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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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CHAPTER 5 Chinese Learners’ Perceptions of Text Memorisation in Foreign Language Learning

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In this chapter, I will report on fi ndings from the in-depth interviews con- centrating on the perceptions of text memorisation as a way of learning from the learners’ perspective. First, by way of introduction, I will clarify the working defi nition of text memorisation in the current study and sketchily review previous analogous studies. Then, I will move on to the delineation of the methodological particulars of the current study which were felt to be more reader-friendly if introduced at this point and the detailing of the bio-information of the participants. In the section that follows, I present and discuss at length a number of prominent issues or themes emerging from analyses of the interview data. Finally, I conclude the chapter by summarily stating the primary points interpreted from the participants’ perceptions or opinions of text memorisation. 5.1 Defi ning ‘text memorisation’ in the present study Prior to a serious investigation of the traditional learning practice, a clear defi nition is essential. While different versions of defi nition of memorisation can be found in various studies and dictionaries, I found the following under- standing of memorisation is more fair or neutral: ‘Memorising is the pro- cess of establishing information in memory. The term ‘memorising’ usually refers to the conscious process’ (J. C. Richards, Platt, & Platt, 1992: 226). Based on this understanding and following Stevick’s (1982: 67) defi nition of ‘memorisation’ in language education, text memorisation is understood in this book as ‘working on a body of [textual] material until...

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