The Implementation and Challenges of using Role-Play to Improve Chinese University Students’ English Communicative Competence


  • Hongming Fan Monash University



EFL, English as a foreign language, China, university, role-play, communicative competence


English is taught as a compulsory course in Chinese universities and it is necessary to find feasible ways to improve students’ English ability to communicate. Role-play is believed as an effective way to enhance second language learners’ communicative competence and it is also supposed to be able to be effective in Chinese universities EFL classes. The real effect, however, relies on the actual implementation in classes. If the teachers inappropriately adopt role-play, it is hard to be useful. Due to the lack of research paying attention to this issue, it is not clear how Chinese university English teachers use role-play and whether it is effective. For this reason, a case study was conducted, with a Chinese university EFL teacher taking part in the interviews. The results show that participants attempt to maximise the effectiveness of role-play to improve students’ English communicative competence by practising comprehensive language skills, linguistic knowledge, and workplace topics. Nonetheless, some issues, namely script preparation, students’ proficiency difference and class size are identified. These may challenge the actual effectiveness of role-play. Possible solutions, including selecting role-play according to students’ ability, considering individuals’ condition, mixed-ability grouping and small class size, are suggested thereafter.


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