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Text Memorisation in Chinese Foreign Language Education

Xia Yu

In China, a widespread learning practice for foreign languages are reading, reciting and memorising texts. This book investigates this practice against a background of Confucian heritage learning and western attitudes towards memorising, particularly audio-lingual approaches to language teaching and later largely negative attitudes. The author conceptually examines a number of issues central to the understanding of the practice of text memorisation in the Chinese educational context. Furthermore, there is an empirical inquiry into Chinese learners/teachers’ practices and perceptions of the inclusion of text memorisation in foreign language learning and teaching. Drawing on heuristics yielded by both theoretical and empirical findings, this study promotes a ‘different-rather-than-deficit’ perspective in understanding Chinese learners and their learning practice by way of challenging the uncritical assumptions about the negative impact of a Confucian philosophy of education. More importantly, the topic and theme discussed in this book are timely and relevant to some long and widely debated issues in foreign language teaching and learning within China and internationally.

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Preface xi

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Preface Reading, reciting and memorising text is a widespread learning practice for both fi rst language literacy and foreign language learning in China. Yet, it was not until recently it became a research topic in foreign language education. Is this practice a dilemma that Chinese students can neither live with nor live without? As a foreign language learner and educator who had received most part of my education in China, I have long been fascinated by this phenomenon and fortunately brought a high degree of familiarity with the research theme and educational environment it is based upon. Drawing on wide-ranging and carefully chosen sources, this book looks into the practice of text memorisation in China against a background of Confucian heritage learning and western attitudes towards memorising, particularly audio-lingual approaches to language teaching and later largely negative attitudes. The inquiry was conducted along two lines: to conceptu- ally examine a number of issues central to the understanding of the practice of text memorisation in the Chinese educational context, and empirically inquire into Chinese learners / teachers’ practices and perceptions of the inclusion of text memorisation in foreign language learning and teaching. In the preparation for this book, I have benefi ted from numerous people in various ways. Above all, I had the privilege of working with Professor Rosamond Mitchell, who is highly respectable in terms of intellectual breadth and depth. She guided me through the whole journey of this research – including the re-orientation of the book – as an unfl agging...

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