The Sociocultural Milieux of ‘Chinese’ Language Learning in Belfast: Diaspora and Difference

  • Sha Wang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation investigates Mandarin and Cantonese language learning and Chinese identity formation amongst young people of Chinese descent in Northern Ireland. It explores their attitude to language learning in domestic and Chinese Language School (CLS) environments and their parents’ and teachers’ engagement. Looking at this broader social context, it investigates the inter-linkage between linguistic practices and claimed ‘Chinese identities’, the formation of ‘Chinese community’ through linguistic practices; and the workings of diasporic institutions such as Chinese language schools. It pays close attention to the ways in which individual differences and life trajectories inform practices of community and family making through linguistic performance. The research is based on the theoretical framework of ethnicity and identification; diaspora and community dynamics; individual trajectory; migration and transnationalism; linguistic anthropology and studies on Chinese migration and Chinese migration in Northern Ireland.

The central research question is: How do practices of Mandarin and Cantonese language learning amongst children of Chinese origin in Belfast reflect, inform or undermine specific discourses and performances of identity and belonging? To address this question, the dissertation focuses on several sub-themes. What are the Chinese migrant children’s linguistic practices and Chinese language learning experiences in the domestic environment and the Chinese Language Schools in Northern Ireland? What are the reasons and motivation for their linguistic behaviour and attitude? What are the Chinese parents’ expectation and attitudes towards Chinese language education in Northern Ireland? To what extent do the parents’ efforts affect children’s performance at the language schools? The research is based on several methods, including participant-observation in school events, teachers’ meetings and classes; semi-structured and in-depth interviews with migrant Chinese parents and teachers; questionnaires with pupils from CLS and visual and audio data collection.
Date of Award25 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMaruska Svasek (Supervisor) & John Knight (Supervisor)

Cite this