Open Collections

UBC Undergraduate Research

Multilingualism : An Indispensable Component in Canada’s Cultural Mosaic Lam, Annie 2016-06-24

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


52966-Lam_Annie_SOCI_480_Multilingualism_2016.pdf [ 532.44kB ]
JSON: 52966-1.0357182.json
JSON-LD: 52966-1.0357182-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 52966-1.0357182-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 52966-1.0357182-rdf.json
Turtle: 52966-1.0357182-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 52966-1.0357182-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 52966-1.0357182-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Running head: MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 1            Multilingualism: An Indispensable Component in Canada’s Cultural Mosaic  Annie Lam BA, The University of British Columbia, 2016 SOCI 480 - Urban Ethnographic Field School Departments of Anthropology & Sociology Supervisor: Dr. Kerry Greer 24/06/2016        MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 2   In contemporary Canadian society, many people recognize Canada as multicultural while embracing the ideology of cultural mosaic, in which they welcome immigrants from various ethnic groups who bring their cultures and native languages to Canada. Vancouver is world-famous for being one of Canada’s most culturally diverse cities.  This paper explores the manifestation of multiculturalism inside Vancouver’s Chinatown, where incessant marginalization of certain ethnic minority populations and rapid gentrification of the neighbourhood's periphery are currently taking place. My experience as a student researcher and volunteer at a small non-profit local community centre in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighbourhood has given me the privilege of conducting ethnographic research with a group of Cantonese-speaking Chinese seniors through the organization’s cultural heritage preservation program. Throughout my fieldwork, I discovered the success that this heritage program has in promoting and fostering multiculturalism and language diversity in the Canadian society, where English is the country’s dominant language. In this paper, I provide an exploration of how the heritage program has alleviated social, cultural, and language tensions among people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. I argue that multilingualism is not only an indispensable component of Canada’s cultural mosaic but also the country’s promotion of multiculturalism.   MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 3  Multilingualism: An Indispensable Component in Canada’s Cultural Mosaic “Today, Chinatown is beset on all sides, steadily encroached upon by sky-high condominiums full of young urbanites that don’t speak Cantonese”— Kelsey Klassen (Vancouver Courier 2015). In recent years, the gradual increment of the immigrant population has spurred the belief that Canada is becoming more culturally diverse. The government demographic projections predict that the ethnocultural diversity of Canada’s population will continue to increase over the next fifteen years. In addition, more than half of Vancouver’s total population was projected to be ethnic minorities during this later time (Statistics Canada 2013). On the other hand, the 2011 Census had reported that 80 percent of the country’s population who resided in Canada’s major metropolitan areas, such as Vancouver, spoke an immigrant language (i.e., any language that is not English, French, or Aboriginal language) most frequently at home. However, at the same time, the census has also shown that over 43 percent of this population regarded English as their major home language (Statistics Canada 2015). As a result, when Canada is foreseen to become more culturally diverse, more research needs to be conducted to study the factors that contribute to the growth (and in some cases, the decline) of language diversity in the county’s different geographical regions. According to the Government of Canada’s official website (2009), Canada constitutionally became a multicultural nation in 1971: “the value and dignity of Canadians of all races and ethnic groups” were finally recognized by the Canadian government. Kalman (2009:4) claimed that when early Chinese immigrants came to Canada in the previous centuries, they “brought new customs and traditions to add to Canada’s cultural mosaic.” However, in the context of Vancouver, “the high tide of British imperialism” has rendered European culture as the city’s dominant culture since the mid-nineteen centuries (McDonald 2011:235). Historically, in North America, the majority of Chinatown’s early residents were Cantonese Chinese who belonged to the Southern parts of China – areas that were known as Chinese migrants-sending-regions before the Second World War (Zhou 2009). However, Mair and Bender (2011:145) highlighted that these Cantonese-speaking people in the South have developed a “distinctive variant of Cantonese culture” which is different from other Chinese cultures even within China. For Katz and Sugrue (1998), the concept of culture has never MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 4  confined to neither the transient behaviours nor the social values of any group of people, but rather it characterizes how people share the same social conditions and history as a group. This suggests that in the context of Canada, in order to value and dignify early immigrants from China, people should recognize and respect the communal social and cultural norms that these immigrants have already established throughout the history in their neighbourhoods (e.g., Vancouver’s Chinatown) – including the Chinese languages that are commonly spoken in Chinese culture, such as Cantonese. Since many Cantonese Chinese had immigrated to Vancouver from China in the earlier centuries, it is not surprising that their native spoken language (i.e., Cantonese) accounted for the city’s most popular immigrant language during the census year in 2011 (Statistics Canada, 2015). For Klassen (2015), the Cantonese-speaking communities in Vancouver’s Chinatown of the DTES neighbourhood were regarded as one of the country’s most deeply-rooted social and ethnic groups. According to the City of Vancouver (2013: 8), Chinese, such Mandarin and Cantonese, is the second most spoken home language in the DTES neighbourhood as the majority (64 percent) of its population predominantly speak English at home nowadays. In addition, the incoming white and Mandarin classes of people are now displacing the Cantonese population of the DTES neighbourhood (Klassen 2015). This paper focuses on how a cultural heritage preservation program alleviated social, cultural, and language exclusions of several Chinese seniors in the DTES neighbourhood by exploring the following three questions: 1) What is the relationship between language and culture; 2) If there is a relationship between language and culture, how would this relationship play out its role in Canada’s multiculturalism; and 3) Is multilingualism an indispensable component in Canada’s cultural mosaic? It is important to note that the Chinese seniors have always been seen as ethnic minorities in Canadian society and that my national and ethnic background as a citizen of Hong Kong and a Cantonese Chinese adds significant insights into my research analyses in this paper. Finally, as a researcher, having the opportunity in my fieldwork to work with the Cantonese seniors who share a similar cultural origin and speak the same native language as myself is personally noteworthy. MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 5  BACKGROUND INFORMATION  The City of Vancouver and its Chinese Communities  Vancouver is one of Canada’s major metropolises in the province of British Columbia (BC). It is well-known for its culturally and linguistically diverse characteristics. According to CBC News (2015), the city was recently ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities. Mike Harcourt and Ken Cameron are both prominent contemporary urban planners in Vancouver. In their book, Harcourt and Cameron (2007:2) wrote that this city should celebrate its “peaceful [and] tolerant, multicultural population.” The following excerpt extracted from a travel guidebook about Vancouver’s Chinatown states: “Each culture expresses itself and blossoms in this environment. The City of Vancouver . . . offers an impressive array of cultural attractions: a traditional Chinese garden . . . cultural festivals . . . and Chinese opera” (Ulysses Travel Guides 2006:27). However, although the Chinese community was once prosperous and thrived in Vancouver, its tourist attractions in Chinatown have been declining for the last few decades. Many of the Chinese residents have already dispersed to other metropolises and suburban areas after the Chinese immigration boom between the late 1980s and early 1990s (Ulysses Travel Guides 2006:27; Chau 2016). B. Wong and Tan (2013) asserted that Richmond, a newly developed suburban area, is currently the most popular residential and commercial destination for new Chinese immigrants in BC. As a result, refurbishing Vancouver’s Chinatown can no longer be useful in attracting newly arrived Chinese immigrants to make the area their new home in Canada. Rather, it has encouraged Chinese business investors and other local associations “to reconstruct Chinatown [into] an exotic cultural enclave” for the tourism industry (B. Wong and Tan 2013:27).  The Downtown Eastside (DTES) Neighbourhood The DTES is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods that is rich in history and strongly connected to its founding Aboriginal communities, Japanese, Chinese and other minority cultural groups. The neighbourhood also has a diverse, mixed, and low-income population (City of Vancouver 2013:1). Today, although many media outlets portray Chinatown in the DTES neighbourhood as a popular tourist destination, the neighbourhood still maintains its long history of representing “a site of spatial and economic inequality” that MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 6  was left entrenched since the colonial era (Dillabough and Kennelly 2010:160). The following excerpt from another travel guidebook suggests that “[The DTES] is considered as the poorest neighbourhood in Canada, it is home to a disproportionate number of drug addicts and [people with HIV/AIDS], and is rife with poverty, prostitution and crime” (Ulysses Travel Guides 2004:64). However, results from the Carnegie Community Action Project’s (CCAP) community mapping project showed that low-income residents of the DTES neighbourhood have established a strong sense of community and feel connected to the rich and authentic cultural heritage in their neighbourhood (Building Community Society of Greater Vancouver 2010:9). My Placement Site My placement site is a federally registered charity and a non-profit organization that provides programming, education, leadership, and other social and recreational opportunities to the DTES residents. Its operating philosophy indicates that all members of the community are activists, reformist and non-violent residents, who are critical of the poverty mentality and the handmaiden-charity-model. To illustrate the damaging consequences that the handmaiden-charity-model could have brought to the DTES residents, Roe (2010:91) asserted that this model labels the members of such underprivileged communities as “poor and sick” and are always needed to be supervised or placed into care by social authorities and institutions, and hence preventing these people from being socially independent. Consequently, the organization constantly commits to promote an Honour System that recognizes and respects the inherent dignity of all of its patrons in the DTES neighbourhood.  LITERATURE REVIEW  Theoretical Framework: Perceptions of Early Chinese Immigrants in the Canadian Context Throughout history, Chinese Canadians have made up a sizable demographic in Vancouver. Ng (1999) claimed that the policy of multiculturalism has granted Chinese immigrants a hyphenated “Chinese-Canadian” identity since 1971. However, the ethnical term: Chinese, in North America, has always been theoretically associated with a “cultural abstraction that belongs to the beliefs and institutional practices of [Western MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 7  society]” (Anderson 1991:8). As a result, Chinese culture has always been separated from the mainstream culture of the larger dominant white population in Canadian society.  On the other hand, Creese and Kambere (2003) believed that Canada is merely an “imagined nation” that welcomes immigrants from different cultures because Canadian citizens are abided by the constitutional Multiculturalism Policy that accepts immigrants into their country. Their study found that immigrants of colour with distinct accents from the mainstream Canadian English accent are more prone to experience social discrimination than Canadians citizens who primarily speak English. For Lee (2007:385), the concept of “racialized space,” such as “white Canada,” is socially constructed by the dominant white culture in Western society. Her research revealed that the dominant ethnic group (i.e., white Canadians) in Vancouver has already developed a long history of prejudice against certain ethnic minority groups (e.g., Chinese immigrants) and portray their neighbourhoods (e.g., Chinatown) as cultural enclaves that are “undesirable, dangerous, immoral and unhygienic.” Thus, many Chinese immigrants who reside in the DTES neighbourhood are still constantly experiencing social exclusion in contemporary Canadian society. Theoretical Framework: Language Socialization as a Cultural Practice Today, in North America, many Asian immigrants are still disadvantaged and underprivileged by their lack of English language ability. On the one hand, according to Chan and Leong’s research (1994) on Chinese immigrants in North America, language and cultural value differences between the immigrants’ home and host country are the primary sources of cultural conflict. On the other hand, Mui et al. (2007) found that the psychosocial adaptation process is the main source of life stress for most Asian immigrants in North America, particularly for those who profoundly lack English proficiency and acquisition. Urbaina (2014) suggested that the degree of English-language proficiency is associated with acculturation stress when immigrants try to adopt new social patterns of the host culture. By looking at the results of the 2011 census survey, J. Wong (2013) remarked that less than one percent of Chinese seniors in Canada can speak any amount of English in the DTES neighbourhood. His results showed that many troubled English speakers in the DTES neighbourhood have believed that Canada is a country that always delivers poverty, discrimination, and marginalization against MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 8  them. Antle 2007 (as cited in Pottie et al. 2008) pointed out the majority of early Chinese immigrants can only obtain low-wage occupations in the Canadian labour market. These immigrants often have the higher propensity of being victimized and stigmatized in white-dominated public settings. Nowadays, many non-English speaking Chinese immigrants in the DTES neighbourhood are subjected to cultural alienation and frequently experience institutional barriers that hinder them from having remunerative and meaningful employment as well as any professional identity in Canada (Pottie et al. 2008). Accordingly, lacking English language ability can profoundly discourage Chinese immigrants in the DTES from venturing outside of their neighbourhood and integrating into to the mainstream society in Canada.  METHODOLOGY   In the summer of 2015, I enrolled in the Urban Ethnographic Field School (UEFS) launched by the UBC Departments of Anthropology and Sociology. The primary purpose of this fieldwork-based course is to offer undergraduate students with practical research opportunities to learn from Vancouver’s diverse immigrant communities beyond the classroom. During my field school placement at the community centre as a volunteer and student researcher between May and September 2015, I conducted an in-depth, community-based ethnographic research with a group of early Chinese immigrants and other people who had partaken in the organization’s newly launched Cantonese heritage preservation program. Part of my research findings in this paper was drawn from my fieldnotes based on my participant-observation experiences which contained conversations and other types of interactions among the staff of my placement site, the facilitators and participants of the heritage program, and myself. Other data include verbatim reports which I audio-taped, transcribed, and translated from various interviews that I had conducted during my placement. In addition, the program documentary which I helped interview the program facilitators has also contributed to the research analyses of my fieldwork.   MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 9  FINDINGS  Using English as a Medium of Communication in the DTES neighbourhood In the beginning stages of my fieldwork, my placement organization recruited five local Cantonese seniors as program facilitators to attract the English-speaking Canadian public across Greater Vancouver to participate in their heritage program. The excerpt from my fieldnotes below demonstrates how the two program facilitators, Bailey (pseudonym) and Jeff (pseudonym), communicated their thoughts and ideas to English speakers during a meeting.  Bailey and Jeff both had heavy Chinese accent in their English (e.g., always mistakenly swapping “L”s for “R”s, and vice-versa) and constantly making grammatical mistakes (e.g., often eliding the entire verb clauses in the sentences) . . .. Everyone, including me, in this room spoke Cantonese, except the centre’s executive director who appeared to be a native English speaker. When Bailey wanted to voice his opinions and ideas, I observed that he would raise his voice a little and slightly slowed down his words, trying to make them sound clearer . . .. The executive director seemed very engaging and patient in their conversation; together with the program coordinator, she constantly asked Bailey and Jeff questions so that they could have the opportunity to interpret their English words and elaborate their thoughts in English. When the executive director left the room for her office after the meeting, Bailey and Jeff promptly switched back to using Cantonese. . .. They sounded more casual and relaxed when they conversed with each other in their native language. Although Bailey and Jeff could not utilize their native language (i.e., Cantonese) to express their thoughts to their community centre’s executive director, the communicative efforts that they made to cultivate their Cantonese culture and history in the Canadian society were revealed when they tried to speak the language (i.e., English) that they were less competent in speaking during the meeting. At the same time, when the organization executive director provided the opportunity to let these Cantonese seniors interpret their English accurately, she helped to them share insights of what they expected to do to preserve their culture in Canada.  Starting from the beginning of July to the middle of September, with the assistance of the community centre’s staff and volunteers, the facilitators of the heritage program designed and led several different cultural heritage tours at Ing Suey Sun Association Building, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and other tourist attractions within the DTES neighbourhood. They also organized multiple activities and workshops for the program’s participants, such as dining at an authentic Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown and making MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 10  dumplings and herbal soup inside the community centre. In addition, each heritage tour and workshop focused on a particular cultural theme, namely the history of early Chinese immigrants, Chinese cuisine, Cantonese dialects and calligraphy, traditional Chinese gardening, and Chinese Medicine (i.e., Herbal soup and tea). Each heritage tour and workshop had about ten to twenty English-speaking participants who came from different socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds across Greater Vancouver. On top of learning how to make traditional Chinese food and appreciate Cantonese art and history, participants of the heritage program were provided with plenty of opportunities to learn simple Cantonese vernaculars, such as basic Chinese vocabularies and phrases that were common to native Cantonese speakers. The following excerpt from my fieldnotes captures the moment when Joana (pseudonym), a program facilitator, conducted a workshop at the community centre. It suggests that she had invested a significant amount of effort and commitment in running the workshop for the program participants: It was almost an hour before the workshop. Joana pulled out a big crumpled plastic bag which she brought to the community centre early this morning. It contained multiple different little sacks of beans, dried fruits and flowers, herbs, and a bundle of fresh watercress (all the ingredients for her soup). “I grew them in my backyard,” she said triumphantly with a jubilant tone in her voice while ripping off some leaves from the watercress . . .. I helped Joana serve each participant a spoonful of soup in little foam cups. Suddenly, two middle-aged, Asian female participants, who were sitting beside their male partners (one with an Asian man and the other with a white man), signalled to Joana. She swiftly walked up to them. Then the ladies asked her in fluent and ‘perfect’ Canadian-accented English to give them more details about the soup recipe. After tasting some Chinese herbal soup, Joana began to ask the participants to follow her lead in pronouncing the names of the ingredients in Cantonese. “[Do] you remember what da (to) call dis (this) one?” holding a piece of red date in her fingers and testing the participants with eyes scanning around the room. But the room fell into instant silence, as no one seemed to recall the Chinese words. “Hung . . . Hung Zou (紅棗; red date)”, Joana friskily enunciated the words with a loud and vibrant voice. Then I heard few participants imitating her while the others were murmuring the Chinese words in their seats. When Joana tried to teach the program participants who were interested in knowing more about the Cantonese immigrants in Canada to make the Chinese delicacy that represented her culture and the Chinese names of the ingredients, she had already demonstrated her effort in committing to the heritage program. Her eagerness and willingness to explain her recipe to her audiences in the language (i.e., English) that she was not familiar with also showed her commitment in preserving her culture through the heritage program. MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 11  Recognizing Ethnic Minorities as Active Community Players in the DTES neighbourhood During my placement, I observed that the community centre did not only care for the social well-being of the Chinese seniors but also their psychological well-being. The organization had consistently encouraged and supported them in being active community players in the DTES neighbourhood since the start of the heritage program. The heritage program coordinator (personal interview, October 5, 2015, own translation) pointed out that the neighbourhood organization had already acknowledged the local media’s constant portrayal of the DTES residents as “passive participants” in most social and community events. Therefore, during the interview, the program coordinator claimed that the heritage program had emphasized that “[the Chinese seniors in the DTES neighbourhood] were the ones who came up with the ideas of what they wanted to do in terms of preserving and sharing their culture with the public” (personal interview, October 5, 2015, own translation). However, leaving aside the preservation of the Cantonese heritage in the Canadian society, during my fieldwork, I found that many Chinese seniors in the DTES neighbourhood appeared to have difficulty in integrating into the mainstream Canadian public that predominantly spoke English, mainly because of their lack of English communication ability. Most of them never or rarely had the opportunity to interact with people outside their neighbourhood. Therefore, as a researcher, it was common to see ethnic minorities like the early Chinese immigrants in the DTES neighbourhood complying with the social expectations of the mainstream population who shared the same language of communication (i.e., English) within the larger Canadian society. The following excerpt from my fieldnotes captures the interaction among Xi (pseudonym), a middle-aged Aboriginal woman named Sandra (pseudonym), and I, suggesting that socializing with English speakers could cause phycological stress in early Chinese immigrants like Xi: It was my first-time volunteering for the Community Drop-in (a program that provides free breakfast for the DTES residents) at my placement organization. . .. I saw two women trotting in the kitchen and then busy stirring some porridge in a gigantic pot at the stove . . .. Xi was a ninety-year-old-looking Chinese senior who barely spoke any English. She was standing beside Sandra, a middle-aged Aboriginal woman who spoke English with a ‘perfect’ Canadian accent . . .. When I saw Xi at the kitchen counter, I approached her with a friendly smile with one of my palms up. I first introduced myself to her in English . . .. She nodded at me several times (a Chinese way of greeting someone politely) with her eyes languidly fixed on me. However, she did not express any sign to talk. To attract her interest to engage in conversation, I re-introduced myself, but this time in Cantonese . . .. By using the language that we were both competent in speaking, we finally began to converse with each other. We briefly shared our MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 12  backgrounds . . .. Suddenly, “Can you . . .”, I vaguely heard Sandra calling Xi from the very back of the kitchen. Xi responded Sandra without saying a single word. Instead, she slow-wittily walked toward her . . .. Occasionally, I heard Xi muttering in Cantonese inside the kitchen . . .. In retrospect, I hardly saw Xi having any conversational interaction with English-speaking people that had lasted more than a few minutes or that required her to use more than just a word or two. All of her responses to others who spoke English were extremely short and simple sentences that were fused with Chinese and English word(s).  As a result, Xi was obviously more comfortable when using her native language (i.e., Chinese) if she had to socialize with the public during the community event. In addition, Xi’s inability to communicate with people using proficient English during the community drop-in at the community centre might have caused her social and psychological stress. To improve the Chinese seniors’ mental and social well-being in the DTES neighbourhood, my placement organization had established the heritage program to help Chinese seniors integrate with the general Canadian public that predominantly spoke English. Accordingly, the heritage program had provided many opportunities for these seniors to improve their English so that they could communicate with more people who do not speak Chinese in this country as well as to teach English-speaking people their language in Canada. Jeff, one of the program facilitators, who could speak adequate English, stated:  I love speaking Cantonese more [than speaking English]. Even I [can] speak English, I [always have] to think things in Cantonese first. [Cantonese] is my ‘mother tongue’ . . .. I believe the more [you speak the language], [the] better you [will understand the language] . . .. Even though our program was quite short [and] the number of [people] whom we [had been able to reach out to] was very small, [it had still suggested that there are now more people learning our language]” (program documentary, forthcoming, own translation).  The following is another excerpt from my fieldnotes that describes the moment when Jeff showed concern and care for Joana who was another program facilitator that was less proficient in speaking English. It suggests that the community centre’s heritage program had provided a platform for the program facilitators with the opportunity to help each other improve their acquisition of English in public:  I was setting up the workshop along with other staff and volunteers, trotting back and forth inside the community centre . . .. I stopped behind the kitchen when I saw Joana using English to rehearse her demo on making Chinese herbal soup. I peeped at her from about three feet away (an inoffensive distance, I thought), and saw her reading from a tiny notebook in her hands. In her notebook, there was a page full of scribbles of a mix of Chinese characters and English words. In the meantime, I was close enough to hear her read as she whispered softly from the page. Then I realized the scribbles were her soup recipe, which was translated from Chinese into English and some of the Chinese characters were the translations and transliterations of the English words of the recipe. A minute later, Jeff entered the room and interrupted MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 13  her. He walked closer to her, and asked politely with a concerned look, “Can I hep?” . . . . In a soft voice, Jeff read out the English words that Joana found hard to pronounce. When Jeff proposed to help Joana in using English to pass on the Cantonese culinary knowledge to the English-speaking audiences who represented the mainstream Canadian population, they had preserved their Cantonese culture in Canada. Throughout my entire placement at the community centre, I observed that the program facilitators dedicated lots of time and effort in designing and planning the activities for the public who belonged to various racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. All program activities were designed to help the English-speaking public to acquire the knowledge of Cantonese culture, including their language, and the history of Chinese people in the DTES neighbourhood. The President of Ing Suey Sun Association, said, “If people wanted to know [more about the history of Chinese immigrants in the neighbourhood, I don’t mind to let them know…. Let them see it, tell them, keep on telling them the stories” (program documentary, forthcoming). Although the Secretary Director of Ing Suey Sun Association, a Chinese senior, who assisted the heritage program facilitators in the heritage tour could hardly speak any speak any English, during the camera-recorded interview, he claimed:  My first wish for us here is to use English to tell other Canadians about the significance of our cultural relic . . .. However, nowadays, even for Chinese people in this area, many may no longer be interested in talking about the history of our neighbourhood. But for white Canadians, [if no one tells them about our history], they may never have the chance to learn about us (program, forthcoming, own translation). His desire to be capable of verbally sharing the stories of his culture with other Canadians, particularly with the mainstream ethnic group (i.e., the English-speaking white Canadians), was his way to preserve his culture in the Canadian society where English is always known as the society’s most commonly spoken language. On top of story-telling, practicing cultural traditions and customs, such as eating traditional food, is also a way to preserve a culture. During the camera-recorded interview, Joana also talked about her feelings and emotions before and after demonstrating how to make dumplings for her English-speaking audiences in a workshop: MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 14  Since Cantonese is ‘our’ native language, I really enjoyed [facilitating the Cantonese heritage preservation] program . . .. Yet, it was my first time using English to teach white people . . .. I was extremely nervous that morning! So, I woke up at 3 am in the morning and started to rehearse. . ..  I was so afraid in the beginning . . . but I started to feel more comfortable in speaking [English] when I saw my audiences putting a lot of their focus on me, especially when they asked me questions [about my recipe]. I became very happy and satisfied afterward. And I knew I was successful because my hard work is [finally] being recognized [by the public] (documentary vignette, forthcoming, own translation).  Joana’s reflection suggests that her efforts and success in using English to pass on her Chinese culinary skill to the public, especially to white Canadians who represented the mainstream English-speaking cultural group in Canada, were rewarding and satisfying.  Toward the end of the heritage program, positive psychosocial changes were found in the program facilitators’ attitudes as they became more eager to step into leadership roles and more willing to communicate and interact with English speakers at the final stage of the heritage program. During the interview, the program coordinator said,  You can see there are a lot of changes in these seniors, which makes you feel thankful. At the beginning of the program, they were like, ‘No . . . I can’t speak English in front of the public. I cannot do it . . .. I had not even been to school before . . .. I just learned English myself after coming to Canada.’ However, at the end of the program, they seemed happier and confident. They even asked me if there were any more upcoming events that they could participate or any other heritage tours that they could help facilitate. When you saw all those transformations in them, you could tell that this program was really beneficial to these Chinese seniors in the DTES neighbourhood (October 5, 2015, own translation). When the heritage program allowed its facilitators to communicate with English-speaking Canadians in public, it made a significant contribution in helping them to build up confidence in themselves and to be independent social actors in their Chinese community as well as in the larger English-speaking Canadian society.   DISCUSSION   In the context of the DTES neighbourhood, the findings of this paper showed that using English as a medium of communication was key to persevering a minority culture (e.g., the Cantonese culture) within the larger Canadian society where the majority of its population predominantly speaks English. The communicative effort that the program facilitators put into the heritage program to welcome the public from various racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds across Greater Vancouver showed their passion and desire in cultivating the Cantonese culture, including their native language, and history in their neighbourhood.  MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 15  The results also indicated that when the Chinese seniors used the language that they were less (or not even) competent in speaking (i.e., English) to pass on their cultural knowledge, such as their understanding of the Chines culinary skills and the implications behind their Cantonese vernaculars, to the English-speaking Canadian population, they had concomitantly preserved their Cantonese culture in Canada. In addition, besides teaching the public to learn and practice the traditions and customs of the Cantonese culture, the findings of my fieldwork also suggested that it was equally important to help Chinese seniors in the DTES neighbourhood convey their stories about their culture and history to the dominant English-speaking population by using the language (i.e., English) that was most commonly spoken in Canada.  On the other hand, the findings of my fieldwork amplified the importance of recognizing the Cantonese ethnic minorities as active community players in their neighbourhood, because it could provide them a gateway to the mainstream English-speaking society. As a result, in order to make the greater Canadian public acknowledge that early Chinese immigrants were not always passive social actors in their neighbourhoods, local community centres must care for their social and psychological well-being.  Although speaking English is key to integrating into the mainstream Canadian society, this study also found that socializing with English speakers in public could cause psychological stress in early Chinese immigrants who were less (or even not) proficient in speaking English. At the same time, the results indicated that my placement organization was successful in easing the psychological stress that stemmed from English language inadequacy of some Chinese seniors who facilitated the heritage program since the program progressively helped them improve their competence in speaking English to the Canadian public across Greater Vancouver. The results revealed that the Cantonese seniors who had facilitated the heritage program eventually become more willing to take on leadership roles and became more confident in themselves when they had to interact and communicate with English speakers in the final stage of the heritage program.    MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 16  CONCLUSION  Despite the fact that Vancouver’s dominant culture is always linked to the profound history of British imperialism that renders English to be the city’s most influential language (McDonald 2011), the heritage program coordinator claimed that she was fascinated when she saw that there were still a lot of people speaking Cantonese in Vancouver nowadays. However, like many people of Cantonese descent, the program coordinator was saddened when she mentioned that she had acknowledged the gradual disappearance of Cantonese culture in the DTES neighbourhood. She said: The history of Chinatown is no longer well-known because lots of people today do not know why there are still so many Cantonese people living in Vancouver as well as how these people brought their culture into [Canada]. So, [on behalf of my organization], what we want from our project is not only to preserve the Cantonese culture as it has already been here for a long time, but we want it to be also a program that advocates for cultural diversity in the entire DTES neighbourhood . . .. We hope people could be more understanding of each other’s culture (personal interview, October 5, 2015, own translation). Throughout the entire course of my fieldwork as a student researcher volunteering at the community centre, I observed that the organization’s heritage program was a significant contribution to the Cantonese community in the DTES neighbourhood because it helped the Canadian public who normally spoke English and had little knowledge about the Chinese community in Vancouver appreciate the traditions and customs of Cantonese seniors who have been residing in Canada for decades. Additionally, it is significant to understand the meaning behind the title of the heritage program that contains both Chinese and English greetings words, in which the Cantonese greeting words “你好” (pronounced as Lei Ho) is equivalent to the English way of saying “Hi”: a powerful greeting exclamation that can always bring people to engage in friendly conversations and other forms of interactions. The results also indicated that having Cantonese ethnic minority seniors in the DTES neighbourhood to facilitate the heritage program was an effective way to help them integrate into the mainstream Canadian society. The Executive Director of my placement organization who initiated the heritage program, stated that the principal purpose of this program was building “a ‘bridge’ between people’s being able to say ‘hi’ and people’s being able to say ‘lei ho’” (program documentary, forthcoming). She believed that the heritage program would ultimately help the English-speaking public across Greater Vancouver to learn and MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 17  understand what it was like to be part of the Chinese community in the DTES neighbourhood. Below is an excerpt from her interview:  The [community centre] has a group of [Chinese elders, who] come to cook food [on a regular basis]. And they are wonderful . . .. They have a wonderful way of communication with me and with each other. So, I want to celebrate a little bit of that and want to learn a little bit more about what they would want to do [in terms of launching a cultural heritage preservation program about their Cantonese culture] (program documentary, forthcoming).  The results of my fieldwork showed that there was a significant relationship between language and culture in terms of promoting and fostering multiculturalism in the DTES neighbourhood as well as in the larger Canadian society, since the Chinese seniors, particularly those who facilitated the heritage program, showed that their Cantonese language is deeply tied to their culture. Although the program facilitators mainly used English to communicate with the English-speaking participants, it enabled them to pass on the knowledge of their Cantonese culture in the language (i.e., English) that was common to most people in Canada. In addition, this study suggested that the effortful behaviours of the heritage program facilitators may allow the English-speaking public to realize how the Cantonese language connected to their Chinese culture. As a result, the heritage program has suggested that multilingualism was essential in terms of persevering ethnic minority cultures within the multicultural society, such as the Canadian society. For Zinzius (2005:16), Chinatown’s exotic atmosphere in North America always gives the ethnic majority population (i.e., the English-speaking white population) the feeling of foreignness inside their country. Hence, in order to make a communicative approach that is suitable for ethnic minority groups in North American society (e.g., Canadian society), people who represent the mainstream culture must be attuned to and accept the cultural differences of other ethnic groups, including their languages (Ellis 1996). In the context of the DTES neighbourhood, this study found that non-profit community centres must develop adequate strategies to overcome both cultural and language tensions among people of all different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, particularly for people who belong to the ethnic minority population in the mainstream Canadian society. To conclude, this study presented that the cultural heritage preservation program of my placement organization had successfully promoted and fostered multiculturalism in the DTES neighbourhood by simultaneously advocating multilingualism in Canada. MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 18  This paper also provided a good demonstration on how the heritage program alleviated social, cultural, and language exclusions among a group of Chinese seniors and the dominant English-speaking Canadian population in the DTES and larger the Canadian society.  MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 19  References Anderson, Kay J. 1991. Vancouver's Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980. Quebec City: McGill-Queen's Press. Building Community Society of Greater Vancouver. July 2010. Vancouver Downtown Eastside: Putting It All Together: Plans Policies, Programs, Projects, and Proposals: A Synthesis CBC News. 2015. “Most Livable Cities Include Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary in Top 5.” CBC News. Retrieved May 23, 2016 ( Chan, Susan, and Cynthia W. Leong. 1994. “Chinese Families in Transition: Cultural Conflicts and Adjustment Problems.” Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless 3(3): 263-281. Chau, Elaine. “Tensions Linger for Hong Kong Immigrants 2 Decades after Mass Immigration: Debates Over Housing and Signage Continue to Dog Diversity Harmony.” CBC News. Retrieved May 28, 2016 ( City of Vancouver. November 7, 2013. Downtown Eastside Local Area Profile 2013. Creese, Gillian, and Edith Ngene Kambere. 2003. “What Colour Is Your English?.” Canadian Review of Sociology 40(5):565-573. Dillabough, Jo-Anne, and Jacqueline Kennelly. 2010. Lost Youth in The Global City: Class, Culture and the Urban Imaginary. New York: Routledge.  Ellis, Greg. 1996. “How Culturally Appropriate Is The Communicative Approach?.” ELT Journal 50(3):213-218. Government of Canada. 2009. “Before You Arrive: Get to Know Canada - Multicultural Society.” Retrieved May 21, 2016 ( Harcourt, Mike, and Ken Cameron. 2007. City Making in Paradise:  Nine Decisions that Saved Vancouver, edited by S. Rossiter. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. Kalman, Bobbie. 2009. Canada: The Culture. St. Catharines: Crabtree Publishing Company.  Katz, Michael B., and Thomas J. Sugrue, ed. 1998. W.E.B. Du Bois, Race, and the City: "The Philadelphia Negro" and Its Legacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Klassen, Kelsey. 2015. “Vancouver’ Chinatown Faces Changes and Challenges,” Vancouver Courier. Retrieved May 11, 2016 ( Lee, Jo-Anne. 2007 “Gender, Ethnicity, and Hybrid Forms of Community-based Urban Activism in Vancouver, 1957–1978: The Strathcona Story Revisited.” Gender, Place and Culture 14(4): 381-407. Mair, Victor H., and Mark Bender, ed. 2011. The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. McDonald, Robert AJ. 2011. Making Vancouver: Class, Status, and Social Boundaries, 1863-1913. Vancouver: UBC Press. MULTILINGUALISM IN CANADA 20  Mui, Ada C., Suk-Young Kang, Doo-Yeon Kang, and Margaret Dietz Domanski. 2007. “English Language Proficiency and Health-related Quality of Life Among Chinese and Korean Immigrant Elders.” Health & Social Work, 32(2): 119-127. Ng, Wing-Chung. 1999. The Chinese in Vancouver, 1945-80: The Pursuit of Identity and Power. Vancouver: UBC Press. Pottie, Kevin, Edward Ng, Denise Spitzer, Alia Mohammed, and Richard Glazier. 2008. “Language Proficiency, Gender and Self-reported Health: An Analysis of The First Two Waves of The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada." Canadian Journal of Public Health 99(6): 505-510. Roe, Gordon W. 2009. “Fixed in Place: Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and The Community of Clients." BC Studies 164 (2009): 75-101. Statistics Canada. 2013. Ethnic Diversity and Immigration. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-402-X. Ottawa. Version updated May 2016. Ottawa. (Retrieved May 25, 2016). Statistics Canada. 2015. Linguistic Characteristics of Canadians. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-314-X-2011001. Version updated Dec 2015. Ottawa. (Retrieved May 20, 2016). Urbina, Martin Guevara. 2014. Twenty-First Century Dynamics of Multiculturalism: Beyond Post-Racial America. Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher. Ulysses Travel Guides. 2004. Western Canada. 4th ed. Montréal: Hunter Publishing, Inc. Ulysses Travel Guides. 2006. Vancouver, Victoria and Whistle. Montréal: Hunter Publishing, Inc. Wong, Jackie. 2013. “Vancouver's 'Old' Chinatown: Still Here.” The Tyee. Retrieved May 18, 2016 ( Wong, Bernard P., and Tan Chee-Beng, ed. 2013. Chinatowns around The World: Gilded Ghetto, Ethnopolis, and Cultural Diaspora. Leiden and Boston: Brill.  Zhou, Min. 2009. Contemporary Chinese America. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press. Zinzius, Birgit. 2005. Chinese America: Stereotype and Reality: History, Present, and Future of The Chinese Americans. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2005. 


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items