Communication between Chinese students and German university teachers in academic settings
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Free keywords (English):
intercultural communication , teacher-student communication , communication concerns , Chinese students , German teachers
GCSC - International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture
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Abstract in English:
With the increase in educational exchanges and cooperation between China and Germany, the growing number of Chinese students in Germany has given rise to considerable research addressing their various needs, which is becoming a prominent interest among scholars in Germany, as well as in China. Although there has been much research on Chinese overseas students in the field of intercultural adjustment and integration, it rarely specifically concentrates on the communication of Chinese students with their German teachers at German universities.
Against this background, this study employed a mixed research method in form of questionnaires and interviews, aiming at investigating the communication between Chinese students and German teachers in academic settings, namely, in class and in one-to-one conversations. Three research groups, Chinese students in Germany, Chinese students in China, and German teachers in Germany, participated in the practical research investigation. Inspired by the Communication Concerns Model developed by Staton-Spicer and Bassett (1979) and the subsequent adoptions, the current study explored the perceived intercultural communication concerns from the perspectives of both Chinese students and German teachers. All the quantitative data obtained in the questionnaires were classified based on a two-fold classification system, which consists of three categories of concerns: concerns about self as a communicator, concerns about the task of communicating, and concerns about the impact of one’s communication on others; and four types of communication barriers: barriers caused by language ability, academic knowledge, personal emotion, and perception. The achieved qualitative data in this study were applied to clarify and explain the communication anxieties identified in the questionnaires.
The results indicated that the major concerns in the communication between Chinese students and German teachers were caused by Chinese students’ face-saving, reserved behaviors resulted from their respect for teachers, the doctrine of moderation, and their insufficient language proficiency.
Focusing on Chinese students and German teachers in Germany, the results showed that German teachers often wished that Chinese students could participate in class actively with sufficient background knowledge. However, the reality was that Chinese students normally behaved passively and submissively in communication. The most of Chinese students concerned about the impact of their communicative approaches on German teachers and whether their own behaviors were appropriate to the German academic settings. Based on the statements of Chinese students, their concerns mainly came from the different teaching and learning approaches between German and Chinese universities. This resulted in that some behaviors, which were regarded as correct for Chinese students, turned out to be incorrect in German academic context. Additionally, the high academic pressure of Chinese students resulted from the Chinese education system, society, and families, also contributed to the submissive behavior of Chinese students, which finally resulted in the concerns of both students and teachers in communication.
Results of the comparison of the concerns reported by Chinese students in Germany and in China showed that Chinese students in Germany expressed a generally higher level of concerns than students in China did. The changes of their concerns mainly embodied in the concerns related to the language and cultural background. Chinese students in Germany worried more about their language ability, while students in China expressed the opposite opinion. Both students in Germany and in China stated more culture-based concerns than personal capacity-related concerns. The findings also displayed that the change of cultural environment changed the major types of concerns of Chinese students in Germany and led to the growing degree of their concerns.
Moreover, the results reported that the personal-based factors of Chinese students and German teachers involved in this study had an impact on their communication to a greater or lesser extent. Briefly to say, it appears that the more frequent and longer contact with the German culture Chinese students have, the fewer concerns they have in communication. Likewise, some knowledge of the Chinese culture can also help German teachers to improve the quality of communication with Chinese students. Additionally, this study discovered that female Chinese students expressed more communication concerns than male peers did. German teachers were not affected by their gender in communication with Chinese students. Moreover, Chinese students and German teachers working in the fields of sciences (natural sciences, agriculture, medicine and engineering) experienced fewer concerns in communication than those working in the areas of non-sciences (humanities and social sciences).
On the basis of the communication concerns discovered in this study, some suggestions and countermeasures were put forward for prospective Chinese students and German teachers in order to reduce their communication concerns and improve the quality of their communication with each other.
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