From how to teach to how to learn : implications for teaching adults English as a foreign language in the People's Republic of China
The average level of English competence among Chinese university graduate students and adult learners is low. The main problems that lie in China’s teaching English to adults as a foreign language are the failure to access the current knowledge of second language acquisition research, and the focus of language teaching research on teaching rather than on learning. Second language acquisition research has been a dynamic subject in the field of applied linguistics in the past two decades in North America and Europe. There has been a significant shift from teaching to learning, which deserves our attention. This paper provides a historical overview of second language acquisition research in North America and Europe, and an explanation of its shift from how to teach to how to learn. The impact of the second language acquisition research on the development of theory and practice of adult second/foreign language teaching in North America and Europe is discussed. Given second language acquisition research in North America and Europe as a model, China’s practice of teaching English as a foreign language to adults is critically evaluated. Factors which influence the adult English as a foreign language education in China are examined. Finally, some implications are drawn from this survey for Chinese linguists and educators in their future research and practice in adult foreign language teaching.