Exploring teacher–student communication in senior-education contexts in Taiwan: A communication accommodation approach

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Chin-Hui Chen

Abstract

This study investigated the language-accommodation strategies used by Taiwanese teachers when communicating with older adults in senior-education contexts. First, the interview phase identified various communication strategies and their underlying rationales; second, the survey phase verified the degree to which the identified communication strategies were used, as well as their associations with teachers’ age differences. The identified communication strategies were divided into four broad categories: secondary baby talk, mitigation of references to death or illness, politeness strategies and code selection (use of the dialect preferred by older students). The underlying considerations included older students’ perceived age-related physical or cognitive decrements, their social backgrounds and socio-psychological needs, as well as the teachers’ self-determined relational positioning or priority in the communication process. Young and middle-aged teachers were more likely to experience a deep-rooted conflict and power struggle arising from the fact that a teacher in Taiwan is traditionally endowed with greater power than his or her students, whereas younger people are expected to show respect to their elders. Hence, they frequently chose to address older students using forms that implied intergenerational relationships and to use code-switching to converge their own communication with their older students’ preferred dialects. Implications for older-adult education and possible directions for further research are discussed in the conclusion.

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