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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating languages and literacies : intermediate level Chinese heritage learners' essay writing Zheng, Bin


With the interrelated trends of globalization and immigration, Chinese heritage language (CHL) learners have become a noticeable and growing constituent in language programs in postsecondary institutions. Despite impressive oral vernacular proficiency, they typically lack formal and sophisticated registers and their HL literacy is often underdeveloped. Although it has been widely acknowledged that the major goal of university HL education is to cultivate formal registers and develop literacy for academic or professional success, the research literature includes very few studies on university CHL learners’ Chinese literacy, and particularly essay writing proficiency. This thesis investigates intermediate level CHL learners’ HL essay writing, providing a detailed description of the unique features of their Chinese essays by close examination of their writing samples both on local and global levels. Furthermore, from the sociocultural perspective of literacy, the study explores the CHL learners’ daily language and literacy practice through one on one semi-structured interviews, which offers a greater understanding of the factors that have contributed to the existing features of their essay writing. This study finds that the CHL learners’ essay writing demonstrates their active use of all the language and literacy resources in their language repertoire. Their essay writing also shows certain amounts of hybridity and syncretism, characterized by a lack of formal vocabulary, transfer of syntax, organization and rhetorical strategies from the dominant language- English, on the one hand, their use of certain sophisticated words and set phrases, on the other hand, reflects the HL assets that they bring to Chinese classes and language production. Furthermore, the interviews reveal that English, Mandarin and Cantonese are practiced in different domains of the CHL learners’ lives, with English as their dominant language. Their literacy activities are far more mediated by English than Chinese, and their use of Mandarin and Cantonese is more oral than written. The thesis concludes that the ecology of the languages and literacies in the CHL learners’ lives strongly influences the features of their essay writing on both local and global levels.  

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