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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The development of bilingualism in early childhood: Chinese parents’ attitudes, beliefs and family practice Du, Ting


An exploratory study was conducted to examine what Chinese immigrant parents have thought and done in regard to their children’s bilingual development. An interview schedule was used to collect data from a total of 15 parents who have been selected from eight preschool and daycare settings in Vancouver. The multiple case study approach was used for analysing the results. The parents attached greater importance to or had higher expectations for their children’s speaking skills in Chinese (L 1) than their reading and writing skills in Li. Their motives for wishing their children to retain Li were given in the following order: personal/social motives, symbolic motives, intellectual motives, and instrumental motives. All of the parents ranked English (L2) learning for their children in all language skills very important. The instrumental motive played the most important role. All parents reported that there was a tendency for their children to use more and more L2 at home once they were in daycare. Upon this change, some parents responded to their children in L2 at home. It seems that these parents’ reactions depended on their children’s language proficiency in Li and L2. When their children’s Li was still good or their L2 was average or poor, these parents tended to take no action in helping their children retain Li and they hoped that their children would first learn L2 well. In addition, most parents reported that they had made an effort to help their children maintain Li. However, most of them met with difficulties in doing so. The main factor causing such difficulty was the English-speaking social environment. Furthermore, most parents perceived that the family environment was the main source for their children to learn Li. As for L2 learning, they thought that their children could learn it naturally from many sources such as schools, friends and TV. Though not very conclusive, there was an indication in this study that the presence of monolingual grandparents and home country visits were two factors in helping children maintain Li.

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