First language maintenance and attrition among young Chinese adult immigrants: a multi-case study

  • Author / Creator
    Xie, Mianmian
  • The role of the first language (L1) has been generally acknowledged as having important implications for young immigrants’ linguistic, educational, socio-cultural, intellectual, career, and identity development (e.g., Cummins, 2001; Guardado, 2002; Kim 2006; Kouritzin, 1999). In this case study I investigated the first language maintenance and attrition of three young adults who had immigrated to Canada as children from mainland China and Taiwan. Two questions were addressed: (a) What linguistic elements were maintained and eroded in the participants’ heritage language? and (b) What social and psychological factors contributed to the participants’ L1 maintenance and attrition?
    The data were collected through self-evaluation questionnaires, translation tasks and open-ended interviews both in English and Mandarin. Using a combination of life stories describing the participants’ personal linguistic and social experiences in Canada and the results of linguistic assessments through different tasks, the study provides a detailed examination of the phenomenon of L1 maintenance and attrition among young adult immigrants from China.

    The findings of this study indicate that the three participants took distinct routes resulting in differential outcomes in their first language maintenance and attrition. Ethnic and cultural identity, and language attitudes and beliefs were identified as important internal factors. School discourse including teachers’ attitudes towards immigrants’ L1, peer influences and access to planned L1 educational activities both at home and in the school system were important external factors affecting the participants’ L1 maintenance and attrition. The results provide support for the view that a collaborative, inclusive approach to education that involves not only immigrant students, but also their families, educational systems, and society in general facilitates young immigrants’ bilingualism and acculturation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Ranta, Leila (Educational Psychology)
    • Derwing, Tracey (Educational Psychology)
    • Oberg, Dianne (Elementary Education)
    • Lam, Yvonne (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Toohey, Kelleen (Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University)