Author: Du, Yiwei
Title: Investigating English use in small and medium-sized companies and redefining communicative competence for belf in China
Advisors: Wu, Doreen (CBS)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2021
Subject: English language -- Business English
English language -- Study and teaching -- China
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: x, 225 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: As a WTO member for almost two decades, China has become deeply integrated into the global economy, which has increased its universities' enthusiasm about the teaching of Business English. However, the academic discussion on the teaching of Business English within the country has mainly focused on top-down policy making, formal, elite communication, and the operations of large companies, lacking support from empirical studies on communication in small and medium-sized companies. A wide gap between the classroom and workplace can be observed in the practice of teaching Business English in China. Adopting the notion of "community of practice", the present study undertakes a sociolinguistic investigation of how business professionals in small and medium-sized enterprises use English at work in Zhejiang, China and how their English use converges or diverges from the practice of other Chinese business communities described in previous studies. Based on the findings, the study redefines communicative competence for the business professionals in Zhejiang, China and provides implications for developing competence in BELF (Business English as the Lingua Franca) in tertiary educational institutions of China.
A questionnaire survey of 225 business professionals and interviews with 8 low-ranking employees and 4 managers has indicated that Chinese business professionals use English with counterparts from all over the world. In the external communication, a large amount of English use is found to take place on informal occasions, including emails and social networking activities. Nonetheless, in the internal or intrafirm communication of larger companies, the presence of foreign colleagues may increase the formality as well as frequency of English use as the foreign colleagues tend to play the leading role in meetings and discussion. In addition, the foreign colleagues are found to be the intermediary between Chinese businesspeople and their foreign customers. Based on the report by the participants on the aspects of language and communication skills needed for the workplace, six aspects of communicative competence for Chinese business communities have also been inferred as: linguistic competence, strategic competence, BELF competence, socio-cultural competence, professional competence and actional competence. A new model of communicative competence for BELF in China is then developed in which the aspects are hierarchically arranged. Finally, suggestions for reforming the teaching of Business English in China are proposed in line with the principle of situated learning, the pedagogy advocated in the theory of CoP. This includes shifting the focus of language skill courses from accuracy to fluency and BELF competence, paying more attention to informal communication in the business-related courses, increasing practical content in the culture-related courses and supplementing the curriculum with courses that aim to cultivate professional competence.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: restricted access

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