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Title: The social construction of ideas about English : case studies in a southwest Chinese town
Author: He, Jin
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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The aim of this study is to gain a grounded understanding of the complex mechanisms whereby economic, political and social constraints filter through to Chinese people’s conceptualisations of the values of learning English in China; and to provide an insight into the ways in which individuals orient themselves to the learning and use of English in China, given such conceptualisations. My research approach is an integration of Bourdieu’s theory from a network and historical perspective through ethnographic investigation. The macro-dimension analysis is an attempt to provide insights into the collective habitus of Chinese people towards learning and using English, and provides the macro-contextual background of the three cases studied. It documents the transformative change in the conceptualisation of English in China from distancing it as a barbarian language towards embracing it as a second language which can provide them with educational, cultural and symbolic capital. The intermediate-dimension analysis investigates beliefs about English held by the group of people to which the three focal girls belong. Four myths about English were identified which derive from the historical image of English established by successive governments as a practical tool/skill and as superiority, reinforced in contemporary China through the selectivity of the education system as distinction and upward mobility, and thus attracting individuals to the learning of English. The four myths about English represent the shared habitus of middle-class people in the south-west Chinese city under investigation, which carries over to the three focal girls and influences their orientations to English learning. The thesis concludes with further reflections on how changes in educational policies and practices have constructed English as it is in China today, and what consequences there might be.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available