UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A socio-historical analysis of Chinese heritage language education in British Columbia Jiang, Hong


Throughout Chinese-Canadian history, Chinese heritage language (CHL) education has always been a way to transmit linguistic and cultural knowledge across generations, to maintain communication among Chinese family members and other contacts, near and far, and to preserve Chinese culture and identity. Nevertheless, despite the great efforts made by many generations of Chinese immigrant communities to teach the Chinese language to Canadians from Chinese linguistic and cultural backgrounds in community schools, to date the ethnolinguistic vitality of Chinese language education in British Columbia, its role in history and society, and the factors that helped it survive and led to its current prominence have not been examined. This thesis describes the development of CHL education in BC, considering historical, educational, socio-political, and sociolinguistic factors that have shaped CHL education in society. The study draws upon archival data, including textbooks used at different periods of time, letters, school reports and journals, newspaper articles and other written documents, as well as oral interviews with current leaders and practitioners in Chinese language education in British Columbia. This research documents the various social-political influences on CHL education from both Canada and China during the tumultuous 20th century in particular, but also during current era. The study also reveals the significant role played by CHL education and advocacy during each period of Chinese-Canadian immigration history. The ethnolinguistic vitality of the local Chinese community has supported CHL education and inspired many people to learn Chinese as a heritage language in British Columbia. Finally, research on the benefits of heritage language education and maintenance are reviewed to provide an applied linguistic perspective on its proven efficacy, which complements the intuitive desires and beliefs of many generations of parents and community activists who have urged their children to keep the language alive. The thesis concludes by noting some of the positive developments and remaining challenges associated with Chinese language education, teacher education, and pedagogy in both community and formal education settings in British Columbia in the 21st century.

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