Metaphors Used by Pre-service Teachers of Chinese as an International Language

February 2017

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol . 43, No . 1, 71–83, 2017.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examined the professional perceptions of Teaching Chinese as an International Language (TCIL) pre-service teachers through analyzing the metaphors they use to describe themselves as teachers.

The participants were 68 pre-service teachers, who studied in a major university in Beijing, China. They included 60 female and 8 male students. Most of the theses students had completed undergraduate studies in Chinese language and literature, or English language and literature, before they started the Masters study. The participants had no prior teaching experience.
The participants completed open-ended questions. The authors told the students to use metaphors and explained how they could use particular metaphors, if applicable.
The authors identified 105 metaphorical meanings in the 76 metaphors in the analysis.

The findings revealed that the participants used a variety of metaphors to display perceptions of themselves as pre-service TCIL teachers.
Additionally, the participants’ metaphors demonstrate the interaction of cultural, historical and sociopolitical conditions underlying their perceptions.
According to the Chinese cultural traditions, teachers are expected to do their best to serve students in the learning process by providing the required knowledge and skills and guiding the learning. These expectations are reflected by the participants’ use of metaphors including ‘mother’ and ‘farmer’.
To achieve these roles, the participants aspired to acquire these professional competencies and attributes.
Furthermore, pre-service teachers expected themselves, and were expected by the Chinese government, to fulfil the role of messengers in teaching and promoting Chinese culture. The authors argue that diversity of metaphors used by the participants mirrors the increasingly complex task of teaching Chinese as an international language for pre-service TCIL teachers.

Furthermore, the use of metaphors allows teachers to articulate their concerns and expectations in a highly accessible but in-depth manner.
The authors also argued that the participants realized that it would be highly challenging for them to establish an effective and supportive teacher–student relationship in teaching. Hence, teacher educators need to integrate the promotion of intercultural communicative competence and cross-cultural awareness in the related TCIL programmes so that TCIL teachers can fulfil their professional roles.

The authors conclude that teacher educators can use these findings to support TCIL teachers' professional development by engaging them in critical dialogues about the metaphors they use to perceive themselves as teachers.

Updated: Feb. 22, 2018