Culture Shock: Indirect Communication—a Foreign Teacher's Teaching Experience in a Chinese University Located in a Hakka Region *

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June 2010, Volume 7, No.6 (Serial No.78)

Sino-US English Teaching, ISSN 1539-8072, USA

Culture shock: Indirect communication—A foreign teacher’s teaching experience in a Chinese university located in a Hakka region * WANG Liu-mei
(School of Foreign Languages, Jiaying University, Meizhou 514015, China)

Abstract: Culture shock is unavoidable for foreign teachers in China. Using qualitative method, this paper reports a case study of culture shock—a foreign teacher’s teaching experience in a Chinese university located in an area with a unique local population. The city involved in this study is Meizhou, located in Guangdong Province, which is considered “the capital of Hakka”. The study found that indirect communication is a big shock for foreign teachers who teach in this area. The paper explores the reasons from the perspectives of Hakka culture and points out that culture shock can be an important aspect of foreign teachers’ professional development, cultural learning and personal growth. Finally, the study provides implications for language teaching and learning in a similar area, such as Meizhou. Key words: culture shock; foreign teachers; students; Hakka; indirect communication

1. Introduction
Foreign teachers are an increasingly significant presence in Chinese universities. Now, China annually recruits more than 100,000 foreign experts to teach English as a foreign/second language1. Their contribution to upgrading educational standards in the country is acknowledged by both Chinese individuals and government officials. Many foreign teachers come to China with high expectations, hoping to make a contribution to Chinese education. For example, they come with their own thoughts and expectations, such as “I am a professional teacher with more than 10 years of teaching experiences in the United Kingdom”. They do not anticipate any problems between students and themselves. However, once in China, foreign teachers may experience “culture shock”, such as teacher-student interaction (Tsui, 1993), students’ learning approaches or learning styles (Valiente, 2008). The present study aims to explore “culture shock” concerning ways of communication that some foreign teachers experience at Jiaying University in Meizhou. The author believes this study will enhance understanding and raise challenges for foreign teachers in better communicating with students in this area and at the same time providing students with the new ways of communication in this area.

2. Relevant studies concerning the Hakkas and culture shock
2.1 The Hakkas The spelling “Hakka” is derived from the pronunciation in Hakka dialect (pronounced as “haagga” in Hakka * The author would like to thank Mr. Dennis Green who helped and encouraged her a lot in this paper. Mr. Gary Lee and Mr. Nick Lake who helped her to correct the mistakes. Students in Jiaying University who gave her the initial push to choose this topic and actively participated in the study. WANG Liu-mei, lecturer of School of Foreign Languages, Jiaying University; research field: English teaching (both vocabulary and culture teaching). 1 Retrieved May 6, 2009, from http://www.chinatefl.com.

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Culture shock: Indirect communication—A foreign teacher’s teaching experience in a Chinese university located in a Hakka region

and “kejia” in Mandarin). The Hakkas are a unique ethnic group of “Han” Chinese originally active around the Central Plains of China (Lee, 2001). The Hakkas were migrating with the culture and spirit of the Central Plains of China. During its 1,000 years and more of migration, it gradually became a significant ethnic group with a large population widely spread all over the world. The Hakkas “not only opened a new phase in southern mountainous areas (Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi), but also ventured abroad to start their business there” (GUO & CHEN, 1999, p. 23). Although they have been migrants in the South and even in foreign countries for a long time, they still...
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