Some aspects of social competence and EFL teaching in China

  • Zheng Zhong

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Linguistic competence is a person's knowledge of the forms of a language. This knowledge is not sufficient for communication because communication involves a knowledge of appropriate ways to use the language, that is, when to say what to whom. A part of this total capacity which may be termed 'social competence' is the knowledge and ability to create and maintain a harmonious atmosphere in social interaction. • Social competence is acquired as a person grows up in a given society, learning to play different roles. In social interaction, social competence enables a person to live up to the expectations of these roles, and to act in such a way as to satisfy the interests of others in exchange for satisfaction of his own. One of the individual's interests in interaction is 'face': a desire for freedom from imposition and for appreciation. The preservation of a harmonious atmosphere in social interaction largely depends on how well the interactants preserve their own and each other's face. Certain speech acts are intrinsically face threatening, so mitigating strategies must be used to redress these acts. Owing to the differences in social values and personal relations in different societies, Chinese speakers of English may not perceive the threat to face involved in doing certain acts in the same way that English native speakers would perceive it. As a result, they may unwittingly threaten native speakers' face. Moreover, Chinese speakers may not be able to use mitigating strategies appropriately and may therefore be unable to maintain the desired harmonious atmosphere in interaction with native speakers of English. Therefore, in addition to learning the forms of English language, Chinese speakers should be encouraged to develop social competence, by learning the target language culture and by practising the appropriate polite strategies in social interaction.
    Date of Award1983
    Original languageEnglish

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