Learning to Eat Politely at the Chinese Homestay Dinner Table: Two Contrasting Case Studies

Sheng Hsun Lee, Qian Wu, Chunyuan Di, Celeste Kinginger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


While study abroad homestays are often credited with providing opportunities for language and cultural learning, at times they can be characterized by communicative, cross-cultural, or interpersonal discord. In documenting these conflicts and their consequences, research to date has relied largely on students' self-reports, often focusing on their negative effect on students' orientations to learning. Grounded in Vygotskian sociocultural theory, this study adopts a longitudinal approach to the multimodal, multisensory process of learning table etiquette in Chinese homestays, including the perspectives of both hosts and students. Analysis of communicative interactions, photographs, diaries, and interviews reveals that the hosts directed students' attention to their inadequate etiquette at mealtimes through contextualized directives and accusations. These face-threatening acts stipulated dos and don'ts while also ultimately cultivating some habits of virtuous eating. Over time, face-threatening acts became repertoires of communicative resources invoked by students to control their social and mental activity. The findings suggest that students and hosts can collaboratively resolve homestay problems, transforming them into opportunities for learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-158
Number of pages24
JournalForeign Language Annals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Linguistics and Language


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