Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Suzanne Majhanovich

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Allan Pitman

Joint Supervisor


This study examines adult student learning of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) in a Canadian university context, focusing in particular on how students’ diverse prior language(s) and experiences influence their CFL learning and how student motivation develops. It aims at gaining a better understanding of the nature of adult CFL learning; at yielding pedagogic implications and raising questions for further research. Framed by sociocultural theory and cognitive linguistic perspectives, the research was guided by the following questions: 1) What elements of Chinese as a foreign language challenge student learning? 2) How do students’ prior language(s) and language learning experience influence their CFL learning? 3) How does student motivation influence CFL learning and develop in CFL study? This is a qualitative multicase study with university students in Canada studying Chinese as a foreign language. Multiple data collection methods were employed such as survey, interviews, observation, and review of students’ written work. This study yielded the following pedagogic and research implications:

The pedagogical implications for CFL curriculum development and pedagogical improvement point to: 1) the importance of pedagogic knowledge in CFL instruction; 2) the need to attune curriculum and syllabus to students’ learning characteristics, needs, interests, and expectations; 3) the need for commitment to prompt feedback on students’ assignments; 4) the importance of identifying opportunities for experiential learning to stimulate student motivation; and 5) the importance of offering students socio-psychological support in addition to academic support; as well as 6) encouraging peer collaboration. Specific to CFL instruction, the study indicates the need to pay particular attention to the teaching of Chinese tones and characters.

The implications for further research can be focused on the inquiries into: 1) comparison of the errors by students from different language backgrounds (e.g. Oriental languages and European languages) to capture the learning characteristics of CFL learning; 2) CFL learner internal and external conditions for transfer of prior knowledge; 3) learning motivation: the influence of different contexts on motivational intensity (e.g. CFL learning in China and Canada); or the influence of different motivational orientations on student achievement.