Challenge and Strategies: Sustaining and Enhancing CFL Learners’ Interest, Motivation and Confidence

Xiuping Li, Francis Kane

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This paper reports how the CFL learners at Ulster University (UU), in Northern Ireland, who at the end of Year One before moving on to Year 2, had experienced demotivation and a sense that their CFL was becoming even more challenging and ‘more and more complicated and difficult’ to deal with, have been encouraged to sustain or regain or enhance confidence. It was due to the unique situation that the students in the BA honours in Applied Languages and Translation at the beginning of Year 2, are normally allowed to drop one of the three modern languages which they are required to take in their first year, and choose any of the two remaining languages. There was some anxiety that failure at Chinese would affect the overall result of their degree, some CFL learners choose to give up and take another language, which meant their CFL learning stopped at the first year beginner level. Therefore, it was a real challenge to sustain and enhance the CFL learners’ interest, motivation and confidence. To that end, a series of learning strategies have been developed, which are all put under the category of ‘Holistic Learning strategies’ in this paper, to promote learners’ understanding that learning a language which is very different from their mother tongue can add further dimensions to their thought patterns, and give herself or himself an edge in employment. Of all the strategies applied, benefitting from the unique nature of rich Chinese language, linguistically and philosophically, a two-pronged holistic teaching strategy (using Chinese sayings) of 以不变应万变 (yǐ bú biàn yìng wàn biàn) coping with shifting events by sticking to a fundamental principle and also 以万变应不变 (yǐ wàn biàn yìng bú biàn) applying changing methods to deal in the unchanged fundamental principles, because as another goes, 万变不离其宗 (wàn biàn bù lí qí zōng), indicating that things remain essentially the same despite all apparent changes, leading to 大道至简 (dà dào zhì jiǎn), indicating that the nature of the universe can bethe simplest, or the most profound takes the simplest form,was applied with CFL learners from diverse cultural backgrounds in Northern Ireland and appeared to be most effective and desirable to learners. Overall, the practical strategies applied in this study have proved a positive encouragement to the CFL learners, resulting in sustaining their interest, motivation, confidence; enhancing their knowledge practice and enriching their learning experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInheritance and Innovation: The 14th BCLTS International Conference on Teaching and Learning Chinese in Higher Education. Selected Papers. Applied Chinese Language Studies VIII.
EditorsZhiyan Guo, Shuai Zhao
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)978-1-907838460
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Jun 2017


  • Chinese as a foreign language (CFL)
  • motivation
  • demotivation
  • holistic learning
  • strategies


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