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Case study of the use of WeChat for English-language vocabulary learning in a Chinese higher-education context

posted on 2024-04-17, 06:05 authored by Li, F

The soaring development of mobile technologies has given rise to their integration and implementation in education. In particular, the increasing use of these technologies in second/foreign language learning has led to the emergence of a specific research field: mobile-assisted language learning (MALL). MALL supports language learning and teaching with various advantages, including ubiquity, authenticity, and interactivity. Among the various language skills, vocabulary acquisition is seen as the core and a major challenge in learning and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Chinese universities. Despite that mobile-assisted vocabulary acquisition has become a significant area of research in international MALL studies, research in this area remains scanty in the Chinese MALL literature. WeChat is the most widely used app by Chinese university students among various mobile phone-based social applications. This present research is an exploration of the potential of WeChat-based English-language vocabulary learning in the Chinese higher-education context.
The present study designed and delivered a WeChat-assisted lexical-learning program (the WALL program) at a university in northern China. It involved 387 students and five language teachers from seven academic faculties/disciplines. Using a pre-questionnaire, the study first examined the students’ perceptions of their university vocabulary-learning experiences. Following their responses to the pre-questionnaire, the self-developed WALL program was delivered to the students over a period of 29 days. Then, the WALL program’s effects on enhancing the students’ vocabulary-learning outcomes were measured by two sets of vocabulary-proficiency test papers. As well, the study explored the WALL program’s impacts on the students’ learning motivation and collected their evaluation of the program using a post-questionnaire. Last, the study gathered 14 students’ and five language teachers’ recommendations for future WeChat-based vocabulary-teaching approaches and programs through semi-structured interviews. The quantitative data collected from the questionnaires and test papers were analysed using SPSS software version 26.0. Thematic analysis was employed in the qualitative data analysis using NVivo software version 14.0.
Significant findings were uncovered between the students’ views of their vocabulary-learning experiences and the variables, including their years of academic studies, gender groups, and subject areas. The WALL program also positively enhanced the students’ vocabulary-learning outcomes by increasing their test scores with minor effects. As well, the WALL program improved the students’ motivation in vocabulary learning. Last, the students were in great favour of the WALL program regarding the program design, delivered learning materials, and designed learning activities. Considerable differences were also revealed between the students with different years of academic studies and between the gender groups. Additionally, the students and language teachers envisaged that future WeChat-based language-teaching approaches and programs should focus on their supplementary roles in language pedagogy, text-formatted vocabulary-learning resources, and social interactions. The present study is anticipated to provide Chinese EFL researchers, EFL educators, and EFL policymakers a more profound understanding of WeChat-based language education in Chinese higher-education contexts.



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xix, 225 pages


School of Education

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