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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transnational long-term learners of Chinese as peer mentors: language socialization, online learning, and identity Doherty, Liam


The “mentor/mentee” relationship in mentoring research has traditionally been constructed as hierarchical (Kroll, 2016), similar to that of “expert/novice” in the field of language socialization (Howard, 2012). Although this binary understanding has been challenged by recent work in both peer mentoring and peer language socialization, peer language mentoring in the context of foreign language learning has received less attention. At the same time, there has been as yet very little research on the L2 (additional language) peer socialization of Chinese language learners (Duff, 2014b), and of learners in digital contexts in general (Reinhardt & Thorne, 2017). To address this gap, this study takes a multiple case study approach to create a portrait of four long-term learners of Chinese, their histories and learning trajectories, and the ways in which these factors came together to shape their participation in an online peer language mentoring program with 11 other non-heritage post-secondary learners of Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) from a variety of geolinguistic and educational backgrounds. Data include participant interviews, artifacts generated by mentors in the process of preparing activities for mentees, text-based interactions of participants on the platform itself, and a variety of multimodal materials (images and video) shared therein. A process of iterative grounded analysis was used to identify the focal cases; further analysis using customized Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) tools developed for the study found that they shared unique characteristics and perspectives in the mentoring context, and took on roles as mentors with the explicit intention of critically addressing structural issues they perceived as existing in formal language education generally (and CAL specifically). The results of the study show how experienced language learners who are not positioned as experts by themselves or others can nevertheless provide rich peer mentoring support for newer learners in an asynchronous online setting. The insights shared by these participants offer an opportunity for language educators to engage with the unique perspectives of an under-studied group within CAL: those non-native learners who have successfully acquired their languages as adults and used them in a variety of contexts over an extended period of time.

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