Heritage Learners’ Motivations, Expectations, and Language Needs: The Case of Post-secondary Chinese and Korean Language Learners
(Presented at the First International Heritage Language Conference, Feb. 19-21, 2010 at NHLRC)
Chinese and Korean are two of the critical languages and they are also heritage (immigrant) languages. Since 2000, when two big changes were made in the Yale Chinese program, i.e., the separation of heritage and non-heritage language learners and the reduction from a nine hour week to a five hour week system, both our heritage students’ enrolment and L2 learners courses have constantly increased. Average total enrollment in the three heritage levels in the past five years has been 80 to 85 students a year. Enrollment increased by 100% from 40 to 45 in 2000.
To have a deeper understanding of the Chinese Heritage Learners (CHL) and Korean Heritage Learners (KHL) and about their linguistic needs, motivations, and future plans for language use, which would give helpful guidelines for developing effective textbooks for heritage learners, Peisong Xu and I conducted this study. The study procedure consisted of one time interviews of 12 CHL students and an online survey.
Data on the CHL was collected from a total of 139 CHL undergraduates who were currently taking or had taken Chinese courses in the previous two years at our university. Data on the KHL was collected through an online survey from a total of 40 undergraduate students who were enrolled in Korean language classes at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. To report briefly on the survey results:
A) The top four items, which have an average rating above 4 both in the CHL and KHL, are integrative motivations such as:
1) I learn Chinese/Korean because it is the language of my family heritage.
2) I learn Chinese/Korean to communicate better with my parents and relatives.�
3) I learn Chinese/Korean because I have an interest in Chinese culture, history, and literature. �
4) I learn Chinese/Korean to pass it on to my children in the future.
B) The next four items, which show a rating from 3.3 to 3.9 in both CHL and KHL, are other types of integrative motivations in the category of personal fulfillment:
5) I learn Chinese/Korean to build up my ability to understand Chinese TV news and newspaper articles.
6) I learn Chinese/Korean to further my global understanding.
7) I learn Chinese/Korean because it is fun and challenging. �
9) I learn Chinese/Korean because I have a general interest in languages.
C) The next two items, which show a rating from 3 to 3.3 in both KHL and CHL, have a career related instrumental orientation:
9) I learn Korean because I plan to work overseas.
10) I learn Korean to get a better job.