Coming of Age Learning Mandarin: Chinese L2 Learners' Investment during their Transition from High School to University
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 05-Aug-2018
AbstractSituated in the changing context of Mandarin learning in the United States, Mandarin these days is changing from a less commonly taught language to a more commonly offered foreign language option in American secondary schools. However, in the applied linguistic literature, "few empirical studies have focused on pre-college CFL learning" (Ke, 2012, p.98). Moreover, the transition from high school to university often entails complex social, cultural, and emotional changes (e.g., Nathan, 2006). The goal of this dissertation project, therefore, is to investigate how students' investment in Mandarin is socially and historically constructed at these three levels: personal, familial, and institutional, as they transition from high school to university. This study draws upon the theory of identity and investment (Norton, 1995) to examine how these teenage language learners are multidimensional beings with multiple desires, and how their investment is produced or reproduced from social interactions, and is subject to change. Three high school campuses were chosen, because Mandarin classes are now offered from kindergarten through twelfth grade in these schools. Six students who expressed their intentions to continue learning Mandarin in university consented to participate in this study. Data collection for this study lasted from March to December 2015, which covered these students' last semester of high school, their first semester of college, and the period between. Data were collected from interviews and monthly informal Skype chats, and supplemented with class documents. Using qualitative analysis methods, the findings show the following factors as salient to their investment in Mandarin learning at the high school stage: 1) the students' personal interest, and 2) the influence from their families and their institutions. In the university setting, these students' investment in Mandarin was mostly mediated at the personal and the institutional levels. The results reveal the identity shift from childhood to adulthood these adolescent learners experienced during the transition. Specifically, the adolescent learners became more independent in making their own decisions, and less dependent on their families, both financially and symbolically. Second, the findings also highlight how these individuals' investment in Mandarin could be constrained at the institutional level. This points to the need for L2 educators to pay attention not only to individual students' personal interests and motivations in language learning, but also to a better understanding of how students perceive their own identities and whether foreign language learning is accessible to learners institutionally.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies