Literature Review Chapter: Mass Media Affecting Degree of Acculturation for Taiwanese Adult ESL Learners Ages 18-25

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Acculturation of ESL Learners in Taiwan

How impactful is the mass media in terms of the Acculturation for Taiwanese adult English as a second language (ESL) learners (ages 18-25)? This issue has important implications for the ESL students both in terms of learning the English language, and in understanding the culture from which the English language is predominant. This paper references language learning -- which is necessarily linked to cultural understanding -- in several contexts, all of which relate to learners of the English language in Taiwan.

Communication Patterns…in the Process of Acculturation: Thirty-four years ago Young Kim presented a paper on acculturation to the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association. Kim offered three factors that lead to the communication skills of a person learning a second language (in this case, English) in a host country: "language competence, acculturation motivation, and accessibility to host communication channels" (Kim, p. 1). Moreover Kim offered 9 propositions positing the various degrees to which an immigrant perceives and interacts with the host society. In sum, Kim's model also shows that the immigrant with better English command "may tend to have higher acculturation motivation" (Kim, p. 12).

Kim's survey of 281 Korean immigrants in Chicago revealed that after factoring in the data, the three causal factors (mentioned above) do a more thorough job of explaining the immigrant's "information-oriented use of the host media" than his interpersonal communications behavior (Kim, p. 21). The explanation is straight forward, Kim asserts: in interpersonal communications, it's more complex, more intense: e.g., immigrants are psychologically involved to a greater degree than when the immigrant reads newspapers, watches TV, or listens to radio.

Immigrant Perceptions of Advertising Amid Acculturation Levels: Thirty-one years after Kim's presentation on acculturation, Qiao Lan writes that not only is media among the most important paths to acculturation, the advertising that is part of media (and supports the production and promotion of media) teaches viewers to "attach social meaning to material goods" and to understand lifestyles and trends (Lan, 2007, p. 2). Lan references Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory of mass communication as a worthy contribution to the discussion of non-English speakers' social learning process (Lan, p. 12). Bandura's four human abilities "account for our social learning through mass media," Lan explains.

His hypothesis that immigrants have "more positive attitudes than Americans do" was backed up by her study of 358 university graduate students. Immigrants becoming acculturated in America, Lan writes, come to a better understanding of what an American is through TV advertising. "Learning to consume as an American is an important part of learning to be an American" (Lan, paraphrasing Lee's 1993 cross cultural research on Chinese/Taiwanese immigrants, p. 19). Paying close attention to TV ads is important because much of what an American is can be understood through what he possess, "and the values those possessions express and convey to others" (Lan, quoting O'Guinn, Lee ad Faber [1986], p. 19).

Ethnicity and Acculturation and Asian-American Consumers: Jikyeong Kang and Youn-Kyung Kim explore the purchasing habits of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants living in the U.S. The important implication lies in the fact that prior to a company (clothing company in this instance) reaching out to an Asian immigrant community the key is in understanding "the natures of ethnicity and acculturation and how they affect consumer decision making" (Kang, et al., 1998, p. 91). The study Kang conducted and published was based on 481 immigrant survey (questionnaire) responses from 152 Chinese, 185 Japanese and 144 Koreans (living in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago). Kang based the acculturation effect on length of stay in the country, language use, and media (TV, newspapers, and radio) consumption (Kang, p. 104); his three groups of dependent variables for this research: reference group influence (family, ethnic friends, American friends, etc.); media influence (TV, radio, newspapers, as to which has the greatest influence on purchasing social clothes); and store attribute importance.

Chinese respondents were "more likely" to rely on family / relatives in deciding what social clothes to buy, while Chinese and Koreans relied on "ethnic friends and American friends" more than Japanese relied on those sources (Kang, p. 107). And those Asians with "high acculturation" levels tended to rely on ethnic co-workers more than low-acculturation groups (Kang, p. 107). For both Chinese and Koreans the "low acculturation" group was influenced more profoundly by TV and radio than was the high acculturation; but for the Japanese immigrants in America the high acculturation group relied more on TV and radio than the low acculturation group. The clear message for advertisers: do not consider "all Asian groups as homogeneous; each of the three Asian ethnic groups respond differently to friends, stores, and media (Kang, p. 113).

Rethinking acculturation in second language acquisition: Bonny Norton provides a very interesting study of three adult women (Mai from Vietnam, Katarina and Eva from Poland; Martina from Czechoslovakia; and Felicia from Peru) learning English as a second language in Canada. Mai's "subtractive bilingualism" (while learning English she loses the Vietnamese language) and Katarina's "additive bilingualism" (opposite of subtractive) are the subject of Norton's inquiry (Norton, 2000, p. 5). This research (focusing in on Mai's situation) was in reality an investigation into the relationship between "mother tongue maintenance, identity, and acculturation" (Norton, p. 5). Even though Mai spoke 3 languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, English) the family has serious communication problems -- a "breakdown in social relationships" (Norton, p. 5). Her parents speak no English; Mai had lost proficiency in her use of Vietnamese; her nephews speak only English and their mother speaks limited English. Her nephews lost respect for their mother and gravitated towards Mai. Worse yet, Mai's nephews "grew up despising their [Vietnamese] appearances, rejecting their history, and eschewing their languages" (Norton, p. 12). They hated their looks because "…perfect Canadians are white"; Norton's conclusion is that the "loss of the mother tongue amongst children" may have a "devastating effect on the social fabric of the family" (Norton, p. 18).

Mass Media and Ethnic Assimilation and Pluralism: Federico A. Suber Vi-Velez states that assimilation describes that social change that leads to "greater homogeneity" in society. Pluralism, meantime, suggests that minority groups continue practicing their cultural values and traits but "still participate in the dominant society" (Vi-Velez, 1986, p. 71). Exposure to the mass media, as has been emphasized, helps minority members become "acculturated" to the dominant group; but like Asian-Americans in the previous study mentioned, Latino groups are also not homogenous and do not respond to media (or prefer specific media) in similar ways. On page 84 Suber Vi-Velez points out that Puerto Ricans get their political news from print media; Cuban Americans get their political knowledge from radio; Mexican-Americans get much of their political (and sports, societal and other news) mainly from TV. If any news reports are in conflict, Latinos (as a general rule) believe what they see on TV more so than Anglos do (p. 83).

Acculturation and Media…among Chinese Students in the U.S.: Cui Yang, et al. discuss a survey of Chinese graduate students in the U.S. (Yang, et al., 2004, p. 81). Yang's hypotheses were: (#1) "The stronger the acculturation need of a Chinese student in the U.S. The stronger her or his acculturation motives for media usage will be"; and (#2) the stronger the motive to become acculturated, the more media the student will report using (Yang, p. 84). To verify his hypothesis, Yang surveyed 84 mostly graduate level Chinese students attending a Midwest university (U.S.); 22% were 1st year students; 30% were 2nd year students; 28% were in their 3rd year and 19% had been in the States more than three years. The three core acculturative motives: "I want to learn more about American culture"; "It helps me adjust to American society"; and "I want to improve my English" (Yang, p. 88). The results for hypothesis #1 showed that when the need for acculturation is "strong" the use of TV and the Internet was substantial. As to hypothesis #2, there was a strong link between the frequency of watching local TV news and the reported acculturative motives for TV watching per se (Yang, p. 89).

Print Media Exposure…and Acculturation Attitudes: Shuang Liu writes that Taiwanese, Chinese and people from Hong Kong make up 87% of the immigrant population in Australia. And the approach of Asian immigrants who are in the process of acculturation in Australia tend more towards "group perception and contact" and not to print media (Liu, 2006, p. 335). Indeed the print media has not been the favorite source of information of Chinese in Australia; a survey in the 1990s showed that "Asians were continually portrayed in the newspapers as problem people and bad news" so why would English language newspapers be the medium of choice in any Asian country? Based on a survey of 265 Chinese immigrant participants, Liu asserts, "Frequency of exposure to mainstream newspapers is negatively related to the perceived level of group identification, in-group perception and out-group perception of Chinese immigrants" (p. 367).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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