British Students’ Identity Transition in Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language

Chinese has become an increasingly significant language in the global language market over the last 20 years. China’s increasing power economically has encouraged the development of Chinese Language Learning (CLL) and it is increasingly being seen as a strategic learning decision. This research focuses on investigating key identity transitions for a small number of British students studying Chinese in the UK as they experienced a placement abroad, learning Chinese in Mainland China or Taiwan. Ten British students who had studied Chinese in a one-year China exchange programme at a Scottish university were invited to take part. Drawing on poststructuralist perspectives in establishing a theoretical position and narrative identity theory as a key conceptual frame, learners’ experiences, beliefs and perceptions were explored in depth. The face to face semi-structured interview with students was utilised as the main research method. After analysing the data, three themes emerged: cultural identity shifts, motivation/investment, and identity transition. These themes reflected students’ engagement with the target language and culture and their sense of self as they experienced Chinese and Chinese culture during their overseas study time and on their return. Finally, there was a discussion about how they define and redefine the concept of who they used to be, who they are, who they are becoming, and the relationship between themselves and the social world. Speaking a new language, is seen as the start of a new identity.



Author Information
Mengke Li, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECLL2019
Stream: Psychology of the learner

This paper is part of the ECLL2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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