Mass Media and Chinese ESL Students Abroad

Adopting Host Communication and Culture

by Jun Qian (Author)
©2019 Monographs XVIII, 242 Pages


Mass Media and Chinese ESL Students Abroad: Adopting Host Communication and Culture investigates Chinese ESL students’ use of host mass media and how such use enables them to acquire host communication competence and acculturation from their perspective. This qualitative study is grounded in Kim’s theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation and the uses and gratifications theory and employs a phenomenography approach. Nine participants at a university in Ontario were involved in this study. Data obtained from media use logs, think-aloud protocols, and follow-up interviews provide a far-reaching and detailed description of the uses, reasoning, and effects of using host mass media for the participants.
This book illustrates that these students used a variety of media as sources of information, language acquisition, culture learning, entertainment, and communication. Findings suggest that host mass media were the major influence on these students’ acquisition of host communication competence and perceptions of and acculturation to Canada. Their reliance on mass communication went into the later years of their acculturation process and complemented their language and culture learning, which was somewhat limited through insufficient or reluctant participation in host interpersonal communication. Host communication competence was a primary factor that influenced their selection and use of host mass media, but it was not the only decisive factor relevant to their degree of acculturation. Individual characteristics and the social and cultural environment in Canada were also found to have significant impact on their acculturation process and outcomes. These findings can assist colleges and universities in designing effective programs based on these students’ needs and characteristics, thus enabling them to achieve their academic and professional goals.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • The Story of a Roommate (or Me? or Us?)
  • Rationale and Research Questions
  • Book Overview
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Literature Review
  • Acculturation
  • Two Theories in Mass Communication
  • Cultivation Theory
  • Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • The Impact of Traditional Host Mass Media Use on Acculturation
  • The Impact of Internet Use on Acculturation
  • The Impact of Ethnic Mass Media Use on Acculturation
  • Chapter Summary
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Theoretical Framework
  • Key Concepts
  • Acculturation
  • Communication Competence
  • Cognitive Components
  • Mass Media
  • Some Theories Relevant to Intercultural Communication and Adaptation
  • Kim’s Theory of Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation
  • Kim’s Process Model
  • Kim’s Structural Model
  • Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • Chapter Summary
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Methods
  • A Phenomenographic Study
  • Participants
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Chapter Summary
  • References
  • Chapter 5. Use of Media
  • Amount of Media Use
  • Internet
  • Flyers
  • TV
  • Movies
  • Newspapers
  • Radio
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Factors Affecting Media Choice
  • Language Capability as a Factor in Choosing Different Mass Media
  • Language and Culture Difficulty
  • Chapter Summary
  • Chapter 6. Media as Sources of Information
  • Canada
  • China and Canada Relationship
  • International News
  • University News
  • Local News
  • Media Perspectives and Media Biases
  • Travel Information
  • Other Information/Knowledge of Interest
  • Chapter Summary
  • Chapter 7. Language Acquisition and Culture Learning
  • Language Acquisition Through Media
  • Culture Learning
  • Is There a Canadian Culture?
  • Cultural Distance Between China and Canada
  • Educating Children in Canada
  • Sex/Relationships/Social Roles of Men and Women
  • Family Values
  • Social Customs
  • Religious Belief
  • Chapter Summary
  • Chapter 8. Factors Affecting Communication Competence and Acculturation
  • Learning Through Communication
  • Host Interpersonal Communication
  • Mass Communication
  • Learning Through Observation
  • Acculturation Context
  • Multilingual/Multicultural Policy and Facts
  • Racial Discrimination
  • Adaptation Pressure
  • Acculturation Attitude
  • Intercultural Identity
  • Chapter Summary
  • Chapter 9. Discussion
  • Media Use
  • Media Use Patterns
  • General Mass Communication Needs
  • Uses and Gratifications
  • Acquisition of Communication Competence
  • Information/Knowledge
  • Language Acquisition
  • Culture Learning. Is There a Canadian Culture?
  • Cultural Distance Between China and Canada
  • Education Concerns
  • Food
  • Religious Belief
  • Multicultural Environment
  • Multiculturalism and Racial Discrimination
  • Adaptation Pressure
  • Acculturation Attitude
  • Identity
  • Chapter Summary
  • References
  • Chapter 10. Conclusions
  • Conclusions and Implications
  • Recommendations for Future Research
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: An Initial Message
  • Appendix B: Letter of Information
  • Appendix C: Consent Form
  • Appendix D: Media Use Log
  • Appendix E: Think-Aloud Instruction
  • Appendix F: Sample Interview Guide (Jian)
  • Appendix G: Sample Data Analysis

| xi →


I was more than delighted when Doctor Jun Qian approached me for a foreword to her new book, Mass Media and Chinese ESL Students Abroad: Adapting Host Communication and Culture. She was my M.A. degree student and one of the most talented students among hundreds that have been in my care over the past decades. The more apparent reason for my happiness is that I am also very interested in mass media and its relationship to ESL students though my purpose is just learning the language rather than acculturation.

I have read from cover to cover the manuscripts of the book under review and found that it is not as simple a research topic as it first appears to be. It is true that the more an individual exposes himself/herself to mass media, be it host or ethnic, traditional such as newspaper, radio, television or modern such as the Internet, the quicker he/she can get acculturated. But many aspects accompanying the process of acculturation also have to be considered. Age, purpose, education level, length of stay, occupation, marital status, and attitude toward the ethnic and host culture all contribute to the overall picture of one’s acculturation through mass media exposure.

Jun Qian’s new book has two features standing out: she focuses exclusively on Chinese-speaking students, and in the context of Canada. She tried very ← xii | pxii → hard in her efforts to identify the complex relationships existing in Chinese students endeavoring to settle in Canada and mass media they expose themselves to. She carefully chooses nine participants with diverse backgrounds, purposes, lengths of residence, differing attitudes toward ethnic culture, and its impact on acculturation to host culture. I should say with satisfaction that Qian is quite successful in her research. Through her efforts we are now in a clearer picture as to how mass media can make an immigrant integrate with the host culture faster and what problems are standing in the way of acculturation and how to tackle them with viewing the world in general and Canada in particular.

The literature review is extensive, if not exhaustive; the limitations of each influential theory cited in the book are pointed out so as to pave the way for further study; chapter reviews are well written; interviews with the subject are well designed and executed. I particularly like the part in which Qian discusses the negative impact of ethnic mass media that her participants have been and is now still in close contact with on their acculturation, highlighting religious beliefs. It is no exaggeration to say that Qian’s study has pushed the research on mass media and acculturation to a new height.

That said, I still have to admit honestly that the research topic on the relations between mass media exposure and acculturation is difficult, simply because every individual differs from the individual next to him/her. It is horrendously difficult to make a summary and put forward general principles in this regard. The success story of one person may turn out to be a complete failure or absolutely ineffective on another. Take myself for example. As I have said, I learned English all by myself through extensive consistent exposure to the so-called “traditional” mass media such as Radio Peking English program, The Pyongyang Times, and the New Albania magazine. With the accumulation of English language through exposure to mass media, I was admitted to college through national examination and became a professor of English. However, when I asked a prominent professor of English in China specializing in ESL to summarize my learning curve and introduce it to the public, she politely declined. I can gather from her wry smile that it is all because the learning process is most diversified and personally specified. It would be unreasonable to make a replica by asking somebody else to follow suit and do exactly what the role model has done.

So it is more important in the research to raise questions and define new aspects of research than look into, analyze, and make conclusions on current problems. Jun Qian, fully aware of this, makes suggestions at the end of her book for a comparative study of the impact, positive and negative, of ethnic ← xiii | pxiii → versus host mass media on ESL students on their way to acculturation, as well as a contrastive study of use of mass media by ESL students and local Canadians.

We are expecting, earnestly, the results of Jun Qian’s new research.

Kenan Lin

Professor of English

Tianjin Foreign Studies University

| xv →


In writing this book, I have benefited from the advice of many people, especially Dr. Eva Krugly-Smolska and Dr. Azza Sharkawy at Queen’s University. Thank you so much for your useful suggestions.

My special thanks also to my participants. I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation for your efforts in sharing your experiences. Your participation in this study truly made this book possible.

To my father and mother, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks. Your endless love and support have shaped my life and profession. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my goals. Your unfailing belief and pride in my ability to do a good job at anything I try have given me the will to continue when things get tough.

| xvii →


AUM: anxiety/uncertainty management

BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation

CBC: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

CIBC: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

CMC: computer-mediated communication

CNN: Cable News Network

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

EFL: English as a foreign language

ESL: English as a second language

ID: interview data

LD: log data

MSN: Microsoft Network

NBC: National Broadcasting Company

NHL: National Hockey League

PhD: doctor of philosophy

RCMP: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

SSRC: Social Science Research Council

TD: think-aloud data

TTC: Toronto Transit Commission

VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol

| 1 →

· 1 ·


The purposes of this study are to investigate Chinese ESL (English as a second language) students’ use of the host mass media (media in a new cultural context); the intentions (purposes) they hold in mind when attending to certain media; and their perspectives of the influences of the host mass media on their acquisition of host (receiving society) communication competence and acculturation. I begin this introduction by telling the story of a former roommate, followed by a rationale for the present study and an outline of my research questions. Finally, I provide an overview of this research.

The Story of a Roommate (or Me? or Us?)

Niki, my former roommate from China, was a graduate student in science, and had been in Canada for almost a year. I had known her as a roommate in a university residence for eight months. In the first few weeks after my moving in, when she wanted to make a phone call in English, for example, booking a seat, she would ask me to do it for her. She said she could hear her own voice trembling while on the phone in English. Later, I encouraged her to write down what she wanted to say, and I would proofread it for her. ← 1 | 2 →

After school, she spent most of her time on her course work. For a change, sometimes she would bring home some newspapers from school or the residence. Other times, she would put on her earphone, to listen to her MP3, watch online movies, or surf on the Internet.

I started our chat by asking what concerned her most at this stage of study. She said it was her English. Despite her English studies in China, she went through a rough time before she felt comfortable with English. Not being confident in the use of language could make a small incident become a big concern. She found herself often frustrated when she had ideas and questions but hesitated to speak. She hesitated to speak because she was afraid she would be laughed at for having an accent and could not make herself understood.

I still remember when she told me that she heard some information about the “new policy on international students.” She worried that the new policy might affect her application for the doctor of philosophy (PhD) program in the next year. So she decided to send an e-mail to the coordinator of graduate studies to confirm if the information she heard was true. I proofread the text for her. A couple of days later, she came back from school with “not so good” news. The coordinator replied and invited her to his office for a talk. I told her this was a good opportunity because she could raise any questions or concerns about the situation. But Niki did not think this way. She told me she was not so sure how much she could understand in “face-to-face talk.” She preferred to respond by e-mail. Anyway, we rehearsed her questions before the meeting. After the meeting, she told me: “It sounds like that information I heard is a rumor, but the coordinator also said some other things, like the budget, supervisor. … I didn’t get everything. I am not used to his speed and pronunciation.” I asked Niki: “Why didn’t you ask him to speak slowly?” She told me she did not want to leave the coordinator with a negative impression about her English language proficiency, because it might be “not good for my PhD application in the future.”

On campus, besides classroom time, most of her lab mates were Chinese, and she used Chinese to make the most of her interpersonal communications. Off campus, she did not have any connections with local people. The opportunities to have a talk in English were limited to cashiers while doing grocery shopping every weekend. She said she knew that if she wanted to improve her spoken English, one of the best ways was to communicate with English speakers. As time went by, she did not make any Canadian friends. Most friends she made were Chinese. The only non-Chinese friend she had ← 2 | 3 → was from Cameroon. Most gatherings she attended were for and with other Chinese, because she was “not so sure what to wear, what to bring, and how to behave at a Canadian dinner party.”

However, little by little she felt that she became more acquainted with Canadian culture and acquired a better command of the English language. She said, in addition to her limited interpersonal communication with native English speakers, the use of newspapers, magazines, online movies, MP3 songs, and the Internet had helped her improve her English and had acquainted her with Canadian culture. The use of these host mass media helped her bypass the uncertainty and anxiety of face-to-face communication.


XVIII, 242
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 242 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Jun Qian (Author)

Jun Qian obtained a PhD from Queen’s University in 2009 and is a member of the faculty at Tianjin University of Science & Technology. She has published a book, as well as several articles in TESL Canada Journal, CBIE Research, and Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.


Title: Mass Media and Chinese ESL Students Abroad
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262 pages