The Hidden Language Classroom: A Case Study of a Chinese Immigrant Mother’s Using Everyday Objects for Heritage Language Maintenance


Language input and language environment are key factors for immigrant children, who strive to acquire two languages both as their first languages. My previous research confirmed that many immigrant Chinese families see it a priority to maintain their heritage language in their Family Language Policy and home education, based on their perception that the social spaces are lacking of language input for their children’s learning Chinese. In this presentation, a case study is conducted with one specific Chinese mother, who created a language environment at home, rich in heritage culture and language. A considerable number of everyday-objects in her home present rich cultural symbols to facilitate the children’s learning of Chinese language and culture. The case study aims to explore how this mother supports her children’s learning in Chinese language and culture by creating a complex and sophisticated language environment in home with culture-related everyday-objects. Data was collected through two semi-structured interviews. The mother was invited to share photos of her everyday-objects as well. Then themes related to the research question were identified and analyzed. Findings suggest that this immigrant Chinese mother uses all her capitals to create a habitus rich in Chinese culture and language in home settings, and Chinese language was used as a subtle culture tool in shaping the habitus. The purpose of developing the habitus is to strengthen the children’s cultural identity as Chinese. My future research will explore the children’s interpretation between the habitus at home and the social settings out of home.

Author Information
Long Li, Manukau Institute of Technology, New Zealand

Paper Information
Conference: ACL2022
Stream: Language and Culture

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon