Overseas students researching a range of topics in Applied Linguistics

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Students across the globe are finding Massey’s online learning a way to continue studying despite the pandemic, even at doctorate level.

Photos of Fangshu Wang, Yuliandri, Lyla Wang and Enya Gu.

Clockwise from top left: Fangshu Wang, Yuliandri, Enya Gu and Lyla Wang.

Last updated: Tuesday 24 May 2022

Fangshu Wang, Yuliandri, Enya Gu and Lyla Wang started their PhDs in Applied Linguistics offshore during the pandemic, and their work covers a range of topics.

Fangshu Wang

Fangshu is studying from Guiyan, Guizhou Province in China, and is researching family language policy in Miao intergenerational families in rural regions in China.

Miao is one of 55 ethnic minorities in China, with a large population congregated in southwest China. Fangshu says many ethnic minorities' languages are in decline because of the prevalence of mainstream languages like Chinese and English, changes in demographic structures, and other external factors.

“As a member of the Miao community, I have experienced the decline of the Miao language and witnessed the gradual disappearance of the culture. As an insider, I am determined to explore this situation and find solutions to maintain and promote Miao and other ethnic minority languages in China.”

Fangshu says she believes family is crucial in maintaining and passing on language and culture. “In China, both parents and grandparents play important roles in childcare. In most Miao families, grandparents are the main speakers of the Miao language. I believe investigating grandparents’ involvement in family language policy is important for maintaining the Miao language. My research is important for the maintenance of the Miao language and culture as well as other ethnic minorities’ languages and cultures in China.”

Fangshu says she looks to New Zealand and the indigenous language Te Reo Māori as inspiration. “Professors at Massey have experiences to share regarding minority language maintenance and promotion.”

While she has found online study challenging, she says regular Zoom meetings have proven helpful. “Regular meetings or presentations are great because questions asked by supervisors can be thought-provoking and help me to think deeper and differently. Regular feedback on my writing from supervisors is very helpful too, which gives me direction on how to improve my work.”

Fangshu’s main supervisor is Karen Ashton, and her co-supervisor is Grace Qi.


Yuliandri is based in West Sumatra, Indonesia, and is researching English language teacher agency in relation to teachers’ experiences working within the difficult times of the pandemic.

“I think this is a very relevant topic to investigate, especially within my home country, Indonesia, where English language has predominantly been taught and learned inside physical classrooms. My study will highlight the reflections and actions made by teachers as they navigate through the pandemic’s challenges and affordances, adapting, evolving, and redefining their identities as language teachers.”

Yuliandri started his masters at Massey in 2012. “I studied here before and decided to return and pursue a higher degree of education since I think Massey has always been able to cater to the individual needs of students. I find the staff to be very supportive and encouraging.”

While this is his first time experiencing study while being based overseas, he says Massey being known for its distance programs was reassuring.

“Studying alone can seem frightening at the beginning, but I think if you are willing to take part in opportunities to join online events and gatherings, you will be okay. Up until now I am really satisfied with my overall experience starting my PhD because with the support of my supervision panel, I can conceptualise my research idea. The idea of being able to learn, plan, organise, and carry out research really excites me. I also enjoy doing the reading for my preliminary literature review since it got me acquainted with many concepts that I didn't know existed before.”

Yuliandri has been working as an English language teacher/lecturer in a vocational college, and has also been involved in teaching tertiary English as Foreign Language (EFL) students of different vocational majors. Occasionally, he also works with secondary school teachers for small research and community service projects. His PhD supervisors at Massey are Gillian Skyrme, Grace Qi and Karen Ashton.

Lyla Wang

Lyla is researching autonomous language learning with technology from Sanya City, Hainan Province in China. Her research is derived from a dilemma many Chinese EFL learners face – the lack of exposure to language use opportunities. Lyla says she hopes helping university EFL learners to foster their self-study ability with technology can help promote their language use ability.

She says she was attracted to Massey by the professionalism and great work ethics of the teachers, and the beautiful nature of New Zealand.

“The biggest challenge with studying from another country, for now, is the differences in research thinking mode between me and my supervisors. However, the challenge is also a great opportunity for me to learn new ways of thinking.”

She says what she has enjoyed most so far is that she feels she is gradually getting close to what she really wants to devote herself to in her PhD study journey.

Lyla is supervised by Dr David Ishii, Dr Eleanor Ridge and Dr Oliver Balance.

Enya Gu

Enya lives in Hang Zhou, China, and is researching primary school teacher perceptions and practices around the use of technology in the English language classroom in China.

Enya says while the Chinese government encourages schools to incorporate technology in their teaching, there is a lack of research on how technology is integrated into specific disciplines and into teachers’ perspectives about the use of technology.

“My research will provide information about the current state of technology integration in English language classes in primary schools in the Chinese context. For Chinese schools, education agencies, and policymakers, my research will provide evidence that helps inform their future decision-making on using technology in education. Moreover, my research can help international researchers and educational practitioners better understand the current Chinese education with technology.”

Enya says she was attracted to studying with Massey because of its renown as an education and research institution, and due to New Zealand’s long history of applied linguistic research. She adds that it’s easy to get support and help from peers for online study, and that the study process has helped her develop her critical thinking. She feels that her research is useful and needed by her country.

Enya’s supervisors are Karen Ashton and Grace Qi.