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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Chinese heritage maintenance : a collective case study on Chineseness and heritage language in contemporary British Columbia Locher-Lo, Caroline Chung-Hsuan


Ethnic-Chinese immigrants, or immigrants of Chinese ancestry, have comprised the largest inbound group to British Columbia (BC) since 1980. It is imperative for them and their multicultural host society to grasp how these populations negotiate their heritage maintenance. This inquiry explores parent perceptions on heritage maintenance for their ethnic-Chinese children in BC, which consists of the maintenance of heritage language (HL) and the negotiation of cultural identity. Conceptually, my research draws upon Darvin and Norton’s Model of Investment, Bourdieu’s notions of capital, and Coleman’s family capital. This collective case study involves interviewing, individually and in groups, a total of eight family cases (14 parents), each comprising one or two parents who have an ethnic-Chinese child enrolled at one BC public school which offers a Mandarin Bilingual Program. The researcher and the participants co-construct meaning through dialogue. In order to encourage a holistic exploration, participants were recruited with diverse migratory trajectories, heritage languages, and immigrant generations/landing ages. Participants expressed a wide range of perceptions on heritage language and cultural identity. Some identified both with Canadian society and the heritage country, some identified primarily with one, and some felt a loss of identification with either. Findings suggest that these varying perceptions may be influenced by migratory trajectory and immigrant generation. In terms of HL, most participants expressed that they enrolled in the MBP for pragmatic reasons, i.e. career prospects, family communication, and psychological protection, rather than to foster cultural identity. Most parents valued bilingualism in the HL and see Chinese HL as one or more forms of capital; however, opinions on the growing global value of Chinese vary. Furthermore, the linguistic expectations and assumptions experienced by ethnic Chinese, perpetrated by both dominant Anglocentric culture and Chinese communities, are illuminated. In conclusion, the discussions and implications include the unanticipated benefits of low dominant language ability, issues of embodied racialized identity, the normalization of marginalization, class issues triggered by economic divides, the differing parental bearings of mothers versus fathers on their children’s education, heritage language as a conceptual link between identity and heritage maintenance, the silver lining of HL loss, and possibilities for heritage renaissance.

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