Making Small Talk: Support for Chinese Graduate Students


  • Hui Xu Graduate Student, University of Regina



This article is based on a larger phenomenological inquiry which examined the challenges faced by Chinese graduate students in Canada when making small talk in English as an additional language. In that study, ten participants were interviewed about their small talk experiences, including the support they expected and received from peers, faculty members, and institutions. This article examines the level of support provided to assist these students engage in small talk with a specific focus on the gap between the help they need and the help they get. The study is theoretically informed by the concept of community of practice which describes how newcomers learn in naturally occurring established communities. It was found that all participants expected and wanted institutional and peer support, but their level of satisfaction with what they received varied. All four universities attended by the research participants offered services designed to help international students, but uptake was a problem. It is recommended that institutions put more effort into developing, promoting, and monitoring programs designed to support international students.

Keywords: small talk, community of practice, Chinese graduate students, support