University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > MEITS Multilingualism Seminars > Heritage language learners on the move: The transnational process of managing and learning Chinese in a Mandarin community school

Heritage language learners on the move: The transnational process of managing and learning Chinese in a Mandarin community school

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The growing segment of immigrant-origin children in the UK has directed scholarly and public attention to the complexity of heritage language (HL) education. Until recently much research and policy has conceptualised HL learners as a population permanently settled in a bounded society, with an aim to integrate into that society only. This assumption, however, is problematised by the changing nature of migration, which is increasingly recognised as a complex matrix of interactions and connections over time and space, rather than a linear movement across borders. This raises the question of how the language and educational needs of these increasingly mobile learners are being addressed.

Placed in the contexts of transnationalism and new Chinese migration to the UK, my project explores how transnational (im)mobility mediates contemporary HL learning in a Chinese community school in London. Following an ethnographic case study approach, the project involves intensive engagement with the community through questionnaires, participant observations, and interviews. The initial findings suggest that HL learners’ linguistic experience and learning trajectory are increasingly characterised by cross-border movements, multi-stranded transnational ties, and multi-layered desires for actual and virtual movements. It is in this shared condition of transnational mobility that knowledge, identity, and social relationships are (re)produced. Furthermore, with mobility being a key organising principle, Chinese HL education plays a key role in shaping learners’ repertoires for transnational participation and therefore constructing their future mobility.

This presentation will focus on a conceptual discussion of the entwined phenomena of global human movements and HL learning. I will draw on preliminary data to exemplify how HL learning, both at the community and individual levels, is organised in response to heightened transnational mobility. Some emerging implications for theory and policy will also be discussed.

This talk is part of the MEITS Multilingualism Seminars series.

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