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The language and literacy practices of English-Chinese bilingual students in Western Canada Open Access


Other title
Chinese Canadians -- Education -- Case studies
Education, Bilingual -- Canada, Western
Second language acquisition
English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers
English language -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Chinese speakers -- Case studies
Bilingualism -- Canada, Western
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Sun, Miao
Supervisor and department
Blair, Heather (Department of Elementary Education)
Examining committee member and department
McClay, Jill (Department of Elementary Education)
Ellis, Julia (Department of Elementary Education)
Toohey, Kelleen (Simon Fraser University)
Wiltse, Lynne (Department of Elementary Education)
Bilash, Olenka (Department of Secondary Education)
Wu, Joe (Department of Elementary Education)
Department of Elementary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In a rapidly globalizing world, bilingualism and biliteracy become important assets. It is widely recognized that full and partial immersion (bilingual) education programs are emerging as successful routes to effective second language acquisition in many parts of the world. However, much of the research on language acquisition and program development in dual languages is focused on French immersion in Canada and Spanish bilingual education in the US. In Canada, despite the fact that Chinese bilingual programs have existed for almost 30 years, very little research has been done on how these language programs function or how effective they are in developing bilingualism and biliteracy (Wu & Bilash, 2000). There is reason to believe that current research on other bilingual programs such as Spanish bilingual education in the US or French immersion in Canada may not be completely applicable to English-Chinese bilingual students because of the distinct linguistic, social, cultural, political, and contextual differences. This study was designed as an ethnographic case study to explore bilingual students’ language and literacy practices at school and out of school in a city in Western Canada. The main participants in the study were three Grade 5 English-Chinese bilingual students. The ethnographic data were collected for a whole academic year at school, in students’ homes, and at community events through participant observation; fieldnotes from the observation; semistructured interviews and open-ended conversations with children, teachers, the principal, and parents; audio- and videotaped student-student and student-teacher interactions; and literacy-artifact collection and analysis. Within-case and cross-case analyses were both conducted, and three main themes were identified as significant factors that support these bilingual students’ successful language and literacy development and positive identities as language learners. The three themes include dialogue between languages, dialogue among peers, and dialogue across places. This research has the potential to benefit the educational system in creating successful bilingual and biliterate English-Chinese programs. A deeper understanding of English-Chinese bilingual students’ language and literacy practices will be central to assisting these students, as tomorrow’s global citizens, with developing the highest possible degree of dual language proficiency, academic achievement, and intercultural competence.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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