Academic cultural expectations and second language use : Chinese postgraduate students in the U.K. : a cultural synergy model
With a rising percentage of overseas students in British universities, it is important to ascertain the nature of any cultural gap in academic expectations between students and tutors. This research investigates the academic cultural orientations of the case of Chinese students and British supervisors through the analysis of 211 samples of questionnaire and interview data. The focus is on examining the influence of the socio-psychological and academic cultural background of Chinese students - as advanced second language learners/users - on their use of English for academic studies in UK universities. This background includes the major features of Confucianism, Taoism and modem Chinese intellectual development. In the context of a review of second language acquisition models, a Cultural Synergy Model for second language acquisition and academic language use is proposed which extends considerably Schumann's Acculturation Model. The findings suggest that the bigger the gap between orientations and expectations of British and Chinese academic cultures, the more difficulties Chinese students have in the use of academic English. This gap is examined in detail under the headings of social, psychological and academic distances. This model is built up inductively from the data and is considered a heuristic model to guide further research on other cultural groups of students. Practical implications and suggestions are discussed in the conclusion.