A case study is used here to explore the aspects mentioned above. This methodology is suitable for our purposes because our goal is to analyse our interviewees' personal experience in learning French in relation to their individual histories and identities. As Stake points out, 'The case study is a study of a "bounded system", emphasizing unity and wholeness of that system, but confining the attention to those aspects that are relevant to the research problem at the time' (1988, p. 258). Inevitably, no single issue can ever be dealt with in its entirety, but case studies allow much of the diversity and complexity of experience to emerge.
As part of a wider research (Wang, 2012), we conducted 15 individual interviews with Chinese students in France. All of the interviews were made by one of the authors of the study who is Chinese. The interviews were semi-structured with some open questions that require the interviewees to give information or explanations. The main goal of the interviews was to observe possible convergence and divergence between what each learner believes and what they do in learning French, and further try to assess the cognitive control they exert upon their actions.
The interviews were conducted in Chinese and recorded. We transcribed the interviews in Chinese then translated them in English. We used content analysis methodology by classifying the topics to analyse the interviews.
We selected three cases that reflect individual differences in adaptation to life in France, degree of success in mastering the language, and attitudes and feelings towards the French language. Chong, Pu and Fan are pseudonyms that we gave to our interviewees in order to keep their identities confidential.