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Contrastive Rhetoric: Evidence from the English Expository Writings of
Chinese EFL Learners and Their Teachers’ Writing Instruction
Shih-Chieh Chien
University of Cambridge
Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference,
University of Warwick, 6-9 September 2006
In this paper, I will explore the assumptions and controversies underlying contrastive
rhetoric and attempt to forge a middle ground between those who have championed
contrastive rhetoric and those who have opposed it. It has been argued that traditional
Chinese text structures (indirect style) continue to influence the contemporary writing
English of Chinese students in the expository writing text. The way of Chinese
communication style and the origin of the traditional Chinese text structures, in particular
the four-part qi-cheng-zhuan-he and the eight-legged essay structures are examined. In
considering their influence upon the expository writing of Chinese students, it will be
argued that, although these conventions do influence the Chinese students’ writing in
Chinese to some extent, they are unlikely to exert a great influence upon their writing in
English. English expository writings produced by 40 university students in Taiwan reflect
that they were contemporary Anglo-American direct rhetorical style more than traditional
Chinese indirect style. In addition, from the interviews with students, the findings show
that the teachers’ writing instruction may play a crucial factor to influence students’
writing rhetorical strategy.
Keyword: Contrastive rhetoric; Expository writing; EFL; Qi-cheng-zhuan-he;
Eight-legged essay; Rhetorical patterns/strategy
An EFL/ESL student’s first language and associated culture influence preferences for
organization and structure of writing; these preferences may differ from native English
language speakers’ preferences (e.g., Connor, 1996; Grabe, 2001). To date, contrastive
rhetoric studies have produced equivocal evidence of variation in rhetorical styles across
Chinese and English language discourses, as based on the prevailing “direct” versus
“indirect” dichotomy. Resolving the issue of rhetorical difference is of particular
importance to the teaching of writing, since awareness of any such variation is crucial to
the development of communicative competence in language learners. For instance,
placing L2 students in mainstream composition classes where their special needs go
unmet by teachers in how to handle non-native writers is at best problematic. It has often
been suggested in studies of EFL/ESL writing assessment that EFL/ESL writers have
specific problems with acquiring the rhetorical patterns of English language academic
discourse, and that the test scores of these writers may be affected adversely in
high-stakes tests of English writing proficiency. Success in such tests is often a
prerequisite for advanced academic study.
In 1966, Kaplan published a famous and controversial article on contrastive rhetoric
that inspired a new approach to second language learning research, “Cultural Thought
Patterns in Inter-cultural Education,” which served as a basis for the study of contrastive
rhetoric. Contrastive rhetoric “is an area of research that has identified problems in
composition encountered by second language writers, and by referring to the rhetorical
strategies of the first language, attempts to explain them” (Connor, 1996, p. 5). The term
“rhetoric” is used to denote elements of rhetorical organization in written discourse.
Rhetoric is a mode of thinking and kind of strategy people employ and use. Each
language offers speakers an interpretation of the world, which may be different from that
of speakers of other languages. His 1966 article shed a new light into writing in different
cultural settings. He argued that speakers of different languages have different cultural
thought patterns that are reflected in how they organize writing; therefore, he proposed a
diagram of cultural rhetorical patterns in which English rhetoric is depicted as a straight
line and Oriental rhetoric as a spiral. Oriental speakers typically do not use the same type
of rhetorical organization that native English speakers use. Native English writers prefer a
direct and to-the-point organization, whereas oriental writers prefer an indirect,
talk-around-the-point rhetorical organization. Contrastive rhetoric, partly based on
Whorfian ideas of the relationship between language, culture and thought, it is a
hypothesis claiming that the logic expressed through the organization of written text is
culture-specific; that is, it posits that speakers of two different languages will organize the
same reality in different ways (Kaplan, 1966, 1987, 1988). That they should do so seems
self-evident, because different languages provide different resources for organizing text.
However, this filtering of text logic through language is largely unconscious; that is,
learners of an L2:
are not aware of the way in which their L1 influences the way they organize
text logic,
are not aware of the way in which an L2 organizes text logic, and
are not aware that there is a difference.
Kaplan’s general description of the direct English rhetorical pattern and the indirect
oriental rhetorical pattern has triggered a lot of studies on contrastive rhetoric. A lot of
subsequent studies have been conducted to test his hypothesis and qualify his brief
generalization of culturally influenced rhetoric. The key question for contrastive rhetoric
is whether there are differences between organizational patterns written by speakers of
different languages and members of different cultures. The differences studied affected
basically the organization and structure of texts. Those who support Kaplan maintain that
contrastive rhetoric provides important insights as to how culture-bound thought patterns
are reflected in ESL students’ writing and how those thought patterns limit their ability to
communicate in written English. Kaplan’s detractors, on the other hand, criticize him for
his somewhat simplistic generalizations of his conclusions about cultural differences in
writing. As Connor (2002) herself acknowledges, contrastive rhetoric has been the target
of recent criticisms for embracing an uncritical notion of culture as fixed and essential,
existing independent of social and historical constructions of such differences. For
example, Kubota and Lehner (2004) warns against the dangers of stereotyping and
“othering” that result from cultural dichotomies between the West and the East, as seen in
applied linguistics scholarship which often contrasts individualism with collectivism,
directness with indirectness, logic with emotion, linearity with circularity, creativity
versus memorization, and so on.
The Origins of Different Writing Discourses in English and Chinese
English Writing
The concept of literacy (and, by extension, rhetoric) is manifestly dependent upon its
generating culture (Hinds, 1990). Therefore, it follows that we must consider literacy
only within the parameters of a specific cultural value. It happens that Anglo literacy is
broadly characterized by linearity. One of many examples of linearity of text is the
structural demand for an outline of Anglo discourse structure can be divided into: clear
Introduction (statement of thesis), Development (expansion of thesis, usually with
supporting arguments), and Conclusion (summation or synthesis of thesis), logically
progressing from the top to the bottom of a document in a vertical manner (Hinds, 1990).
This passion for linearity may have its origins in the Anglo-Saxon lineage of English.
Halasek (1999) categorizes most academic English writing as falling into one of the most
common forms with the “prescriptive college essay” being the one she labels “form
without function,” most often described as the five paragraph theme. Five-paragraph
essay is most commonly designed to have students respond to a given prompt in a
well-organized linear fashion of English writing (Halasek, 1999). These essays begin
with an introduction that fulfills several functions. It must state the subject, set a context,
give an explicit thesis statement, and it explicitly lists the supports that will be developed
in the paper (usually 3) (Reid, 1994). The students are encouraged to think in threes. They
write three paragraphs in the body of the essay; each paragraph should be supported by
three details. Each contains a topic sentence, which is the support mentioned in the
introductory paragraph. That support, in turn, is supported by details (usually defined as
examples, relevant details and quotes, etc.). The final paragraph usually summarizes what
has been presented and makes an attempt at concluding something, restating the
consequence or significance of the thesis of the essay. As a result, in the length of
"orientation statements" in writing, several studies have shown that English speakers
typically produce much shorter orientation to the theme of a sentence or discussion than
non-native English writers. This holistic scoring rubric, developed by teachers and widely
available to students in English-speaking countries, describes qualities of effective
writing such as, for organization, a clear and logical progression of ideas (Reid, 1994).
Halasek (1999) notes that one of the goals for this kind of thinking is control: “No room
for digression, circumlocution, or alternative forms of argumentation outside established
and immediately recognizable patterns of development” (p. 151).
Chinese Writing
Kaplan (1966) asserted that there is a difference in directness between English and
Chinese paragraphs. English readers expect a paragraph to be developed directly;
however, the typical Chinese paragraph has an indirect pattern of development. “The
circles or gyres turn around the subject and show it from a variety of tangential view, but
the subject is never looked at directly” (p.10). Kaplan (1972) tried to explore the basic
features of the classical Chinese worldview in order for Anglo-American readers to better
understand the compositions written by Chinese. The traditional Chinese literary form
could be one of the reasons. The literary form of the Chinese eight-legged essay (or ba-gu
wen) loses its directness and coherence in an English reader’s eyes. Structurally the main
body of this essay has eight parts--opening-up, amplification, preliminary exposition,
initial argument, inceptive paragraphs, middle paragraphs, rear paragraphs and
concluding paragraphs, and the fifth to eighth parts each had to have two "legs", i.e., two
antithetical paragraphs, hence the name " eight-legged essay" (Cai, 1993). It has been
used as the “prescribed essay form for the civil service examinations in China for five
centuries” (Mohan & Lo, 1985, p. 518), and its influence continues to be strongly felt in
the Chinese discourse. The eight-legged essay of Chinese cultural greatness became the
major written genres of the time under China’s feudal dynasties from the 15th to the 19th
centuries (Matalene, 1985). The opening lines of Chinese discourse, eight-legged essay,
do not provide a thesis. The Chinese preferred to state a topic, and then to steadily
unraveled it by building information before arriving at the important message. Thus the
eight-legged essay and imitations of the classical literary language of the earlier eras of
Chinese cultural greatness became the major written genres of the time. There were no
further breakthroughs in literary writing, except for a style of artistically heightened
descriptions of everyday life experiences, called hsiao-p'in ("little sketches"), which
emerged in the 15th and 16th centuries. Kaplan (1972; 1983; 1987; 1988) suggested the
supposedly circular nature of Chinese rhetoric on the influence of the eight-legged civil
service exam essay, which he claimed demonstrated a discourse style of talking around
the central subject rather than attacking it directly. Thus a Chinese mode of presenting
ideas is through a variety of indirectly related views.
In addition, it is said that the Chinese style of writing is "qi3 cheng2 zhuan3 he2," in
other words, "opening, development, deviation, conclusion" (Connor, 1996). It is
suggested that Chinese writers introduce their main idea at the end of their essays
"conclusion" (Connor, 1996). Additional evidence of what represents "good writing" in
the Chinese sense comes from a book published by Li (1996), "Good Writing in
Cross-cultural Context." Li wants to use this method to investigate what writing teachers
in the United States and China consider being good student writing. She wants to find out
how the characteristics of “good writing” might differ as a result of different cultural
values. She quotes a Chinese teacher of writing:
Basically we think a piece of writing should have four components: introduction,
development, transition, and closure [qi3 cheng2 zhuan3 he2]. I think this basic
format is still valid because they are in accord with the way we think.... We have
three thousand years of writing history... Teachers have the responsibility to teach a
student the successful writing experiences of our forefathers. (p. 73-74)
Another Chinese teacher adds:
It is very unlikely that one would start a piece from a form; we all start from ideas or
from experience in life.... Especially in a country like China that has a literary
history of thousands of years, is arrogant to think that one can surpass his
predecessors without first learning from them. (p.74)
Challenges to the Kaplan’s Study and Traditional Chinese Culture in Writing: The
Possible Coexistence of Direct and Indirect Discourses in Contemporary Chinese Writing
Wu’s (1988) study of Modern Chinese writing challenges Kaplan’s theory (1966),
showing that, within a single Chinese culture, there is diversity in performance. Her study
demonstrates that Chinese writers do not always write in the circular way that Kaplan
describes; a linear order is also employed. This way of writing is presented in the work of
Wang Chong. To illustrate her point, Wu conducted an analysis of Wang Chong’s essay
Ding Gui which is typical of his way of writing. The following is the skeleton structure of
Wu’s analysis (Wu, 1988).
Sick people are terrified to death and so they see ghosts.
Sick people seeing ghosts are just like Bo Le looking over a horse or Pao
Ding looking over a cow.
When a sick person is in pain, he sees or thinks ghosts are hitting him.
Sick people seeing a ghost are but dreaming. (p.165)
The topic sentence in this extract is placed right the beginning, followed by the
examples of sick people seeing ghosts, such as Bo Le and Pao Ding. Then the conclusion
reinforces the topic idea: that sick people seeing ghosts are only dreaming. Wu’s analysis
shows that the deductive way of reasoning exists in the Chinese culture and it is,
therefore, not unique to Western cultures.
In addition, Mohan and Lo (1985) argue that there is no support for the claim that the
organizational pattern of Chinese writing differs markedly from that of English. They
dispute the assertion by Kaplan (1966), among others, that Chinese essays are structurally
quite different from Western ones. They claim that there is evidence from both classical
and modern Chinese prose that questions the view that there are significant differences
between the organization of Chinese and English writing. Apart from that, Mohan and Lo
(1985) take their criticism of Kaplan’s version of contrastive rhetoric beyond the issue of
pedagogical orientations. They question Kaplan’s insistence that negative transfer is the
only way to account for the characteristics of non-native student writing. They focus their
study on Chinese students, but their conclusions apply to non-native students of any
background: the difficulties of Chinese students writing in English may be better
understood in terms of developmental factors: “Ability in rhetorical organization
develops late, even among writers who are native speakers, and because this ability is
derived especially from formal education, previous educational experience may facilitate
or retard the development of academic writing ability” (p. 528). In the conclusion of their
article, they compared composition in two groups between Hong Kong and British
Columbia where teachers and students focus on different areas while one (Hong Kong) is
on sentence-level accuracy, another (British Columbia) is on discourse-level organization.
The initial finding suggested that the respective two-group students attended on different
areas, which corresponded to their respective teachers’ teaching practices. Mohan and Lo
(1985) point out areas that might be considered in future research. They suggest that
students be brought into the research process to offer information about their experiences
in writing classes in their home countries. The study addresses several of the issues raised
by Mohan and Lo (1985): In collaboration with their writing center teachers, students
articulate their native cultures’ rhetoric, probe their previous writing experiences, and
compare and contrast both with their experiences writing in English.
Moreover, according to Young (as cited in Günthner, 1998), he gave another the
following comments:
Yes this is the Chinese style. One first gives the reasons and then the main thesis.
This appears as more polite. Of course you can also do it the other way round-uttering the main statement first and then providing the reasons. However, then it is
more direct. We would say it is then “KAI MEN JIAN SHAN”, this means to open
the door and then you already see the mountain.
Furthermore, the fact that Western speakers in informal contexts among acquaintances
and in formal contexts among partners prefer the direct style of organization and Chinese
speakers tend to prefer the indirect style does not mean that there are no overlaps in styles
between the two ethnic groups. Chinese speakers also have the direct style at their
disposition. Mo (1991) discovers more similarities than differences in comparison to
Chinese essays after examining English reading passages over a period of several years
from the Joint College Entrance Exam in Taiwan. Taylor and Chen (1991) found that the
introduction of academic papers in English and Chinese published in China shared
similar rhetorical moves with English papers published in English-speaking countries.
Kirkpatrick (1995) analyzed a number of English essays written by Mainland Chinese
students for the national university exam and found that none of these displayed any
apparent eight-legged essay influence. Kirkpatrick (1997) argued that the traditional
Chinese text structures do not affect the written English of Chinese students. The
traditional text structures do not affect contemporary writing in Chinese and so are
unlikely to affect the writing in English. He further argued that the eight-legged essay due
to its extreme complexity and ideological remoteness is unlikely to exert influence upon
the writings of the contemporary writing of Chinese students, whether they are writing in
Chinese or English. His research points to a wide variety of rhetorical styles in modern
Chinese, many of which show the influence of Western models. A survey of
contemporary Chinese textbooks on composition suggests that the prescriptive advice
given in these texts reflects contemporary "Anglo-American" rhetorical style. Zhang’s
(1999) study in rhetorical patterns in Chinese EFL student writers’ examination essays in
English in Hong Kong indicated that students shared a seemingly linear pattern.
According to Snively (1999), there is coexistence in direct and indirect approaches in
Chinese writing. In traditional Chinese culture, verbose and indirect expression has been
considered to be an artistic way to express respect. Thus, the argumentation tends to
avoid driving toward a persuasive conclusion. The writing tends to be descriptive, and for
Western readers the ideas may not seem well connected. In Chinese societies, the reader
is expected to work hard to understand the meaning of an article; stating things too
explicitly is an insult to the reader, because no room would be left for interpretation by
the reader. In contrast, English writing is expected that the burden of clarity would be
assumed by the writer. However, she also indicates that “As a part to overcome the legacy
of the ba gu wen, particularly the indirectness, some educators now encourage direct
beginnings for essays; students in Taiwan and Mainland China are told to open the door;
see the mountain…but the tendency to link indirection with both respect and aesthetics
dies hard” (p.26). Cahill’s (2003) research into Chinese language scholarship on the
four-part Chinese qi-cheng-zhuan-he finds that the zhuan: "turn" is not a rhetorical move
of "circularity" or "digression" as commonly assumed but rather serves as the occasion to
develop an essay further by alternative means. The implication for second language
writing is recognition of greater similarities in essayist literacy across English and
Chinese languages. In discussing the pedagogical implications, he pointed out, “The
possibility that the school essay has universal characteristics presents a theoretical
challenge to the founding premise of contrastive rhetoric that writing across languages
necessarily contrasts” (Cahill, 2003, p. 187).
Is the direct or indirect approach more prevalent in the college students’ English
expository writing in Taiwan?
How much percentage do the students choose to write in a direct or in an indirect
way in their English expository composition?
Is the teachers’ writing instruction a factor to influence students’ rhetorical strategy
use in their English expository writing?
Data was collected through the analysis of 40 English writing samples taken from the
English composition classes at a university in Taipei, Taiwan. All the students were
college students. The students had chances to write the English expository composition in
class. They were interviewed to further scrutinize their choices in adopting a “direct” or
an “indirect” approach.
Analysis of English Thought Pattern
In order to examine English rhetorical strategy use, the present study applied the types
of analysis originally employed by Kaplan (1966): the location of thesis statement. This
study focused on whether students choose to write their English expository composition
in a “direct” or in an “indirect” approach and on the influence of teachers’ writing
instruction on the students’ thought patterns in their expository composition. In this study,
the direct approach was defined that the writing clearly indicated its thesis statement and
disclosed the purpose of the writing at the very beginning; on the contrary, the indirect
approach was that the purpose of the writing was not clearly pointed out at the very
beginning and it was vague. A writer’s position statement either for or against was
considered as a thesis statement. The thought pattern of the location of the opinion-stating
sentence was identified for each text as one of the following two: deduction (thesis stated
in the introduction: the writer’s opinion precedes a supporting reason/ the writer’s opinion
and a preview statement of a supporting reason are followed by the reason), or induction
(thesis stated in the middle or final section: a supporting reason precedes the writer’s
In addition to the types of analysis, follow-up interviews of participants were
conducted in person to analyze their own English compositions in Chinese language
concerning the following points: (a) whether the L1 text differs from the L2 text in terms
of location of position-taking statement and supporting evidence; (b) why they think their
L1/L2 texts are either similar or different; and (c) how they can improve their texts if they
revise them. All the quotes from student interview responses were translated into English
by me.
The results of this study indicate that, while all students wrote more their Chinese and
English expository composition in a direct approach, different thought patterns did exist
in their selections for both direct and indirect approaches. Of the 40 English writing
samples collected, 100% (40/40) students chose to write their composition in a direct way
while 0% (0/40) students wrote their composition in an indirect way.
Interviews with Students
In this study, participants put their positions in the initial section and used the
deductive pattern in English writing. The results did not seem to support the view that
Chinese prefer the inductive style. The participants’ overall tendency to state their point
of view initially in English did not appear to conform to the following discourse features
pointed out as typical writing by Chinese as suggested by Connor (1996) and Kaplan
(1966): overall organization moving from specific to general, no strong specific position
taken by the writer, thus leaving more up to the reader and presentation of the topic in the
introduction without indicating a specific point of view about it.
First, why did students make a position statement at the outset of writing? It seems
likely that past writing instruction led them to do so and to employ the deductive
organizational pattern. In the follow-up interview with them, participants who put their
positions initially in texts said that they made conscious decisions in locating their
position statements. For example, Emily stated that she made a conscious effort to put her
position initially in writing. She clarified this by explaining that:
Teachers talked about this before. There were many model essays about it. I don’t
know about the situations in other places. However, in Taiwan there are many these
kinds of examination-oriented schools. This kind of writing is like the eight-legged
essay. The form is already over there. Therefore, kai men2 jian4 shan (open the door,
and then you see the mountain) is the way to present my viewpoint.
Fiona stated that she consciously put her thesis statements initially in English writing,
later clarifying this in a follow-up interview by explaining that she could not have done
so unconsciously. More explicitly, she reported that she believed a thesis statement should
be made at the very first position, which she surmised she had probably been taught at
school. She learned to locate the thesis statement at the initial position and consciously
put this knowledge into writing practice.
Gina reported what she learned through English writing instruction at the school was,
among other things, to state the thesis statement preferably in the introductory paragraph.
She said that she always made a conscious effort to put this into practice while writing.
For the present English tasks, however, she stated her position at the outset of the
introductory paragraph.
Jean said, “I think it’s better to write an opinion-statement initially.” Thus, her
perception is that the initial position is a better place for an opinion-stating sentence than
the final position both in Chinese and English composition. She further reported that her
perception regarding the location of the thesis statement might have been affected by
writing instructional effects.
Becky, the other participant who put her thesis at the beginning in English writing had
somehow the similar point of view to Jean. She gave the explanation as follows:
When I was in the school, I cultivated the habit of putting the thesis at the beginning
[Chinese writing part]. The [Chinese] teachers asked us to do so. If you want to get
high scores in writing, you have to put the thesis in the first paragraph…the thesis
statement appearing in the first paragraph can serve as the guidance for the later part
of the essay and it can make the essay less likely irrelevant to the topic.
Vicki, the other participant who put her thesis at the beginning of the English essays,
however had a different point of view. When she was asked the difference about the
thought patterns between English and Chinese, she reported that she believed a position
statement had to be made at the very first position. She located the thesis at the initial
position and put this into practice irrespective of English or Chinese language. Moreover,
she added that:
First you should display your viewpoint. In order to show your point of view, you
should follow this direction or baseline which was asked by the topic. If the topic was
asked without the sentence [agree or disagree], what do you think about the statement?
Then my beginning can have a longer orientation in the introduction. After that, I
began to discuss the topic.
In terms of English writing, she said that English teachers asked her to put the thesis at
the beginning simply because this could make her English writing get higher scores. In
sum, the reason why participants chose to put their thesis at the beginning in English
writing was probably because of their training and experience in the past.
Nonetheless, the thesis statement does not always appear at the outset of the
introductory paragraph in English. According to Rinnert and Kobayashi (2001), the
introductory paragraph of English essays “tend[s] to contain a thesis statement toward or
at the end of the introduction” (p. 201) rather than at the beginning of the paragraph. In
other words, the placement of the thesis at the outset of the introductory paragraph may
not represent a preferred English pattern. Emily later pointed out that her thesis was
located in the second sentence and also the end of her first paragraph. She said “since this
is a short essay, the introduction should give some background information [in the first
sentence].” Later she further explicated that “putting the thesis at the beginning was
helpful to control the whole ideas and made the essay clear.” Jessie gave somehow the
similar explanation: “First I would give some introduction. Instead of putting the thesis in
the first sentence of the introductory paragraph, introducing my personal point of view a
bit later aims to provide the background information.” She pointed out that her thesis was
located in the fourth sentences and also the end of her first paragraph.
Ruby who put her thesis statement initially in English writing gave the following
I think the normal thought pattern in English writing is that the thesis should be put in
the front position.…normally I would put the thesis at the beginning. Then I would
give the details to support the argument to clarify. I think this is a normal thought
However, when she was asked “is this because of the teachers’ instruction such as the
secondary school teachers or the way you think it is supposed to be in this fashion?” Her
answer was as follows:
I think there is an influence of teachers’ instruction. According to the Chinese thought
pattern, it seems to be easily to give some reasons at first and then make the
conclusion where the thesis is in the conclusion. But in English, I think I should show
the position at the beginning.
The other participant, Jessie who put the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph
in English writing explained that:
When I am composing the Chinese writing, I am likely to put the thesis in the final
position. But when I am composing the English writing, because of the previous
training, telling us to show the position at the beginning…it was the teachers who
taught us…it is best to position yourself at the beginning. We are conscious of doing
this. If I am writing in Chinese, I am likely to put the thesis at last. Or it is also
possible for me to put it at the beginning. Both of these are possible. The Chinese
concept of zhong yong (balance) indeed still exists…I know the English writing is
meant to be read by the examiners. The thread of thought of the examiners is like this.
I must do it in kai men2 jian4 shan (open the door, and then you see the mountain).
To sum up, the present results concerning the initial location of thesis can be
interpreted as follows. First, participants apparently used their learned knowledge of
stating the thesis initially while some participants indicated that they adopted the similar
thought pattern regardless of English or Chinese language. For those who placed the
thesis statement at the beginning, rather than near or at the end of the introductory
paragraph, it might have been easier for them to develop the following contents in their
essays as the thesis may in some ways serve the guidance for the rest of the essays.
Second, it was also likely that the opinion task itself influenced their choice of the
location of thesis. The explicit task of taking a position on an issue may have pushed
them to express their positions for/against the given topic at the outset of their writing.
Furthermore, concerning the exact location of thesis, students presented their thesis in the
first sentence which was also the whole of their introduction while the other students
presented the thesis at the end of the introduction. The function of one and/or two
sentences ahead providing background information about the topic can be considered as
the springboard statement or the intention to orient the reader, which is followed by the
thesis statement. Finally, generally the participants showed their preference for the initial
positioning of their thesis, deductive type organization in their writings. Their prior L1/L2
writing instruction or experience has presumably exerted an influence on their writing.
The results suggest that deductive patterns may not be difficult for Chinese students to
learn to employ especially in their English writing, and teachers’ writing instruction can
be effective in this respect.
In summary, based upon this study, the deficit model of the Chinese as one who is
unable to adjust to Western academic linear patterns in writing might be flawed. While it
is important to understand some of the features of Confucian Heritage Cultures, one
needs to be wary of seeing this too simplistically, or to assume the cultures are static. Lee
(1996) claims that education in the Confucian tradition is important for its intrinsic value
and is inclined to a deep rather than surface approach. Contrary to the claims of writers
such as Ballard and Clanchy (1991a, 1991b), Lee (1996), in his analysis of Confucian
texts, argues that there is an emphasis on reflective thinking, open mindedness and a spirit
of inquiry. While the traditional culture is important, it is not static, but a precursor to
deeper understanding. In addition, the fact that Western speakers in informal contexts
among acquaintances and in formal contexts among partners prefer the direct style of
organization and Chinese speakers tend to prefer the indirect style does not mean that
there are no overlaps in styles between the two ethnic groups. Of course, Chinese
speakers also have the direct style at their disposition. Spack (1997, 1998) questions the
desirability of labeling Chinese as indirectness. Chinese education and its underlying
ideology have always been in flux and Chinese rhetoric is constantly changing, as is
Western rhetoric. There are forms of Chinese rhetoric which are similar to Western
rhetoric. To label people on the basis of their cultural origins can lead us to generalize and
to make inaccurate predictions about how they are likely to learn as a result of their
cultural background. Huang (1997) also points out that while the stereotype of the
Confucian scholar has some validity, modern Chinese students are more open to newer
methods. The picture of an Asian and in particular Chinese student as presented in much
of the literature such as the Kaplan’s study (1966) for example may oversimplify a very
complex area. While an awareness of the cultural underpinnings of approaches to
learning are important and while students’ approaches to learning are shaped by their
educational and rhetorical traditions, it is important not to make generalizations which
will limit both the teacher and the learner. The label Asian or Confucian Heritage Culture
or Chinese as a cultural profile and thus a predictor of patterns is too restricted.
From the pedagogical perspective, as to the teaching, the implications in this aspect lie
on the importance of thinking about teachers’ assumptions about teaching and learning in
writing, identifying what they expect and value, and making this transparent and
modeling it for all students. The thought pattern, as a part of culture, is both explicitly and
implicitly framed through the dissemination of several forms such as the teaching for
example. Since the different thought patterns in writing do exist, in the teaching of
writing to students, teachers should be aware of these differences, and they should make
these differences overtly apparent to their students and make the students understand
what kind of patterns they write. In addition, it is necessary to understand that in terms of
composition whether it is written in a direct or in an indirect way, there is no absolutely
the superior or inferior approach to write. Most of the knowledge of appropriate writing
patterns is largely constructed out of a system of shared values largely shaped by the
cultures themselves (Grabe, 2001). Thus, as to the teaching of writing, in a multicultural
learning environment students may have different approaches to, and definitions of, essay
writing because of different expectations, attitudes to learning and possible variations in
presentation of ideas in writing (Ballard & Clancy, 1991a, 1991b). Furthermore, when
there is linguistic and cultural diversity, it represent there is also complexity in the range
of problems encountered by students as they learn to cope with the demands of academic
study such as different conceptions of the essay. Therefore, such differences need also to
be taken into account when assessing students from different backgrounds so that
students can meet the requirements of assessment tasks. An understanding of possible
differences in rhetorical patterns will give us a better understanding of the possible gap
between the expectations and those of the students. This can also be reflected in tutorials
in which students are aware of and comfortable with what is expected of them. Teachers
need to consciously teach the academic discourses and in so doing, understand that not all
students will have the same assumptions about what is appropriate and valuable. Finally,
since the trend of global interdependence has created an ever-shifting cultural, economic,
and technological reality that defines the shrinking world of the 21st century. In order to
survive in this ever-shrinking global world we also must learn to see through the eyes and
minds of people from different cultures, and further develop a global mindset. In other
words, intercultural communication ability has become an indispensable element for
reaching the goal of a global mindset. We should pay more attention to indigenous
cultures, and look at their attitudes toward writing practices and communication style
differences. We need to identify core constructs with which we are unfamiliar, and are in
danger of overlooking. Increased sensitivity is thus important because of this global
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