Chinese Students’ Ambivalent Perceptions of Grammar Correction in L2 Writing

Xu Shao, Jingyu Zhang


The efficacy of Grammar Correction (GC) in second language (L2) writing classes has been the subject of much controversy and the field seems to take Ferris’ (1999) generalization that students believe in GC and want to receive it for granted. To test Ferris’ generalization, this study examines Chinese students’ perceptions of GC in their English writing. The results of a questionnaire administered to six groups of three proficiency levels of university students majoring in or not in English show ambivalent perceptions towards GC. On the one hand, all learners believe GC has obvious effects and can improve their accuracy in L2 writing. On the other hand, they all agree that GC is not enough for improving learners’ writing ability and that the time spent on GC should be allocated on training other writing abilities. All groups of participants gave a negative to uncertain answer to GC, though different perception patterns figure in whether or not majoring in English: English-major groups’ mean expectation scores of GC increase while those of non-English-major groups decrease in keeping with their English levels. These results provide strong evidence for Truscott’s (1996) view that GC should be abandoned. We believe that the different perceptions of GC shown by English and non-English major students stem from the fact that the former receives a more systematic grammar instruction than the latter. The ambivalent perceptions of GC originate in the fact that grammar accuracy occupies an important proportion in various writing evaluation systems.

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