Languages are learnt by speaking. For a learner to be eloquent in speaking a language, they ought to hear it being spoken as they speak it themselves. It is not possible for them to learn the language in silence. Languages are learnt in stages starting with gross grammatical mistakes that someone improves with practice. It saddens teachers of language when their students are not able to speak back even after a duration of learning. Silence has been observed in classes of language as the students fear making mistakes when they try the new language. This is common at early stages. Chinese students have shown a different trend. The main idea it brings out is that too much control of the classroom environment by the teacher hinders students' participation.
Xie, in the article Why are students quiet establishes a number of facts from her observation of the Chinese language student. She notes clearly that the students regardless of their level whether in University or lower level tend to be passive in classroom. They never volunteer to give an answer to a teacher's question or ask their own questions to clarify. In any way they may not be willing to answer question and if they do they give short answers or rather closed replies. There is the tendency of answering the teacher per what they have been taught without going further to express their understanding or feelings.
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Explanations to such behavior are several. Culture that dictates how the Chinese up brings their children outlays codes of good living that are detrimental to western education practice. The major is being modest and humble. It is unethical to speak when in doubt. It is even worse to be laughed at for giving a wrong answer. For one to have a good and respectable name they ought to avoid such embarrassing situations. The idea of communism and related concepts that advocate for group rather than individual benefits also affects learning in China. When a student has an individual question they may shy away from asking as it benefits only. This is a misguided concept. It hinders the learning of English language.
Chinese major religions have values of quietness, silence; giving others chance to speak on your behalf or rather first chances in a speech forum belong to someone else. This affects the participation negatively. Students wait for their friends to speak before them where it appears that everyone is waiting for the other to open the floor which never happens. Teachers are superior. They deserve to speak without interruptions and the students to listen. It is wrong in this culture to dare an elder. This is also another factor opposing smooth learning. English is a language that ought to be spoken for learning to be complete. Remaining passive makes it hard for this students to learn the language. Learning has no fool; information is passed through interrogations amidst mistakes.
Xie further explains that most students are never sure of themselves. They lack the confidence where a number shy away owing to lack of eloquence. A good number may not speak English clearly and hence they may fear being laughed at. The rules of Chinese informal education still affect this formal environment. In the former, students are supposed to be good listeners and answer questions when called upon where they answer the question as per the exact teachings of instructor.
In a study, she observes that teachers have a significant control of the classroom environment. Looking at two teachers tutoring at an institution of higher learning, Xie observes that it is the student who fits into teacher's strict program that is less flexible. There is an idea that teachers offered fewer opportunities in classroom possibly due to disappointment or just ignorance coupled with status quo.
In her conclusion, Xie recommends that teachers should change their approach. They should allow for more contribution on students' part where they should give even chances for students to come up with their own examples in classroom environment. The need for the teacher to let go of strict curricula procedure and let students find ways of advancing into the language that fits them. She poses the question on how far and varied should the teacher allow for this interaction in bid to expand participation. She points the need for further research.
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The article sheds some light on why few numbers of Chinese people have been able to learn the English language. In a way, it reflects the current learning environment in China as pertains language vis-à-vis the cultural beliefs and religious ways. Instructorship of many western subjects and courses is done in English. When learning of this language is poor the same happens to the other fields instructed through the language. When students keep silent in an English class, they may be dormant in the other fields that are instructed in English. It becomes challenging that students absorb concepts of other fields taught in English where they cannot even understand the language itself. This is sad scenario that this writer tries to capture. One may as well use it to point the high illiteracy levels in China as much as western education is concerned.
In explaining culture the writer fails to capture some crucial information. Nakanishi notes that more than 50% of teachers who teach languages in China are foreigners (2011). This would make things clear and understandable. A teacher who has grown in this culture may understand it better than expatriate. There is a big gap between the teacher and the student in a scene where the teacher is not a citizen of China. Such instructors may not be aware of Confucius practices and beliefs. Communism is a way of life in this country contrary to most western nations where the English language is spoken much. Xie, speaks well of this beliefs and how they hinder the learning process. Having not captured the character of the instructor leaves her readers unaware that this can be a bit bearable to a teacher born in this culture. This does not imply that the home teachers do not have these problems but they can understand and find amicable solutions than the foreign instructor.
Wang (2011) laments of students in this environment failing to speak as wait for their fellows to respond first. The Chinese informal education is characterized as a passive learner behavior where they may not speak unless called upon to. The article discusses of participation, which should be encouraged in the classroom environment. It is agreeable that when she talks of learning being encouraged in cultural friendly environment. But it is still evident that students may shy from speaking when called upon even in friendly environment. The teacher is still an elder who they may listen to passively. There may be a scenario where a friendly teacher asking a question may just be met by a smile or just a closed answer. There is still fear on the part of student. This issue needs to be addressed right from the roots. The society needs to aware of such a barrier. Families ought to instruct their own on the need not to be shy when in a formal learning environment.
Values advocated by the society need to be re-addressed where school should organize for seminars and workshops for parents and stakeholders to evaluate these values in relation to learning. Bonding sessions should be organized to reduce the gap between the teacher and student. As Xie points out, new ways of learning away from the rigid curricula should be adopted. Having drama, poem recitations, and songs can encourage participation too. Parents should encourage their own to learn to speak in a classroom environment.
Xie advises on the need for freedom on the student's part where the teacher should be flexible in letting the students choose their examples or subjects of discussion. She also captures that a number of teachers are limited in perspective, which is debatable. The teacher may be ready for the students' examples but they may be unwilling to speak as Cortazzi as Jin (1996) observes.
In all this efforts, Xie does not capture the student reason of being silent. I believe they may not remain silent even to him. Well, Nakanishi (2011) explores motivation on the part of the learner. Most of the Chinese students view language acquisition as means to an end. They never learn the language because they are interested. This proves to be a challenge to the teacher. Most of them learn the language to get better jobs as Wang (2011) observes. It is also clear that several of them study the language just because the parents ordered and they have to obey. Most of them may not take pride in learning English. This is not captured in the article. This may be another cause of students' silence.
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One clear way that Xie encourages is the need for exchange programs to open interactive sessions between the tutor and the learner. I find it important as an avenue that the teacher can learn the culture of the Chinese. The teacher should strive to be an insider or rather part of this society. Students would be happy to teach their foreign language instructor their language too. Teachers should try to make friendship based on this learning exchange. In support of the same, group discussions should be encouraged while ensuring that the size of the class is manageable. With a small number, the teacher would be able to make friends with the students and it will be possible to learn the language easily.
The Chinese society appraises such ways as the best for learning. Xie, does not consider in examining why students are silent. Than just having a change in Curricula as she proposes, this ways should be considered or addressed to know whether they are the best. It is notable that they hinder learning as the students just get to retain the pronunciation but not the meaning or how the word is used. Tutors should consider such skills in their teaching. If they can be applied, students will embrace them. It is a good skill in drama and poems recitations. Rigidity, well noted in the article on the teachers' part can now be minimized.
In conclusion, one can say that students remain silent due to lack of a relationship with the teacher. The teacher does not take time to learn the student or offer motivation. Language teachers should strive to build relationships with their students. Xie's article captured some of the reasons why students are silent.