Second Language Learning Motivations of Non-Heritage Chinese Research Proposal

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The 21st century has been dubbed the "Century of Asia" with China leading the way. Moreover, the number of people who speak some form of Chinese all over the world is enormous, and many experts suggest that individuals who are bilingual and fluent in Chinese as a second language will be in big demand in the future. This demand is being fueled to some degree by the need for Chinese speakers in North America as well. For instance, over the course of the next 2 decades, the respective representation of minorities in Canada is projected to continue to increase so that, by the year 2016, it is estimated that visible minorities will likely comprise close to 20% of the adult population and 25% of children. In addition, within the population of visible minorities, the growth rate of specific groups is expected to differ, leading to increased diversification. In 1991, Chinese, Blacks, and Indo - Pakistanis accounted for the largest percentage of visible minorities in Canada (Esses & Gardner, 1996). According to Statistic Canada (2009), the Chinese heritage population in Ottawa is 30,760, about 3.8% of the total population of the city. This includes speakers of both Mandarin and Cantonese. In connection with China's fast growing economy and its greater role on the world stage, Chinese learning by non-Chinese-heritage learners is starting to attract more interest in the language market. In this environment, identifying opportunities for improving the delivery of Chinese language courses represents a timely and valuable enterprise. To this end, this study examines aspects of the Mandarin language learning students in University of Ottawa Chinese courses.

Research Proposal on Second Language Learning Motivations of Non-Heritage Chinese Assignment

The study upon which this interim report-based has been designed to determine how motivation plays a role for non- heritage learners in this program in their effective acquisition of the Chinese language and an understanding of a centuries-old culture more. The students are from various backgrounds. Apart from students born in Canada, there are those who were from Vietnam, Peru, France, Laos, United States, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Germany, etc. Most of these students are bilingual (their family tongue is either English or French) or multilingual. Some students are able to speak three languages when they enter the program.

The students who have non-Chinese background are different from all other Chinese heritage language students on site. Heritage students are able to more or less use Mandarin or Cantonese in daily living contexts at minimal basic level, thanks to their family background. These non-Chinese heritage students should be specially taken care of because they are usually a group of multi-aged students from college age to senior age. The special features of this group in a classroom can afforded a unique opportunity of the researcher to look more closely at the various factors that may have influenced their varying levels of performance.

This report is composed of the following sections: (1) Introduction; (2) Statement of Research Questions; (3) Literature Review and Theoretical Framework (4) Research Methodology; (5) Results and Implications.

The introduction provides a brief overview of (a) the background of the research; (b) the research question; (c) and general information of research participants. The second section delivers a statement of the research questions that drive the entire project. In this section, there are statements pertaining to (a) what the researcher wants to argue; (b) the significance of the study; and (c) what motivated the researcher to pursue this study. The third section outlines the literature pertinent to the topic. Gaps in the literature will be highlighted in this section as a way to further argue for the significance of this study. Theoretical framework outlined the viewpoint from which the researcher has approached the study. In this section, the researcher relates theories of L2 teaching and learning (Stern, 1983, p.1) to heritage language teaching (Duff, 2008, p. 71) and international language instruction (Tavares, 2001, p. 199). These theories with be discussed with special reference to the motivational factors that affect L2 acquisition (Dornyei, 2001; Gliksman, Gardner, & Smythe, 1982. Gardner, R.C., & Lysynchuk, 1990). The next section goes over the research methodology employed for the study in which the researcher explains (a) the choice of qualitative case study methodology; (b) the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures; (c) and the procedures employed for data collection and analysis.


Statement of Research Question

The design the project is targeting at non-Chinese heritage learners who are interested in learning Mandarin in a university. For this research, the purpose is to explore the factors that affect the learning motivations in order to discuss the ways to effectively maintain learner's interests in staying in the program. The research questions that will be used to guide the proposed study are as follows:


How do non-academic activities affect students' motivation of learning the language?


How does peer-influence affect the learning motivation?


What are other factors affect the learning motivation?


Literature Review and Theoretical Framework

L2 teaching and learning

The cultural landscape of Canada has changed in fundamental ways in recent years and current projections indicate that further changes can be expected in the future. In fact, over the next 20 years or so, the representation of visible minorities in Canada is expected to continue to rise so that, by the year 2016, it is estimated that so-called "visible minorities" will probably account for at least 20% of the adult population and a full quarter of the children of the Canadian population (Kelly, 1995). In addition, the respective growth rates for the different segments of the visible minority populations are projected to be significantly different, an outcome that is expected to result in additional cultural diversification in Canadian society (Esses & Gardner, 1996).

By 1991, Chinese, blacks, and Indo-Pakistanis represented the most populous segments of Canada's visible minorities; at this point, the West Asian and Arab segments who were living in Canada were projected to experience the fastest growth rates well into the 21st century while blacks and Indo-Pakistanis were projected to experience the slowest growth rates (Kelly, 1995). These trends are going to have some inevitable effects on Canada's demographic composition and will affect the demand for bilingual individuals in the future (Esses & Gardner, 1996). Therefore, many non-heritage Chinese language students in Canadian universities who are motivated to learn Chinese as a second language may be doing so based strictly on a desire to improve their career prospects. For example, Robinson (2005) reports that undergraduate students who pursue high-demand second language skills today will be able to find desirable employment opportunities where others will not in the future. According to Robinson, "Those who understand the needs of the work environment and prepare accordingly position themselves to be competitive in the marketplace. Learning a foreign language is absolutely another evolutionary step that must be achieved in order to remain competitive. People who speak multiple languages have employment advantages" (p. 72). This author cites the results of a recent study conducted by an online job search service that showed that out of almost 1,500 executives in the $100,000-plus job market range, fully 16% found that Chinese would be the most useful foreign language at the their jobs (Robinson, 2005).

Other non-heritage Chinese language students, though, may be motivated by other reasons which can affect how hard they will work to achieve academic success and whether they will go on to complete higher levels of proficiency. After all, learning Chinese as a second language is not one of the easier alternatives that are available to most university students and it is likely that the attrition rate for these students is higher than other second languages courses. As Jiang and Ramsey (2005) emphasize, "Chinese is a tonal language and smooth communication relies crucially on correct pronunciation of tones, which frequently poses difficulties for native English-speaking learners" (p. 48). Therefore, learning what motivates non-heritage Chinese second language learners can help educators improve their chances for success. To this end, the study of what motivates some people to pursue a second language was helped along by the work of researchers during the second half of the 20th century, who are discussed further below.

The introduction of motivational psychology to the study of second language education was fueled in large part by the work of two pioneers in the field, R.C. Gardner, who developed a motivational theory that is specific to second language learning and J.H. Schumann, who elaborated and expanded on Gardner's motivational theory to develop a model he called "acculturation." In this regard, Schumann (1978) believed that if the culture people want to live in is different from their native culture, they will inevitably encounter obstacles to their mastery of the mainstream language in use and the cultural contact needed for assimilation is reduced as a result. Clearly, the less comfortable people are with a new culture, the less likely they will be to actively seek out opportunities for interaction and they may fail to experience… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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