Many Chinese graduate students are teaching assistants (TAs) in mathematics, science and engineering departments in the U.S. universities. TAs’ English proficiency has been a subject of concern or even criticism for years in the U.S. However, only one research has been found around international TAs’ English proficiency per discipline. No research has been found about Chinese TAs’ English proficiency. None has been done on Chinese TA’s perception of their English proficiency in biology. With this gap noticed, I deployed interviews to explore what the three biology TAs perceived as to their English proficiency. The study found that their perception was more relevant to their content-knowledge preparation for teaching and their previous English-learning experience than cultural influence. These findings suggest that content knowledge and language competence are both important thus should be combined in TA training programs, in order to improve TAs’ overall English proficiency in teaching.


Content Knowledge, TA Training, Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS), Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)

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