How do you communicate with Chinese students

Chinese students at the TU Dresden. An investigation into intercultural learning

Table of Contents


1.1 Objective
1.2 Structure
1.3 Methodical approach
1.4 Research results on study and learning problems of Chinese students in Germany


2.1 The phenomenon of culture and its significance for human activity 8
2.2 Model of cultural differences in teaching and learning according to Hofstede
2.2.1 Power distance
2.2.2 Individualism vs. Collectivism
2.2.4 Avoiding uncertainty
2.2.5 Summary for your own investigation

3.1 Confucianist character of the teaching and learning culture in China
3.2 Special features of Chinese learners
3.2.1 Passive and silent learners
3.2.2 Disciplined and obedient learners
3.2.3 Learner by heart
3.2.4 Learner with a lack of creativity
3.3 Characteristics of Chinese teachers
3.4 Summary

4.1 Organization of studies
4.2 Oral communication
4.3 Dealing with criticism
4.4 Exam preparation
4.5 Scientific writing
4.6 The social relationship between lecturers and students
4.7 Summary


5.1 Qualitative approach
5.2 case study
5.3 Survey methods
5.3.1 Qualitative interview
5.3.2 Case-by-case analysis

6.1 Selection of respondents
6.2. Pre-understanding regarding communication with Chinese
6.3 Survey of the interview content
6.4. transcription

7.1 Organization of studies (P1)
7.2 Oral communication and dealing with criticism (P1)
7.3 Exam preparation (P1)
7.4 Scientific writing (P1)
7.5 The social relationship between lecturers and students (P1)
7.6 Summary of the first case study

8.1 Organization of studies (P2)
8.2 Oral communication (P2)
8.3 Dealing with criticism (P2)
8.4 Exam preparation (P2)
8.5 Scientific writing (P2)
8.6 The social relationship between lecturers and students (P2)
8.7 Summary of the second case study

9.1 Organization of studies (P3)
9.2 Oral communication (P3)
9.3 Dealing with criticism (P3)
9.4 Exam preparation (P3)
9.5 Scientific writing (P3)
9.6 The social relationship between lecturers and students (P3)
9.7 Summary of the third case study

10.1 Organization of studies (P4)
10.2 Oral communication (P4)
10.3 Dealing with criticism (P4)
10.4 Exam preparation (P4)
10.5 Scientific Writing (P4)
10.6 The social relationship between lecturers and students (P4)
10.7 Summary of the fourth case study

11.1 Study organization (P5)
11.2 Oral communication (P5)
11.3 Dealing with criticism (P5)
11.4 Exam preparation (P5)
11.5 Scientific writing (P5)
11.6 The social relationship between lecturers and students (P5)
11.7 Summary of the fifth case study





Figure not included in this excerpt


China is in a constant state of flux and is now one of the largest, strongest and fastest growing markets in the world. Since the introduction of the opening policy in 1978, the exchange between China and the western world has intensified and led to major changes on the economic, political and social level. Many German companies founded their own subsidiaries in China and continue to expand their involvement in the Chinese market. As a result of this economic tendency, Germans come into contact with the otherness of Chinese culture much more intensively. Hardly anyone would question that the Chinese and German cultures are very different.

But not only Germans go to China. Every year, many Chinese leave their home country due to studying abroad.1 Studying abroad has become more attractive in recent years and has a high priority in Chinese society. An academic degree abroad significantly increases professional opportunities and thus a higher standard of living in the Chinese homeland.

The Federal Republic of Germany has a very high level of development in technology and science. Made in Germany ’is still considered a guarantee for excellent and first-class quality. In the 2010/2011 winter semester, around 25,000 Chinese studied in Germany, which has been one of the preferred target countries for studying abroad for several years (Wissenschaft weltoffen 2010).

1.1 Objective

In view of global globalization, the trend towards a multicultural society is increasing everywhere. Thus, a special value is recognized for intercultural learning and the skills to be acquired in the process.

Intercultural learning is geared towards the development of skills and competencies that strive for recognition and appreciation of other cultures. By perceiving culture-specific contexts, correct handling of intercultural situations is guaranteed.

The present work deals with intercultural learning processes in the field of teaching and learning, which Chinese students are exposed to in Germany. Many of them have to struggle with considerable adjustment and study problems and are only poorly integrated into German university life.

Studying in a foreign culture is much more differentiated in terms of its specific requirements and socio-cultural complexity than a purely self-cultural university education or further education and presents a number of challenges. On the one hand, Chinese students are confronted with a foreign cultural environment due to the different norms, values ​​and educational ideals . On the other hand, the education system in Germany is completely alien to them and the structure of learning and studying makes unusual demands on them. In some cases, they contradict their own educational ideals from China, which makes the study visit considerably more difficult. As a result, Chinese students have certain expectations of their studies. They not only include a different study and learning behavior, but also completely new attitudes towards the lecturers (Günthner 1988: 137ff). In addition, there are the usual linguistic and technical requirements and specific problems relating to questions of labor and residence law, which all foreign students are confronted with during their studies.

There is another serious problem. In the last few years, more than 50 percent of Chinese students dropped out of their studies in Germany without success (Horstkotte 2009). The search for an answer is very complex. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the cultural differences between China and Germany, especially with regard to university studies, must have played a major role.

The present master’s thesis is based on these cultural peculiarities in university studies between China and Germany and examines the study and learning problems of Chinese students by means of an empirical study at the Technical University of Dresden. The subject is problems that originate in the independent organization of the course and in the culturally influenced learning techniques and behavior. The following areas are examined:

Independent study organization, oral communication, dealing with criticism, exam preparation, academic writing and the social relationship between lecturers and students. The choice of areas is not random. A decisive factor is the relatively large distance of the differences to the Chinese academic culture and the high relevance of the disciplines to be examined in everyday university life in Germany.

With the primary goal of presenting the study and learning problems of Chinese students in Germany, an intercultural orientation knowledge with regard to the Chinese teaching and learning culture is made available at the same time. Nowadays the study is multicultural. In view of this, not only the university professors but also the fellow students are asked to interact with foreign, in this case Chinese, students in an appropriate way. A lack of cultural sensitivity can lead to tension or even conflict. It should be added that the minimization of the study and learning problems of the Chinese students also depends on the quality of the interaction with the German hosts. From this it can be deduced that the orientation knowledge is required for a better design of intercultural teaching and learning practice. The present work provides it with regard to the Chinese teaching and learning culture.

The general study problems, such as financial or psychological problems, are not part of the present study. Reading selected specialist literature shows that the topic has already been taken up and extensively examined in intercultural educational research (see Guan, Huiping 2007, Yu, Xuemei 2008, Meng, Hong 2003 and many more).

1.2 Structure

For a clear overall presentation and for a better understanding of the topic, this work is divided into a theoretical and empirical part.

In the introduction, the problem, the objective and the methodical approach of the master’s thesis are explained in more detail. At the same time, the current state of research on the topic is shown on the basis of selected specialist literature.

This is followed by the second chapter, in which a general introduction to the problem is discussed about the phenomenon of culture and its significance for people's actions. The Hofstede model of cultural differences in teaching and learning also plays an important role in this section, and is critically examined in the chapter with regard to the German and Chinese teaching and learning cultures.

Chapter 3 lays the theoretical foundations for one's own empirical investigation. The specific teaching and learning features, shaped by Confucian teaching and its basic ethical principles, must first be known in order to be able to discuss the study and learning problems of Chinese students in Germany. This chapter focuses on the characteristics of Chinese learners and teachers. The peculiarities of the Chinese education system are of further importance and require further explanation here.

Chapter 4 of the master's thesis creates a basic understanding of the content of cultural differences between the Chinese and German higher education systems. This chapter is divided into six areas: study organization, oral communication, dealing with criticism, exam preparation, academic writing and the social relationship between lecturers and students. In each area, with the help of selected literature, the differences between the German and Chinese teaching and learning cultures are shown. These areas will be examined intensively in the following investigation.

The empirical part begins with chapter 5, in which the selected survey and evaluation methods with regard to the empirical investigation are the focus. The selection of the qualitative research approach and the research methods are explained in more detail with the help of selected literature.

The next chapter describes the procedure for collecting data for the subsequent investigation. Here is a. justified the choice of respondents for the interviews and created an understanding of how to communicate with the Chinese.

In the following chapters from 7 to 11, the results of the five interviews are presented in detail by means of individual case analyzes. Conspicuous and meaningful text passages are discussed for each examined area.

Finally, the results are summarized, in which the findings from the case studies flow together and a picture of the study and learning problems of the test subjects at the TU Dresden is shown.

1.3 Methodical approach

The present work is conceived as a qualitatively oriented exploratory case study. This enables the author to cover the broadest possible spectrum of study and learning problems faced by Chinese students at the Technical University of Dresden.

The survey in the form of a guideline-based problem-centered interview is selected from the various empirical methods available. This approach offers the researcher the prerequisites for creating conversational situations with people whose communicative behavior is expected to be more reserved and taciturn, as most Chinese students are described.

The test subjects for the individual case studies are five Chinese students from the Technical University of Dresden who are studying different subjects and subject semesters for the 2011 summer semester. The interviews were conducted individually in German and, with the consent of the respondents, recorded using a dictation machine and then completely transcribed. Of course, anonymity was guaranteed.

The information obtained during the interviews is evaluated using the qualitative content analysis. This makes it possible to analyze the statements of each test person in detail.

1.4 Research results on study and learning problems of Chinese students in Germany

In the specialist literature there are some general studies on the situation of Chinese students in Germany. The reasons and requirements for studying in Germany and the general situation of Chinese students at German universities are examined. The focus is on language, financial and physical problems (Sun, Jin 2010; Guan, Huiping 2007; Yu, Xuemei 2008; Meng, Hong 2003, and many more).

A closer look at the specialist literature reveals that the topic of study and learning problems for Chinese students in Germany remains largely unexplored in the academic debate. There are only a few specialist publications that relate to the area mentioned.

The study by Tjioe (1972) among Chinese female students in Germany shows some findings that are still relevant. The passivity and cautious behavior in the courses, which are attributed to a lack of language and specialist knowledge, is made clear here. The language problem is emphasized more in the investigation. Furthermore, the different learning traditions and living habits in Germany as well as the social isolation are perceived as an additional burden when learning (Tjioe 1972: 56-99).

In her essay, Günthner (1988) addresses the institutional differences between the Chinese and German higher education systems and holds them responsible for the study problems faced by Chinese students in Germany. In her opinion, the independent organization of studies is the main reason why Chinese students drop out because it causes them many problems right from the start. Günthner's essay is based on her many years of experience as a German editor. Thus, she also takes up the problem of the intercultural teaching situation and deals on the one hand with cultural ideas and on the other hand with the expectations of Chinese students and German university lecturers. Thus, it is found that the Chinese teaching and learning methods are heavily based on imitation and repetition and are also associated with hard effort and diligence. Thus they differ from the German teaching and learning methods. Creativity, independent work and individuality play a very important role here. These values ​​will be demanded and promoted (ibid. 152ff).

Sun's dissertation (2008) deals with intercultural differences in university studies between China and Germany using the example of the University of Bremen. Among other things, the following are examined. Areas such as the university's institutional framework, study organization, exams and exams, academic writing or teaching activities. This article provides some suggestions for Chapter 4 of this work. Sun determines the extent of the differences, but not whether they can lead to study and learning problems.

Yu (2008) deals with the evaluation of an empirical study that was carried out on the Internet and considers all Chinese students in Germany to be the target group. Although the study focuses on practical skills, some study problems can be identified here. Organizational difficulties come to the fore, which can be justified by the differences between the two study systems. In addition, Yu points out that language and contact problems are the greatest barriers to learning and studying among Chinese students in Germany (Yu 2008: 177-199).

After evaluating the specialist literature, it can be determined that there is no clear picture of the study and learning problems faced by Chinese students in Germany.


In this chapter, the theoretical assumptions on which the present study is based are explained in more detail. First, we will briefly look at what is meant by culture and how it generates human activity. Subsequently, the cultural differences in teaching and learning according to Hofstede between China and Germany are defined.

2.1 The phenomenon of culture and its importance for human activity

The term 'culture' plays a special role in the present work. There are many approaches to defining this term in the literature on this topic. Likewise, there are numerous opinions about how difficult the attempts at definition are and that they always show different end results.

The difficulty of finding a definition of culture that is valid for everyone corresponds to numerous existing definitions (Sun 2010: 12). Culture is seen as a cognitive orientation system and practice at the same time. It is understood as a web of meaning (Geertz 1987), as a horizon of meaning (Soeffner 2003), as part of a collective memory (Assman 1997) or as the mental programming of the mind (Hofstede 1986).

The present work is based on Hartmut Esser's (2001, 2004) concept of culture. His definition of culture provides answers to important questions that arise when dealing with the phenomenon and at the same time provides a theoretical basis for the subsequent investigation.

His interpretation of culture is explained as the sum " the learned or otherwise appropriated, structured and regular, socially widespread and shared habits, ways of life, rules, rituals, symbols, values ​​and knowledge of the actors of a collective, including the types of thinking, passed on through imitation and instruction, Feeling and acting "(Esser 2004: 250).

In particular, there is culture according to Esser "From a connection of signs and (...) triggered mental models in which cognitive ideas, affective occupations and readiness to act are combined and which act as a 'frame of reference' for orientation in the situation (...)" (ibid. 250).

This finding is very useful for understanding the functional importance of culture for the actions of Chinese students in Germany. Because the actions of people in a certain culture are linked to a 'definition of the situation'. Its central component is the orientation of the members of a culture to certain collectively shared mental models of correct thinking, feeling and acting, which give every situation the typical meaning. In order to understand the action, the underlying meaning that is connected to it must be recognized (Esser 2001: 1ff).

As already mentioned, Esser understands the term culture to mean the totality of all socially shared frames of reference that exist in a society and the symbols related to them. Culture thus has a functional meaning in that it generates people's actions by defining the situation. As a result, the mental models of correct thinking, feeling and acting that are stored in people's memories are activated for typical situations. These are " with certain typical objective and recognizable features of situations “Associable (ibid. 1). They are only activated when the typical signs and symbols appear (Esser 2004: 261).

From the presentation of the term culture and its meaning for the actions of the people, some conclusions can be drawn that are important for the understanding of the present work. Chinese students who come to Germany to study abroad grew up in the Chinese culture. They were taught the ways of life, norms and values ​​common in this culture. As a result, they have unconsciously absorbed and internalized the typical forms of perceiving, thinking and acting. Thus, actions in their culture take place automatically according to the established routines and are perceived as something self-evident and natural.

When they start studying in Germany, Chinese students are confronted with a culture that is foreign to them. They are based on their own cultural system, which is their benchmark. However, over time they find that their " collective programming of the mind " (Hofstede) encounters incomprehension. So they have to deal with other rules, rituals, symbolizations, norms and values ​​as well as forms of perception, thinking and acting.

Because the unconscious execution of the stored mental models of correct thinking, feeling and acting meets with misunderstandings. This results in major problems that they have to struggle with at German universities. Your learning techniques and strategies from home prove to be ineffective in Germany and have to be adapted to the German educational system. Critical thinking, creativity and independence are also required here. These terms are largely alien to them and sometimes contradict their educational ideals from their own culture.

2.2 Model of cultural differences in teaching and learning according to Hofstede

As already mentioned in the previous chapter, the two cultures are not only characterized by general peculiarities, but also by certain differences in the design of teaching and learning, which manifest themselves from elementary school to university education.2 However, it is not enough to state the differences. Here it must be shown how they emerge during learning and teaching and what they can be traced back to.

Hofstede has the 4-dimensional model of cultural differences3 transferred to the design of intercultural teaching and learning practice. Thus, the differences in teaching and learning along the 4 cultural dimensions can be shown (1986). This makes it possible to analyze and explain the differences between the German and Chinese teaching and learning cultures that lead to study and learning problems for Chinese students in Germany. The dimensions of power distance, individualism vs. collectivism and avoidance of insecurity influence the academic style of the two cultures and are examined in more detail below.

However, it is important to point out that the cultural differences in teaching and learning are not entirely due to the results of Hofstede's extensive empirical survey on cultural comparison, as is often assumed. They are largely based on his personal observations and experiences (ibid. 306).

In the following, the main effects of these three cultural dimensions on the design of the teaching and learning situation in China and Germany are presented.

2.2.1 Power distance

To distinguish between the two cultures, power distance is listed as the first dimension. This term means "The extent to which the less powerful members of institutions or organizations in a country expect and accept that power is unevenly distributed) “(Hofstede 2009: 59). Hofstede describes Germany as a country with a comparatively small power distance and names the achieved equality, especially between teachers and students, as a great good. Here, teachers take on the role of approachable learning designers, in whom the students are actively involved in the design of the lesson. Questioning the subject matter and expressing one's own opinion should be encouraged.

In contrast, there is the Chinese learning culture, which is characterized by a great power distance. Here every initiative comes from the teacher, who as a distanced authority figure in frontal teaching imparts subjective knowledge and is to be treated with appropriate respect. Any attempts to criticize or contradict the teacher are undesirable. Not only do they destroy harmony, but they can also cause the student to lose face (ibid. 68-72).

2.2.2 Individualism vs. Collectivism

Individualism vs. collectivism are seen as the opposing poles of the second dimension of cultures. It describes the extent to which people see themselves as individuals or as part of a community. With regard to the design of the teaching and learning situation, there are some peculiarities with regard to the learning purpose between individualistic and collectivistic cultures.

In individualistically oriented learning cultures, such as in Germany, it is assumed that lifelong and self-directed learning is necessary in order to be able to deal with unknown and unexpected situations. Independent participation in lessons is therefore a central feature of the learning process, which leads to the acquisition of various competencies and serves to increase one's own economic value (ibid. 132).

In contrast, the purpose of learning in China, in a collectivist-oriented culture, is more to master given data and facts. Education is the way to gain prestige, reputation and pride in the social group. Acquiring diplomas and certificates is more important than expanding one's own skills (ibid. 130-133). At this point, one more aspect must be taken into account. In collectively oriented cultures, the benchmark for (study) success is not only determined by the individual himself, but above all by his parents and the social group. Academic success thus contributes to the expansion of the social image of all those involved. Conversely, failure would not only mean a loss of face for the individual concerned, but also for his or her social group (Sun 2010: 46).

2.2.4 Avoiding uncertainty

As a third important category, the avoidance of uncertainty expresses an expectation in which the unknown and the unexpected should be avoided or excluded as far as possible in all areas of life.

The Chinese learning and teaching culture is characterized by a high level of uncertainty avoidance. The lessons are characterized by clear structures and defined rules for interaction between teachers and students. As a result, there is little room for spontaneous action and discussion. Thus the lesson planning remains clearly structured and the harmony is not destroyed (Hofstede 2009: 248). In this way the unknown can be avoided.

A low level of uncertainty avoidance is practiced in Germany. This allows students and teachers to deal flexibly with unforeseen situations and to improvise. The authority of the teaching body is neither restricted nor called into question (ibid. 247ff).

2.2.5 Summary for your own investigation

The most important conclusion for the present master’s thesis is the conscious presentation of the differences in teaching and learning between the two cultures. It is thus made clear in what form cultural effects manifest themselves not only in the design of teaching and learning practice, but also in the thinking or the interaction of teachers and learners between German and Chinese cultures. This makes it easier to perceive and interpret the behavior of all those involved.

As a result, raising awareness of these particularities in intercultural situations can generate greater understanding and respect for the other culture among those involved. Therefore, a German teacher with little power distance cannot perceive the low participation of Chinese learners in courses as a lack of interest, but rather as respect for the teacher. This makes it easier to understand the behavior of Chinese students when designing their courses. In this way, the teacher can adapt his expectations of the behavior of the students as well as his assessment schemes to the group of learners.

Conversely, knowing the differences is also beneficial for Chinese learners. In this way, they could react and respond more specifically to expectations of both German teachers and fellow students with regard to participation and lesson organization.

In this way, possible conflicts that result from culture-specific characteristics of the teaching and learning situations can be better avoided. A prerequisite for this is the conscious perception of both parties' own cultural identity.


In order to better recognize the study and learning problems of Chinese students in Germany, it is necessary to know and understand the influencing factors from the Chinese teaching and learning culture. For this reason, the presentation of the basic knowledge of Chinese teaching and learning culture and the dominant behavioral patterns there are necessary for understanding the goal of the master’s thesis and as the theoretical basis for empirical research.

3.1 Confucianist character of the teaching and learning culture in China

The attitude to teaching and learning that is widespread and cultivated in China follows the teachings of Confucius, who is considered a key figure in the history of China.4 Confucianism, as the teaching of Confucius, forms the foundation of Chinese education.5 The teaching and learning methods in China are partly determined and shaped by Confucianism to this day (Zinzius 2007: 159).

Confucianism demands a strongly hierarchical and structured structure from Chinese society that integrates each individual and thus presupposes a stable and strong society. Thus, the precisely defined doctrine of morals and virtues becomes part of the strict hierarchical order that must be obeyed absolutely obediently by all people. The list of duties required by Chinese upbringing includes humility, kindness, obedience, strict discipline, and submission. Values ​​such as creativity, self-confidence and assertiveness are neglected in the sense of Confucianism, which comes to the fore in education (Kotte 2007: 60).

In addition, according to Confucius, there are five basic human principles, in which all human relationships are ordered in a strict hierarchical manner according to age and status and each person is assigned a social role with corresponding obligations and rules of behavior. . From this point of view, the authority of teachers in China is undisputed. Recognition and respect shown to the teacher will be rewarded with full attention to his students. Because in the hierarchy the younger is obliged to show respect and obedience to the older. In contrast, the older one provides protection and care for the younger (Guan 2007: 64).

Confucianism also strives for a life in harmony, both in interpersonal relationships and in the natural environment (Zinzius 2007: 40). For this reason, the behavior of an individual is characterized by self-control, restraint and willingness to adapt in order to maintain a positive bond in the group, since the person defines himself only through his social relationships. The individual and their possible attempts at development are not tolerated, since the thinking and acting of the individual is steered into collective paths (Guan 2007: 65). For this reason, the individual person is not able to develop his or her individuality and autonomous personality.

From the brief description of the most important values ​​of Confucianism, the three characteristics can be derived, which were already explained in chapter 2.2.2 in relation to the Hofstede values. The high power distance in China guarantees the teacher his undisputed authority, the collective character of the culture emphasizes in each individual his lack of self-confidence and sense of duty as well as restraint. Striving for a life in harmony also confirms the high level of uncertainty avoidance.

3.2 Special features of Chinese learners

The appropriate procedure for characterizing a typical Chinese learner is possible by describing conspicuous and unfamiliar behaviors that tend to have a disruptive or aggravating effect on the course of a lesson in Germany. In Chinese culture, however, these are viewed and valued as positive.

3.2.1 Passive and silent learners

Chinese learners seem passive and silent. This behavior is also reflected in Germany at all events with Chinese students. It says: “You can hear the famous pin drop. Many students look down with embarrassment and persistence. I ask a question, look around. Twenty students, no answer. I repeat the question. No reaction. Understanding is not reflected on any face. Finally, I am pointing to a student, so doing what I wanted to avoid. He should answer. He does it. That confuses me. Why didn't he get in touch? Why didn't he answer by himself? And so I stand in front of the blackboard, with 20 students in front of me whose bodies are not giving a signal. They sit still, they don't chat, they look at me, they show no boredom, no interest, no joy, no anger ” (Hofmann 1992, quoted from Zeilinger 2006: 6).

Other authors report similar experiences with Chinese learners (Kleppin 1987: 253, Anders 1989). This passive behavior is mainly justified with the fear of making mistakes. Because in Chinese culture, mistakes result in loss of face and exposure of the person.The passivity of the students is already practiced in school. In China, asking questions is viewed at the same time as criticism of the teacher and is rated with a certain displeasure. For this reason and for the sake of group harmony, most Chinese students obviously do not want to attract attention (Mitchian 1992: 34).

In the literature, the design of courses at German universities is often analyzed in relation to foreign students. It is shown that all foreign students are not used to some aspects at German universities. This includes, for example, comparing and discussing different opinions, developing personal judgments or checking arguments. As a result, they need time and energy to deal with it (Karcher 1991: 38). Accordingly, Chinese students are not used to the lecturer asking them questions and asking them to think about the subject matter. Their thought: "I want to be trained, you are the teacher, tell me what I have to do, why are you asking me?"

(Kotte 2007: 60) is firmly anchored in everyone's mind through the traditional Chinese education system.

In addition, there is another point, due to which not only the possibility of making mistakes, but also the potential correction or criticism from others prevent the Chinese students from discussing seminars. This is justified by the fact that there is no creative criticism in Chinese culture. Criticizing a thing always means criticizing a person (Zhao 2010: 316).

In spite of everything, there still seems to be a reason for the silence of Chinese students at German universities. This is not to be found in the cultural background, but in the command of the German language. Because “All observers agreed that Chinese students were lacking in activity, expressed in general aversion to discussion (...) as well as in the absence of questions from personal initiative, the disclosure of personal opinions or spontaneous expressions of feeling. The discrepancy between active and passive command of the language seems to be the big problem here " (Mitchian 1991: 34f). The Chinese students have an extensive vocabulary and know the grammatical rules of German. When it comes to application, however, there is a lack of language practice and the associated courage to practice it. In addition, they are afraid of not being able to express their ideas and thoughts adequately and tend to remain silent (Guan 2007: 19). The uncertainty in the German language plays a major role. However, this fact can be observed in all foreign students. With the Chinese students, there is also the Chinese fear of the impending loss of face. This suppresses all forms of uncontrolled and spontaneous behavior. This also prevents asking what is not understood. This is the only way to reduce the potential risk of exposure.

3.2.2 Disciplined and obedient learners

In China, extraordinary discipline is required to cope with the duties assigned to everyday life and at the university. This is taught to the children from home right from the start and perfected in school through to university training. The Chinese school system is extremely performance-oriented and selective. As a result, the students have to study hard from exam to exam in order to then pass the entrance tests for the next higher level. All with the aim of passing the state-wide entrance examination for the university at the end of the school year (eighth 2011). For this reason, many parents see no other way than strictness and discipline towards their mostly only child. "Chinese parents understand that nothing is fun until one is good at it"writes Amy Chua (2011)6 and adds "to get good at something you have to work, and children naturally never want to work, which is why it is so important to ignore what they want. This requires a lot of willpower from the parents, because the child will refuse " (Amy Chua 2011, quoted from Graw 2011).

To outsiders, these measures often appear merciless and draconian. It also sounds like coercion and the use of force, which for moral reasons is a taboo in Western education. However, Chinese upbringing has different standards. Parents have very precise ideas about their child's development and their future place in the social group. Enormous sums of money are invested in the education of the child. As a result, the children are faced with high expectations and must not fail (Acht 2011).

The Chinese children are sometimes compared to bonsai trees " over whose growth the owner has taken power " (Kröter 2011). Accordingly, the Chinese parents model their children according to their own wishes and will. You are forced to study and work very hard from an early age. In this way they should collect successes and thus gain a certain level of self-confidence (Graw 2011). This is the only way they can achieve top performance in school and win the fight for a successful professional future.

3.2.3 Learner by heart

The high expectations of the children and the associated selection in school, in which the examination results alone decide on further education, explain the main learning method in Chinese schools. The basis for this is memorizing and reciting the written material. Essays are often read in a choir. The teacher auditions, the students speak together afterwards. In China it is not uncommon to memorize numerous scripts and test texts word for word without processing the content yourself and to pass them on during the test (Mitschian 1999: 49). "Read the book 100 times and you will make sense of it" says a Chinese piece of wisdom (here from Schweizer 2006: 257).

Memorization is deeply rooted in the Chinese tradition. In 595, China held its first written exam on the recruitment of civil servants. The core of the exams were essays with interpretations of the Confucian writings and literary-historical topics. In order to get the coveted civil servant status, the candidate had to know the Confucian classics by heart (eighth 2011; Kuhn et al. 2001: 235). Based on this, memorization has remained the most important learning method to this day and is neither outdated nor unusable in China. According to the Chinese view, this type of learning is an excellent exercise for developing patience, perseverance and concentration (Nowak-Speich 2006: 100). However, there is another aspect to consider. The Chinese students have respect for the knowledge or the authority behind it of the teacher. Thus, they do not dare to independently process the subject matter (Sun 2008: 46).

Of course, this approach does not mean that the Chinese learners have superficial and unreflective knowledge. Research results from Chinese students have shown that reproductive learning can also lead to a deep understanding of the learning content. It will often be the results of Marton's investigation7 and found that memorization and understanding from the Chinese point of view do not exclude each other, but rather support and enable each other (Marton 1996, quoted from Sun 2010, 45). Accordingly, the Chinese learners differentiate between pure memorization for later reproduction of the learned content and a learning process that leads to an understanding of the facts by means of memorization (Hesse 2005: 7). Thus, memorization in China often serves as a method to develop understanding on the one hand, and on the other hand it is used as a means to an end so that the learning content can be accessed better and faster during the exam (Sun 2010: 45).

At this point it must be added that understanding is the result of a lengthy process. In addition, not only an enormous effort but also the cultural background is required. The term " cultural learning environment “(Schweizer 2009: 256) to the fore. This includes the respective culture-specific teaching and learning offers and their use. Because of this, Chinese students bring certain expectations into the classroom. The teachers teach in an authoritarian manner and require passive learning from them. Regardless of this, the offer of the lessons is used successfully. Because repetitive learning leads Chinese students to a deep processing of the learning content (Hesse 2005: 7).

It can be seen that both the range of lessons and the expectations of the learners and their passive learning habits are culturally determined. A missing part would lead to difficulties in learning behavior and learning outcomes.

3.2.4 Learner with a lack of creativity

There are various explanations for the term creativity in the literature. In Western cultures, creativity basically means the ability to come up with new and useful ideas for solving problems, which is characterized by trying out the unknown. For the time being, the final result is not taken into account (Nowak-Speich 2006: 102).

However, such an awareness of creativity is not well developed in Chinese culture. In this context, the traditional upbringing and education system is blamed for the lack of creativity. Because the range of virtues required in upbringing is broad and includes humble demeanor, discipline, obedience and friendliness. Only a subordinate role is provided for creativity, self-confidence and independence. Accordingly, the characteristics are not required or promoted in child education (Kotte 2007: 60).

It is assumed that as a result of creativity all processes get out of control and thus possibly have a disruptive effect. In addition, creative action requires free thinking by all actors and the necessary time that could be used elsewhere. In this sense, creativity in China is seen as something unnecessary and causing chaos (Nowak-Speich 2006: 102). This results in the high level of uncertainty avoidance in Chinese society. This is the only way to minimize the risk.8

As a result, creativity is suppressed as a trait in children at an early age. They also hardly get the chance to use this tool, as they are prepared for learning and passing exams right from the first day of school (Acht 2011).


1 In the course of the master’s thesis, for the sake of clarity and readability, the feminine is not used and only the masculine is used.

2 In the further course of Chapters 2 and 3, terms such as teacher and student are generally used. However, their characteristics affect all levels of education: from elementary school to university education.

3 At the beginning of the 1980s, Geert Hofstede carried out a large-scale study among the employees of IBM in over 40 countries. The main component of the study were work-related values. The results of the study are four dimensions of national cultures, which he uses to describe and analyze cultural differences between different countries. It includes: power distance (from small to large), collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity and avoidance of insecurity (from weak to strong). The Confucian dynamic was added later (Hofstede 2001: 17).

4 A Chinese scholar and philosopher. He lived from 551 to 479 BC.

5 In addition to Confucianism, there are also Taoism and Buddhism as three traditional value orientations that strongly influence the Chinese mentality. Confucianism, with its value system, is the moral philosophy of Chinese society. While Taoism and Buddhism have become religious systems (Zinzius 2007: 152).

6 Amy Chua sparked a heated discussion at the end of January 2011 with her educational book "The Song of a Tiger Mother". In her opinion, only the strict upbringing method based on the Chinese model can prepare children on the path to success.

7 Marton explored the dual role of memorization in the Chinese learning culture.

8 For a detailed description of the aspect, see Chapter 2.2.2.

End of the reading sample from 92 pages