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Call me Fei: Chinese-speaking students’ decision whether or not to use English names in classroom interaction

Received 19 Jul 2018
Accepted 29 Apr 2019
Published online: 09 May 2019
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Unlike other groups of international students, Chinese speakers’ use of English names while studying in English is an established norm. Relatively little discussion of the practice has taken place within recent literature, and less attention still has been paid to the minority of Chinese-speaking students who do not adopt English names. The choice of name used during classroom interaction is, though, both significant and meaningful, symbolising the social and cultural membership a person would like to evoke and impacting on student-teacher relationships. This article reports on a survey into the use of English names by Chinese speakers, which was completed by 330 Chinese-speaking students at UK universities – 255 of whom had adopted English names, 75 of whom had not. Survey responses reveal why and how decisions to/not to adopt English names are made. Interview data is then presented from discussions with eight Chinese-speaking students based in the UK who do not use English names. They explain why and describe their experiences of being a minority among Chinese-speakers studying in English.

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