How language limitations affect conceptual thresholds among Chinese design students in the United Kingdom

Clive Hilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
93 Downloads (Pure)


This article attempts to illustrate the relative impacts of cultural difference and language proficiency in an internationalized design programme at Coventry University. It also seeks to show how apparent manifestations of cultural stereotype might actually be rooted in a combination of limited language ability and normal human behavioural responses. A key focus is on the significance of English language skills among Chinese design students and how it can affect their learning journey, their capacity to respond creatively to briefs, and how it might possibly skew wider perceptions of them. The lens through which this issue is examined is conceptual threshold theory, which essentially holds that learners will, at some point, encounter a troublesome barrier to learning progression. Such conceptual learning thresholds are unavoidable and must be successfully traversed in order to attain some higher, transformative and irreversible internal view of the subject landscape. An argument presented here is that an inability to transcend conceptual learning thresholds because of underdeveloped English language skills can harm affected design students’ cultural immersion, academic progression and potential for full creative expression. An example is provided to show how one student’s troublesome language threshold was successfully negotiated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalArt, Design & Communication in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • China
  • Hofstede
  • cultural dimensions
  • design pedagogy
  • internationalization
  • threshold concept


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