Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Enhancing Chinese EFL Learners’ Awareness of Lexical Style" colloquium at Pitt, October 2.

The University of Pittsburgh's Department of Linguistics will host Dr. Guangwei Chen and his talk "Enhancing Chinese EFL Learners’ Awareness of Lexical Style" on October 2. The talk is free and open to the public in room G-13 of the Cathedral of Learning (map) from 3:00 pm. The abstract:
Appropriate use of English synonyms is notoriously difficult for Chinese EFL learners. What they produce in speaking or writing is a typical interlanguage, which is characterized by a mixture of formal and informal, spoken and written English in the same discourse.

The present instruction-oriented study is conducted to investigate the the general situation of Chinese EFL learners’ awareness of lexical style and examine the factors that influence their use of lexical style. A small test of English synonyms is designed to measure the learners’ stylistic awareness in lexical level and a semi-structured interview is conducted to discover the causes underlying the teaching and learning of lexical style. 22 undergraduates and 24 postgraduates are taken as subjects with a view to examining whether the postgraduates perform better than the undergraduates in the test of stylistic knowledge of English synonyms. The SPSS program is adopted to analyze the collected data.

The results show that Chinese EFL learners’ ability to use synonyms is moderate. But they still have a vague idea of lexical styles. They can hardly tell the stylistic differences between synonyms, nor are they able to distinguish linguistic features of colloquial style and literary style, formal style and informal style. The varied factors include the students’ lack of stylistic awareness, inadequate instruction, and defective textbooks or curriculum. The comparison between the postgraduates and the undergraduates indicates that the former performs better than the latter in the use of proper style of synonyms. It may be argued that the acquisition or learning of English lexical styles takes longer time and conscious instruction and takes place gradually.

Some instruction strategies are proposed to help both learners and teachers to enhance the learning and teaching of English lexical styles.
Dr. Chen is a faculty member at Guangxi Teachers Education University and a visiting scholar in Pitt's Linguistics department through January 2016.