Silence and Silencing in the Classroom of Portuguese as a Foreign Language in Macau: Identity and Interculturality

Roberval Teixeira E Silva


The paper focuses on an intriguing element that most Western teachers face in language classrooms in China: the called “Silence of the East”. Here I shall share some scenes from Portuguese as a foreign language (PFL) classes in Macau, China. Based on this, I discuss issues such as intercultural interaction and construction of identities: two aspects that have direct implications for the process of construction of knowledge. Specifically, I focus on (i) the silencing process that takes place at the primary context between a Chinese teacher and Chinese students, and on (ii) silence that appears in the tertiary classroom and provokes a conflict between a Western teacher and Chinese students. I assume both aspects as constructed interactionally by the discursive performances of teachers and students and argue that they are culturally and also locally built on a process of negotiation. Therefore this study refuses the essentialist perspectives that characterize and imprison the Chinese student as silent. In an opposite direction, I stress that the world is in movement and the interactions are the site for “focusing on” these ongoing discursive processes that (re)build paradigms, beliefs, identities and allow us to overcome conflicts and achieve successful intercultural interactions. In order to analyze these scenes, I work from the perspective of Interactional Sociolinguistics, an interdisciplinary field that uses discourse analysis to inter-relate discourse, culture and society.

Keywords: Portuguese as Foreign Language, Macau, Silencing, Intercultural Interaction, Identity

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