Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E

First Committee Member

Ke, Chuanren

Second Committee Member

Shen, Helen

Third Committee Member

Schuh, Kathy

Fourth Committee Member

Feeley, Jennifer


This dissertation is a qualitative case study exploring the process of culture learning in a Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) classroom. Guided by a socioculturally based theoretical perspective and adopting the stance of the National Standards, which says that language students "cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs" (1996, p. 27), this study describes how culture learning is tied to class practices aimed at developing students' language proficiency by exploring how culture and language are integrated in spoken discourse and interactions in the classroom.

The research questions of the study focus on both the instructor's and the students' perspectives towards the interrelationship between language learning and culture learning and their actual practices in the dynamic, complex, and emerging speech community of classroom contexts. Through analysis of student questionnaires, classroom observations, instructor interview, and stimulated-recall sessions with students, this study examines the contexts of culture learning, illustrates how language classroom contexts shape and are shaped by all the class members, including both the instructor and the students, and describes how the classroom spoken discourse in the current advanced-level undergraduate CFL course provides opportunities for culture learning and how culture learning actually happens in this language classroom.

The findings suggest that as the instructor and the students interact in the language classroom, it is not so much the particular pieces of cultural and linguistic information under discussion that delineate the actual culture learning process, but rather the active exchanges and sometimes disagreements between the instructor and the students that provide opportunities for interactive cultural dialogues and discussions. In other words, cultural knowledge and understanding are situated in actual contexts of language use. Language learning is also embedded in the same interactive and collaborative discussion of texts. By exploring the complexity of the culture learning process in the language classroom setting, this study adds theoretical and pedagogical support to the premise that culture learning should be an integral part of language instruction at different levels throughout the language curriculum.


Chinese as a foreign language, Classroom discourse analysis, Culture learning process, Culture-related episodes, Second language acquisition


xii, 438 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 425-438).


Copyright 2012 Jia Zhu