How to Build Confidence in Chinese Business Students
Self-confidence has been seen as a major contributor to a person learning a language. As a teacher and a counselor, I agree with Jack Welch’s quote: Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do because then they will act. Confidence exists of three realms: who I am, what I can learn, and what I can do. These are steps that can be taken to help Chinese Business English students improve confidence in these realms.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate William N. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What is self-confidence?
Self-confidence is the total of attributes which enable the use of acquiring knowledge and application of skills (Aithal & Kumar, 2018). Similar to confidence, self-esteem is the belief that we are good and worthy and that others view us positively. A confident learner is open to learning something new and taking risks (Ranjan & Mani, 2019). Chinese students may have low self-esteem and self-confidence (Kim, 2019; Ranjan & Mani, 2019) which may make them less willing to communicate in class (Van Batenburg et al., 2019).
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Who am I?
Empathize with student’s anxiety. Self-confidence is seen to be comprised of two parts: anxiety and self-evaluation. Anxiety causes students to feel apprehensive and reluctant to communicate and participate in class, thus hindering them in language development (Ranjan & Shiela, 2019). To counter anxiety, teachers should make lessons enjoyable and fun. One way to do it is to make the lessons interactive and communicative rather than teacher-centered (Van Batenburg, 2019). Another way is to provide enough material where students can practice at their starting level before developing new skills (Jin, 2019).
Guide students in reflection and self-evaluation. Helping students to fairly evaluate their performance can help develop self-esteem and self-confidence. By looking at their work objectively, students can improve not only in praising their achievements but also in monitoring and self-correcting their mistakes. (Kim. 2019; Motobayashi & Takahashi, 2019). Moreover, students should be encouraged to develop their inner voice and visualization to help improve in noticing their speech (Jin, 2019). Through self-reflection, students can also assess their identity, values, and strategies in communicating and learning the language (Motobayashi & Takahashi, 2019; Ueno, 2019).
Maintain a conducive environment. An environment refers to both the physical and social environment wherein the learner practices the language. A well-organized classroom or meeting location can aid in building self-confidence (Kim, 2019). Learners who met regularly with their partners became less anxious and more comfortable about speaking about their daily lives (Jin, 2018; Ueno, 2019). Having a relaxed and pleasant learning environment through strong interpersonal relationships increased the learners’ self-confidence, autonomy, learning process, and ability to set goals (Arju, 2018); moreover, it gave them the ability to reflect on their learning strategies, including reading and group work (Arju, 2018; Ueno, 2019). To help maintain the environment, the teacher should be professional about attendance and class management.
Also Read: 5 Ways to Increase Teachers’ Confidence in Class: Useful Strategies You Need to Be Self-Assured
What can I learn?
Motivate students to set goals. Each student will come to class with their motivation and learning goals. The teacher should understand the student’s motivation; for example, whether the motivation is integrative (i.e., goal-directed, social implications) or instrumental (i.e. for some practical gain). Moreover, teachers should encourage students toward productive bilingualism which is aimed towards having students grow creatively, cognitively, and emotionally in using the foreign language (Motobayashi & Takahashi, 2019). Not all students will have the goal of speaking like a native speaker, so teachers should encourage students to set their own goals and take responsibility (Jin, 2019).
Facilitate changes in attitudes. Learning a language can change a student’s perception and attitude. At first, Chinese learners may have a deep national pride and may see foreigners, such as English speakers, as ill-mannered, aggressive, and arrogant (Angeles, 2019) However, as Motobayashi and Takahasi (2019) outlined, the language learner goes through four attitude-types: faithful imitator; legitimate speaker; playful creator; and, dialogical communicator. As a learner progresses through language development, the teacher should recognize the attitude and encourage new perspectives of the student. The more students become immersed in English, the more they may enjoy communicating in English (Jin, 2018; Motobayashi & Takahasi, 2019).
Help meet the students’ needs. Not only should a teacher know the motivation and attitude of the student, but he should also work towards meeting the needs of the student (Ranjan & Mani, 2019). Since not every student wants to speak like a native speaker, students should complete a needs analysis at the beginning of a course. In the first 2 to 3 years of language development, it may be important to assist the student feel comfortable in communicating in English (Motobayashi & Takahashi, 2019). Advanced learners may need to continue to enrich their functional vocabulary, find confidence in taking risks, and overcome laziness in correcting mistakes. They may need to devise new strategies to help in further developing accuracy in word choice and grammar (Jin, 2019).
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What can I do?
Immerse students in authenticity. Students who were given communication-based or task-based classes were able to develop more confidence (Van Bratenburg, 2019). These tasks provided students with confidence in occupational skills which were transferrable to the jobs (Van Bratenburg, 2019). In working with writing skills, teachers can provide strategies and flexibility in prewriting techniques to help ease learners’ anxiety (Arju, 2018). For example, students who were encouraged to vocalize the writing strategy became more confident. In developing students' speaking ability, students who built good relationships with native speakers developed more confidence in listening to accents and in communicating in English (Motobayashi & Takahashi, 2019; Jin, 2019).
Provide relevant quality feedback. Through feedback, teachers can help develop students confidence in their ability in English (Kim, 2019). Teachers provide a variety of feedback: handwritten feedback (notes on papers and drafts), oral feedback (comments on discussions and pronunciation), and electronic feedback (email and online forms). The choice of the feedback should be based on the task type, effort of the student, achievement, performance, and learning strategies (Wang, Yu & Teo, 2018). Offering positive feedback gives students more confidence in tasks and motivates students to practice English in their work (Kim, 2019).
Respect the face and culture of students. Asian students, especially Chinese students, have a culture where face-saving is essential in society. Chinese students who refuse to talk, make self-humbling statements, or belittle themselves may not be doing so out of low confidence; they may be trying to save face (Girardelli, 2017; Walkinshaw, Michell, & Subhan, 2018). The concept of saving face is tied to the prestige, respect, and public image of an individual; thus, teachers need to understand that the public image of a Chinese learner is one of their most important assets (Angeles, 2019). Teachers need to be careful when providing corrections to mistakes or negative behavior, especially when working also with corporate culture.
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In conclusion, one of the most important roles in being a teacher is building the self-esteem and confidence of students. In China, students may have low self-esteem, deep national pride, and importance for face-saving. Though these may hinder performance, a teacher still needs to help students overcome anxiety and fear to become confident.
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