THE LEARNING STRATEGIES BY OVERSEAS MANDARIN CHINESE LEARNERS: AT THE CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE OF RHODES UNIVERSITY IN SOUTH AFRICA

Y. Yang

Yunnan Normal University (CHINA)
There has been a prominent shift within the field of language learning and teaching over the last decades with much more attention being put on learners and learning rather than on teachers and teaching. It was not until then that learning was claimed to be as significant as teaching in second language learning. It was assumed that good teaching should include the ways to learn, to remember, to process information, and to become more motivated. Language learners’ learning strategies have become a major discussed issue in relation to second/foreign language learning. Increased interest in student-centered learning approaches among language educators has led to numerous studies investigating individual language learning strategies (LLS) and their relationship with the achievement in learning second/foreign languages.

As China's economy booms and communications with the world have seen rapid growth, there has also been a sharp increase in the world’s demands for Chinese teaching. By the end of 2010, 322 Confucius Institutes and 369 Confucius Classrooms have been established in 96 countries, with 40 million learners in total according to the statistics of the Ministry of Education of China. There has also been an increased demand for the research of effective Mandarin Chinese teaching and learning for 40 million learners overseas. However, previous researches and theories on Mandarin learning leave a number of questions unanswered. How overseas Mandarin learners process new information and what kinds of strategies they employ to understand, learn or remember the information has been the primary concern of the researchers dealing with the area of foreign language learning.

This study aims to contribute to this discussion by introducing the LLS (language learning strategies) theory systematically and applying the questionnaire based on Oxford(1990)’s Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) to summarize and categorize the specific learning strategies employed by Mandarin learners at CIRU (Confucius Institute at Rhodes University) in South Africa. T-test, ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) and SPSS are to be performed to process the collected data; and the descriptive analysis on how to apply the research findings to teaching Mandarin more effectively will be done accordingly.