First language use and language behavior of Chinese students in Toronto, Canada

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Many immigrant minorities are concerned with the first language (L1) maintenance of their children living in a majority language and culture. The role of the L1 has important implications for students’ linguistic, cultural and identity development. This chapter examines the relationship between Chinese students’ L1 use and behavior and the broader sociolinguistic and sociocultural environment in relation to the ethnolinguistic vitality of the Chinese community in Toronto, Canada. One hundred and fifteen Chinese students in international languages programs in Toronto participated in the study. Results indicate that the Chinese students have a positive attitude towards various factors at the sociological, socio-psychological and psychological levels which are conducive to L1 maintenance. Whether in terms of objective vitality factors, interpersonal contacts, contact with the media, heritage education support, or subjective vitality beliefs, students’ positive attitudes help facilitate their L1 use and affect their L1 behavior.


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