Imagined Community, Identity, and Teaching Chinese as a Second Language to Foreign Students in China

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Teaching and learning a language are influenced by an imagined community involving interaction among members in possible worlds. From an empirical standpoint, relatively little is known about how Chinese language lecturers see their possible memberships to the communities wherein students from different countries participate, or how this perception affects their teaching practice and innovative pedagogies. In order to address this gap, this study explores the teaching lives of four lecturers who teach Chinese as a second language (CSL) to foreign students in China. Drawing upon a three-year longitudinal study of interview data triangulated with journal entries and classroom observation, the findings reveal that lecturers’ imagined identities may transform into practical identities due to the idea of treating foreign students as legitimate foreigners but illegitimate Chinese language users, and the intensified pressures and insecurities of being a part-time lecturer. However, the combined efforts of lecturers’ perseverance, knowledge and competence, institutional support, available educational resources, and positive evolution of identity may prevent lecturers’ imagined communities from collapsing, and possibly facilitate a shift in identification from “struggling teacher” to “determined teacher.” Relevant implications for teaching Chinese and teacher education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-514
Number of pages25
JournalFrontiers of Education in China
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese language teaching
  • identity
  • imagined community


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