18Hong Kong and Informal Language Learning

CHUN LAI AND BONING LYU

Introduction

The establishment of the Centre de Recherches et d'Applications Pédagogiques en Langues in France and similar self‐access language‐learning centers in other European countries in the 1970s led to the explosion of interest in learner autonomy and independent language learning. The notion of autonomous language learning had a monumental influences on language education in Hong Kong in the 1990s with the establishment of self‐access centers at universities to encourage and support learners to seek additional language learning opportunities (Gardner and Miller 1999). Since then, informal language learning – self‐directed language learning beyond the formal instructional contexts – has been an issue of interest in Hong Kong, and research findings have been accumulating in respect to Hong Kong language learners' autonomous language learning in the informal contexts. This chapter synthesizes the major findings from this body of literature, and analyzes how learners' informal language‐learning behaviors intertwine with the linguistic and sociocultural realities of Hong Kong. Before presenting the research findings on learners' informal language learning in the Hong Kong context, we will give a brief overview of the linguistic and sociocultural realities of Hong Kong so that the characteristics of informal language learning in this context can be made sense of against the backdrop of these realities. ...

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