Role of Email in Intercultural Communication of Criticism in a Chinese English Curriculum Reform Context

  •  Linqiong Lv    


Western teachers working in China often experience cultural conflicts arising from, for instance, the ways that Chinese students perceive face and express criticism. To better understand these face-concerned conflicts, this paper explores the role and significance of email for a group of Chinese students to communicate pedagogical criticism with their western teacher as part of an undergraduate program in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). A quantitative and qualitative examination of the politeness strategies employed by the Chinese students in their critical emails revealed the three roles of email: email as a safe, polite and effective channel for the Chinese students to express critical views directly (without turning to a third party) and collectively (on behalf of the other students), email as a major means for their western teacher to be informed about problems privately, and email as a springboard for the western teacher to communicate later with more other students publicly. What was criticized in the emails indicated the fundamental disparities in their perceptions of knowledge, the identity of English, and the classroom behavior of silence. Interpretation and discussion of findings were informed by the studies of Chinese psychology and the writer’s insider knowledge gained from her four-year longitudinal participant observation.

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