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Culture and Confidence in English Language Acquisition: A Study of the English Language Education of East Asian Students

by Sung, Jean


Linguistic anthropologists argue that communicative abilities of a foreign language can only be acquired when the learner understands the culture that is entwined within the language. Previous research has found international students to face difficulties with linguistic, social, and cultural barriers when living abroad in the United States. A mixed methods research was conducted in two parts in order to study not only the English language curriculum through which East Asian students have acquired English language skills, but also their experiences in communicating with native English speakers. Part I consisted of a personal narrative that explored the cultural elements associated with learning additional languages. Part II included findings from non-experimental quantitative data gathered through survey questionnaires and ethnographically grounded qualitative data found through semi-structured interviews. Participants consisted of ten university students in Seoul, South Korea who had either little or no experience living in an English-speaking country and ten East Asian international students at Colorado College, a private liberal arts college in the United States. Although the quantitative data did not present significant findings due to the small number of participants, contrastable mean responses between the Korean university and Colorado College students were supported by findings of the interviews and the review of literature. In addition, the interview data presented ten themes of common responses found among the participants. The main findings revealed that nearly all participants were dissatisfied with their communicative abilities and some even lacked communicative confidence due to an exam-oriented, grammatical focus in the English language curriculum of their home countries. Additionally, the participants suggested a stronger focus on speaking and cultural lessons in order to promote a greater communicative and cultural competence and thus, improve their confidence to socially interact with native English speakers.


The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright restrictions apply.
Colorado College Tutt Library
Digital Origin
born digital
69 pages : illustrations
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Taber, Mike
Degree Name
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Type
Degree Grantor
Colorado College Tutt Library
Date Issued