A Contrastive Rhetorical Study of Chinese EFL Learners’ Writing Organization in English
|Ocean University of China
|Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
|contrastive rhetoric interference of L1 discourse organization writing skills and conventions
In the process of second language acquisition (SLA), writing is one of the most difficult issues to second language (L2) learners. It is an issue which involves not only language, but also the cultural background of the language and the thought patterns formed in the specific culture and society and so on. As an important area in SLA research, EFL (English as a foreign language) studies have drawn extensive attentions of researchers and scholars both at home and abroad. The researchers in this field have proposed various approaches as how to improve EFL learners’English writing. According to the research of contrastive rhetoric, it has long been recognized that culture determines discourse patterns and cultural conventions has a crucial influence on learning to write in L2. Some researchers in contrastive rhetoric area insist that cultural and writing conventions of first language (L1) interfere with learners’writing in L2. The great difference of cultural conventions and thought patterns between Chinese and English makes it especially difficult to effectively and efficiently improve Chinese EFL learners’proficiency in English writing.Based on the theories of contrastive rhetoric and the achievements in the field of EFL writing research at home and abroad, this paper aims to find answers to the research questions as follow.(1) As to Chinese EFL learners whose English writing is not well organized, is it effective to improve their English writing at the level of discourse organization by acquainting them with organizational skills and conventions in English?And beside this, is there other work need to be done to further perfect this teaching method?(2) Do the conventions of L1 interfere with these learners’writing in English? Can it be overcome by the teaching method mentioned in question 1?(3) What is the pedagogical suggestion of the research findings in this paper to the teaching of English writing in China?Subjects in this study are 160 English majors in junior grade in a university in China. They begin their English writing course in the first semester of their third academic year in university. In the writing course, the teaching method of“writing skill and convention instruction + discussion and practice in class+ reading and writing practice after class”is adopted to improve their English writing. Their two compositions which are written respectively before and after they are systematically acquainted with the skills and conventions of discourse organization in English writing are collected as the main data of analysis in this research. A questionnaire concerning the subjects’view as how to organize a discourse in English writing has also been employed in the study to have a further explanation of the result of the composition analysis. The third part of the data collected is the result of a test which tries to inspect the subjects’proficiency in constructing English passages.The quantitative method is mainly employed in the data analysis in this paper. It is suggested from the analysis result of two compositions (composition 1 and composition 2) that it is applicable and effective to improve EFL learners’English writing at the level of discourse organization by acquainting them with the skills and conventions in English writing. These EFL learners’writing in English has been improved in an obvious level and the inference of L1 in their English writing has not so obviously to seen after a semester’s learning and practice.However, it is not adequate to just acquainting them with the conventions and skills in English writing. More need to be done to overcome the deficiency of this teaching method in improving EFL learners’writing. In the analysis of composition 2, it has been noticed that many EFL learners make some errors which have not been expected by the teacher in the writing instruction. For example, some of them conclude their compositions by merely repeating the thesis statement. And some of them introduce new ideas in the conclusion part of their compositions. There are also many EFL learners who are inclined to follow the writing instruction mechanically.More in-depth examination and analysis are needed in further studies of EFL writing to find practical ways to compensate or renovate this traditional teaching method of English writing in order to promote the teaching and learning of English in China.