An Investigation into Mainland Chinese Students' Experience of a Cross-Cutural E-mail Exchange Project
Date: 30 April 2009
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
EdD in Teaching English as a Foreign Language
The effectiveness of e-mail writing has been exhaustively studied and reported on, especially in Taiwan. However, there has not been any research carried out on the topics that mainland Chinese university students enjoy writing about when corresponding with their Western epals, nor does the literature report research on writing e-mails ...
The effectiveness of e-mail writing has been exhaustively studied and reported on, especially in Taiwan. However, there has not been any research carried out on the topics that mainland Chinese university students enjoy writing about when corresponding with their Western epals, nor does the literature report research on writing e-mails to two groups of epals simultaneously. This study explores what issues concerned the participants when they exchanged e-mails with their Western epals and how they viewed their cross-cultural learning experience. The participants were 28 mainland Chinese second-year English majors who voluntarily corresponded with 28 American high school pupils and 28 Western adult epals for about two months in Autumn 2006. The data of this exploratory interpretative research was mainly collected from their e-mails, ‘final reports’, the mid-project questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The study found that the topics the participants enjoyed writing about actually depended on with whom they were corresponding. With the younger school pupils, they tended to look for friendship by talking about pastimes, their own high school experience, etc. To the more sophisticated adult epals though, they wrote largely about personal matters, on which they seemed to be covertly seeking advice. However, some topics were common to both groups and were equally popular – for example, school and daily life. The data also reveals that the majority of the participants enjoyed the experience and overall had positive views about it. These fall into three broad categories of learning: language, cultural, and communication. However, some experienced minor difficulties and problems in these areas, particularly regarding the communication aspect. Meanwhile, in the process of the participants multiediting their ‘final reports’, learning seems to have occurred between their first and final drafts – perhaps as a result of responding to the researcher’s written feedback, which seemed to make a significant difference. The implications arising from the study suggest that the students’ interest in it stimulated their engagement with learning - though the findings are tentative. Some recommendations for further research are also given.
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