. Perhaps doing this is a
face-saving action.

Section summary

This subsection presented the data generated by the exploration of CEMs’ beliefs about the
CCL. The data suggests that 1) CEMs hold beliefs that belong to the CCL, and 2) CEMs’
CCL beliefs are consistent across the four grades. The section on general BALLL shows that
18 beliefs were agreed with, roughly 53 per cent, while of CCL beliefs 33 beliefs were agreed
with, roughly 59 per cent. This suggests that CEMs have a preference for CCL beliefs,
understandable given that they are Chinese nationals living in China. They are learning
English, so the appearance of general ‘Western’ beliefs among their preferences suggests they

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have picked them up as a result of an influx of native English speaker teachers and the
internet, as well as China’s general ‘opening up’ to the West. The result is discussed further in
Chapter 7.

5.8 BALLLQ and CCLQ data compared with interview data

Interview data is presented next. The data is themed and contrasted with, where possible, the
same questions on the questionnaire. General BALLL and CCL beliefs are generalised here
because the interviews did not ask about culturally specific beliefs, but the questions aimed to
draw out those beliefs. The interview data was placed in tables. The tables show how the
student responded to the question, and the analysis involved extracting the nominals – nouns,
noun phrases and indicators.

5.8.1: Question 5: How would you rate your English competence?

Thirteen interviewees said their English competence was ‘medium’ (see Appendix 11, Table
1). This question was also asked on the BALLLQ and got a similar response. Perhaps ‘just so
so’, ‘average’ are variations on ‘medium’, and ‘poor’ is similar to ‘bad’. Below are some
students’ responses for this answer.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


9) CLARE 21 English 3 122 f 12
Question: Answer:
5) How would you rate your English competence? In China, I am rated medium.
What does that mean? I mean, I am medium just because I am not naive.
What has naive got to do with your English ability? I am sorry, I typed wrongly again.
No problem. I mean, I am not an American or English native
speaker.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


10) ANNA 23 English 3 128 f 10
Question: Answer:
5) How would you rate your English competence? Of course, poor.
Why? NA

Student 9 rated their English competence at ‘medium’, while student 10 rated it ‘poor’.
Student 9 is 2 years younger than student 10, but in the same grade, yet student 10’s CET
score was 128, higher than student 9, but student 10 rates their English competence as ‘poor’.

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The difference in years of English education may provide some insight into the self-rating,
may account for the ‘confidence’ to rate English competence but needs further investigation.
The fact that student 9 says the rating in China is ‘medium’, and based on the fact that she is
not a native English speaker suggests the rating of CEMs’ English competence, at least, in
China is not how EFL learners may suggest answers for confidence in self-rating.

In the interview responses (see Appendix 11, Table 1), the student that said ‘bad’ did not
really display English competence commensurate with the belief. The student that said ‘not
sure’ can be viewed as not unconfident in rating her competence, just not sure about how to
rate it. The student that said ‘through exams’, is suggesting that this is how her English
competence is normally rated in her context of learning.

5.8.2: Question 6: What do you think makes a good teacher of English?

Personality traits and teacher qualities have been separated for what makes a good teacher?
(e.g. responsible, humorous, patient) because they are viewed as separate though linked
issues, the first are personal qualities whereas the other a specific teacher quality (see
Appendix 11, Table, 2). Separating ‘person’ qualities from those that the teacher really should
possess seemed logical and useful. From reading this list of teacher qualities, perhaps
students sometimes imagine teachers are more than professional educators, or wish them to
be. The highest percentage of students (32%) who offered an opinion was for has knowledge
of English. Under other traits, some interesting expectations were observed, for example,
makes English sound beautiful. This may be more an aesthetic expectation, besides a simple
preference. What is meant by ‘sound beautiful’ was not explored. This might be a reflection
of Chinese calligraphy in which students learn to write and are assessed on ideographs as part
of their schooling.

Students 11 and 12 explain their preference for teachers to have good knowledge of English
but make learning enjoyable. This is an interesting addition and will be explained later in the
discussion.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


11) DEBBIE 23 English 3 115 f 13
Question: Answer:
6) What do you think makes a good teacher of First of all, a good English teacher

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English? must have the conscious that they need to know
the students well.
Ok anything else? Logical and considerate.
Ok anything else? That's all I can figure.
Ok If you are going to teach English, what would According to myself, I will teach speaking first.
you teach first?
What else? Or the English cultural.
If you teach speaking first, how will you begin? First, tell the students to not be shy when
they speak English aloud.
Ok anything else? Just enjoy themselves during the learning process.
Then maybe teach the vowels and consonants.
Ok anything else? That's all.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


12) LESLIE 22 English 3 NA f 8
Question: Answer:
6) What do you think makes a good teacher of He should be kind and knowledgeable; skilful.
English?
Kind and knowledgeable? Yes.
What else? Open.
What do you mean, open? Know many things, and understand students.
Anything else? Be devoted to his job; careful.
Anything else? That's all.

Student 11 made more suggestion about what makes a good teacher of English than student
12. Perhaps this can be accounted for in the years of English education each has received:
student 11 has had 13 years of English education while student 12 has had 8 years of English
education.

The most popular beliefs about what makes a good teacher of English were #68: has
knowledge of English, #17: responsible, #15: patient, #18: humorous, #34: helps students
pass exams, #46: understands students, #51: makes English sound beautiful, #61: has good
English pronunciation, #66: has high level of English, #69: knows English culture, #77: has
good teaching skill, #86: teaches culture, and #96: teaches grammar.

5.8.3: Question 7: What should the student-teacher relationship be like?


Table 5.27: What should the student-teacher relationship be like?
Interview BALLL CCL
#: Answer:
percentages percentages percentages
1 friends 48 - 54
2 respect 40 - 25
3 harmony 4 - -

The student-teacher relationship is emphasised in traditional Chinese culture. Traditionally it

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has been one where students must show respect for the teacher. Forty-eight per cent of
students said they wanted the relationship to be a friend-friend relationship. From some of the
interviews, it seemed that this was rarely the case. The fact that 40 per cent of students said
the relationship should be students’ respecting the teacher suggests that this traditional view
of the relationship is still a preference for some.

5.8.4: Question 8: What does learning another language involve in your opinion?

Asking what is involved in learning another language? seemed to be a challenge for students.
Many seemed to struggle to articulate the process they go through, though they had had an
average nine years of English language education by the time they answered the research
questions (see Appendix 11, Table 3). The examples below demonstrate this uncertainty.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


14) SALLY 23 English 3 131 f 6
Question: Answer:
8) What does learning another language involve in What?
your opinion?
I mean, if you learn another language, what must Vocabulary; grammar.
you learn?
Ok anything else? The culture.
Ok anything else? No.

student Age Major grade CET score gender YoELE


13) LUCY 20 English 1 131 f 10
Question: Answer:
8) What does learning another language involve in I do not know how to answer it well;
your opinion? could you explain it to me?
Ok, imagine you will learn English from the Aa, Bb, Cc.
beginning, what will you learn first?
What next? Words.
Then what? Then grammar;
and next I will learn to write a short passage.
Ok, then what? Then I will say the words aloud.
Ok and after that? After that,
I will try to communicate with others as much as
possible; in English.
Ok so you read the passage aloud, or you will Yeah.
memorize it and say it aloud from memory?
Both? Yes.
Anything else? No.

Student 14 provided fewer suggestions than student 15 about what is involved in learning
another language. Student 14 achieved the same CET score as student 15, yet student 14 has

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had fewer (6) years of English language education than student 15 (10). This is puzzling
because she is grade 3 whereas student 15 is in grade 1. The difference in responses may be
accounted for by temperament rather than the difference in years of English education,
because they both achieved the same CET score.

Some students simply said that learning English was the same as learning any other foreign
language. But they were quick to point out that learning English wasn’t the same as learning
their native Chinese. The highest percentage response was 56 per cent, for culture. Students
seemed to suggest that learning another language also involved learning the culture of the
other language. This may suggest students’ interest in learning about the culture of L2.

The most popular beliefs regarding what is involved in learning another language were, #13:
culture, #4: words, #7: grammar, #12: pronunciation, #11: speaking English, #10: writing
English, #2: alphabet, #6: phrases, #15: reading English, #21: history, #3: phonetic symbols,
and #19: listening in English.

5.8.5: Question 9: Should vocabulary learning strategies be taught?


Table 5.28: Should VLSs be taught?
Interview
#: Answer:
percentages
1 yes 72
2 not sure 4
3 no 12
4 not all 8
5 maybe 4

An important question with reference to the nature of the research (should vocabulary
learning strategies be taught? (Table 5.28 above)) was asked, and 72 per cent of students
agreed that it should. This is a strong show of support for the idea, given that these students
are not explicitly taught English VLSs. However, despite the strong support, 12 per cent of
students said no. When students were asked to clarify their response, they generally said
every student has his own way. See section 5.5.

This suggests that CEMs have a range of views on the above issues, some creative and
innovative. Many of these views have not been offered in previous research. The interviews

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gave deeper insight into CEMs’ beliefs and preferences, not so much on the issue of what is
involved in learning another language but that learning the culture of the foreign language is
an aspect that should also be learned. The importance of strategy training, however, should
not be understated.

From the analysis of interview data, a range of new beliefs was found. In terms of English
competence, 52 per cent of students rated theirs as ‘medium’, while 28 per cent rated it as
‘poor’. In terms of what makes a good English teacher?, there was a range of new beliefs.
Five general groupings of beliefs appeared: personality traits, other traits, teacher qualities,
teaching tools and what the teacher should teach. For personality traits, 20 per cent of
students said the teacher should be ‘responsible’, 16 per cent each for ‘patient’ and
‘humorous’. For other traits, 12 per cent each for ‘helps students pass exams’, ‘understands
students’ and ‘makes English sound beautiful’; 8 per cent each for ‘helps students enjoy
English’ and ‘makes classes interesting’. For teaching qualities, 32 per cent said ‘must have
knowledge of English’; 12 per cent each for ‘has good English pronunciation’, ‘has high level
of English’, ‘knows English culture’ and ‘has good teaching skills’; 8 per cent each for
‘understands textbooks’, ‘has good English skills’, ‘uses professional skills’, ‘has good
teaching method’ and ‘has good teaching technique’. For teaching tools, 8 per cent said ‘uses
dialogues’. For what the teacher should teach, 12 per cent each for ‘teaches culture’ and
‘teaches grammar’. For what the student-teacher relationship should be like, 48 per cent said
friend-friend and 40 per cent said ‘respect’, which equates to a parent-child relationship. For
what is involved in learning another language, 56 per cent said ‘culture’, 44 per cent each for
‘words’ and ‘grammar’, 32 per cent for ‘pronunciation’, 28 per cent for ‘speaking English’,
and 24 per cent for ‘writing English’.

Section summary

By converting raw data to percentages, trends and patterns were observed in the data. Of the
34 general BALLL asked about, 18 were agreed with — approximately 53 per cent. Of the 57
CCL beliefs asked about, 33 beliefs were agreed with — approximately 58 per cent. Three
general groupings were observed in the data: 1) strongly agree/agree, 2) strongly
disagree/disagree, and 3) neither disagree or agree.

However, few comparisons were found between the questionnaire data and the interview. For

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English competence, a possible 60 per cent of interviewees said ‘medium’ compared to 61 per
cent of BALLLQ respondents. For the student-teacher relationship, while 48 per cent of
interviewees said the relationship should be friend-friend, 54 per cent of CCLQ respondents
said it should be friend-friend. While 40 per cent of interviewees said the relationship should
be one of respect, 25 per cent of students said it should be like a parent-child relationship. No
comparisons were found for what is involved in learning another language. On the question
of whether VLSs should be taught, 72 per cent of interviewees said it should be, while 12 per
cent said no.

Chapter summary

On the question of which VLSs CEMs use, 58 per cent were found to be often/always used.
This suggested medium use of VLSs. The finding that strategy use clustered in each grade
was significant. From this clustering, it was inferred that it was a core set of VLSs and a
strong indicator of a PVL followed by CEMs. The interview data revealed a range of new
VLSs from discovery-place and determination initial response and study strategies to
consolidation-memorisation and consolidation-practice strategies. On the question of
differences in VLS use among the four grades, it was variable. The difference was observed
in percentages of students using a strategy in each grade. Three general groupings appeared in
the data: 1) increasing strategy use, 2) decreasing strategy use and 3) unchanged strategy use.
These groupings revealed trends in strategy use in each grade and reasons offered for the
trend. Comparison of questionnaire data and interview data provided some significant
confirmation of the questionnaire data. For instance, that students discover new vocabulary in
textbooks was comparable percentage-wise; discovering new vocabulary while watching
English TV/movies were both comparable. Determination strategies were comparable for
guess the meaning of a new word, look up English dictionary, know its pronunciation, and
write the new word down. For consolidation-practice strategies, they were comparable on
write the new word down, use a vocabulary book and practise new words with classmates.
For consolidation-memorisation strategies, reciting new words and making sentences with
new words were comparable.

The question of whether general BALLL correlate with CCL beliefs is answered in Chapter
6. The correlation was strong. However, in terms of agreement, students showed average
agreement on both general and specific BALLL — in terms of overall percentages of students

194
agreeing. However, descriptive analysis revealed that CEMs’ CCL beliefs were stronger than
their general beliefs. The formal statistical analysis revealed that beliefs and VLSs strongly
correlated. Chapter 6 discusses the formal statistical analysis.

195
196
CHAPTER 6: STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF VLS USE, CCL, BALLL
AND VST

6.0 Introduction

This chapter presents the results of the statistical analysis of data gathered through three
questionnaires and VSTs. Data was gathered through a VLS questionnaire, two belief
questionnaires about language and language learning (BALLLQ and CCLQ), and four VSTs
(VST 1000, VST 2000, VST 3000 and VST Academic). One of the aims of the research was
to observe the statistical relationship between VLS use, beliefs and English VST scores, so
the statistical analysis explored the strength of the relationship among these factors, and their
statistical characteristics. This chapter answers research question No. 5 Do their specific
beliefs about language and language learning correlate with vocabulary learning strategy
use?. The discussion of the result is found in Chapter 7. The data was analysed in SPSS using
Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Test and non-parametric correlations by Spearman’s rho (see
Chapter 4). The first section, 6.1, presents the non-parametric correlations by Spearman’s rho
on three main factors (VLSs and BALLL, general and specific). The second section, 6.2,
presents the non-parametric analysis of differences within each grade on all factors and
between five factors including age and years of English language within a grade. The third
section, 6.3, presents the statistical results of the Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Test to
observe differences in score-means on the three questionnaires and VST and to observe
differences and/or similarity in mean differences.

6.1 The relationship between VLSs, general BALLL and CCL beliefs

Non-parametric correlation was run to observe the strength of the relationship among the
main factors, VLS use, BALLL and CCL. The analysis Spearman’s rho was run for VLS use
and general BALLL, between VLS use and CCL beliefs, between general BALLL and CCL
beliefs. The non-parametric correlation was run in SPSS on all factors for all grades.

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Table 6.1 shows the correlation test run for three factors.

Table 6.1: Three factors correlated


CCL BALLL VLS
TOTAL TOTAL TOTAL
CCLTOTAL 1.000 0.552** 0.420**
BALLLTOTAL 1.000 0.298**
VLSTOTAL 1.000
** p < 0.01

Key to Table 6.1: the test was run separately on all three factors at the same time (e.g., VLS
use matched with beliefs) and then highlighted in the one table; in the top row far right-hand
cells, the factor coded, CCLTOTAL, BALLLTOTAL and VLSTOTAL, and below it, for each
factor that was tested the name of the test, Spearman’s rho, the correlation coefficient range,
the significance (2-tailed), and number of samples (80); under Sig. (2-tailed), the value of
greater significance here, the value of the significance or correlation, significant at p < 0.01
indicated by **, that the three factors strongly correlate.

The result of the analysis shows a strong and significant relationship among the three factors
explored in the research. Knowing that there is a strong relationship between these three
factors means that VLSs and beliefs work together during the process of vocabulary learning,
among the other factors that come into play.

6.2 Within grade correlation by Spearman’s rho of all categories and strategies against
VST 1000 to 3000 and Academic scores

Tables 6.2 to 6.5 show the non-parametric correlation test run on category and strategies
against VST and Academic test scores; the test was run because no correlation was observed
between VLS and VST/Academic scores in Table 6.10 Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA test.
Key to tables: the top row lists the items; the far left-column lists the test; the second column
lists the category and strategies in it; the third column lists the labels items shown in the two
right-hand columns, for example, correlation value, p value and number of samples; the two
right-hand columns show the result of the Spearman’s rho for VST 1000 to 3000 and
Academic scores, and the strength of the correlation indicated by * or **.

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6.2.1 Grade 1

Table 6.2: Category and strategies against VST and Academic scores for grade 1
VST 1000
Test Category and strategies Aca
to 3000
Spearman’s rho discovery-place correlation 0.022 0.287
P value 0.923 0.195
N 22 22
determination-response correlation - 0.248 0.090
P value 0.265 0.689
N 22 22
determination-study correlation 0.068 0.104
P value 0.764 0.645
N 22 22
consolidation-organisation correlation 0.126 0.188
P value 0.578 0.402
N 22 22
consolidation-memory correlation -0.156 0.112
P value 0.487 0.621
N 22 22
consolidation-review correlation - 0.114 - 0.052
P value 0.613 0.819
N 22 22
consolidation-remember correlation 0.005 0.087
P value 0.982 0.701
N 22 22
consolidation-production correlation -0.084 0.110
P value 0.709 0.627
N 22 22
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Table 6.2 above is concerned with the relationship among VLSs explored and four VSTs. The
aim was to observe a relationship between scores on the tests and strategy use within a grade
of undergraduates (grade 1). Past research (Gu & Johnson, 1996) observed a relationship
between determination-study strategies and English proficiency scores for one large sample
(850). The above table shows no statistically significant relationships.

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6.2.2 Grade 2

Table 6.3: Category and strategies against VST and Academic scores grade 2
VST 1000
Test Category and strategies Aca
to 3000
Spearman’s rho discovery-place correlation 0.039 - 0.066
P value 0.863 0.770
N 22 22
determination-response correlation 0.023 .011
P value 0.919 0.960
N 22 22
determination-study correlation 0.223 0.412
P value 0.319 0.057
N 22 22
consolidation-organisation correlation 0.325 0.111
P value 0.140 0.623
N 22 22
consolidation-memory correlation 0.209 0.296
P value 0.351 0.181
N 22 22
consolidation-review correlation 0.221 0.325
P value 0.323 0.140
N 22 22
consolidation-remember correlation 0.115 0.276
P value 0.610 0.214
N 22 22
consolidation-production correlation - 0.152 0.084
P value 0.500 0.709
N 22 22
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Table 6.3 above shows the result of exploring statistically significant relationships among
scores on four VSTs and strategy use. A relationship has been observed in the past between
determination-study strategies and proficiency scores. For grade 2 undergraduate CEMs, no
statistically significant relationships were observed.

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6.2.3 Grade 3

Table 6.4: Category and strategies against VST and Academic scores grade 3
VST 1000
Test Category and strategies Aca
to 3000
Spearman’s rho discovery-place correlation - 0.388 - 0.118
P value 0.061 0.584
N 24 24
determination-response correlation - 0.382 - 0.260
P value 0.065 0.220
N 24 24
determination-study correlation 0.104 0.433*
P value 0.627 0.034
N 24 24
consolidation-organisation correlation 0.151 0.089
P value 0.482 0.679
N 24 24
consolidation-memory correlation - 0.462* - 0.110
P value 0.023 0.608
N 24 24
consolidation-review correlation - 0.277 - 0.099
P value 0.189 0.646
N 24 24
consolidation-remember correlation -0.125 0.067
P value 0.562 0.757
N 24 24
consolidation-production correlation - 0.113 - 0.091
P value 0.598 0.673
N 24 24
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

In Table 6.4 above, the relationship between grade 3 undergraduate CEMs’ scores on four
VSTs and strategy use were explored. A statistically significant relationship was observed
between determination-study strategies and scores on the Academic VST. A statistically
significant relationship was also observed between consolidation-memory strategies and
scores on three VSTs (1000, 2000, and 3000). This finding is significant and confirms
previous research (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996), that there is a relationship between VLS use
and proficiency, at least, and is reflected on in Chapter 7, section 7.5, comparing more recent
research by Ma (2009) which focused on VLS categories.

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6.2.4 Grade 4

Table 6.5: Category and strategies against VST and Academic scores grade 4
VST 1000
Test Category & strategies Aca
to 3000
Spearman’s rho discovery-place correlation 0.446 0.513
P value 0.146 0.088
N 12 12
determination-response correlation - 0.427 - 0.007
P value 0.166 0.982
N 12 12
determination-study correlation 0.331 0.592*
P value 0.293 0.042
N 12 12
consolidation-organisation correlation 0.196 0.141
P value 0.542 0.663
N 12 12
consolidation-memory correlation 0.605* 0.167
P value 0.037 0.603
N 12 12
consolidation-review correlation 0.312 - 0.123
P value 0.324 0.702
N 12 12
consolidation-remember correlation 0.576* 0.317
P value 0.050 0.315
N 12 12
consolidation-production correlation 0.542 0.076
P value 0.069 0.815
N 12 12
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Table 6.5 above is the analysis of grade 4 undergraduate CEMs’ strategy use and scores on
VSTs. A statistically significant relationship was observed between determination-study
strategies and Academic vocabulary size scores; between consolidation-memory strategies
and scores on three VSTs (1000, 2000, 3000); between consolidation-remember strategies
and scores on three VSTs.

The result of the correlational analysis shows a strong correlation between determination-
study strategies and Academic scores in grade 3, between discovery-memory strategies and
VST 1000 to 3000 in grade 4, between determination-memory strategies and VST 1000 to

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3000 scores in grade 4, and between consolidation-remember strategies and VST 1000 to
3000 scores in grade 4. The result is similar to Gu’s and Johnson’s (1996) findings
concerning determination-study strategies and English proficiency scores. More research of a
larger scope may be needed to verify these results.

Section summary

While the aim was a deeper analysis of the VLSs against VST/Academic scores at the
categories level (8) on the questionnaire, few correlations were found. Grades 1 and 2 did not
show any correlations, however, grade 3 showed a correlation determination-study strategies
and Academic scores and between consolidation-memory strategies and scores on the VST
1000 to 3000, and in grade 4 between determination-study strategies and Academic
vocabulary size scores, between consolidation-memory strategies and scores on the VST
1000 to 3000 scores and between determination-remember strategies and scores on the VST
1000 to 3000.

6.3 Differences within each grade on all factors including age and years of English
language education

6.3.1 Correlations within grade 1 for all factors

The correlations were run first, then the ANOVA-type test. The ANOVA-type test has been
run by previous researchers on all these factors. The test was run on all factors at the same
time and then the result put with the other test results in one table.

Table 6.6 shows the Non-parametric Correlation test run on all factors.
Table 6.6: Analysis of all factors for grade 1
CCL BALLL VLS Academic VST 1 to 3 Age YoELE
CCL 1.000 0.558** 0.520* 0.197 0.155 0.548* 0.354
BALLL 1.000 0.385 0.367 0.246 0.272 -0.128
VLS 1.000 0.090 -0.085 -0.029 0.249
Academic 1.000 0.680** -0.178 0.085
VST 1 to 3 1.000 0.042 -0.114
Age 1.000 0.027
YoELE 1.000
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

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Key to Table 6.6: in the top row far left-hand cell, the test, then the factor tested, then the
correlation coefficient, the significance (2-tailed), and then value of the correlation; for the
correlation coefficient, the value of greater significance here, the value of the relationship
between the factors, some of those factors have strong correlations at p < 0.05 and p < 0.01
indicated by * and **.

The three factors explored in the research were also analysed for correlations against each
other and with two other factors, age and years of English language education. This analysis
explored correlations within a grade (grade 1, grade 2, grade 3 and grade 4). Table 6.6 shows
correlations in grade 1 were observed between cultural beliefs (CCL) and general BALLL. A
relationship was also observed between the beliefs of the CCL and age. This suggests a
relationship between age and beliefs.

6.3.2 Correlations within grade 2 for all factors

The test was run on all factors at the same time and then the result put with the other test
results in the one table. Table 6.7 shows the non-parametric correlation test run on all factors.

Table 6.7: Analysis of all factors for grade 2


CCL BALLL VLS Academic VST 1 to 3 Age YoELE
CCL 1.000 0.636** 0.321 0.086 0.029 0.046 0.170
BALLL 1.000 -0.045 -0.077 -0.282 -0.412 0.187
VLS 1.000 0.344 0.172 0.029 -0.201
Academic 1.000 0.483* 0.106 0.140
VST 1 to 3 1.000 0.206 -0.036
Age 1.000 0.136
YoELE 1.000
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Key to Table 6.7; in the top row far left-hand cell, the test, then the factor tested, then the
correlation coefficient, the significance (2-tailed), and then value of the correlation; under
correlation coefficient, the value of greater significance here, the value of the relationship
between the factors, some of those factors have strong correlations at p < 0.05 and p < 0.01
indicated by * and **.

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The three factors explored in the research were analysed for relationships with each other and
two other factors, age and years of English language education in grade 2. Few statistically
significant relationships were observed. Similar to grade 1, a strong relationship was
observed between general beliefs (BALLL) and cultural beliefs (CCL), and between scores
on the Academic VST and three other VSTs (1000 to 3000).

6.3.3 Correlations within grade 3 for all factors

The test was run on all factors at same time and then the result put with the other test results
in the one table. Table 6.8 shows the non-parametric correlation test run on all factors.

Table 6.8: Analysis of all factors for grade 3


CCL BALLL VLS Academic VST 1 to 3 Age YoELE
CCL 1.000 0.463* 0.281 0.092 -0.392 0.176 0.339
BALLL 1.000 0.492* -0.115 -0.161 -0.057 0.060
VLS 1.000 0.109 -0.262 -0.167 0.145
Academic 1.000 0.398 0.133 -0.471*
VST 1 to 3 1.000 -0.206 -0.267
Age 1.000 -0.070
YoELE 1.000
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Key to Table 6.8; in the top row far left-hand cell, the test, then the factor tested, then the
correlation coefficient, the significance (2-tailed), and then value of the correlation; under
correlation coefficient, the value of greater significance here, the value of the relationship
between the factors, some of those factors have strong correlations at p < 0.05 and p < 0.01
indicated by * and **.

Within grade 3, significant correlations were observed between cultural beliefs (CCL) and
general beliefs (BALLL), between general beliefs (BALLL) and VLS use, and between
scores on the Academic VST and years of English language education (YoELE).

6.3.4 Correlations within grade 4 for all factors

The test was run on all factors at same time and then the result put with the other test results
in the one table. Table 6.9 shows the non-parametric correlation test run on all factors.

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Table 6.9: Analysis of all factors for grade 4
CCL BALLL VLS Academic VST 1 to 3 Age YoELE
CCL 1.000 0.506 0.667* 0.248 0.520 0.130 -0.039
BALLL 1.000 -0.011 0.263 0.603* 0.180 0.433
VLS 1.000 0.217 0.386 -0.334 -0.329
Academic 1.000 0.529 -0.271 0.364
VST 1 to 3 1.000 -0.253 0.202
Age 1.000 0.458
YoELE 1.000
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05

Key to Table 6.9; in the top row far left-hand cell, the test, then the factor tested, then the
correlation coefficient, the significance (2-tailed), and then value of the correlation; under
correlation coefficient, the value of greater significance here, the value of the relationship
between the factors, some of those factors have strong correlations at p < 0.05 and p < 0.01
indicated by * and **.

For grade 4, correlations were observed between cultural beliefs (CCL) and VLS, and
between general beliefs (BALLL) and scores on three VSTs (1000 to 3000).

CCL beliefs against other factors

Grade 1 CCL beliefs correlated strongly with BALLL and VLS use and age. The strong
correlation with BALLL and VLS use confirms they work together. The strong correlation
with age and not YoELE, however, is interesting. Age maybe a stronger factor in the process
of vocabulary learning than hitherto imagined, and needs further research to reveal its role.

Grade 2 CCL beliefs strongly correlated with only BALLL.


Grade 3 CCL beliefs correlated with only BALLL.
Grade 4 CCL beliefs correlated with only VLS use.

General BALLL against other factors

Grade 1 general BALLL did not correlate with other factors.


Grade 2 general BALLL did not correlate with other factors.

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Grade 3 general BALLL correlated strongly with VLS use.
Grade 4 general BALLL correlated strongly with VST 1000 to 3000 scores.

VLS use against other factors

Grade 1 VLS use did not correlate with other factors.


Grade 2 VLS use did not correlate with other factors.
Grade 3 VLS use did not correlate with other factors.
Grade 4 VLS use did not correlate with other factors.

Academic vocabulary size scores against other factors

Grade 1 Academic scores correlated with VST 1000 to 3000 scores.


Grade 2 Academic scores correlated with VST 1000 to 3000 scores.
Grade 3 Academic scores correlated with years of English education.
Grade 4 Academic scores did not correlate with other factors.

VSTs 1000 to 3000 scores against other factors

Grade 1 VST scores did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 2 VST scores did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 3 VST scores did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 4 VST scores did not correlate with any other scores.

Age against other factors

Grade 1 Age did not correlate with any other scores.


Grade 2 Age did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 3 Age did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 4 Age did not correlate with any other scores.

Years of English education against other factors

Grade 1 YoELE did not correlate with any other scores.

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Grade 2 YoELE did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 3 YoELE did not correlate with any other scores.
Grade 4 YoELE did not correlate with any other scores.

Section summary

Despite significant differences in scores within a grade being observed with Kruskal-Wallis
ANOVA showing strong relationships among three factors (BALLL, CCL, VLS use), there
were few correlations found among seven factors. Correlations were observed among three
factors (BALLL, CCL, VLS use) providing further evidence of their relationship.
Correlations were observed between grade 1 CCL and age, and Academic and VST 1000 to
3000; for grade 2, between CCL and BALLL, and between Academic and VST 1000 to 3000;
for grade 3, between CCL and BALLL, between BALLL and VLS use, and between
Academic and years of English language education; and for grade 4, between CCL and VLS
use, and between BALLL and VST 1000 and 3000. This suggests a more consistent
relationship between CCL and BALLL, but more research is required on the other factors.

6.4 Statistically significant difference in the three factors and four tests in terms of
highest, middle and lowest scores

To see if scores are the same/similar or different, because vocabulary size (e.g. Academic
vocabulary size) is dependent on the process of vocabulary learning, the independent variable
(e.g. strategies and beliefs), an alternative approach was used to observe significant difference
not observed in the Spearman’s rho analysis. If students have strong beliefs, for example,
they will get a high score on the questionnaires; likewise, if students have strong regular
strategy use, it will show as a high score on the questionnaire. When looking at three groups
of score-means, a difference will be seen depending on the three groups Upper, Middle and
Lower.

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Table 6.10 shows the Kruskal-Wallis Test (an ANOVA-type test) mean ranks of the scores in
three ranges, Upper, Middle and Lower.

Table 6.10: Difference in score-means to show difference or no difference


Aca
N Mean Rank Chi-square df Asymp. Sig.
Range:
CCLTOTAL Upper 29 39.31
Middle 28 49.20 7.521 2 0.023
Lower 23 31.41
BALLLTOTAL Upper 29 37.17
Middle 28 49.48 6.724 2 0.035
Lower 23 33.76
VLSTOTAL Upper 29 42.74
Middle 28 44.29 3.370 2 0.185
Lower 23 33.07
*Grouping variable: Gr_Academic

Key to Table 6.10; in the far left-hand column is ‘factor’ tested against VST scores; in the
second and third column is the mean rank of the scores in the range of Upper, Middle and
Lower on each of the factors matched against VST scores. There was a significant difference
in the means of CCL, BALLL and VLS, but not against the Academic VST. There was a
significant difference in BALLL/CCL scores and Academic scores, restricting analysis at a
deeper level. The assumption was that the Upper scores would be the highest scores, but the
Middle score were the highest. There was, however, no significant difference between VLS
use and Academic scores among three levels of Academic scores. The result provides an
opportunity for more analysis on at least the two beliefs factors (see section 6.5 below). This
Kruskal-Wallis Test was run after the correlations because no significant correlation was
found between VLS use and scores on the VST 1000 to 3000 and Academic size tests.

Among the three mean score groupings, there is significant difference on each factor.
Interestingly, of the three groups, the Middle showed the highest score, for example, the
Middle group showed more ‘agreement’ with CCL beliefs than the Upper group, though they
showed stronger belief agreement (see Appendix 5). For instance, the minimum score was 6
while the highest was 36 on the Academic VST; so within this range of scores were three
distinct groupings of scores: Upper, from 36 to 33; Middle, from 32 to 23; Lower, from 22 to
6. However, given that non-parametric tests were used, no generalisation about the findings
can be made. Non-parametric tests were run because 1) the sample size was below 100, and

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2) because normal distribution cannot be determined with this size sample.

For a clearer picture of changes in vocabulary size from one grade to the next over the four
years of a Bachelor degree, see Appendix 1. The method of analysis is found in Appendix 7.

6.5 A closer look at the relationship between two belief factors against Academic scores

To observe the difference in mean scores in Table 6.10 above at a deeper level MannWhitney
was run. It begins with a deeper analysis of CCL against Academic size test mean scores.

In the above boxplot a difference can be seen in the scores in the Middle range and the Lower
range (shown by these indicators O72 and O51) — they were the same between the Middle and
Upper range. This means that on the CCLQ there were more ‘higher scores’ regarding
agreement than at the Lower range. This makes sense. The Lower range concerns
‘agreement’ — in this case no agreement with the beliefs asked about. So the difference on

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three ranges of mean scores observed in Table 6.10 above is found between the Middle range
and the Lower range. The mean scores were similar between the Middle and Upper range,
meaning there were more ‘agreement’ with CCL beliefs than not.

The boxplot below explores the difference observed in Table 6.10 regarding general beliefs
(BALLL) and Academic scores.

In the boxplot above a difference can be seen in mean scores between the Middle and Upper
range — they were the same between the Middle and Lower range. The difference means that
there was less ‘agreement’ in the Upper range than in the Middle. This might make sense if
Chinese students CCL beliefs are stronger than general beliefs held elsewhere in the world
about language and how to learn it. The Upper range for the BALLLQ is less than the Upper
range for the CCLQ, and suggests that CEMs agreed more with these beliefs than with the
general BALLL.

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Section summary

A statistically significant difference was observed between individuals’ VLS use, BALLL,
CCL, but not for the VST. VLSs and general and specific beliefs were strongly related. This
provides strong evidence that they are part of the process of vocabulary learning, but that
their impact on vocabulary size is uncertain. Looking further into the difference observed
between two beliefs questionnaire results and Academic VST mean scores suggests CEMs’
CCL beliefs were stronger than general BALLL. The strength of general BALLL, commonly
referred to as ‘Western beliefs’, suggests they have infiltrated CCL beliefs.

Chapter summary

Few strong correlations were observed using Spearman’s rho to observe correlations between
VLSs and VST scores. Previous research had found correlation between VLSs, a different
range and College Entrance Test scores, so was inspirational to the present research.
Correlations were not observed between some strategies and VST scores, and this is logical
given their function, for example, some strategies do not relate to actual learning. Strong
correlations were observed among the three main factors, providing evidence that they are
related. There were significant correlations observed within a grade on some of seven factors
explored but not all, for example, between strategies and beliefs, between beliefs and age, and
between beliefs and years of English language education.

The results of the present research are discussed in Chapter 7 and then compared with the
literature.

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CHAPTER 7: DISCUSSION

The chapter discusses the main results of the research. There are three sections: Section 1
discusses vocabulary strategies and strategy use, research question No. 1 (7.0) and then
research question No. 2 in subsection 7.8; Section 2 discusses beliefs, research question No.
3, Horwitz’s general beliefs (7.10.1) and then Shi’s CCL beliefs (7.11). Each section
discusses the results in terms of whether the research question was answered or not and the
main findings from each as well as unexpected findings. Finally, section 3 (7.12.1) discusses
the process of vocabulary learning, the theme of the research.

Section 1: VLSs

7.0 Which VLSs do CEMs tend to use?

Despite the fact the research was limited to Ma’s (2009) list of 62 VLSs, the purpose was not
to determine a priori which strategies CEMs might use, but to observe which strategies they
may use of Ma’s substantial list. Of the 62 VLSs presented for consideration, 8 were
often/always used in the four grades (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.15), roughly 11 per
cent. The percentage suggests VLS use was medium. Only 37 VLSs were regularly used;
others were used but not so regularly — regularly meaning either in the four grades or only in
some grades (for example, grades 3 and 4) (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.16). This
finding is different from previous research (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996), which will be
discussed in 7.2.

While roughly 60 per cent of VLSs belonging to Ma’s list were variably used across the four
grades, variable VLS use was greatest at the individual level, which is also significant
because, once again, the individuality of CEMs is observed as well as their collective group
character as Chinese EFL learners. Variable use means strategy use fluctuated between
rarely/never and often/always, and the percentage of students using the strategy also
fluctuated (see Appendix 8). The reason for fluctuating strategy use is argued to be related to
learning activities and tasks, and perhaps motivation and time. For instance, while 5
discovery strategies (determination and social strategies) were used in grade 1, 6 in grade 2
and grade 3, and 5 in grade 4, the strategies included in a cluster of discovery strategies

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(social, memory, cognitive and metacognitive) varied between grades (see Chapter 2, section
2.3.2.1, Table 2.2). This suggests students spent more time discovering new vocabulary than
consolidating their learning of it. This could also be a reflection of what a host of researchers
have found about language learners’ employment of a cluster of strategies in relation to
successful reading integrating meaning in preference to surface text-based strategies (e.g.
Anderson, 1991; Block, 1986; Carrell, 1989). It also may be understood if we take into
account that strategy use can vary depending on the cultural group (Kim, 1999; Koda, 1990;
Levine et al., 1996; LoCastro, 1994), that inexperienced L2 learners use different strategies
compared to experienced L2 learners (e.g. De Larios et al., 1999; van Hell & Mahn, 1997),
and that individual learners may use an ineffective subset of strategies (e.g. Kember & Gow,
1994; Porte, 1997).

The average mean of 3.2 (see Appendix 8, Table 1) for scores on the VLSQ (see Chapter 5,
section 5.1.2.2, Tables 5.1 and 5.2), using a 5-point Likert scale, suggests average strategy
use — using this measure: 1.00 to 2.49, low use, 2.50 to 3.49, medium use, and 3.50 to 5.0,
high use. Generally CEMs rarely or never used between 12 and 19 (in each grade and 26 in
total) of the 62 VLSs from Ma’s general list (see Chapter 5, section 5.3.6, Table 5.13). Four
discovery strategies and 21 consolidation strategies were never or rarely used (see Appendix
8, Table 4): 1 discovery-place strategy, 6 determination strategies (4 determination initial
response strategies and 1 determination-study strategy), 20 consolidation strategies (2
consolidation-organisation strategies, 8 consolidation-memory strategies, 5 consolidation-
review strategies, 1 consolidation-remember strategy and 4 consolidation-production
strategies). The average mean is shown in Appendix 8, Table 1. This average of VLSs
perhaps means CEMs don’t know about VLSs or aren’t taught about VLSs so aren’t aware of
their existence, or it is a cultural preference to use the strategies used.

The interview supported the questionnaire result on a number of strategies (see Chapter 5,
section 5.3.1). The discovery-place strategy, ‘in textbooks’, was used by 64 per cent of
students (55% on the questionnaire), ‘on TV’ was used by 40 per cent (38% on the
questionnaire), ‘in movies’ was used by 36 per cent, and ‘in newspapers’ and ‘in magazines’
were both used by 32 per cent of students. The determination initial response strategies in the
interview were ‘look up a dictionary’ (72%) (‘English-Chinese dictionary’, 45% on the
questionnaire; ‘Chinese-only dictionary’, 45% on the questionnaire), ‘guess its meaning’
(32%) (48% on the questionnaire), ‘recite it’ (24%). The ‘new’ category of consolidation-

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practice strategies observed in the interview saw ‘reciting’ (not a new strategy) used by 28 per
cent of students. Others were ‘recite words in a vocabulary book’, ‘write it down’ (‘write it
down many times’, 46% on the questionnaire) and ‘listening to new words’. In terms of
consolidation-memory strategies, 52 per cent of students said they memorise new words by
‘writing them down’, by learning the pronunciation (28%), by using repetition (20%) and
practising with classmates (16%) (15% on the questionnaire). Perhaps the interview was a
‘better’ method than the questionnaire because strategy use could be discussed with a person
rather than being restricted to ticking boxes.

This finding suggests that not all strategies are used by every CEM. They rarely seem to use
the discovery-place strategy (1d: during English conversations with others to meet new
vocabulary) and this may be attributed to the fact that they do not often have conversations in
English. They also show preference for specific consolidation strategies, these include —
vocabulary exercises, grouping words together, making up sentences, listening to recordings
of vocabulary, making up rhymes, less physical connection with verbs, visual connection
with word meaning and little visualising new words in the mind.

A range of strategies (on the questionnaire) was rarely/never used (highlighted in soft pink in
Appendix 8, Table 4). The strategies are written in full below (3a, 5c, 7c, 7f and 9e) (see
Chapter 5, Table 5.15):
1. the discovery-determination strategy 3a, pay no attention to it and never go back to it;
2. the consolidation-organisation strategy, 5c, make vocabulary cards;
3. the consolidation-review strategy 7c, read the new word the first day, but not after
that;
4. the consolidation-review strategy 7f, test the new words with classmates; and,
5. the consolidation-production strategy 9e, try to e-chat on the internet using QQ, MSN
Messenger.

Why the above strategies were not used may depend on several reasons and they make sense
from a learning perspective. Strategy 3a is highly likely not used if students are determined to
learn, especially CEMs who might be interested in learning English as they are going to be
teachers. Strategy 5c was rarely used; perhaps students didn’t see the value of it. Strategy 7c,
again if students are determined to learn vocabulary, then they will make an effort to spend
time with new words. For English Majors, the absence of strategy 7f is puzzling; perhaps

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students felt too shy to practise new words with classmates. Not using strategy 9e may be due
to a lack of opportunities to chat in English on chat software; they tend to chat in Chinese on
QQ rather than in English with English speakers, so perhaps again a lack of opportunity.

The result that CEMs’ VLS use is variable is not unexpected, perhaps because of issues like
the types of learning activities and tasks done, and time and motivation to learn. There are
probably other barriers to learning not revealed in this research. What is not asked in previous
and the present research is whether vocabulary learning is a constant activity. Perhaps it
wasn’t for CEMs. While Cohen and Aphek (1981) suggested memorisation one of the ‘best’
VLSs, ‘memorisation’ isn’t a single strategy, it involves several strategies (see Chapter 5,
Tables 5.7 and 5.8, Question 6) and CEMs indicate mixed frequency of use for many
memorisation strategies (see Appendix 8), which was surprising given previous research had
found that Chinese EFL learners strongly use them (see Chapter 2, section 2.4.2.1). Only one
strategy, 6b: write the new word several times, was often used in the four grades. However, of
the 18 memorisation strategies listed in Chapter 5, Table 5.7, 15 were affirmed as used in the
interview data (see Chapter 5, section 5.3.4). The results are unexpected, given that these are
CEMs and more strategy use was expected.

The four grades indicated (on the questionnaire) that they ‘often’ use the strategy ‘look at the
word several times’, but one grade (grade 4) split the frequency of use between ‘sometimes’
and ‘often’ (33% each); 36 per cent of both grade 1 and grade 2 students indicated that they
used the strategy ‘often’; and 50 per cent of grade 3 students indicated that they used it
‘often’.

‘Link the word to similar meaning words or opposite meaning words’ and ‘compare words
with similar meaning and study together’ were also used consistently: an average 36 per cent
of grade 2 students and 37 per cent of grade 4 students indicated that they ‘sometimes’ used
the strategy.

‘Memorise Chinese-English/English-Chinese lists’ was ‘often’ used by 45 per cent of grade 1


students and 36 per cent of grade 2 students, and ‘sometimes’ by 41 per cent of grade 3
students and 50 per cent of grade 4 students (see Chapter 5, section 5.1, Table 5.6). There was
strong support for using memorisation strategies as an aspect of the CCL, even though they
weren’t highly used by students in the present research. The idea of using ‘rehearsal

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strategies’ (e.g., ‘using word lists’, ‘oral repetition’ and ‘visual repetition’) to memorise
vocabulary was ‘agreed’ to by 59 per cent of grade 1 students, 73 per cent of grade 2 students,
58 per cent of grade 3 students and 58 per cent of grade 4 students. The idea of using ‘other
mnemonic techniques’ (e.g., linking the word with something known or remembering the
context of its use) to learn vocabulary was ‘agreed’ to by 50 per cent of grade 1 students, 45
per cent of grade 2 students, 58 per cent of grade 3 students and 42 per cent of grade 4
students. CEMs were average in their overall use of memorisation strategies, which was
surprising given its prevalence in previous research (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996).

7.1 CEMs’ memorisation strategies compared to Schmitt (1997)

The CEMs in the present research were asked approximately 18 questions about how they
memorise vocabulary (see Chapter 5, Tables 5.6 and 5.7), which were used by about 44 per
cent of CEMs (see Appendix 8, Table 2).

In Schmitt’s (1997) research, students rated ‘use a bilingual dictionary’ No. 1, with 85 per
cent using it, whereas CEMs rated it No. 10, with 45 per cent using it. Verbal repetition was
rated second by Schmitt’s sample, with 76 per cent using it, whereas CEMs rated it No. 34,
with 25 per cent indicating they used it. Schmitt’s sample rated ‘ask classmates for the
meaning of a vocabulary item’ No. 6, with 73 per cent of the sample indicating they used it,
whereas CEMs rated it No. 50, with only 16 per cent indicating they used it. This probably
suggests that CEMs are different from Schmitt’s sample, but the difference cannot be viewed
as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ simply because CEMs tended not to use a bilingual dictionary, engage
in verbal repetition, or ask classmates for the meaning of a word.

7.2 VLS use compared with Gu and Johnson (1996)

Like Schmitt, Gu and Johnson (1996) found ‘oral repetition’ was highly used by Chinese
EFL learners. However, CEMs were very different in their use of VLSs compared with Gu
and Johnson’s sample, rating ‘say the word aloud several times’ No. 25, with only 25 per cent
using it (‘by reciting’, 28% in the interview; ‘know its pronunciation’, 39% in the interview).
Gu and Johnson’s sample rated ‘use vocabulary lists’ the lowest, whereas it was rated highly,
(No. 16) for CEMs, with 36 per cent of CEMs indicating they use it. The Gu and Johnson
sample rated ‘contextual encoding’ (e.g., ‘associate the new word with its context of use’)

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highly, whereas was ranked No. 21 and 22 respectively for CEMs (e.g., ‘try to remember
where I first met the word’, ‘try to imagine what the new word looks like in a sentence’), with
34 per cent of CEMs using it.

What can be learned from this is that CEMs are different from other Chinese students, or at
least those in Gu and Johnson’s study. And this is a strong clue that their learning activities
and tasks may be different. The result suggests that their curriculum is perhaps different and
the goal of learning English vocabulary may be different. They also rely heavily on the use of
a bilingual dictionary. The use of such electronic media suggests the nature of some
vocabulary learning strategies have changed, as a result of the internet age.

7.3 Patterning of VLS use compared to Gu & Johnson (1996)

Table 7.1 shows a comparison of certain strategies from the Gu’s and Johnson’s (1996) study
and the present research.

Key to Table 7.1: left hand column lists strategies; middle column lists research — G&J =
Gu & Johnson, CEMs = present research; M = mean, SD = standard deviation, and n =
sample size.

Table 7.1: Guessing from context, dictionary and rehearsal


strategies
Strategies: Sample M SD n
Guessing from context CEMs 3.67 0.80 80
G&J 4.47 0.84 824
Look up dictionary CEMs 3.37* 0.93 80

Rehearsal strategies
1 using word lists CEMs 3.44 0.97 80
G&J 3.15 0.99 824
2 oral repetition CEMs 3.17 0.96 80
G&J 4.20 1.07 840
3 visual repetition CEMs 2.85* 1.06 80
G&J 3.92 1.17 833
Beliefs
1 Words should be memorised G&J 3.04 0.83 849
**Using rehearsal strategies (e.g. using word
CEMs 3.64* 0.85 80
lists, oral repetition, visual repetition)

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2 Acquire vocabulary in context G&J 4.94 0.78 850
**Learning English is mostly a matter of
CEMs 3.06 0.94 80
learning many new English vocabulary items
3 Learn vocabulary and put it to use G&J 5.74 0.62 847
**It’s important to repeat English words and
CEMs 4.19 0.70 80
practise often
* combined with another look-up dictionary strategy
** Because the same statements were not asked about in the current research,
the highlighted examples are the closest ones and used for comparative
purposes only

There is a difference on all strategies, and this suggests Chinese EFL learners are not all the
same, particularly in their strategy use when learning English vocabulary.

7.4 Use of discovery and consolidation strategies compared to Griffiths (2013)

Key to Table 7.2: left-hand column lists strategies by category; middle column lists research
—G = Griffiths, CEMs = present research; M = mean and n = sample size.

Table 7.2: Discovery and consolidation strategies compared


to Oxford’s SILL
Discovery and consolidation strategies sample M n
Determination initial response strategies
3c I try to guess the new word’s meaning from
CEMs 3.8 80
the context
Griffiths’ ‘compensation’ strategies (SILL)
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.1 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.3 34

3e ask a classmate or teacher for the meaning CEMs 2.6 80


Griffiths’ ‘social’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I ask for
help from English speakers’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.4 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.6 34

Determination-study strategies
4b its pronunciation CEMs 4.3 80
Griffiths’ ‘cognitive’ strategies (SILL)
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.4 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.9 34

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4d the Chinese translation CEMs 4.3 80
Griffiths’ ‘cognitive’ strategies (SILL) – ‘try
not to translate word for word’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 2.3 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.5 34

4i the new word’s part of speech CEMs 3.6 80


Griffiths’ ‘cognitive’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I try
to find patterns in English’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.1 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.5 34

Consolidation-organisation strategies
5c make vocabulary cards/flashcards CEMs 2.3 80
Griffiths’ ‘memory’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I use
flashcards to remember words’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 2.6 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 1.8 34

Consolidation-memorisation strategies
6a say the word aloud several times CEMs 3.5 80
Griffiths’ ‘cognitive’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I say
or write the word several times’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.4 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.6 34

6g link the word with already known words


CEMs 3.2 80
and have similarities
Griffiths’ ‘memory’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I
think of relationships’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.3 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.6 34

6p draw pictures to illustrate the meaning of


CEMs 1.8 80
the new word
Griffiths’ ‘memory’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I
create images of new words’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.3 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.0 34

Consolidation-review strategies
7f test the new words with my classmates CEMs 2.6 80
Griffiths’ ‘social’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I
practice English with others’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.1 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 3.4 34

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Consolidation-remember strategies
8e try to remember where I first met the word CEMs 3.2 80
Griffiths’ ‘memory’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I use
location to remember new words’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.2 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 2.9 34

Consolidation-production strategies
9a try to use words in speaking and writing CEMs 3.6 80
Griffiths’ ‘cognitive’ strategies (SILL) – ‘I
start conversations in English’
 Elementary learners G, 2013 3.4 44
 Advanced learners G, 2013 4.0 34

Being unable to compare many strategies with Schmitt (1997), a comparison was made with
Griffiths’ (2013) analysis of LLSs, particularly those that Schmitt re-categorised and re-
classified as specific VLSs. The comparison shows that CEMs are similar to Griffiths’ sample
on some strategies but not on others. Griffiths has highlighted the means for Elementary and
Advanced learners, which allows comparison of CEMs with these two groups. CEMs are
comparable, but often between Elementary and Advanced learners, yet they appear to be
classified by their university as intermediate level learners. CEMs were found to have higher
use of pronunciation and translation strategies and lower use of drawing strategies.

The fact that CEMs use these VLSs is significant, however; though there may be variable
use, it is significant. Variable use compared to other Chinese EFL learners (e.g. Gu &
Johnson, 1996; Gu, 2010; Yang, 1999; Tsai & Chang, 2009) is significant because it shows
something different was happening in the higher education context where CEMs were
enrolled regarding English vocabulary learning compared to research at other research sites in
China (e.g. Ahmed, 1989; Kok & Canbay, 2011; Subekti & Lawson, 2007). The following
discussion of clustering of VLSs (see section 7.6 below) in each grade may suggest more
clues. Tsai and Chang (2009) found an average frequency of use mean of 3.04, indicating
overall medium strategy use for Taiwan undergraduates, whereas the present research found
an average overall frequency of use mean of 3.15 for CEMs. This suggests CEMs strategy
use is comparable to Tsai’s and Chang’s study, and perhaps that the nature of learning might
have changed, as these two studies, the current and Tsai’s and Chang’s, report different
findings to those of Gu’s and Johnson’s (1996).

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7.5 The present research compared to Ma (2009)

Table 7.3 below highlights the means for strategy use and frequency of use compared to Ma’s
(2009). Key to Table 7.3: the frequency of use is indicated by the F, and the frequency ranges
the first letter of each frequency: n = never; r = rarely; s = sometimes; o = often; a = always;
the Ma data is shown in the last 3 columns.

Table 7.3: Categories and strategies for whole group of CEMs and Ma (2009)
Categories and strategies M SD n F Ma n F
Discovery: place to find
1a in textbooks and classroom activities 3.89 0.72 o 4.13 o
1b in vocabulary lists arranged alphabetical 3.33 0.95 s/o 2.76 s
order
1c in vocabulary lists arranged by meaning 3.15 0.94 s/o 2.38 r
80
1d during English conversation with others 2.71 0.75 r/s/o 2.17 109 r
1e when reading English materials 3.75 0.79 o 2.95 s
1f when singing English songs and
watching English movies/TV 3.55 0.92 s/o 2.78 s
1g when using/surfing the internet 3.31 0.97 s/o 2.33 r
Determination: initial response
3a pay no attention to and never go back to 1.92 0.74 r/s/o 2.81 s
it
3b pay no attention to it, but go back to
later 2.94 1.00 r/s/o 3.63 o
3c I try to guess the new word’s meaning
from the context 3.67 0.80 80 s/o 3.62 109 o
3d study the word’s prefixes, suffixes and
root word for meaning 3.28 0.82 s/o 3.03 s
3e ask a classmate or teacher for the
meaning 2.65 0.91 r/s 2.64 s
3f read a Chinese-English or an English-
Chinese dictionary 3.98 0.82 s/o/a 3.63 o
3g read an English-only dictionary 2.76 1.03 r/s 1.99 r
Determination: study
4a its pronunciation 4.27 0.78 o/a 4.28 o
4b the spelling 4.21 0.87 o/a 4.36 o
4c the prefixes, suffixes and root words 3.13 0.89 s 3.47 s
4d the Chinese translation 4.29 0.71 o/a 4.45 s
4e the English explanations 3.32 0.99 80 s/o 2.76 109 s
4f the example sentences 3.23 0.97 r/s/o 2.73 s
4g the way the new word is used 3.69 0.83 s/o 3.50 s
4h the new word’s relationship with other
words 3.05 0.88 s 3.82 o
4i the new word’s part of speech 3.59 1.08 s/o 3.47 s
Consolidation: organisation
5a write it down 2.98 0.91 s 2.48 r
5b order the information in a vocabulary
notebook 3.43 1.09 s/o 3.28 s
80 109
5c make vocabulary cards 2.26 1.04 r 2.14 r
5d use the vocabulary lists in the textbooks 3.44 0.97 r/s 2.67 s
5e use a vocabulary list like those in the
VOCABULARY 5000 and TEM4EasyTest 3.19 1.00 s/o 2.23 r

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Consolidation: memorisation
6a say the word aloud several times 3.17 0.96 s/o 3.88 o
6b write the word several times 3.81 0.92 o 3.54 o
6c look at the word several times 3.27 1.03 s/o 3.34 s
6d memorise Chines-English/English-
Chinese lists 3.50 0.99 s/o 2.49 r
6e do vocabulary exercises 3.01 0.91 r/s/o 2.60 s
6f link the word to similar meaning words
or opposite meaning words 3.04 0.91 s 2.78 s
6g link the word with already known words
and have similarities 3.21 0.79 s/o 2.83 s
6h compare words with similar meaning
and study together 3.02 0.92 s 3.14 s
6i group words in order e.g. meaning, part
of speech 2.76 0.92 r/s 2.61 s
6j place word in a context e.g. sentence, 80 109
conversation 3.32 0.83 s/o 3.32 s
6k use the new word to make up a sentence 2.89 1.05 r/s/o 2.42 r
6l listen to tape-/CD recordings of words 2.64 0.98 r/s 2.71 s
6m make up rhymes to link new words
together 2.45 0.92 r/s 2.23 r
6n practise new words by acting them out
e.g. verbs 2.44 1.01 r/s 2.05 r
6o try to imagine what the new word looks
like (in a sentence) 3.05 1.01 s/o 2.95 s
6p draw pictures to illustrate the meaning
of the new words 1.85 0.83 n/r/s 2.01 r
6q try to imagine in my head what the new
word looks like 2.64 1.10 n/r/s 3.78 o
6r remember the prefix, suffix and root
word of the new word 3.09 0.95 s/o 3.02 s
Consolidation: review
7a say the new word 2 or 3 times the first
day 3.09 0.93 r/s/o 3.42 s
7b say the new words the next time I read
them, and again after that 3.13 0.84 s/o NA NA
7c read the new words the first day, but not
80 109
after that 2.55 1.12 n/r NA NA
7d read the new words 2 or 3 times first,
then again a few days later, a week later, a 2.98 1.08 r/s/o NA NA
month later
7e test the new words on my own 3.19 1.12 r/s/o 2.72 s
7f test the new words with classmates 2.61 0.98 r 2.22 r
Consolidation: remember
8a remember the new word the way I
learned it 3.41 0.73 s/o NA NA
8b remember the new word by its meaning
(when heard again) 3.63 0.88 s/o NA NA
8c remember the new word by its meaning
80 109
(when read again) 3.87 0.62 o NA NA
8d remember the new word’s meaning first,
then think about its meaningful parts e.g.
prefix, suffix and root word 3.23 0.81 s/o 3.02 s
8e try to remember where I first met the
word 3.17 1.08 r/s/o 3.58 o
Consolidation: production
9a try to use words in speaking and writing 3.60 0.89 s/o/a 3.25 s
9b try to use idioms when I speak 2.83 0.92 80 s/o/a 2.88 109 s
9c try to think in English with the new
vocabulary 3.18 1.00 s/o 2.48 r

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9d try having conversations using the new
words with English speakers e.g. teachers 2.76 0.90 r/s 1.98 r
9e try to e-chat on the internet using QQ,
MSN Messenger 2.30 0.95 r NA NA

Although some of the data for Ma’s research is absent, a comparison can be made. The most
similar strategy means are 3c (3.67/3.62), 3e (2.65/2.64), 4a (4.27/4.28), 6c (3.27/3.34), 6j
(3.32/3.32), 6r (3.09/3.02) and 9b (2.83/2.88). This suggests only a few similarities with Ma’s
sample. The most dissimilar frequency of use is highlighted in green; otherwise frequency of
use is comparable. Some dissimilarity can be attributed to data from four grades in the
present research and Ma’s being a single sample, so other factors may affect use — for
example, maturity, experience, education, proficiency.

Key to Table 7.4: left-hand column lists strategies by category; M = mean, SD = standard
deviation, and n = sample size, and Ma = Ma’s mean.

Table 7.4: Categories and strategies and means suggesting use


by CEMs and Ma (2009)
Categories and strategies M SD n Ma
1. Discovery: place to find 3.39 0.57 80 2.79
2. Determination: initial response 3.03 0.64 80 3.05
3. Determination: study 3.64 0.60 80 3.65
4. Consolidation: organisation 3.06 0.71 80 2.56
5. Consolidation: memorisation 2.95 0.56 80 2.87
6. Consolidation: review 2.92 0.63 80 2.79
7. Consolidation: remember 3.46 0.49 80 3.30
8. Consolidation: production 2.93 0.57 80 2.65

The similarities in means on the strategy categories were #2 (3.03/3.05) and #3 (3.64/3.65).
This suggests CEMs were similar in initial response to new vocabulary and in determining
how to study the new vocabulary. Otherwise, CEMs were different on other strategy
categories compared to Ma’s sample. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the two results are similar
on #3; this was also found by Gu and Johnson in 1996. This average use may be the result of
not only differing learning activities and tasks, but the nature and efficacy of the category of
strategies (from the learner’s perspective), and suggests further research on this issue.
Consolidation strategies seemed to be more prominent in this group and may be due to their
motivation to learn English to be able to teach it.

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7.6 Clustering of VLSs in the four grades

VLS use was found to ‘cluster’ in each grade (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.15), with
a small group of VLSs used within each grade’s ‘cluster’ varying from the VLSs often/always
used in a previous or subsequent grade — for example, used in grade 2 and 3 but not in grade
1 and 4.

The raw data indicated that grade 4 students used more VLSs than the other grades (see
Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.15). Grade 1 students mostly used 24 VLSs, grade 2 students
mostly used 19 VLSs, grade 3 students mostly used 20 VLSs and grade 4 students mostly
used 28 VLSs. This may be attributed to them developing as a learner of language and
learning more strategies along the way. The fact that grade 4 used more VLSs might be
because they’ve developed strategies over the 4 years of their degree.

Although some VLSs were used in a previous grade (e.g., grade 1, if used in grade 2) or a
following grade (e.g., grade 2, if used in grade 1), or in two or three grades, some were used
in all four grades (from the questionnaire) (see interview data, Appendix 11). For example,
the following VLSs were used across all four grades (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table
5.15):

1a in textbooks and classroom learning activities (discovery-place strategy);


1e when reading English materials (discovery-place strategy);
4a its pronunciation (determination-study strategy);
4b the spelling (determination-study strategy);
4d the Chinese translation (determination-study strategy);
6b write the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy); and
8c remember a new word by its meaning (when read again) (consolidation-remember
strategy).

Why the clustering of these particular strategies occurred requires further research, however
it is thought to be related to learning activities and tasks, as well as to the learner’s BALLL
(see Gu, 2003). Given that general and specific beliefs and strategies in the present research
are strongly statistically related (see Chapter 6), we can understand there is a relationship
between beliefs and strategies. Gu and Johnson (1997) found two categories of beliefs,

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acquire vocabulary in context, and learning vocabulary and put it to use, were emphasised
less than a third: vocabulary should be memorised. These beliefs were not asked about in the
present research. However, ‘I memorise vocabulary by rehearsal strategies like word lists,
oral and visual repetition,’ was asked about in the BALLI (see Appendix 9, Table 2), and in
the interview (see Chapter 5, section 5.3.4). CEMs agreed strongly (a mean average between
3.49 and 5.00) with the BALLI belief statement. From the interview, ‘repetition’ (though no
elaboration on the type) was mentioned by 20 per cent of students (see Appendix 11). Many
consolidation-memory strategies were mentioned too, but word lists were not directly
mentioned. Oral and visual repetition were mentioned often. It is argued that the beliefs
explored in the present research are related to the strategies explored, some, like those
mentioned above, are directly linked, while others can also be directly linked (e.g., BALLI
#33/13a ‘I practise reading English by reading the materials in the textbooks’ was agreed
with, and VLS #1/1a ‘I meet new words in textbooks’ and VLS #5/1e ‘I meet new words when
reading English materials’ were both used often).

Other researchers have also observed the strategy ‘clustering’ phenomenon (e.g. Horwitz,
1985; Green, 1971, cited in Richardson, 1996; Griffiths, 2013; Mohamed, 2006; Macaro,
2006). The main reason given was learner maturation. That is, the older and more
experienced a language learner becomes, the more flexible they become, and the more
strategies they tend to use at any given moment to learn aspects of another language.
However, the present research might be the first to observe this phenomenon at the level of
vocabulary learning, rather than at the level of general language learning or LLS use, which
is a major contribution to vocabulary learning. This finding is discussed in section 7.12.

The implication for the Chinese EFL learners with respect to ‘flexibility’ is improved
language learning outcomes. However, it has not necessarily been observed in the present
research. An alternative explanation for VLS clustering in the present research is task type
and context of learning, which may be revealed through Gu’s (2003) Tetrahedral Model, but
further research would be needed to confirm this. The main reason for the clustering in the
present research is task type. In other words, CEMs employed a small cluster of strategies on
a regular basis to learn English generally, and English vocabulary specifically. This is
important in two ways: 1) it represents the core approach to learning vocabulary of these
CEMs; and 2) it reveals something about the type of English language education these CEMs
experienced over their average nine years of English language education. They tended to

226
learn English vocabulary from textbooks and are generally taught English through textbooks.
Further research is required.

7.7 Variable use of VLSs

The general variable use of approximately 60 per cent of Ma’s (2009) list of VLSs reveals
something significant about VLS use by the CEMs sampled. The EFL context in China is not
viewed as an ESL context but still one that affects VLS use, especially in the area of social
strategies use. This variability is perhaps due to the lack of opportunity to engage strategies,
or beliefs constraining their use, and productive use of English which is said to be necessary
to facilitate better possession or acquisition.

For example, roughly 45 per cent of grade 1 students indicated (from the questionnaire) that
they rarely to sometimes use the VLS ask a classmate or a teacher for the meaning of a new
word, a determination initial response strategy — what a learner might do the instant they
meet a new word. This might be because they rely more on dictionaries. Large class sizes
could also hinder them from asking questions in the classroom. They might have been too shy
to ask in English — BALLI belief #18 was agreed with (see Chapter 5, section 5.6.2.1) – or
are practicing ‘face’ culture (Xie, 2009, p. 11). CEMs indicated that the VLS when singing
English songs and watching English movies/TV (a discovery-place strategy) was also used
little, with approximately 45 per cent of grade 2 students indicating they sometimes used it,
41 per cent of grade 1 students and 38 per cent of grade 3 students indicated they often used
it, while 33 per cent of grade 4 indicated they both sometimes and often used it. CCL belief
#26/9c ‘I prefer the teacher use different activities to help me learn’ was a favoured teaching
method (see Chapter 5, section 5.7.2), and #42/15b ‘I practise listening to English by
watching English movies and TV shows’ was also agreed with. Whether this activity is part of
the syllabus/curriculum or something students like to do in their own time is unclear. Belief
#26/9c shows an indirect preference for variable strategy training and teacher’s use of
activities in the classroom. This calls for strategy training in the classroom which will be
discussed later.

Wei (2007) also found medium strategy use in a Chinese context but the rating of VLSs was
different. Wei’s sample rated pay attention to the pronunciation of a new word (a
determination initial response strategy) with the highest percentage, with a mean of 4.15,

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whereas it was No. 12 for CEMs, with 36 per cent of students indicating they used it,
generating a mean of 4.27, a little stronger than Wei’s sample. (Wei sampled 60 students
whereas the present research sampled 80.) However, pay attention to the pronunciation of a
new word (a determination-study strategy) would be rated No. 2 by CEMs if rated by mean,
and pay attention to the Chinese translation (a determination-study strategy) would be rated
first, with a mean of 4.29 — high use. In the present study, VLS use was rated by percentage
of students using it and the frequency of use, but not according to mean because it provides a
less specific average of use. Frequency of use was thought to be related to the language
learning task generally, and the vocabulary learning task specifically.

Section summary

Although VLS use was medium, and variable, roughly 11 per cent were often/always used.
Roughly 37 were used regularly and accounts for the variability, and a finding that is different
from previous research. The variable use of strategies suggests CEMs spent more time
discovering new vocabulary than they did consolidating their learning. A number of strategies
were never/rarely used. Only one strategy (7f ‘test the new words with classmates’, a social
strategy) was generally not used or used infrequently in three grades. They were generally
aware of, and used, VLSs — the interview affirmed this. The raw data indicates that CEMs
generally used a certain number of strategies, depending on their grade (see Chapter 5, Tables
5.3 to 5.11 and Table 5.15). In addition, they used a core set of VLSs in the four grades. More
consolidation strategies were used, which was not unexpected. The top 10 most used
strategies included 2 discovery-place strategies, 2 determination initial response strategies, 2
determination-study strategies, 2 consolidation-memory strategies, and 2 consolidation-
remember strategies.

Previous research found memorisation the ‘best’ strategy, but the present research viewed
memorisation as a range of strategies (e.g., consolidation-memory strategies) not a single
strategy. CEMs were asked about approximately 18 memorisation strategies. There were clear
differences between the findings and previous research (e.g. Schmitt, 1997; Gu & Johnson,
1997). The differences were observed in means and when strategy use is ranked by the
percentage of students using it. This difference in strategy use suggests CEMs are different
from students in previous research or that they experience a different type of English
education. Research (Griffiths, 2013) that tried to observe type of learner (e.g., Elementary

228
and Advanced) did not clearly show where CEMs were, sometimes elementary and at other
times advanced learners in terms of mean scores for use of a particular category of strategy.
One notable category was determination-study strategies (or cognitive strategies), where
CEMs were similar with the previous research on studying the pronunciation and the Chinese
translation. This finding again suggests CEMs were different from other Chinese English
language learners. In terms of which strategy categories CEMs tended to used, they were
comparable with previous research (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1997) on the use of determination-
study strategies. A ‘new’ category of consolidation-practice strategies was observed in the
interview (see Appendix 11).

The unique finding was the clustering of VLSs in the four grades. Strategy clustering is
touched on in previous research (e.g. Horwitz, 1985; Griffiths, 2013), but only generally at
the level of language learning. Maturation is offered as the main reason for strategy
clustering. The strategy clustering in the present research is thought to reflect the type of
learning CEMs do, which suggests the type of learning activities and tasks they do, not
necessarily maturation. The present research might be the first to observe it at the level of
vocabulary learning. When students begin a new course of study or academic activity, they
use a new set of learning strategies which they generally resume in each grade. This core set
of strategies was complemented by a range of other strategies to assist them in learning
English vocabulary (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1). The data revealed that they had maintained
their use of a particular set or ‘cluster’ of strategies in the four grades, but the complementary
strategies were often used in one or two or three grades at most. Eight strategies were used in
the four grades. While contrasting with previous research, some instances of VLS use were
similar. However, the findings require further research to affirm aspects of VLS use observed
here.

7.8 Research Question No. 2:

What is the difference in VLS frequency of use among the four grades of CEMs?

The data to answer this question was drawn from the VLSQ (see Appendix 2). The raw data
indicated that there was a difference both in the VLS frequency of use and the percentage of
students using VLSs (see Chapter 5, Tables 5.3 to 5.11; Appendix 8). This aspect was not

229
observed in the Non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis (ANOVA) and correlation by Spearman’s rho
analysis (see Chapter 6), but was observed in descriptive statistics (e.g., means, SDs and
percentages).

Exploring the frequency of VLS use was useful in highlighting variability in students’ VLS
use in order to see the trend of use in each grade, not just overall. Observing the trends in use
through percentages shows the strength of VLS use at a particular time (for example, second
semester) in each grade of a four-year Bachelor degree. Observing this patterning or trending
also suggests reasons (e.g., beliefs, task), but also shows which strategies are frequently used
in each grade to make inferences about such use and then attempt to explain the variability.
While there was more variability between individuals, there was less variability between
grades.

The use of percentages shows that CEMs used VLSs differently in each grade. While there is
a difference in VLS use in each grade (see Chapter 5, section 5.1, Table 5.3 to 5.11), there is
also some similarity. The specific difference, however, was within a grade between
individuals; individually, students’ VLS use is different. Although individual difference isn’t
new, knowing about individual difference affirms that: 1) individual difference suggests
individually different approaches to learning; and, 2) individually different approaches to
learning suggest individually different learning outcomes (see Gu & Johnson, 1996). The data
(see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.15) indicated that a core set of VLSs were regularly
used, allowing the inference that there is a general CEM approach to the learning of English
vocabulary, in a particular way as a group. But individually, each learner approaches learning
slightly differently and complements their vocabulary learning, their core set of strategies,
with a range of additional VLSs. Take for instance Xiao A and Xiao B, both grade 1 students.
Tables 7.5 to 7.10 show the patterning of strategy use for Questions 2, 3 and 4 with respect to
similarity and dissimilarity, shown here because there doesn’t appear to be other research that
covers this.

Key to Tables 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 7.8, 7.9 and 7.10: left-hand column lists students; column two
lists the question and strategy asked about; the last five columns represent the scaling
highlighted by a number, for example, 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, and 5
= always.

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Table 7.5: Individual difference in VLS use
Q2: Where do you often learn vocabulary during the semester?
Student: Q2 parts: 1 2 3 4 5
Xiao A 2a: In the classroom √
Xiao B 2a: √
Xiao A 2b: In the library √
Xiao B 2b: √
Xiao A 2c: My dormitory room √
Xiao B 2c: √

Table 7.6: Individual difference in VLS use


Q3: What do you do when you meet new vocabulary items?
Student: Q3 parts: 1 2 3 4 5
Xiao A 3a: Pay no attention to it and never go back to it √
Xiao B 3a: √
Xiao A 3b: Pay no attention to it, but go back to it later √
Xiao B 3b: √
Xiao A 3c: Try to guess its meaning from the context √
Xiao B 3c: √
Xiao A 3d: Study its prefixes, suffixes and root word meaning √
Xiao B 3d: √
Xiao A 3e: Ask a classmate/teacher its meaning √
Xiao B 3e: √
3f: Read a Chinese-English or English-Chinese
Xiao A √
dictionary
Xiao B 3f: √
Xiao A 3g: Read an English-only dictionary √
Xiao B 3g: √

Table 7.7: Individual difference in VLS use


Q4: When learning new vocabulary, what aspects do you study?
Student: Q4 parts: 1 2 3 4 5
Xiao H 4a: Its pronunciation √
Xiao I 4a: √
Xiao H 4b: The spelling √
Xiao I 4b: √
Xiao H 4c: The prefixes, suffixes and root-word √
Xiao I 4c: √
Xiao H 4d: The Chinese translation √
Xiao I 4d: √
Xiao H 4e: The English explanations √
Xiao I 4e: √
Xiao H 4f: The example sentences √
Xiao I 4f: √
Xiao H 4g: The way the new word is used √
Xiao I 4g: √
Xiao H 4h: The new word’s relationship with other words √
Xiao I 4h: √
Xiao H 4i: The new word’s part of speech √
Xiao I 4i: √

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On this analysis of three questions only, it can be seen that grade 1 students Xiao A and Xiao
B answered different questions differently, or, in this case, indicated which strategy they used
frequently or infrequently, as the case may be. While the patterning of VLS use was similar,
the difference was obvious in some question parts. One notable difference was 3b (pay no
attention to it, but go back to it), to which Xiao B indicated that she ‘always’ does this,
whereas Xiao A indicated that she ‘sometimes’ did this.

This differential learning approach continued in other grades and can be seen by looking at
other students in a range of other questions.

Taken together, the data reveals a pattern of VLS use that suggests differences between
individuals. This result suggests that CEMs are different at the individual level and suggests
students have different learning styles (with respect to using VLSs) when it comes to learning
English vocabulary. This may also reflect their motivations and expectations.

7.8.1 Gu’s Tetrahedral Model

Gu (2003) argues for a Tetrahedral Model of person, task, context and strategies, which
should be considered when explaining VLS use. He acknowledges that context had received
little if any research — and it seems that little research has been done on this aspect since.
Gu’s Tetrahedral Model provides a possible explanation for the results of the present
research. He argues that, while learning vocabulary is a problem-solving task with different
levels of complexity, VLS use and effectiveness depend on “the learner him/herself (for
example, attitudes, motivation, prior knowledge), the learning task at hand (for example,
type, complexity, difficulty, and generality), and the learning environment (for example, the
learning culture, the richness of input and output opportunities)” (Gu, 2003, p. 2). The result
of the present research suggests the task of learning vocabulary in each grade affected VLS
choice, as well as the other factors of the learner and the learning environment (e.g., beliefs).
More research will be needed to affirm this.

By observing the category of strategies used by at least two learners, Gu’s Tetrahedral Model
is applied and the impact on outcomes is observed.

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Key to Tables: left-hand column lists students; number columns question and parts, for
example, Question 2, part a; the scaling item is represented by the letter, N, R, S, O, A, for
example, N = never, R = rarely, S = sometimes, O = often, and A = always:

Table 7.8: Discovery-


place strategies
Q2: Where do you meet new
words?
2a: In the classroom
2b: In the library
2c: In my dormitory room
Student: 2a 2b 2c
Xiao A O R S
Xiao B S R O

Table 7.9: Determination initial response


strategies
Q3: What do you do when you meet new vocabulary?
3a: Pay no attention to it and never go back to it
3b: Pay no attention to it, but go back to it later
3c: Try to guess its meaning from the context
3d: Study its prefixes, suffixes and root word meaning
3e: Ask a classmate/teacher its meaning
3f: Read a Chinese-English or English-Chinese dictionary
3g: Read an English-only dictionary
Student: 3a 3b 3c 3d 3e 3f 3g
Xiao A R S O O N O R
Xiao B S A O S R S S

Table 7.10: Determination-study strategies


Q4: When learning new vocabulary, what aspects do you study?
4a: Its pronunciation
4b: The spelling
4c: The prefixes, suffixes and root word
4d: The Chinese translation
4e: The English explanations
4f: The example sentences
4g: The way the new word is used
4h: The new word’s relationship with other words
4i: The new word’s part of speech
Student: 4a 4b 4c 4d 4e 4f 4g 4h 4i
Xiao A O O A S S R S S S
Xiao B O O O O S S S S S

To see in more detail the number of strategies a student uses, all we need do is highlight
which strategy was used, with respect to a given question. One might conclude that Xiao B
used more strategies than Xiao A (17 to 14). Observing only counted ‘often’ and ‘always’ as
definite strategy use, arguably they used an equal number of strategies. But there would be a
difference in which ones they used. And another pattern emerges. They both used 3c, 4a, 4b
and 4c. This means that they regularly used ‘try to guess the word’s meaning from the

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context’, ‘its pronunciation’, ‘the spelling’, ‘the prefixes, suffixes and root word’. Two of
these, incidentally, were among the eight regularly used by all students across four grades (4a
and 4b). It is argued that students used a core set of strategies and occasionally supplemented
these with other strategies (depending on the learning task).

This finding suggests individual’s different approaches to learning. This may suggest
individually different outcomes too which, as will soon be seen, is not as clear cut as it might
appear. By looking at the vocabulary size, or learning outcome, of the students’ patterns of
VLS use, there is a hint of what Gu (2003) was suggesting.

Key to Table 7.11: range = vocabulary size test; No. k = number known; No. nk = number
not known; % nk = percentage of words not known. Key to reading Tables below: left-hand
column lists students; second lists vocabulary size test by number, for example, 1000, 2000;
third, fourth and fifth columns list score for the test indicated by whether they knew or didn’t
know all the range of words on the test, for example, No. k = number known, No. nk = not
known, % nk = percentage not known:

Table 7.11: English vocabulary size in


grade 2
Range, known and not known words, percentage
not known and vocabulary size for 2 grade 1
students
Student: range No. k No. nk % nk
Xiao A 1000 900 100 10%
Xiao B 1000 800 200 20%
Xiao A 2000 700 300 30%
Xiao B 2000 300 700 70%
Xiao A 3000 600 400 40%
Xiao B 3000 500 500 50%
Xiao A Academic 3000 600 17%
Xiao B Academic 1800 1800 50%

Xiao A EVS 5200


Xiao B EVS 3400

Starting with Xiao A and Xiao B, it can be seen that they regularly used an equal number of
strategies. They both used 3c, 4a, 4b and 4c. They regularly used ‘try to guess the word’s
meaning from the context’, ‘its pronunciation’, ‘the spelling’, ‘the prefixes, suffixes and root
word’. Two of these, incidentally, were among the eight regularly used by all students across
four grades (4a and 4b). However, this did not mean that they both learned an equal amount

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of vocabulary; in fact, the data shows a distinct difference in not only vocabulary size for
each VST), but also for overall vocabulary size; Xiao A had a larger vocabulary. Perhaps the
difference can be attributed to something else Xiao A did that Xiao B didn’t do, resulting in
the larger English vocabulary.

Finally, the difference in EVS of Xiao A and Xiao B compared to Xiao H and Xiao I is
notable. Xiao A’s EVS is only slightly smaller (5200) than Xiao I’s (5900) — the data shows
a dip in EVS for grade 2 generally (see Appendix 6). Xiao H’s EVS is larger (4500) than
Xiao B’s (3400), which might be expected since more vocabulary should have been learned
in grade 2. However, Schmitt (2012) argues that CEMs’ vocabulary size at entry to university
has to be at least 3000 — Xiao B’s EVS suggests then that her vocabulary didn’t increase
substantially in grade 1, with roughly only 400 more words added by second semester —
whether high frequency or Academic cannot be easily ascertained. Further research is
required to get a clearer picture of what is happening.

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Section 2 — BALLL

7.9 Research Question No. 3:

What are CEMs’ general ‘Western’ beliefs about language and language learning and
specific Chinese culture of learning beliefs about language and language learning?

7.9.0 Introduction

General BALLL are those suggested by Horwitz (1988) as ‘Westernized’ beliefs and CCL
beliefs are those suggested by Shi (2006). The analysis of beliefs is important for at least two
reasons: 1) beliefs drive learning behaviour; and 2) beliefs drive VLS use specifically. Beliefs
are defined as something that “denotes an assertion about some aspect of the world or the
relation between two such aspects” (Open University, 1975, p. 16) — the relation between
two categories when neither defines the other. Richardson (1996, p. 103) says beliefs are
“psychological understandings, premises, or propositions about the world that are felt to be
true”, whose content is descriptive, evaluative or prescriptive (Rokeach, 1968). These
definitions will underscore the discussion of beliefs, particularly that they are action oriented.
Horwitz (1988) says BALLL are prevalent, with students bringing them into the classroom.
Research has found a link between them and the learning task (e.g. Elbaum et al, 1993; Yang,
1999; Horwitz, 1987; Benson & Lor, 1999). This research found beliefs and VLSs strongly
correlate — they work together. The discussion begins with Horwitz’s BALLI in 7.9.1, and
then Shi’s beliefs of the CCL in 7.10.0, and comparisons are made with previous research
where possible.

In Chapter 6 CEMs’ general BALLL were found to be statistically significantly different


within a grade but similar between grades, and correlated strongly with CCL beliefs and VLS
use. The mean range for beliefs on Horwitz’s BALLI was 3.2 (see Chapter 5, section 5.6.1,
Tables 5.19 to 5.21 and in Appendix 9), suggesting that the students’ beliefs were medium
strength, and that they were close — based on the measure: 1.00 to 2.49 weak, 2.50 to 3.49
medium and 3.50 to 5.00 strong. This ‘medium’ strength of beliefs on the BALLI might
suggest that these CEMs’ general beliefs were not strongly agreed with but many were (see
Chapter 5, section 5.6.2.1) — 18 were agreed with out of 34, roughly 53 per cent. This

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finding was unexpected — it was thought fewer ‘Western’ beliefs would be agreed with.

The mean range for beliefs on Shi’s inventory of CCL beliefs was about 3.3 (see Chapter 5,
section 5.7, Tables 5.22 to 5.26), indicating that the students’ beliefs were medium strength
— based on the measure: 1.00 to 2.49 weak, 2.50 to 3.49 medium and 3.50 to 5.00 strong.
This medium strength of beliefs on the Shi inventory might suggest that these CEMs did not
strongly agree with the beliefs of the CCL, but many of them did (see Chapter 5, section
5.7.2) — 33 out of 57 beliefs were agreed with. This finding was unexpected because more
agreement was expected of the CCL beliefs (against the general BALLL). CEMs agreed with
33 out 57 CCL beliefs (see Chapter 5, section 5.7.1), roughly 58 per cent. Nearly twice as
many CCL beliefs were agreed with compared with the general BALLL. There is a difference
in the strength of beliefs between the BALLI and the CCL, with the CCL beliefs being
stronger than the general BALLL beliefs (see Chapter 5, section 5.7, Tables 5.22 to 5.26 and
Appendix 10). This suggests that Horwitz’s general ‘Western’ BALLI have made their way
into Chinese culture and have mixed with or been added to the beliefs of the CCL.

7.9.1 Horwitz’s BALLI

Horwitz (1987) classified general beliefs about language and language learning in a number
of ways in the present research, into five groupings: 1) the difficulty of language, 2) foreign
language aptitude, 3) the nature of language learning, 4) learning and communication
strategies, and 5) motivations and expectations. The discussion will proceed according to
each of Horwitz’s categories, for brevity and convenience, making running comparisons
between her findings and the findings of the present research and other research were
applicable.

7.9.2 The difficulty of language

Compared with Horwitz’s (1988) findings, CEMs were similar on most questions in terms of
the difficulty of language — see Appendix 9, Table 4. The similarity is uncanny in strength of
belief between Horwitz’s sample and CEMs; all except in BS#14. For BS#14, Horwitz’s
sample were asked about a foreign language rather than a specific foreign language, like the
present research (English), Horwitz’s sample was split between 1 to 2 years and 3 to 5 years
to become fluent. Choosing ‘disagree’ does not here mean disagree — it means the time

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taken to become fluent. The belief must be viewed as prescriptive rather than evaluative since
CEMs were not fluent. Prescriptive means students think fluency should take this much time
whereas evaluative means their belief is that it should take this much time based on
experience (Rokeach, 1968). It is interesting that after 9 to 11 years of EFL learning they still
hadn’t reached fluency.

7.9.3 Foreign language aptitude

Compared with Horwitz’s (1988) findings, CEMs were similar on most questions in terms of
foreign language aptitude — see Appendix 9, Table 5. CEMs were similar on six of the
beliefs, but not for BS#22, 29 and 32. Horwitz’s sample seemed unsure whether males are
better than females at learning a foreign language, CEMs seemed confident that males aren’t
better than females at learning English. Horwitz’s sample seemed unsure that people who are
good at maths and science being good at learning a foreign language, CEMs seemed
confident that they are not good. And while Horwitz’s sample seemed unsure whether people
who speak more than one foreign language are very intelligent, CEMs seemed confident that
they are intelligent. This last finding may be attributed to the nature of students being
interested in language teaching and thus valuing language more.

7.9.4 The nature of language learning

Compared with Horwitz’s (1988) findings, CEMs were similar on most questions in terms of
the nature of language learning — see Appendix 9, Table 6. CEMs were similar on one belief
compared with Horwitz’s sample. CEMs were confident that it’s necessary to know English
culture in order to speak English, whereas Horwitz’s sample seemed unsure. In the interview
(see Appendix 11, Table 7), 56 per cent of students (58% on the questionnaire) said learning
culture was involved in learning another language, suggesting its importance. Students
embracing of the culture might be because they recognised the inextricable relationship
between language and culture. CEMs were very confident that it’s better to learn English in
an English-speaking country like the United States, whereas Horwitz’s sample strongly
disagreed. CEMs were split between disagreeing and agreeing with the idea that learning
English is mostly a matter of learning many new vocabulary items, whereas Horwitz’s sample
disagreed. In the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 7), 44 per cent of students said learning
words was involved in learning another language, which suggests its importance. CEMs were

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confident that learning English is mostly a matter of many grammar rules, whereas Horwitz’s
sample seemed unsure or disagreed with the idea. Forty-four per cent in the interview said
learning grammar was involved in learning another language, which suggests its importance
(see Appendix 11, Table 7). Horwitz’s sample was split between disagreeing and agreeing
with the idea that learning a foreign language is mostly a matter of translating the foreign
language, whereas CEMS were only asked about translating English into Chinese, and they
disagreed. Again, notions of prescriptive, evaluative and descriptive beliefs must be invoked
to explain the nature of beliefs. BS#8 is evaluative, BS#11 is prescriptive, BS#16 and BS#20
are descriptive, and BS#25 and BS#26 are evaluative. This result might be explained with the
focus of language teaching in the Chinese classroom which is product and exam oriented.
Students seem to value grammar rules and translation and this might be attributed to the
teaching/learning style they are exposed to.

7.9.5 Learning and communication strategies

Compared with Horwitz’s (1988) findings, CEMs were similar on most questions in terms of
learning and communication strategies — see Appendix 9, Table 7. There was a difference in
strength of beliefs on BS#12 and 13. Horwitz’s sample was mixed on the idea that if I heard
someone speaking the foreign language I am trying to learn, I would try to speak with them in
order to practise my foreign language, whereas CEMs were confident that they would. On
BS#13, Horwitz’s sample was split between NDoA and agree on the idea that it’s ok to guess
the meaning of a foreign language word if I don’t know it, whereas CEMs were confident that
it was ok. BS#6, 9, 12, 13, 18 and 19 are evaluative beliefs, while BS#17 and 21 are
prescriptive. In the interview (see Appendix 11, Tables 2 and 3), 48 per cent of students said
‘guessing the meaning’ was both an initial response to new vocabulary and a way to practise
new words. The differences may be because students are CEMs and interested in the
language and interested in what they are learning.

7.9.6 Motivations and expectations

Compared with Horwitz’s (1988) findings, CEMs were similar on most questions in terms of
motivation and expectations — see Appendix 9, Table 8. There was little similarity between
Horwitz’s sample and CEMs on beliefs about motivation and expectations. Horwitz’s sample
was split between unsure and agreeing with the idea that if I speak a foreign language very

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well, I will have many opportunities to use it, whereas CEMs were confident they would (if
they spoke English very well). Horwitz’s sample was unsure about the idea that if I learn to
speak a foreign language very well, it would help me get a good job, whereas CEMs were
confident that they would (if they learn to speak English very well). Horwitz’s sample
disagreed with the idea that Europeans, in particular, think it is important to speak a foreign
language, whereas CEMs were confident that Chinese think it is important to speak English.
And Horwitz’s sample had mixed feelings about the idea that I would like to speak the foreign
language so I can learn about those people, whereas CEMs were confident that learning to
speak English was about learning about English people. This suggests students had extrinsic
motivation to learn English (Liu, 2007). This confirms the value of learning about culture and
becoming global citizens. BS#23, 27, 30 and 31 are evaluative. From the interview (see
Appendix 11, Table 7), 28 per cent of students said learning to speak English was involved in
learning another language.

This comparison shows that CEMs appear to hold Western beliefs more than Europeans do,
which suggests that CEMs are more Western in their BALLL than Westerners. But that would
be deceptive. While CEMs may have, in this instance, agreed with more Western BALLL
than their European FLL friends, beliefs should be considered in Rokeach’s (1968) terms,
with respect to their content (descriptive, evaluative or prescriptive).

It is clear why CEMs didn’t agree with some beliefs but Europeans did. CEMs strongly
disagreed with their European friends on BS#22, males are better than females at learning a
foreign language/English; the reason may be because the majority of participants in the
present research were females, and they may have realised that females in many Western
contexts are treated more equally. Therefore, their response is perhaps more about how they
would like it to be — thus the belief is a prescriptive one, prescribing how it should be. On
BS#32, people who speak more than one language well are very intelligent, CEMs were
confident that it is so. This confidence should be viewed as projecting beliefs in a prescriptive
sense; that is, CEMs want this to be the case, and given that ‘intelligent’ is vaguely defined.
CEMs strongly agreed with BS#11, it’s better to learn English in an English speaking country
like the United States. Given that most if not all the CEMs in the present research had never
been to the United States, they weren’t relying on their experience to support the belief,
therefore it is prescriptive. CEMs were confident about BS#13, it’s ok to guess the meaning of
an English word if you don’t know it, whereas Europeans were unsure.

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7.9.7 Additional research into the relationship between beliefs and language learning
strategies generally

Research by Yang (1999) explored the relationship between EFL learners’ beliefs and
learning strategy use. Yang specifically investigated the relationship between college EFL
students’ BALLL and LLS use in a Chinese Taiwan context, sampling 505 university
students. Using Horwitz’s BALLI and Oxford’s SILL, Yang collected data from 14 college
English classes in the first two months of a new semester, sampled from six public and
private universities (73% freshman (grade 1), 9% sophomores (grade 2), 11% juniors (grade 1
& 2),and 7% seniors (grade 3 and 4)). Yang’s research is discussed because it is similar with
the present research. However, there is some difference in the purpose and analysis of the
research data.

Factor analysis of the BALLI by Yang identified four factors that constitute learners’ beliefs
about language learning:

1) self-efficacy and expectations about learning English (0.71);


2) perceived value and nature of learning spoken English (0.63);
3) beliefs about foreign language aptitude (0.52); and,
4) beliefs about formal structural studies (0.55).

It should be pointed out that Yang (1999) used a modified version of the BALLI, shifting the
place of beliefs on the BALLI (evidenced by the number in brackets after the number of the
belief statement (BS#) in the left-hand column of each table — see Appendix 10, Tables 3 to
7) which required some initial deciphering before comparison could be undertaken.

Factor 1: Self-efficacy and expectations about learning English

While there are some similarities between CEMs and Yang’s sample, there are also some
differences (see Appendix 10, Table 3). The difference is in BS#4 and 13. While Yang’s
(1999) students were unsure about English being a matter of learning many new vocabulary
items, CEMs were confident that it was (see interview data, Appendix 11, Table 7). CEMs
were not asked about practising English with Americans, they were asked about practising

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with their classmates and others who speak English generally. While Yang’s students believed
they enjoyed speaking English with the Americans they meet, CEMs were not asked to
comment on a speaking with a specific English-speaking culture; they were asked ‘if I heard
someone speaking English, the language I am trying to learn, I would try to speak with them
in order to practise my English’, to which 71 per cent agreed that they would try. Applying
Rokeach’s (1968) tri-notion about the nature of beliefs, all except BS#4 are evaluative, BS#4
is descriptive.

Factor 2: Perceived value and nature of learning spoken English

In terms of perceived value and nature of learning English the two groups were similar (see
Appendix 10 Table 4). Except on BS#31 and 32, there were no differences in perceived value
and nature of English. Yang (1999) asked students if they wanted to speak English well, to
which there was a strong positive response, which is not surprising. CEMs were not asked
this. Yang also asked students if I would like to have American friends, to which there was a
strong positive response. Applying Rokeach’s notions, BS#31, 20, 12, 32, 7, 33 and 29 are
evaluative, while BS#18 and 9 are prescriptive.

Factor 3: Beliefs about foreign language aptitude

CEMs beliefs about foreign language aptitude were similar on agreement but different
percentage-wise compared to Yang (see Appendix 10, Table 5). The percentage difference
was on BS#2, 8 and 24. While Yang’s (1999) students seemed unsure whether people who
speak more than one language are very intelligent, CEMS were confident they were. They
are justifiably confident. While Yang’s students were unsure about women being better than
men at learning foreign languages, CEMs disagreed; and disagree, they should. One wonders
if Taiwan students’ belief is evaluative more than descriptive. Of the 505 participants in
Yang’s research, 311 were female. Females constituted 61 per cent of the response and thus
possibly may have been modest in their ability. Yang asked students if they would like to
learn so that they could get to know Americans better, to which students surprisingly
answered in the negative. CEMs were asked if they would like to speak English so they could
learn more about English people, a more general question, to which 49 per cent of students
agreed. CEMs’ response aligns with the value they place on learning culture and meeting
people from other countries would assist them in this aim. They also may have realised the

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need to be global citizens and more international.

Factor 4: Beliefs in formal structural studies

There were some differences in beliefs about formal structural studies (see Appendix 10,
Table 6). The differences were on BS#23 and 35 — the latter is because Yang asked a
different question. On BS#23, the most important part of learning a foreign language is
learning the grammar, Yang’s students disagreed, whereas CEMs agreed. This is an
interesting question and one that should be looked into further (see Appendix 11, Table 7).
Why Yang’s students disagreed that grammar was the most important is also interesting —
perhaps they experience a different type of ELT to mainland Chinese students (see research
on Chinese students’ experience of communicative language teaching in China (Hu, 2002;
Rao, 2001))? Just as interesting is CEMs agreement with the statement. It is possible that
because CEMs are taught English grammar and see the value of it as English teachers. On
#35, Yang asked students if language learning involves a lot of memorisation, to which they
responded that it did. This is an empirical statement, and the question affirms it. In the
interview (see Appendix 11, Table 3), students offered at least 14 aspects of memorisation
(suggesting its popularity with CEMs). On #34, Yang asked students if it is easier to read and
write English than to speak and understand it, to which students indicated that it was. This is
a complex and puzzling question, given that ‘understand’ English is premised on speaking
English rather than reading and writing it. It is surprising that 45 per cent of students
answered in the affirmative. In China, the emphasis seems to be on reading and writing rather
than speaking English. CEMs, however, agreed with it too. So they are saying that it is easier
to read and write and understand English, rather than speak/listen to it and understand it.

Yang’s ‘other’:

Yang (1999) created this ‘other’ list because these beliefs scored a loading below 0.30 (see
Appendix 10, Table 7). However, they are just as significant as the four beliefs. There was no
difference between Yang’s students and CEMs on these beliefs, in terms of strength of belief.
There were slight percentage differences on some of the beliefs, for example, 1, 3, 15 and 27,
while the others were fairly close. BS#1 is descriptive, BS#15 and 26 are prescriptive and
BS#3, 14 and 27 are evaluative.

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Yang’s (1999) research demonstrates that Taiwan students and CEMs are fairly similar for
general BALLL. In addition, while Yang’s research was similar to the present research, it is
conceptually different and conducted for different reasons — the present research was
conducted to observe the PVL.

Section summary

CEMs agreed with 18 out of 34 general BALLL, roughly 53 per cent. Twenty-seven beliefs
were concerned with what is involved in learning another language were offered in the
interview. They agreed with 33 out of 57 CCL beliefs, roughly 58 per cent. This result is
important on at least two levels: 1) CEMs possess BALLL that reflect EFL/ESL learners in
Western contexts of EFL learning and suggests CEMs beliefs are not exclusively those of the
CCL, that some cross-fertilisation has occurred, probably due to the opening up of China and
the influx of Western teachers (in person and online); and 2), agreeing with roughly 58 per
cent of CCL beliefs suggests CEMs still possess beliefs about language and language learning
from this cultural perspective.

7.10 Shi’s CCL BALLL

Shi (2006), as far as is known, was the first to construct a taxonomy of 18 general Chinese
BALLL (57 in all), and classified them the CCL beliefs. At the time of writing the thesis,
there appeared to be no research in China using Shi’s questionnaire. Shi classified 14
categories of CCL beliefs: 1) attitude to learning English; 2) learner aims for learning
English; 3) criteria for being a good teacher of English; 4) teacher-student relationship; 5)
perceptions of teachers’ attitudes towards students’ questions in the classroom; 6) favoured
teaching method (of teachers); 7) attitudes to the content of textbooks; 8) memorising
vocabulary; 9) practising reading skill; 10) practising speaking skill; 11) practising listening
skill; 12) practising writing skill; 13) barriers to learning English; and 14) what makes a good
learner?

The average mean for the CCLQ was 3.46, indicating medium strength in these beliefs (see
Chapter 5, section 5.7, Tables 5.22 to 5.26, and Appendix 5), following the measure: 1.00 to
2049 low, 2.50 to 3.49 medium, and 3.50 to 5.00 high. The Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA test (see

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Chapter 6, Table 6.10) found a statistically significant difference in mean scores.

7.10.1 Attitude to learning English (Question 1)

Shi (2006) found that there was a steady decrease in the strength of beliefs/attitudes toward
learning English or enjoying learning English, from 62 per cent in grade 6 to 26 per cent in
grade 10. However, 41 per cent of grade 1 CEMs indicated that they agreed with enjoy
learning English (see Chapter 5, section 5.7). The percentage increased from grade 1 to 59
per cent in grade 2, decreased to 42 per cent in grade 3, and then increased again in grade 4 to
67 per cent. Key to the graph below: the graph highlights the difference between CEMs and
Shi’s sample.

graph 1: I enjoy learning English


Percentage agreeing

80
60
40
20
0
CEMs Shi
Comparison

As was observed above, beliefs cannot always be taken at face value; if students really did
enjoy learning English, there should have been less fluctuation in their responses. Enjoyment
must be viewed as contingent upon other factors — for example, the fluctuating demands of
the learning context, task and personal ambitions. Roughly 50 per cent of CEMs indicated
they enjoy learning English, a little below Shi’s finding, probably because CEMs’ learning
load increases in university.

7.10.2 Learner’s aims for learning English (Questions 2a to 2e)

Key to the graphs below: the graph visually highlights the difference between CEMs and
Shi’s sample; the far left side shows the percentage of students agreeing with the belief in
terms of grade, for example, grade 1/6 — CEMs first then Shi’s sample; CEMs indicated in
the left column in blue and the Shi sample brown.

245
graph 2: I learn English to improve
myself/self-development

Percentage agreeing
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) found that her student sample indicated ‘self-improvement’ (Question 2a) as the
main aim for learning English, as did CEMs in the present study, with 66 per cent of CEMs
indicating they agreed with the idea. Students seem to be evaluating their lives with reference
to the foreign language they have been learning.

graph 3: I learn English to find a good job in


the future
Percentage agreeing

80
60
40
20
0
grade 1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

While Shi (2006) found some fluctuation between grades on agreeing that finding a good job
in the future (65% in grade 8 and 66% in grade 10) was important, there was little to no
fluctuation between grades, with roughly 63 per cent of CEMs indicating that they agreed
‘finding a good job in the future’ was a main reason for learning English — the highest
percentage of CEMs agreeing was grade 3 with 71 per cent. This belief was strong, because
these particular CEMs were being trained as English language teachers.

246
graph 4: I learn English for daily
communication

Percentage agreeing
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) found that her sample rated learning English for daily communication as the third
aim for learning English, and so did the present research, with 44 per cent of all CEMs
agreeing with the idea. In the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 7), 8 per cent of students said
‘learning to communicate’ was involved in learning another language.

graph 5: I learn English for the honour of


my family
Percentage agreeing

50
40
30
20
10
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

While Shi (2006) found that her sample rated learn English for the honour of my family as the
fourth aim (decreasing from 28% in grade 6 to 0% in grade 10), CEMs, however, were almost
divided in their agreement about this issue. These students want to be English teachers, or are
participating in teacher training, so their reason for learning English is different.

247
graph 6: I learn English to pass exams

Percentage agreeing
60

40

20

0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Roughly 40 per cent of Shi’s (2006) sample supported this idea, with an increase in grade 10.
CEMs where similar on learn to pass exams and was placed as the fourth aim (40% of all
CEMs). This reinforces the role of exams in the students’ learning.

However, the present research finding was similar with Shi’s (2006) finding that learn
English to pass exams belong in the realm of the CCL (one-third of Shi’s sample agreed with
it), with 40 per cent of CEMs agreeing (see Chart 11 below) (but not conclusive evidence that
it belongs to the CCL alone). On the other hand, while Shi found that 50 per cent of her
students agreed that a good teacher of English should help me pass exams, the present
research found that 46 per cent of CEMs neither disagreed or agreed with the idea, although
26 per cent of CEMs in the present research agreed. This supports other research which found
language learning to be predominantly exam oriented in China (e.g. Cortazzi & Jin, 1996;
Ma, 2009).

7.10.3 Criteria for being a good teacher of English (Questions 3a to 3g)

graph 7: A good teacher of English should


improve my English skills
Percentage agreeing

100
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) found the top three criteria for a good teacher of English were to be

248
knowledgeable, improving students’ language skills and using different activities or games
when teaching. In the present research CEMs placed improving my English skills at the top
(graph 7 above), with 58 per cent of students (on the questionnaire) strongly agreeing with it.
This belief would be prescriptive, meaning that students would want teachers to do this.
Twelve per cent of students in the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 6) said teachers should
help students pass exams.

graph 8: Good teachers should be


knowlegeable
Oercentage agreeing

80
60
40
20
0
grade 1/6 grade 2/7 grade 3/8 grade 4/10
Comparison

The other criteria in the ‘top three’ in the present research were knowledgeable (graph 8
above) and provide clear and comprehensible notes, with 53 per cent of CEMs agreeing with
each. Again, a prescriptive belief, it is a quality students want in a teacher. Thirty-two per
cent of students in the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 6) said English teachers should have
knowledge of English, and suggests its importance to students.

graph 9: A good teacher should provide


comprehesible notes
Percentage agreeing

80
60
40
20
0
grade 1/6 grade 2/7 grade 3/8 grade 4/10
Comparison

While 88 per cent of grade 10 students in Shi’s (2006) study (an increase from 54% in grade
6% to 88% in grade 10) indicated that they agree with provide clear and comprehensible
notes (graph 9 above), only 45 per cent of grade 1 CEMs in the present study agree with it —

249
fewer than the grade 6 students in Shi’s study. This is another prescriptive belief — students
want comprehensible notes to read after the class. In the interview (see Appendix 11, Table
6), 4 per cent of students said teachers should use ‘easy words’ when teaching.

graph 10: A good teacher should improve


students' language skills
Percentage agreeing

100
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

While 88 per cent of grade 10 students in Shi’s study (an increase from 54% in grade 6% to
88% in grade 10) indicated that they agreed with improving students’ language skills (graph
10 above), only 45 per cent of grade 1 CEMs agreed with it — fewer than the grade 6
students in Shi’s study. The percentage decreased from grade 1 (73%) to grade 2 (with 54%
agreeing), in grade 3 (with 46% agreeing), and in grade 4 (with 58% agreeing). This
prescriptive belief sees students wanting a teacher who can do this. A small percentage of
students in the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 6) said teachers should teach the four skills
(writing, reading, speaking, listening). This may suggest a strong belief in the teacher as
knowledge owner and knowledge giver, and is consistent with most beliefs.

graph 11: A good teacher should help


students' pass exams
Percentage agreeing

60

40

20

0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

While 54 per cent of grade 10 students in Shi’s (2006) study agreed with help me pass exams
(graph 11 above), only 22 per cent of grade 1 CEMs agreed. This is a prescriptive belief,

250
which contrasts with the results of #6 above, but it seems obvious that students would expect
a teacher to do this given the emphasis on completing exams to progress. In the interview
(see Appendix 11, Table 6), 12 per cent of students said teachers should help them pass tests.

Maybe the students realise their level of autonomy? Either CEMs felt confident enough not to
rely on their teacher’s help or it contradicts their top three choices, the first being improve my
English skills. Interestingly, only 26 per cent of the CEMs in the present research agreed with
help me pass exams — 46 per cent neither disagreed or agreed. Also, 40 per cent of CEMs
agreed that they learn English to pass exams. They are CEMs, they should not just pass
exams but be English teachers.

7.10.4 Teacher–student relationship (Questions 4a to 4b)

graph 12: The teacher-student


relationship should be friend-friend
Percentage agreeing

100
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) found that students preferred a friend–friend relationship (graph 12 above) rather
than a parent–child relationship, as did the present research, with 50 per cent of grade 1
CEMs agreeing/strongly agreeing that a friend–friend relationship would be better with their
teacher, but grade 4 lower than Shi’s grade 10 students. In the interview (see Chapter 5,
section 5.8, Table 5.27), 48 per cent of students said they would prefer the teacher-student
relationship to be a friend-friend relationship. While 4 per cent of students in the interview
(see Appendix 11, Table 6) said teachers should be a friend of students, and 8 per cent said
teachers should love students. This suggests they think this will improve their language
education experience, and it is influenced by Western style of teaching.

251
graph 13: The teacher-student relationship
should be parent-child

Percentage agreeing
50
40
30
20
10
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

However, when CEMs answered the very next question about preferring a parent–child
relationship (graph 13 above), approximately 25 per cent agreed, while 19 per cent neither
disagreed nor agreed, and 4 per cent strongly agreed. In the interview (see Chapter 5, section
5.8, Table 5.27), 40 per cent of students said the teacher-student relationship should be one of
‘respect’; this is taken to mean that students feel teachers deserve respect.

This result suggests either strong contradiction or some confusion — that they really weren’t
sure how they should answer the question. Shi (2006) found a steady increase in the
preference for a friend–friend relationship from grade 6 to grade 10, with 93 per cent of grade
10 students indicating that they preferred it. Approximately 70 per cent of grade 1 CEMs
indicated that they preferred this type of relationship, which supports Shi’s findings, but
approximately 37 per cent of grade 3 CEMs and 32 per cent of grade 4 CEMs indicated that
they preferred the parent–child relationship, while grade 1 and grade 2 CEMs agreed at a
lower percentage (12–18%).

This result tends to support the findings thus far, that some CEMs still hold certain beliefs of
the CCL, otherwise their preference for a friend-friend relationship would have been more
strongly indicated in the data. While there was no data to understand the preference for a
friend-friend relationship with their Chinese teachers, it is speculated to be as a result of
having been exposed to/having seen student-teacher relationships in Western contexts or their
experience of being taught by English teachers from English countries, and wishing for the
same. However, this wish to have such a relationship with their Chinese teachers does not
imply that it is necessarily good; there may be some underlying attribute attracting CEMs to
desire such a relationship given the strong parent-child relationships observed in middle
school and higher education. CEMs are university students, which makes them different from

252
Shi’s (2006) middle school students (for example, in terms of maturity).

7.10.5 Perceptions of teachers’ attitudes towards students’ questions in the classroom


(Questions 5a to 5b; 6a to 6c; 7 to 8)

Here, the present research findings were the opposite of Shi’s (2006), with 36 per cent of
grade 1 CEMs and 33 per cent of grade 4 CEMs indicating that they believe in the teacher
(graph 14 below), while 74 per cent of Shi’s grade 6 sample and 3 per cent of the grade 10
sample agreed.

graph 14: I love my teacher, but I love the


truth more
Percentage agreeing

100
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi’s (2006) result shows a steep descent in believe in the teacher, whereas the present
research found a steady increase, from 36 per cent in grade 1 to 58 per cent in grade 2,
followed by a steep descent to 33 per cent in grade 4. Why CEMs’ agreement steadily
increased is difficult to understand, because agreement with it then suddenly dipped in grade
4 to just below grade 1 levels.

In grade 6, 42 per cent of Shi’s (2006) sample agreed with believe in truth, rising to 98 per
cent in grade 10. However, while 45 per cent of grade 1 and 68 per cent of grade 2 CEMs
agreed with believe in truth, only 33 per cent of grade 4 CEMs agreed. Again, it is difficult to
understand the variations. Generally speaking, 45 per cent of CEMs agreed with believe in
the teacher but 39 per cent neither disagreed nor agreed; and 49 per cent agreed with believe
in truth but 18 per cent strongly agreed.

253
graph 15: If not agreeing with teacher's

Percentage agreeing
teaching, still follow teacher
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

The result in the present research in terms of students’ reactions to teachers’ attitudes was
similar to Shi’s (2006) finding. There was less support for still follow teacher’s idea (14%)
(graph 15 above), ask the teacher immediately (19%) and ask the teacher after class (70%).

The result in terms of students’ perceptions of teachers’ attitudes toward students’ questions
in the present research result was similar to Shi’s (2006) result. By grade 10, 96 per cent of
Shi’s students indicated that their teachers preferred them to ask questions after class, and 67
per cent indicated that the teacher preferred them to ask questions in class. In the present
research, 66 per cent of CEMs indicated that their teachers preferred them to ask questions in
class, and 51 per cent agreed that the teacher preferred them to ask questions after class.
However, unlike Shi’s students, while there was a steady increase in students agreeing from
grade 1 (64 per cent) to grade 2 (82 per cent), the percentage of CEMs agreeing declined to
50 per cent in grade 4, with a similar pattern for asking questions after class.

7.10.6 Favoured teaching method (Questions 9a to 9c)

graph 16: I prefer the teacher use different


Percentage agreeing

teaching activites
100
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Once again the pattern of agreement differed between the present research result and Shi’s
(2006). Using different activities (graph 16 above) was rated first by Shi’s students, with 98

254
per cent of grade 10 students agreeing with it. This was hinted at in the interview (see
Appendix 11, Table 6), where students said teachers should use multimedia, movies,
dialogues, songs and easy words as teaching tools.

Percentage agreeing
graph 17: I prefer the teacher to
encourage me to learn
75
60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Encourage me to learn (58 per cent) was similar to use different activities (51 per cent) in the
present research, and 24 per cent agreed with tell me everything I need to learn, which rated
second for Shi’s (2006) students, with encourage me to learn rated third (graph 17 above).
Some students in the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 6) said teachers should teach them
how to learn. This highlights the issue’s importance. Students in this study may have realised
the need for individual learning thus they didn’t expect everything from the teacher, like Shi’s
younger students.

7.10.7 Attitudes to the content of textbooks (Questions 10a to 10b)

graph 18: I think textbook content is not


totally correct
Percentage agreeing

80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) found a rough balance between total correctness (51%) and usefulness in real life
(56%) of textbook content in grade 6, but this was strongly opposed by grade 10 (with 81%
indicating textbook content not always right (graph 18 above) and 22% indicating textbook

255
content was useful in real life), while the present research found approximately 41 per cent of
grade 1 and 33 per cent of grade 4 CEMs did not agree that textbook content was totally
correct. This is in line with Chinese students being more mature and critical (with age). In the
interview (see Appendix 11, Table 2), students said teachers ‘understand textbooks’, which
suggests students prefer it when the teachers understand the material they are trying to teach
them.

graph 19: I think textbook knowledge is


Percentage agreeing

useful in real life


60
45
30
15
0
grade 1/6 grade 2/7 grade 3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Overall, approximately 61 per cent of CEMs agreed that textbook content was not always
right. However, they were divided in their attitude to textbook content is useful in real life
(graph 19 above), with 39 per cent agreeing, 25 per cent disagreeing and 26 per cent neither
disagreeing or agreeing. This result was similar to Shi’s (2006) grade 6 students. While Shi
concluded that her students developed a stronger ‘negative’ attitude toward textbook content
with age, such an attitude seems contradictory, given that students indicated on the one hand,
that they thought textbook content was totally incorrect but on the other hand, thought
textbook content was useful in real life.

7.10.8 Memorising vocabulary (Questions 12a to 12b)

graph 20: I memorise vocabulary using


Percentage agreeing

rehearsal strategies
75
60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

256
Shi (2006) found an interesting trend upward from grade 6 to grade 10 in the use of rehearsal
strategies and a trend downward in other mnemonic strategies to memorise vocabulary. A
similar trend appeared in the present research. Use of rehearsal strategies (graph 20 above)
increased from 59 per cent in grade 1 to 73 per cent in grade 2, but thereafter dropped to
grade 1 levels in grade 3 (58%) and remained there in grade 4 (58%). However, Shi’s finding
that the younger learners used more mnemonic strategies than rehearsal strategies was not
supported by the present study. While the patterning is similar, the ‘older’ CEMs continued
using other mnemonic strategies equally to match rehearsal strategy use in grade 3 (58% for
each), but then use of other mnemonic strategies dropped off. The present findings, in this
last aspect, also matches Gu’s and Johnson’s (1996) work.

7.10.9 Practising reading skill (Questions 13a to 13d)

graph 21: I practise reading with


Percentage agreeing

textbooks
90
75
60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Textbook material was also a source of reading practice for CEMs, as with Shi’s (2006)
students. CEMs chose textbook material (graph 21 above) as the main source of reading
material (70%), closely followed by other textbook material (68%), and newspapers (61%)
(see Chapter 5, section 5.3.1). Interestingly, the trend in Shi’s sample was gradually
downward from grade 6 (49%) to grade 10 (12%) for newspapers as a source of reading
material. CEMs used newspapers increasingly from grade 1 (45% per cent) to grade 3 (79%),
before use dropped to grade 2 levels (58% for grade 4). It is probably true to say, as Shi did,
that increasing pressure to satisfy exams played a role in extensive reading. A range of
reading issues to do with practising were offered in the interview (see Appendix 11, Table 6).
Perhaps CEMs realise the importance of reading in their learning.

257
7.10.10 Practising speaking skill (Questions 14a to 14d)

graph 22: I practise speaking by reading

Percentage agreeing
aloud and reciting texts
80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Practising speaking by reading aloud and reciting textbook material (graph 22 above) was
rated first by CEMs (61%) and Shi’s (2006) students. The pattern was similar for CEMs both
for talking with classmates or friends (54%) and talking with native English speakers (43%).
While the trend was much lower for Shi’s students (13% for grade 8 and 10% for grade 10),
32 per cent of CEMs in grade 1, 45 per cent in grade 2, 46 per cent in grade 3 and 50 per cent
in grade 4 indicated they practised speaking with native English speakers. Listening was
supported by interview students (20% listening to new words), and 16 per cent practised with
classmates (see Appendix 11, Table 3). University students may have more opportunities to
speak with native English speakers than senior middle school students.

7.10.11 Practising listening skill (Questions 15a to 15d)

graph 23: I practise listening by listening to


Percentage agreeing

textbook tapes
75
60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

While grade 2 CEMs rated practise listening by watching English movies/TV first, Shi’s
(2006) students rated listening to textbook tapes highest (graph 23 above). CEMs rated
listening to textbook tapes second and English language radio third (see interview data
Appendix 11, Table 6). While Shi’s data reveals a downward trend on all three practise

258
methods, from 65 per cent of grade 6 students to 45 per cent of grade 10 students, 64 per cent
of grade 1 CEMs chose textbook tapes to practise listening skill, equivalent to Shi’s grade 6
students. University students may have more opportunities to watch English movies/TV than
senior middle school students or watching English movies may have been a subject in their
course.

7.10.12 Practising writing skill (Questions 16a to 16d)

graph 24: I practise writing with a diary


Percentage agreeing

60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Both Shi’s (2006) students and the CEMs (69%) chose finishing the writing tasks set by the
teacher as the main way to practise writing. While Shi’s students had begun by writing in a
diary (45% in grade 6 and grade 7, before declining to 16% in grade 8 and 12% in grade 10),
few were writing in a diary by grade 10. In the current study, 56 per cent of CEMs were
writing in a diary: 59 per cent in grade 1, 64 per cent in grade 2, 58 per cent in grade 3 and 33
per cent in grade 4. CEMs began using a diary in grade 1 and maintained the strategy until
grade 3, when there was a sharp decline. CEMs may be encouraged to write in a diary as part
their study, but they dropped the activity in grade 4, perhaps when there was no more
pressure to practise writing. This is a descriptive belief — it describes the action taken to
practise writing in English.

259
7.10.13 Barriers to learning English (Questions 17a to 17d)

graph 25: I think the main barrier is I don't

Percentage agreeing
work hard enough
60
45
30
15
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

CEMs rated do not work hard enough as the main barrier to improving their English, which
differed from Shi’s (2006) finding which observed variability from grade to grade in rating
the main barriers. More CEMs rated do not work hard enough (55%) as a barrier, 43 per cent
rated do not have a good learning environment as the second barrier, and 21 per cent rated
learning materials out of date as the third barrier; 10 per cent of CEMs thought their teachers
did not teach well. Shi’s students thought they did not have a good learning environment
(89% of grade 10 students). In comparison, approximately 40 per cent of grade 1, grade 2 and
grade 3 CEMs, and 59 per cent of grade 4 CEMs thought they did not have a good learning
environment. Many grade 4 CEMs spend their fourth year searching for work, so the rating is
interesting.

7.10.14 What makes a good learner? (Questions 18a to 18e)

graph 26: A good learner of English


Percentage agreeing

should respect teachers


80
60
40
20
0
grade1/6 grade2/7 grade3/8 grade4/10
Comparison

Shi (2006) observed some variability in students’ opinions regarding what makes a good
learner. CEMs, however, were not as variable in their opinions. Grade 2 CEMs (82%) held
the strongest opinion on respect for teachers. Respect for teachers gradually declined by

260
grade 10 for Shi’s students (58%), while respect for teachers began at 64 per cent for grade 1
CEMs, peaking in grade 2 at 82 per cent, and then gradually declining to 50 per cent for
grade 4 CEMs. Respect for teachers was rated first overall (66%), working hard and having
own opinion were equally rated second (58%), Never give up was rated third (49%), and
practice English all the time was rated least important (44%). Shi concluded that students’
maturity increased their critical assessment of teachers, but that could not be substantiated in
the present research. Also, holding their own opinion about what makes a good learner was
variable for Shi’s students: 56 per cent for grade 6, 31 per cent for grade 7, 59 per cent for
grade 8 and 15 per cent for grade 10. CEMs rated having own opinion consistently: 50 per
cent in grade 1, 68 per cent in grade 2, 58 per cent in grade 3, 50 per cent in grade 4. Shi
concluded that, while holding own opinion was ‘the most controversial criteria’ (2006, p.
136), probably because Chinese are not really allowed to hold their own opinions on
education generally, and English language education specifically, there might well be
‘conflict between students’ ideas/feelings and the Chinese education system. This is a
reasonable conclusion but maturity did not seem to increase the possible conflict between
these issues for CEMs; they rated having own opinion quite strongly. Perhaps CEMs did not
think there was much of a conflict between their ideas/feelings and the Chinese education
system. Perhaps they tended to agree with it more as more mature students.

Compared to Shi’s (2006) finding, CEMs were similar roughly 58 per cent of the time. Some
important points were that they enjoy learning English, learn English to find a good job in the
future, learn English to pass exams, think teachers should improve English skills, think good
English teachers should be knowledgeable, prefer the teacher-student relationship to be a
friend-friend relationship, prefer the teacher to use different teaching activities, question the
accuracy of textbook content, practise reading skill by reading textbook material, and think
good learners respect teachers.

This comparison of Shi’s (2006) exploration of CCL beliefs and CEMs is that CEMs possess
CCL beliefs but their support for them is different from Shi’s. This suggests CEMs are
different from Shi’s sample, or that some other factor (e.g., maturity and experience) has
modified their stand on these beliefs — perhaps they were similar with Shi’s middle school
students before entering university. More research is needed on these issues to get a better
understanding of their effect on learning behaviour.

261
Section summary

While CEMs indicated that they hold beliefs (found in the questionnaires and interview data)
that could be classified as belonging to the CCL, they also indicated that they hold beliefs
that could be classified as belonging to a Westernised culture of learning. The mean range for
Horwitz’s BALLI was slightly lower than Shi’s CCL, and suggests CEMs’ beliefs belonging
to the CCL are stronger than their beliefs belonging to Western culture. Based on the data,
percentage-wise, CEMs were almost balanced in their BALLL. This result could be explained
in three ways:
1) increased openness by China to the West in the last 30 years has resulted in Chinese
students being exposed to Western ideas about language and language learning;
2) while CEMs may hold beliefs that might be classified as belonging to a Westernised
culture of learning, such beliefs had not strongly displaced the beliefs of the Chinese
culture of learning; and,
3) globalisation and the influence of the internet.
On the second point, it could be said that the Chinese want to maintain something distinct
about themselves and their way of life, which still has a strong impact on Chinese youth even
though they may be engaged in learning English.

7.11 Research question No 6:

Do BALLL and VLSs have an impact on EVS of CEMs?

From the statistical analysis in Chapter 6, section 6.2, Tables 6.2 to 6.5, we saw that VLSs did
have an impact on English vocabulary size, both high frequency words and Academic words,
in grades 3 and 4. In Tables 6.6 to 6.9, we saw that BALLL have an impact on high frequency
words. In Table 6.10, we saw how BALLL also have an impact on Academic vocabulary size.
And in the Boxplot analysis in section 6.5, we saw where the impact was in the three mean-
score ranges for Academic size vocabulary, the upper range (high to medium agreement) for
CCL beliefs and the lower range (medium to low agreement) for Western BALLL. This
confirms previous research on the importance of beliefs in language learning, and vocabulary
learning in this context. Teachers need to be made aware of such beliefs and their impact in
language learning.

262
Section 3: PVL

The aim of this section is to discuss the result with respect to the PVL. The process relies on
strategy clusters, discussed in 7.12.1. The notion of a process is discussed in 7.12.2, and the
data from the questionnaires and interview that supports a process is synthesised to provide
insights into the PVL. In 7.12.3, the importance of knowing the process and the strategy
cluster observation is recapped.

7.12.1 The PVL uses strategy clusters

The PVL does not really involve the use of a single vocabulary learning strategy at any given
moment, but involves the use of strategy clusters, some of which will be general LLSs or
general skills (e.g., making lists or making vocabulary flash cards), and others specific VLSs
(e.g., reciting new words many times or writing the new word many times). Take for instance
VLS 6b: write the new word several times (see Chapter 5, section 5.1, Table 5.7). At first
glance, it may be seen as a straightforward strategy, but on closer examination it is more
complex than it appears. Strategies are not simple one-off events in working memory (see
Macaro, 2006), they are often complex procedural knowledge. A brief digression into what is
involved in the use of a strategy ensues to clarify the point that strategy use is complex.

What is involved, for instance, in the strategy to write the new word several times? One needs
several skills and certain materials. First, take a pen and paper (large enough to write a new
word several times); second, take the pen in hand and write the new word. At this point, what
is the student doing; are they writing the new word from memory, or are they copying it? The
assumption is the latter — it is held in working memory — because the student hasn’t as yet
learned the new word as it isn’t in long-term memory to recall. Therefore, they will copy it
from wherever it was first discovered (having located it again); writing the new word several
times is, after all, a consolidation-memory strategy, not a discovery strategy. When the
student engages in initial copying, they are engaging several cognitive strategies — for
example, look at the word and keep it in working memory long enough to begin writing it;
working memory is essential to the success of the task. Immediately following this, the
student engages motor skills associated with writing and proceeds to sketch the first marks of
the new word (if they are using pen and paper technology, not typing it on a computer

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keyboard), the first part of the first letter. Then they sketch the remaining letters of the new
word. Size of sketched letters is arbitrary, depending on the student’s preference. However,
would copying the new word be a silent activity? Would the student also be ‘saying’ the
sounds of the letters, or the syllables of the word if not the whole word, as s/he copies it? (see
Chapter 5, section 5.1) What is suggested here is that the student would be sounding out
words as they are written. Of the eight strategies listed below, some of them are concerned
with pronunciation and spelling. After copying the new word, the student simply focuses on
the first copy made and re-copies it several more times using the same strategies and skills as
before.

Macaro (2001) talks of combinations of strategies in relation to reading but doesn’t make it
clear which strategies are being employed. He provides a short general list but the reader
must decipher them all from the evidence he provides. He is far more explicit, however, in his
2006 paper ‘Strategies for Language Learning and for Language Use: Revising the
Theoretical Framework’, in which he proposes a cognitive framework for learner strategies.
In this framework, Macaro highlights the location of LLSs — working memory. Working
memory is where they become functional. Without delving deeply into the design of his
framework, the focus here will be on his discussion of strategy clustering (Macaro, 2006, p.
326).

Macaro (2006, p. 327) discusses the location of learning strategies and describes their action
component, which “helps us understand what a strategy actually purports to do”. He
discusses how they promote learning, and how they must be combined with other strategies
to be effective. Macaro (2006, p. 327) provides an example of a strategy cluster and his
example illustrates how a learner looks up a new word in an L1-L2 dictionary (e.g., Chinese-
English dictionary) while engaged in writing. His non-exhaustive list of elements is:
remember prior problems with dictionary use; predict what problems I might encounter this
time; think about what part of speech I am looking for; compare all definitions given;
compare collocations in L2 and L1; evaluate predictions; remember to copy word correctly;
check that it makes sense in the sentence generated. He adds that this cluster may well be
combined with other clusters. What can be seen here is just how complex strategy use can be.
Macaro uses very general examples which must be unpacked further. For example, predict
what problems I might encounter this time, if used in relation to using a Chinese-English
dictionary, what should be known is what is involved in making such predictions. Depending

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on the strategy cluster used, and depending on which other strategy cluster is drawn into the
process, the outcome of strategy use will be affected.

In order for strategy use to be successful, however, it must occur in the presence of other
strategies, not in isolation. The CEMs in the present research have shown that their strategy
use is not done in isolation, but is combined. They have demonstrated a particular process of
vocabulary learning by regularly reusing a core set of VLSs.

7.12.2 The PVL involves strategies and beliefs

As stated above, the process of learning is a complex process that uses many cognitive
resources, not least of all a cognitive ‘tool’ to ‘acquire’ both skills and knowledge (Phye &
Andre, 1986) (see Chapter 5, section 5.5). Phye and Andre’s (1986) cognitive resources are
also employed with general LLSs and specific VLSs gained/developed in the process of
learning the first or other foreign language or skill/knowledge. In the process of learning
English vocabulary, CEMs employ specific VLSs (e.g. Schmitt, 1997) to learn the English
vocabulary — probably those used to learn their native language and modified to learn
English vocabulary. Illeris (2007, p. 3) defined learning as any cognitive process that “leads
to permanent capacity change” not due to other factors, like maturity and aging. One of the
processes that can lead to ‘permanent capacity change’ is the use of a VLS, or a bunch of
them used consecutively to learn a new vocabulary item — for example, a strategy that
allows the learner to focus on the meaning (e.g., look up a dictionary), or the word’s
morphology (e.g., root words, suffixation) or its pronunciation (e.g., phonetics). The use of
questionnaires and interviews allowed the collection of data on CEMs VLS use, not just at
one time but in each year of a four-year Bachelor degree. Such strategy use information was
viewed as the best way to gain insight into the process of English vocabulary learning by
CEMs, even though indirect. The finding was interesting.

Beginning with strategy use, CEMs regularly use a small range of VLSs to learn English
vocabulary. ‘Regularly’ here means the strategies were often used in each grade. According to
the data (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Tables 5.15 and 5.16), CEMs regularly reuse at least
eight VLSs, restated here:

1a: in textbooks and classroom learning activities (discovery-place strategy);

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1e: when reading English materials (discovery-place strategy);
4a: its pronunciation (determination-study strategy);
4b: the spelling (determination-study strategy);
4d: the Chinese translation (determination-study strategy);
6b: write the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy);
6c: look at the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy); and,
8c: remember the new word by its meaning (when read again) (consolidation-review
strategy].

This short list, which highlights what appears at first sight a disparate group of strategies, can
be argued to reflect a pattern of learning that is common among CEMs. When one reflects on
the learning context in China, or at least, higher education from which CEMs were sampled,
one may see its validity. This list, arguably, represents a core set of commonly used strategies,
regularly used to learn English vocabulary. These strategies also represent the PVL. The
process tends to be: first, students discover new vocabulary in textbooks and other classroom
activities (implied in the learning activities) — the main one being to learn the content of a
textbook — and, second, when they read English materials. They consolidate their learning of
new vocabulary by looking at the word several times, focus on its pronunciation, the Chinese
translation (of its meaning), write the word several times and remember the new word by its
meaning (when read again). (This activity is supported by the interview data — see Chapter
5, sections 5.31 and 5.3.5) This is a core activity, and is sometimes complemented by the use
of other strategies, which will be discussed later.

Looking at the other major factor involved in the PVL, BALLL, general and specific, further
insights can be gained.

According to Richardson (1996), a belief is a psychologically held understanding, premise or


proposition about the world that is felt to be true. Beliefs are often viewed as the relation
between two categories which do not define each other (Open University, 1975) — for
example, language and how to learn it. They are mental representations (Mohamed, 2006),
and refer to specific aspects of reality (Pitt, 2008) — for example, the objects of learning and
the actions taken to learn them. And according to Rokeach (1968), beliefs are categorised
according to their internal structure, whether they are descriptive, evaluative or prescriptive
— descriptive describes action taken, prescriptive prescribes action to be taken and

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evaluative evaluates outcomes of action and states, the former outcomes on experience.

The importance of studying beliefs is due to their influence on behaviour. Horwitz (1987)
listed some of the following general beliefs: some languages are easier to learn than others;
the English I am trying to learn is X difficulty; I believe I will ultimately speak English very
well; it’s easier to read and write English than it is to speak it/listen to it and understand it;
and, it is easier to speak English than it is to understand it. The complete list of Horwitz’s
BALLI can be found in Appendix 9. These beliefs, in particular, were supported by CEMs
and incidentally in terms of the difficulty of language Horwitz’s sample supported them too,
(see section 7.9.3 above). Finding statistically significant correlations between general beliefs
and VLS use, 0.298 at p < 00.1 and CCL beliefs and VLS use, 0.420 at p < 0.01, provides
support for the claim that they work together (see Gu & Johnson, 1996). Horwitz (1988)
found that learners behave in accordance with their beliefs. So, one should find that learners’
behaviour is fairly consistent with their beliefs, whether general or specific beliefs (e.g. Shi,
2006).

Take the belief that some languages are easier to learn than others, an evaluative belief,
which 54 per cent of CEMs agreed with, as did Horwitz’s (1987) sample. If a learner believes
this strongly enough then that’s going to be ‘true’ of a particular language they are learning
and be reflected in their learning behaviour, or their experience of learning it at least. CEMs
suggested that the English they are learning is medium difficulty (see Chapter 5, section
5.6.2.5). This belief was ranked No. 8 by percentage of students supporting it out of 34
ranked general beliefs. Given that the VLSs this belief impacted cannot actually be seen, a
guess can be made by looking at which VLSs are frequently used in learning English
vocabulary and which were not (see Appendix 9, Table 2). Referring back to the regularly
reused VLSs listed above (see Chapter 5, section 5.4.1, Table 5.15), it can be seen how
learning any language might become difficult, if these were the only strategies used. Of
course, if one only focused on that list, one would not get a clear idea of which strategies are
involved in learning vocabulary. In fact, it is not just a single strategy alone that results in
learning, but a combination of strategies.

Though a combination of strategies is used, their use is supported by a belief or set of beliefs
that they are at least useful (e.g. Schmitt, 1997), or they have proven useful in the past or are
promoted by a teacher — research into teachers’ beliefs would complement this idea. Asking

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students where they got their VLSs, students indicated that they often got them from a teacher
(see Chapter 5, section 5.5.2, Table 5.18). However, the problem of taking beliefs at face
value immediately becomes apparent when you see the belief, it’s better to learn English in
an English-speaking country like the United States, is strongly supported by students, and
ranked No. 1 by percentage of students agreeing with it (see Appendix 9, Table 2). One has to
wonder why and how students developed such a strong belief since few, if any, of the
students sampled have ever been to an English-speaking country. So their support for such a
belief is not based primarily on experience. One should then categorise such a belief as
prescriptive rather than evaluative — for instance, if you want to learn English well, learn it
in an English-speaking country.

The beliefs that underlie or drive the vocabulary learning process CEMs use are reflected in
the list of eight regularly used VLSs listed above. The first two VLSs are discovery-place
strategies: 1) English vocabulary is found in textbooks and classroom activities, and 2) when
reading English materials. The suggestion that English vocabulary is rarely found anywhere
outside these contexts is indicated in the lack of use of other VLSs. To begin with, they
expect to find English vocabulary in textbooks (and classroom activities), rarely in the
mouths of teachers or others, generally. It is certain that CEMs know English can be heard
from peoples’ lips, but the point concerns their context of learning. Perhaps that is implied in
classroom activities, but certainty is elusive — students would need to be asked if this is what
they think is meant by classroom activities. The implied idea that English vocabulary is
usually found in books and rarely elsewhere is supported by the second discovery-place
strategy, when reading English materials. The idea is also supported in the discovery-place
strategy, when singing English songs and watching English movies/TV, but with far less
support (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.3, Q1:1f). The strongest support for this
strategy was roughly 50 per cent of grade 3 students. Further, the frequency of use of the
discovery-place strategy, during English conversations with others (see Chapter 5, section
5.1.2.3, Table 5.3, Q1:1d), lends strong support to the argument, with the implication that
CEMs (with only 42% of grade 3 students often using it) indicating that they rarely engage in
English conversation, either with a teacher or a classmate. Beliefs drive strategy use.

In terms of consolidating vocabulary learning, six strategies suggest which beliefs drive
CEMs strategy use: 1) its pronunciation (determination-study strategy); 2) the spelling
(determination-study strategy); 3) the Chinese translation (determination-study strategy); 4)

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write the word several times (consolidation-memory strategy); 5) look at the word several
times (consolidation-memory strategy); and, 6) remember the new word by its meaning
(when read again) (consolidation-remember strategy). The VLS, its pronunciation, suggests
that CEMs at least had pronunciation classes; however, little use of the spoken mode suggests
they did not expect it was going to happen in their context of FLL. The lack of use of the
strategy during English conversations with others (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.3,
Q1:1d), try using the new word in speaking and writing (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table
5.11, Q9:9a), and try to have conversations using the new words, with people who speak
English, for example, teachers, classmates (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.11,
Q9:9d), all provide some support for the argument, despite roughly 50 per cent of grade 2 and
4 indicating that English vocabulary is to be found, or at least expected to be found, not in the
mouths of teachers and others, but in textbooks in the context of learning. CEMs seemed to
spend most of their time looking at words and less time listening to words is also support for
the argument. This suggests that the focus is on reading and writing English rather than
speaking it.

The focus on pronunciation may well be a phonics one. That is, it may be for the purposes of
strengthening students’ understanding of the one-to-one syllabic correspondence between
written English and spoken English, because that syllabic relationship does not exist in
Chinese. It may not have been so much the purposes of speaking English as it was for reading
and writing it. Support for the argument comes from the support for the VLS for focusing on
the spelling (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.5, Q4:4b). Additional support for the
argument comes from the response to the VLSs, write the words several times (see Chapter 5,
section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.7, Q6:6b), and remember the new word by its meaning (when read
again) (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.10, Q8:8c). CEMs seem not to support the idea
they would speak English or develop fluency in it in their context of learning, a FLL context,
and indicated that with this core approach to learning English vocabulary. Again, this
suggests more focus on reading and writing than speaking.

Chinese learners rely on a Chinese translation which should not surprise us. They are learning
English in a FLL context, not an English-speaking country, with few opportunities to use it
outside the classroom. They have already learnt a first language, Mandarin or Cantonese,
which they rely on heavily for communication and learning. If Chinese students are taught
Grammar Translation (and they are), then support for translation is going to be strong. Jiang’s

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(2000) description of the formal stage of the development of a lexical entry or how words can
be entered into a person’s mental lexicon will be examined here. Ma’s (2009, p. 57) summary
of this is also revealing:

In the initial stage of learning an L2 word, the learner’s main task is to connect the L2
word form with an existing meaning in the mind, [whose] form [is/must be] an L1
translation or [an L1] definition.

To clarify this further, word form equals Nation’s (2001) item knowledge (see Chapter 2,
section 2.1.3). The learning process, though discussed in relation to receptive learning, is
‘associative learning’ (Malim, 1994) — for instance, learning which happens when an
association or a connection is made, usually between two things (Richards et al., 2002; Jiang,
2000; Schmitt, 2000; Nation, 2000; Oxford & Nyikos, 1989). Recent developments view this
process as ‘connectionism’, meaning: 1) information processing takes place through the
interconnections of a large number of simple units, organised into networks and operating in
parallel; 2) learning takes place through the strengthening and weakening of the
interconnections in a particular network in response to examples encountered in the input;
and 3) the result of learning is often a network of simple units that acts as though it ‘knows’
abstract rules, although the rules themselves exist only in the form of association strengths
distributed across the entire network (Richards et al., 2002; Ellis, 2001; MacWhinney, 2001;
Greg, 2001; Hulstijn, 2001; Harrington, 2001).

Jiang’s (2000, p. 51) summary of ‘connectionism’ is also revealing:

As one’s experience in L2 increases, stronger associations are developed between L2


words and their L1 translations … What these strong associations mean, among other
things, is the simultaneous activation of L2 word forms and the lemma information
(semantic and syntactic specifications) of L1 counterparts in L2 word use … Such
simultaneous activation of L2 word form and language lemma information may result in
a strong and direct bond between L2 word and the lemma of its L1 translation.

Jiang’s (2000) account of the initial stage of the development of a lexical entry precisely
illustrates what happens when L2, or English vocabulary in this case, is learned in the initial
stage of learning an L2 or an English vocabulary item. The heavy reliance on translation

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supports the argument. Student support for the strategy remember the new word by its
meaning (when read again) (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Table 5.10, Q8:8c) achieved the
No. 1 position, with 63 per cent of students supporting it (see Appendix 8, Table 7). Perhaps
this is due to the fact that learning does not mean only learning vocabulary.

Focusing on some specific beliefs, the CCL beliefs (about language and language learning),
there is further support for the arguments made thus far. The argument that CEMs tend not to
expect to discover English vocabulary anywhere other than in textbooks and classroom
activities in their context of learning is found in CCL BS#38 (14b): talking to my classmates
or friends in English (see Chapter 5, section 5.7, Table 5.25, practising speaking skills),
which roughly 54 per cent of students agreed with it but did not seem to behave according to
the belief — perhaps limited opportunity?; BS#6/2e: for daily communication, which many
students agreed with, yet they indicated that they tended to rarely engage in English
conversations with either teachers or classmates (see Chapter 5, section 5.1.2.3, Tables 5.3 to
5.11, 1d; 9a; 9d). This raises a question about who they were communicating in English with
daily if they tended not to do so with teachers and classmates. The conclusion is to view this
belief, on the evidence, as prescriptive rather than evaluative — for instance, learn English to
communicate with English speakers. Further support for this conclusion is drawn from
BS#39: talking with native English speakers, which most students agreed with as a way to
practise speaking English. This strategy should be viewed as prescriptive rather than
evaluative (Rokeach, 1986) — for instance, to practise speaking English, speak with native
English speakers (as opposed to speaking with other students). This suggests again that the
focus is on reading and writing, not on speaking English.

7.12.3 The importance of the findings

The findings have shown that there is a process to vocabulary gain. The process supports
what Schmitt (1997) claimed about VLSs in his taxonomy which classifies VLSs as
discovery strategies and consolidation strategies. Discovery strategies include determination
and social strategies, and consolidation strategies include cognitive, metacognitive, social and
memory strategies.

The PVL used by CEMs involves the first set of discovery strategies, discovery and
determination strategies. Discovery strategies concern the initial encounter with a new word;

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the place the new word is discovered, for example, a book, a list of words, a conversation.
Determination strategies concern the response to the new word and what to do with it.
Determination strategies play two roles: 1) the initial response to the new word (e.g., ignore
it, find its meaning), and 2) what to do to study it (e.g., study its spelling, study its
pronunciation, study the English explanations).

This narrow set of discovery and determination strategies was used by CEMs. There are eight
vocabulary strategies in total (not including strategies used to complement this set of
strategies). The first is the discovery strategy in textbooks and classroom activities; the
second is the discovery strategy when reading English materials; the third is the
determination strategy study its pronunciation; the fourth is the determination strategy study
its spelling; the fifth is the determination strategy study its Chinese translation; the sixth is
the memory strategy write the word several times; the seventh is the cognitive strategy look at
the word several times; and the eighth is the metacognitive strategy remember the new word
by its meaning (when read again).

While the PVL CEMs use when learning English vocabulary is observed in the data, the data
suggests the process contains some weaknesses. The weakness in the process suggests CEMs
may not achieve the kinds of learning outcomes they may desire; especially if they are to
teach English as a foreign language in their home country or if they have plans to study in an
institute of higher education outside their home country. The process suggests 1) that it is an
exam oriented approach to learning English vocabulary, and 2) that it is a process that is
culturally preferred (revealed in the process) when approaching learning English. Vocabulary
learning seems to be approached in a specific way and students are not offered instruction on
how to learn, practice new vocabulary which is an important building block in language
learning. Such an approach will not cater for individual differences in learning. The data
suggests CEMs use individually different approaches to learning. The exam oriented
approach in a formal learning context is constrained by time and the effect on learning
language deeply in an EFL context is undesirable, limiting students’ opportunities to
consolidate learning. This suggests the syllabus/curriculum approach to learning is not
learner-centred and requires revision and evaluation.

The PVL used by CEMs suggests a group similarity when approaching learning English
vocabulary, though they all employ their own strategies in vocabulary learning. The

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curriculum and syllabus does not cater for individual learning styles and follows traditional
modes of learning. This creates an unnecessary restraint on CEMs when approaching learning
English vocabulary, and combined with the exam oriented approach will have an undesirable
effect. This culturally preferred way of approaching learning another language means CEMs
experience a weakened capacity to achieve learning outcomes they might otherwise imagine
will be the case.

This study highlights the importance of evaluating and further enhancing the teaching
methods and curriculum employed in English language teaching in that institution. The
curriculum can be improved in at least two ways. Firstly, it can be improved by incorporating
a communicative approach to learning. A communicative approach can provide ample
opportunities for consolidation of learning, facilitates interaction and promotes learner
autonomy. This will overcome the limitations of the exam based approach to learning and
grammar translation approach which focus simply on learning of grammar. Secondly, the
PVL can be improved by incorporating strategy training within the syllabus and
acknowledging it within the curriculum. Providing explicit strategy training has proven to
have a beneficial effect on learners’ confidence and learning outcomes. It was clear in the
interview data that CEMs desired strategy training as part of their language education. The
questionnaire data supported this preference for strategy training by showing that strategy use
was far from optimal.

Section summary

The questionnaires and interview provided data to observe the PVL used by CEMs. The
evidence for their particular process was found in the exploration of CEMs VLS use and
beliefs, general and specific. CEMs using the same small cluster of VLSs (8) in each grade
provides strong evidence of this. Why the eight VLSs is not clear in the data — it is
speculated that it is due to the learning tasks CEMs engage in, which are viewed as often
exam oriented. The process begins with discovering new vocabulary, determining what to do
with it, and then consolidating learning by focusing on particular aspects of the new
vocabulary using memory, review and production strategies. The process is complex, uses
strategy clusters and occurs in working memory. What happens in working memory is not a
one-off event but a series of events relying on procedural knowledge to be successful.

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Chapter summary

VLS use was generally variable in each grade, though the same eight strategies were used in
each grade. This clustering of strategies in each grade was viewed as a core set of strategies
used by CEMs, and arguably the PVL CEMs tend to use when learning English vocabulary.
Using Schmitt’s (1997) VLS taxonomy as a general reference to discuss strategies and use, it
was seen that two discovery-place strategies, three determination-study strategies, two
consolidation-memory strategies, and one consolidation-review strategy made up the core set
of strategies regularly used in each grade. Some of the literature (e.g. Macaro, 2006; Griffiths,
2013) discusses strategy clustering and provides a way to begin understanding the nature and
goal of strategies. Macaro (2006) provides a cognitive domain within which to place them:
working memory. However, it is argued here that strategies must have their roots in long-term
memory given the components of strategies (e.g., look up a dictionary is premised on
knowing what a dictionary is and what is involved in the action of looking up), and can be
classified procedural knowledge, because they are action oriented.

The two beliefs questionnaires provided data to show that CEMs hold BALLL. By using the
descriptive statistic of percentages, it was seen that the strength of students’ agreement or not
with a particular BALLL differed. Three general patterns emerged from the data:
agree/strongly agree; disagree/strongly disagree; and, neither disagree or agree. Students
indicated they generally agreed or strongly agreed with 18 general ‘Western’ BALLL out of
34, approximately 53 per cent of BALLL. The reason they hold beliefs that are generally
classified as Western BALLL could be due to China’s recent attempt to integrate into the
global village. With respect to CCL BALLL, 33 beliefs statement were agreed with or
strongly agreed with out of 57, approximately 58 per cent of CCL beliefs.

The statistical analysis showed how BALLL and VLS use are strongly related and had an
impact on English vocabulary size, for high frequency words and Academic size vocabulary.

The result showed several things: 1) that CEMs do use VLSs, and 2) individual CEMs are
different in the strategy use, but not as a group. As a group, they are similar. The result also
showed that CEMs use a cluster of strategies in each grade of a four-year Bachelor degree.
This evidence was used to infer that it is a core set of strategies, and that it suggests it is the
PVL for these CEMs, at least. The data also showed that CEMs are variable in their VLS use.

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Variable use here means that CEMs used a strategy in one grade but may not use it in another
and the percentage of students using the strategy fluctuated with each grade.

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CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSION

8.0 Introduction

This chapter concludes the research project with a general summary followed by a summary
of the major findings (8.1), highlighting significant aspects and generalisations, then
implications and contribution (8.2), limitations (8.3) and concluding remarks (8.4).

8.1 Summary of the project and its aims

The main aim of this research was to explore the process of English vocabulary learning by
CEMs and to better understand the process. The process involves two important factors:
VLSs and BALLL. Specifically the project explored the relationship between VLS use and
BALLL, general BALLL and specific CCL, and their influence on EVS. A secondary aim
was to know where CEMs obtain the VLSs they use, including the place, in the wider context
of a university, where they often ‘do’ vocabulary learning.

The project used a mixed methods approach to explore the PVL. Eighty CEMs from four
different grades were surveyed on strategy use and BALLL. The project also surveyed CEMs’
EVS through four tests. A further 25 students were interviewed to explain strategy use and
beliefs, and to validate questionnaire results. Data collection was sequential: quantitative then
qualitative. The data were analysed by descriptive and non-parametric statistics. The
descriptive statistics helped observe patterns in the data and frequency of use. The non-
parametric statistics helped observe differences in mean scores and strength of relationships.
The interview data was themed to allow organisation around categories and formal
classifications. Questionnaires and interview results were combined and compared.

The results demonstrated which VLSs were used, and the frequency of use cross-sectionally
(across four grades of a Bachelor degree) and as a whole. The results showed a strong
correlation between VLS use and beliefs. The project showed EVS, in a general sense, and
the differences in EVS in each grade. However, there was no significant correlation found
between VLS use and VST/Academic mean scores in grades 1 and 2, but there was between
VLS use and VST/Academic mean scores in grade 3 and 4.

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8.2 Major findings

The Process of Vocabulary Learning

Gu and Johnson (1996) suggest strategy use and beliefs are the whole process of FLL, and
Schmitt (1997) hints at it in his vocabulary learning taxonomy. The key result of the research
was that the PVL could be observed in VLS use and beliefs. The process could be strongly
inferred from the use of a core set of VLSs (Griffith, 2013) which were repeatedly used in
each grade of a four-year Bachelor degree and students’ BALLL, with the two working
together (see Chapter 5). Other strategies were used to complement the core set of strategies
engaged in learning activities and tasks.

The PVL was inferred from the key finding of the ‘clustering’ of VLS use in each grade (e.g.
Flavell et al., 1993; Mohamed, 2006). CEMs had used a particular set of eight VLSs in each
grade, supplemented by a certain number of other VLSs in each grade (see Chapter 5, Table
5.16). The idea of strategy ‘clustering’ also extended to beliefs (e.g. Horwitz, 1985).
However, there was no evidence in the data to suggest ‘clustering’ of beliefs in each grade.
The data showed that CEMs mostly agreed/strongly agreed with 18 of Horwitz’s (1985) 34
Western beliefs (53%), and 33 of Shi’s (2006) 57 beliefs of the CCL (58%) (see Chapter 5,
sections 5.6.1 and 5.7).

Vocabulary Learning Strategy use

The data strongly suggested that CEMs use VLSs but that their use of VLSs is variable at the
individual level. CEMs regularly used, across the four grades, eight of the 62 VLS asked
about:

1) discover new words in textbooks and classroom learning activities;


2) discover new words when reading English materials;
3) when studying new words, study its pronunciation;
4) when studying new words, study the spelling;
5) when studying new words, study the Chinese translation;
6) when memorising new words, write it several times;

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7) when memorising new words, look at it several times; and
8) remember memorised words by its meaning (when read again).

The result can be attributed to the nature of learning tasks and activities at the research site.
The students’ preference for strategies on translation, spelling, pronunciation can also be
explained by the teaching methodology which might have been traditional, as explained in
the introduction.

Across the four grades, 29 VLSs were used variably, and 36 were used ‘rarely’ or ‘never’,
and 5 were ‘never/rarely used’:

1) when I meet a new word I pay no attention to it, and never go back to it;
2) I order new words by making vocabulary cards;
3) I review new words by reading the new words the first day, but not after that;
4) I review new words by testing new words with classmates; and
5) I use new words by trying to e-chat in English using QQ, MSN Messenger (see Chapter
7, Table 7.2).

The possible reason for number 1 is due to students being proactive when learning
vocabulary. The reason for numbers 2 to 4 is probably due to students not viewing these
strategies as useful or as inconvenient. CEMs probably have fewer opportunities to use
strategy number 5. The VLS use fluctuated in each grade, both in the number of students
using a VLS and the frequency with which the VLS was used — for example, grade 1 used
39 per cent, grade 2 used 31 per cent, grade 3 used 32 per cent, and grade used 45 per cent of
the 62 VLSs asked about. For the whole group, it was an average of 37 per cent of VLSs
asked about. The results confirm that EFL learners use VLSs to learn English vocabulary and
must be recognised as important in EFL teaching. Further research is needed to understand
why such a low percentage of VLSs were used.

CEMs use VLSs to learn English vocabulary and this supports other research (e.g. Gan et al.,
2004; Gu & Johnson, 1997; Oxford, 1990; Schmitt, 1990; see Chapter 2, section 2.4.1). There
were strong statistically significant differences (SSD) within grades for VLS use, and a
significant finding was the variability in VLS use at the individual level; another was the
‘clustering’ of VLS use in each grade. The significant difference within a grade is due to

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students using individual approaches to learning. The strategy clustering is due to CEMs
using culturally significant approaches to learning English vocabulary.

CEMs achieved a certain EVS which could not be convincingly correlated with VLS use (see
Chapter 6). The literature has consistently claimed they are strongly related but research is
light on showing a statistical relationship (see Griffiths, 2013). Few VLS subgroups (e.g.,
determination-place strategies, determination-study strategies and consolidation-production
strategies) actually correlated with VST/Academic mean scores (see Chapter 6). The
subgroups which did correlate were determination-study and consolidation-memory strategies
in grade 3, and determination-study, consolidation-memory and consolidation-remember
strategies in grade 4. More research is needed to understand the precise relationship between
strategy subgroups and vocabulary learning outcomes. The CEMs indicated a low end of
medium level of VLS use – they indicated they had ‘often’ and ‘always’ used roughly 37 per
cent of the 62 VLSs asked about; they indicated they had ‘sometimes’, ‘never’ or ‘rarely’
used the remaining 64 per cent of the 62 VLSs. Moreover, there were few instances in the
data that indicated they had used the strategies more regularly than ‘sometimes’. Therefore,
their self-reported VLS frequency of use indicated a low end of medium VLS use as
individuals, modifying their strategy use in each grade in response to specific learning tasks.
CEMs strongly indicated that they preferred strategy training. Given their EFL context, this
may be useful.

Chinese English Majors and the beliefs about language and language learning

With regards to beliefs, the sampled CEMs used VLSs, and possessed general BALLL fairly
consistent with Horwitz’s (1988) classification of Western beliefs and specific beliefs
classified by Shi (2006) as the CCL beliefs.

With regard to BALLL, the surprising finding was that CEMs’ general BALLL was almost as
strong as their CCL (see Chapter 5, section 5.6.1 & 5.7). The assumption was that CEMs’
CCL beliefs would be much stronger than their general BALLL, given that the researcher had
observed reasonably strong CCL beliefs being employed by students when teaching many of
the CEMs who participated in the research. The data did not, however, strongly support that
observation. The difference in the number of BALLL and CCL questions, for instance, may
be a factor: 34 for the BALLLQ and 57 for the CCLQ. Fifty-eight per cent of CCL beliefs

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were agreed with compared with 53 per cent for the general BALLL. The result for BALLL
BS#4 (the English I am trying to learn is a particular level of ‘difficulty’) was surprising,
with 61 per cent of CEMs giving the same response of ‘medium difficulty’ compared with
Horwitz’s (1987) European learners of English. The fact that the result suggests Chinese
students beliefs are partially Westernised beliefs would account for this result.

While CEMs may belong to a collective, in the Chinese sense, and live in a cultural setting
that emphasises a particular culture of learning (Cortazzi & Jin, 1996; Shi, 2006), the data
confirmed that CEMs are individuals in both their beliefs and learning behaviour (see
Chapter 7). They were very similar as a group in their beliefs and learning behaviour, which
affirms their ‘collectivist’ outlook. CEMs’ individual beliefs and learning behaviour were not
altogether unusual, and affirmed that all humans are distinct at the individual level (Dörnyei,
2009). The strong group characteristic, however, can be viewed as reinforcing a preferred
cultural learning style; they were all similar in their choices as a group (see Chapter 5). For
example, unquestionably two of the most important beliefs to entertain as EFL learners are
learning English is mostly a matter of learning many new words and learning English is
mostly a matter of learning its grammar rules; CEMs rated them respectively No. 22 and 23
and, incidentally, the two weakest beliefs (36% and 34% agreed). These weakest beliefs
broke the pattern of all students in all grades holding a belief at similar strengths and at
similar frequencies.

The CCLQ was useful in affirming CEMs’ CCL beliefs (Shi, 2006). For example, CEMs
‘strongly agreed’ (58%) with the belief that a good teacher of English should improve my
English skills (for example, reading, writing), which affirms the idea that Chinese students
tend to be passive learners in the classroom (Gu, 1997; Gu & Johnson, 1996). The second
choice was ask the teacher after class, which also affirms the idea that Chinese students in
China tend not to interrupt the teacher during class. However, there was evidence to support
the conclusion that these CEMs, at least, had been influenced by Western BALLL, enough to
alter their perception of BALLL if not their behaviour. For instance, the beliefs my English
teacher likes me asking questions in the classroom and in my opinion, a good learner of
English should respect teachers were rated equally (66%), showing an increased flexibility
perhaps of some Chinese teachers but still tempered by Chinese beliefs. The top 20 beliefs
indicate a tendency to follow CCL beliefs and the occasional Westernized belief but, even so,
the general BALLL should have resulted, if the rhetoric is to be believed, in a greater

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knowledge of English vocabulary than was observed.

English Vocabulary Size

A surprising result was observed in the CEMs’ EVS (see Appendix 6). While CEMs’
vocabulary size was as low as expected overall, the word in each size that was known most
by all students was surprising. For instance, for all students in all grades, the word most
known at the 1000 size was ‘poor’; at the 2000 word size it was ‘upset’; at the 3000 word
size it was ‘soldier’; and at the Academic size, it was ‘method’. There was not enough data to
explain why such variability existed in their receptive vocabulary knowledge (Nation, 2001).
In addition, there was an increase in vocabulary knowledge from grade 1 to grade 4 in the
Academic size test, the opposite of the 1000 to 3000 word tests. This was an unexpected
finding, and again there was not enough data to explain why their Academic vocabulary
should be increasing in each grade while their general vocabulary should be decreasing.
CEMs focus on Academic vocabulary in higher education and are trained to be English
teachers, perhaps this contributed to the result.

The EVS of CEMs in the present research was average, and variable. The average EVS was
observed in their results on Nation’s VST (see Appendix 6). Students were asked to complete
the first three of Nation’s size tests — 1000, 2000, 3000 — and the Academic size. The
expectation was that CEMs would know all the words at the 1000 size. The bilingual version
was used to make it easier to process. However, the results showed that CEMs did not fully
know all the words at the 1000 size (see Appendix 6). The same pattern was observed in all
three vocabulary sizes and the Academic size. The trend observed in CEMs’ vocabulary size
was that word knowledge declined from the 1000 size to the 3000 size; however, an
interesting observation at the Academic size was that more students knew most of the words
at each size, even though word knowledge declined in the first three sizes. So, even though
fewer students in grade 1 knew most of the words at the Academic size, more students tended
to know most of the Academic words by grade 4, which was the opposite for the VST from
1000 to 3000.

Schmitt (2010, pp. 28–40) listed at least five indicators that EFL learners were consistently
learning vocabulary. The first suggested was ‘signs of a large vocabulary’ required to
negotiate conversational English (e.g., Australian), which was roughly 2000 to 3000 word

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families. The present research did not show that CEMs possessed a large range of vocabulary,
particularly at the 2000 to 3000 word family range (see Appendix 6). The second indicator
suggested was ‘signs of a variety of word knowledge’ needed to negotiate not only spoken
discourse but certain kinds of texts. The research did not affirm that CEMs possessed a wide
variety of word knowledge because it did not really explore the extent of CEMs’ word
knowledge; all that was done was observe whether CEMs knew a word and its general
meaning at a particular size — receptive vocabulary knowledge. The third indicator
suggested was ‘signs of incremental learning’ gained through a large range of exposure (e.g.,
number of times a learner is exposed to a single item, type of exposure, level of engagement
and congruity between L2 and L1 form) (Schmitt, 2010). The present research did not
explore this issue, but assumes that a certain number of exposures must have transpired,
given the average 9 to 12 years of English language education. Some researchers (e.g. Ming
Wei, 2007) have argued that China is an ‘input-poor environment’, which may account for
the perceived lack of repeated exposure suggested in CEMs’ low EVS. The fourth indicator
suggested was ‘signs of consolidation’, observed in how vocabulary is revised, expanding
revision, and signs of connectionism. Connectionism means here that students showed signs
of a developing English lexicology. Revision was not observed to be a strong point among
CEMs (see Chapter 5, Table 5.1, Table 5.2 and section 5.1.2.2, Table 5.9). There was no
indication of expanded revision, though there were signs of connectionism. The fifth
indicator suggested was a ‘sign of enhancement of partial word knowledge’ gained over time
to become fully mastered. The research did not explore this issue in depth, but there were
signs that partial knowledge was not really being enhanced over time. There were signs that
learning was only geared toward achieving immediate academic goals but not moving beyond
this point. This is not viewed as controversial, given the learning context. CEMs must
negotiate a great deal within the learning context to achieve what they do. However, this
result also may have teaching implications and there may be recommendations to improve
learning in the context.

8.3 Theoretical and practical implications and contribution

The discussion now turns to the implications of the research for its contribution to theory and
practice, which could be applicable not simply for English vocabulary learning but to EFL
learners in similar contexts.

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Theory
The research contributes to the development of vocabulary learning theory in several ways.
Initially, it extends previous research. It not only confirms some of the previous research
regarding VLS use (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996) and BALLL (e.g. Horwitz, 1987; Shi, 2006),
but demonstrates that frequency of use can reveal deeper aspects of the issue, when explored
cross-sectionally, and even pseudo-longitudinally, which is only hinted at in previous
research (e.g. Gu & Johnson, 1996), and that VLSs and BALLL strongly correlate. The
research extends the range of VLSs through interviews not found in previous research (e.g.
Schmitt, 1997), highlighting more complexity in vocabulary learning. It also reveals some
details of the PVL, albeit in a FLL context, not examined before.

One group of VLSs not found in previous research concerns practice strategies. Previous
research highlights consolidation-review and consolidation-remember strategies (e.g.
Schmitt, 1997). Practice strategies can be viewed as a necessary aspect of FLL, particularly in
contexts with fewer opportunities to consolidate learning. They are similar to consolidation-
review strategies, in that vocabulary is reviewed by how it has been organised or reviewed for
memorisation, but the aim of practice strategies can be quite different. They can be viewed as
a way to automatise vocabulary knowledge and contribute to language development.

A range of discovery-place and determination initial response strategies was shown.


Discovery-place strategies have been portrayed as strategic action. Their goal is not the same
as other action-oriented strategies, which they can be if the learner is determined to find new
vocabulary in a specific place (e.g., a newspaper), rather than stumble upon it in due course.
An interesting set of discovery-place strategies was those for finding new vocabulary in the
public sphere (outside the classroom) — for example, on trains, in. Determination-response
strategies, on the other hand, concern either an initial response to finding a new word or
determining what to do with it. An initial response for some students, according to the
questionnaire/interview data, was to do nothing. Some interesting determination initial
response strategies from the interview were: look up pc/phone dictionary; note its history;
separate short from long words; learn how to read it. Only 8 per cent of interview participants
said they ignore a new word. An important question to ask is does ignoring a new word help
the student to learn it? The logical answer is ‘no’.

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Finding strong correlation between VLSs and BALLL contributes to theory concerning the
important aspects of vocabulary learning. Gu & Johnson (1996) list three general BALLL,
arguing they are strategies. But beliefs are not strategies, though action oriented, they are
statements about the relations between two things that do not define each other (e.g.
Richardson, 1996). A strategy is procedural knowledge, concerned with what is to be done,
whereas beliefs are concerned with relations between, in this case, language, the thing to be
learned, and how to learn it. Language is not defined by how it is to be learned. Strategies and
beliefs strongly correlating is convincing support for the argument that the two interact and
work together in the vocabulary learning endeavour.

Two categories of beliefs were offered in the interview and concerned what makes a good
teacher of English and what is involved in learning another language. The importance of
beliefs concerning what makes a good teacher of English is in their ability to affect teaching
pedagogy. A very wide range of beliefs came out of the interview which were not based on
either Horwitz’s (1985) BALLI or Shi’s (2006) CCL beliefs. There were two interesting
categories, one concerned personality traits generally and the other specific traits — the
former concerning the teacher as a person, the latter concerning the person as a teacher. Some
specific attributes emerged too: teacher qualities, teaching tools and syllabus subjects. The
first contained preferred teacher qualities, such as should have knowledge of English, should
have good teaching skill and knows grammar. Under teaching tools came skills, such as
ability to use multimedia, movies and easy words. Some interesting topics emerged under
syllabus subjects: teaches culture, teaches students how to learn, teaches useful skills, teaches
real-life English, teaches socio-pragmatics and teaches for communication. This suggests
CEMs desire less traditional types of teacher and prefer communicative activities and
learning of the culture.

Showing that there is PVL in the relationship between strategy use and beliefs develops the
field beyond simply highlighting which strategies students use and which beliefs they
possess. These are a functional basis for vocabulary learning. Students either deliberately go
in search of new words or they stumble upon them in the course of formal study. Students
then decide what to do with them; either find their meaning of ignore them. They then go
further, studying specific aspects of the new vocabulary. These actions, up till this point,
might be viewed as a kind of surface learning (e.g. Biggs, 1996; Ramsden, 1992; Prosser &
Trigwell, 1999), whereas using consolidation-organisation strategies, consolidation-

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memorisation strategies, consolidation-review strategies and consolidation-remember
strategies might be viewed as a kind of deep learning.

Practical implications
The practical implications of this research are for students, teachers, curriculum design and
researchers. Based on the data, the main issues are 1) the practical implications for CEMs, 2)
opportunities to consolidate learning, 3) the impact of increased opportunities to consolidate
learning and the English curriculum of Chinese universities. A fourth concerns problems
researching VLSs.

1) Practical implications for Chinese English Majors

There are practical implications for CEMs when learning English vocabulary in their host
cultural context. Firstly, they may be constrained in their learning, and not satisfactorily
achieve their personal learning goals – other than pass English exams, if they manage it on
the first attempt. Secondly, while they may satisfy a culturally preferred way of learning they
may fail to achieve the level of proficiency expected for negotiating higher education in a
non-Chinese institute in an English speaking country, if that is their aim. Thirdly, if they fail
to achieve the expected proficiency level (they are personally aiming for) they will be
required to undertake additional English language education until they reach a level of
proficiency sufficient for self-regulating learning in the new cultural context. Chinese English
majors in this context need to focus on developing a variety of strategies for autonomous
learning. In this way, they can regulate and achieve their learning goals and needs.

2) Opportunities to consolidate learning

The research findings suggest there was a weighted imposition on CEMs to engage in
learning activities rather than engage in consolidation of learning activities (indirectly
English language teaching), which is not easy when there is pressure to conform to a
culturally preferred way of thinking about language and language learning (e.g. Gao, 2006;
Horwitz, 1999; Phuong-Mai et al., 2005; Yang, 1999). The pressure to conform would,
therefore, maintain the pattern of outcomes of learning observed of CEMs in the present
research. A change could not be expected in English vocabulary learning outcomes, for
CEMs specifically, if the preferred ways of thinking and behaving are expected to be

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maintained in the foreseeable future (e.g. Elbaum et al., 1993; Gao, 2006).

Teaching must meet the needs of diverse learners though they belong to a collectivist culture,
and not expect learners to use the same approaches to learning just because the teacher uses
an approach to teaching that views all learners as homogenous – e.g. Chinese. Expecting
learners to conform to a teaching pedagogy that does not try to meet the needs of learners
who use individually different approaches to learning will not achieve its educational goals
equitably for all. The evidence gathered in this research shows that while students are
expected to learn from the same textbooks, the same vocabulary lists, the same approach to
learning, in the same amount of time, under the same generalised teaching pedagogy, the
learning outcome was not the same for all students. The learning outcome was variable for
each student and less than desirable for many. In order for students to achieve their individual
educational goals, teachers should attempt to expose students to a variety of learning
strategies, vocabulary consolidation and discovery strategies which will enhance their learner
autonomy. Another suggestion would be to supplement teaching materials with authentic
resources, gleaned from the internet or radio to offer students realistic learning opportunities.
Teachers could also attempt to develop activities for a variety of learning styles and
personalities to address students learning needs. Cohen (2010) provides a useful step by step
process for assisting teachers in integrating strategy training:
1. Determine learners’ needs and the resources available for training.
2. Select the strategies to be taught.
3. Consider the benefits of integrated strategy training.
4. Consider motivational issues.
5. Prepare the materials and activities.
6. Conduct explicit strategy training.
7. Evaluate and revise the strategy training.
This will empower students with problem solving skills and enable them to self evaluate their
performance.

3) Impact on syllabuses and curriculums: finding the right balance

In order to increase CEMs’ opportunities to consolidate learning, syllabuses and curriculums


would need to be redesigned to accommodate increased opportunities (e.g. Gao, 2006;
Schmitt, 2008), by including strategy training (e.g. Griffiths, 2013). Interview participants
showed interest in strategy training and given the benefit of strategy training, it would be best
that Chinese teachers and institutional administrators undertake such changes. CEMs’

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educational experience seems to be overly managed and much of their out-of-class time is
consumed by extracurricular activities organised by either their teachers or the institute’s
administrators who have nothing to do with FLL. Whether adjustments will include strategy
training, for instance, requires further research. But the research result showed students’