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The construction of the "ideal Chinese child": a critical analysis of textbooks for Chinese heritage language learners Chiu, Lorita Yung Lin

Abstract

Although previous research has demonstrated that textbooks are laden with explicit and implicit cultural, moral, and ideological values, too few studies have examined language teaching materials, and particularly heritage language textbooks, for such messages. This study is a critical analysis of Chinese as a Heritage Language (CHL) textbooks commonly used in community Chinese schools in North America. Materials from both China and Taiwan were analyzed. Specifically, research questions addressed in the present study are: 1) What are the topics and themes in these textbooks? 2) What are the moral and cultural values embedded in the texts? 3) How are "ideal identities" constructed and conveyed through the reoccurring characters used in the textbooks? Based on discourse analysis, as well as content analysis, this study builds on the notions of D/discourse, literacy, identity and language socialization to explore the construction of the “ideal Chinese child” in the textbooks and how this might impact students’ identity (re)construction. The findings show that the world constructed by the CHL textbooks is distinct from the world most CHL learners reside in. Until CHL textbooks can create meaningful intersections between those worlds, many students may feel ambivalent about or even alienated from the textually constructed heritage and about their own identities.

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