A diary study of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning


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Drawing on learners' course diaries, this paper explores Chinese EFL learners' perceptions of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning and their responses to the perceived difficulties and constraints. The diary data appear to indicate that the students' learning difficulties lay mainly with their linguistic competence, but a closer scrutiny of the classroom discourse seems to reveal that their linguistic difficulties might be a product of the relationship between their linguistic competence and the demands that examinations placed on it. Students' responses to linguistic difficulties were characterized by predominantly "quantitative" conceptions of, and approaches to, language learning. This quantitative orientation was not generally problematized but deemed functional by students in the examination-oriented context. Socio-psychological constraints raised by diarists included undesirable teacher-learner role relationships, negative self-evaluation, examination anxiety, deficient study skills, and obstacles to independent learning. Although these non-linguistic constraints were not frequently mentioned, it could be argued that socio-psychological factors substantially affected learning. Based on the findings, suggestions are made to aim at informed teaching in the general Chinese EFL university context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-621
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • EFL learning
  • Linguistic difficulties
  • Quantitative/ qualitative approaches to learning
  • Quantitative/qualitative conceptions of learning
  • Socio-psychological constraints


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