Reticence in Chinese EFL Students at Varied Proficiency Levels


  • Meihua Liu
  • Jane Jackson



Reticence in foreign language classes has long been a challenge for both teachers and students. With the advent of globalization, there is a pressing need for EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers to help reticent students develop the skills and confidence needed to take an active role in oral English lessons. This article reports on a study of reticence in EFL classrooms in a key university in Beijing. Five hundred, forty-seven first-year non-English majors with three proficiency levels answered a 124-item questionnaire with 20 items on reticence. In addition, one class from each proficiency group was selected for a more focused investigation of reticence and participation in oral EFL lessons. As well as the survey, data gathered during the 14-week term included reflective journals, videotaped observations, and interviews. Analyses of the data revealed that (a) the students were willing to communicate with their peers in English in class and considered speech communication valuable; the more proficient were most positive about interpersonal communication and the most willing to engage in interaction; (b) all the students, irrespective of proficiency level, were the most active during pair work and the least active when responding to teachers’ questions; the more proficient students tended to be the most active in all classroom activities; and (c) with increased exposure to spoken English and more familiarity with the English-learning environment, students at all proficiency levels became (more) active in class. Based on the findings, pedagogical implications are discussed with the aim of enhancing the teaching and learning of spoken English in foreign-language contexts.




How to Cite

Liu, M., & Jackson, J. (2009). Reticence in Chinese EFL Students at Varied Proficiency Levels. TESL Canada Journal, 26(2), 65–81.