3 English Vocabulary Learning in China Today 63
3 English Vocabulary Learning in China Today To locate the present study firmly within the larger context of English language learning in China today, this chapter presents a general picture of the English learning environment with a special focus on vocabulary learning. In the following sections, I will first briefly review the overall English language teaching (ELT) environment and the sociolinguistic status of the English language in the contemporary Chinese context. Shifting focus to vocabulary learning through formal education, I will then summarize the vocabulary goals stipulated in the national syllabi of English teaching. The chapter ends with a description of Chinese learn- ers’ experiences of vocabulary learning outside the classroom. 3.1 Learning and using English in China today Before examining the social setting of learning and using English in the contemporary Chinese society, it is worth noting that the English lan- guage per se should not be treated as a monolithic concept here. In re- cent years, the phenomenon of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) (Seidlhofer 2001, 2005) has been increasingly acknowledged. Roughly only one out of every four users of English in the world is a native speaker (Crystal 2003), and English is becoming a contact language among speakers with different mother tongues, and “for the majority of its users, […] the vast majority of verbal exchanges in English do not involve any native speakers of the language at all” (Seidlhofer 2005: 339). Moreover, English is now the major communication language in Asia, where no country can be...
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