Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2215-1354
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1362
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This paper presents a qualitative case study of a Chinese Australian family’s multilingual experiences in Melbourne. Couched in the framework of family language policy, I examine language shift patterns and mother tongue attitudes and analyse reasons and consequences. The findings show that the first generation uses Mandarin for general family communication, while relegating regional Chinese to functions that are, typically, private and familial and for use with older generations. The second generation uses English the most. While their Mandarin use is enhanced through community-based schooling and can be activated depending on the communicative environment, regional Chinese does not play an active role. This nested, hierarchical ecology of language shift with two dominant language constellations causes parental confusion about the children’s mother tongue and problematises grandparent-grandchild communication with a possible decrease of family intimacy.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aronin, Larissa
    (2016) Multi-competence and dominant language constellation. InW. Li & V. Cook (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of linguistic multi-competence (pp.142–163). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781107425965.007
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107425965.007 [Google Scholar]
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics
    Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) 2016 census. Retrieved on03 March 2018, fromwww.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/Home/census
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Canagarajah, Suresh A.
    (2013) Translingual practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations. New York: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203120293
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203120293 [Google Scholar]
  4. Chan, Bernice
    (2018, 25June). With more speakers of Mandarin than Cantonese in Canada now, what future for the southern Chinese dialect there?South China Morning Post. Available fromhttps://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2110338/more-speakers-mandarin-cantonese-canada-now-what-future-southern-chinese
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Chen, Ping
    (1999) Modern Chinese: History and sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139164375
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139164375 [Google Scholar]
  6. Chua, Catherine S. K., & Baldauf, Richard B.
    (2011) Micro language planning. InEli Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning (1st ed., Vol.2, pp.935–951). New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Clyne, Michael
    (1991) Community languages: The Australian experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511597084
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511597084 [Google Scholar]
  8. Cummins, Jim
    (2001) Bilingual children’s mother tongue: Why is it important for education?Sprogforum, 7(19), 15–20.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Curdt-Christiansen, Xiao L.
    (2003) Growing up in three languages: Triliteracy practices of Chinese immigrant children in Quebec. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, McGill University.
  10. (2012) Private language management in Singapore: Which language to practice and how?InAlexander S. Yeung, Elinor L. Brown, & Cynthia Lee (Eds.), Communication and language: Surmounting barriers to cross-cultural understanding (pp.55–77). Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. (2013) Family language policy: Sociopolitical reality versus linguistic continuity. Language Policy, 12(1), 1–6. 10.1007/s10993‑012‑9269‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-012-9269-0 [Google Scholar]
  12. De Houwer, Annick, & Bornstein, Marc H.
    (2016) Bilingual mothers’ language choice in child-directed speech: Continuity and change. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(7), 680–693. 10.1080/01434632.2015.1127929
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2015.1127929 [Google Scholar]
  13. Department of Education and Training Victoria
    Department of Education and Training Victoria (2018) Community language schools. Retrieved onFebruary 1, 2018, fromwww.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/languages/Pages/clsschools.aspx
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Feng, Ai Z.
    (1993) Fuqing fangyan yanjiu [A study of Fuqing dialects]. Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press.
  15. Fillmore, Lily W.
    (2000) Loss of family languages: Should educators be concerned?Theory into Practice, 39(4), 203–210. 10.1207/s15430421tip3904_3
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip3904_3 [Google Scholar]
  16. Fishman, Joshua A.
    (1972) Domains and the relationship between micro-and macrosociolinguistics. InJohn Gumperz & Dell Hymes (Eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp.435–453). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Hsieh, Hsiu-Fang, & Shannon, Sarah E.
    (2005) Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288. 10.1177/1049732305276687
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687 [Google Scholar]
  18. Johnson, David C.
    (2013) Language policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137316202
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137316202 [Google Scholar]
  19. Jones, Paul
    (2001) Chinese in modern Australia. InJames Jupp (Ed.), The Australian people: An encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins (2 ed., pp.215–221). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. (2008) Chinese sojourners, immigrants and settlers in Victoria: An overview. Sydney: Board of Studies NSW. Available fromwww.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au/doc/Jones_ChinOverview.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Lo Bianco, Joseph
    (2007) Emergent China and Chinese: Language planning categories. Language Policy, 6(1), 3–26. 10.1007/s10993‑006‑9042‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-006-9042-3 [Google Scholar]
  22. Lo Bianco, Joseph, & Aliani, Renata
    (2013) Language planning and student experiences: Intention, rhetoric and implementation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 10.21832/9781783090051
    https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783090051 [Google Scholar]
  23. Mayring, Phillip
    (2014) Qualitative content analysis: Theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solution, retrieved on15 June 2018, fromnbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-395173
  24. Norman, Jerry
    (1988) Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Patton, Michael Q.
    (2002) Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Ricento, Thomas K., & Hornberger, Nancy H.
    (1996) Unpeeling the onion: Language planning and policy and the ELT professional. TESOL Quarterly, 30(3), 401–427. 10.2307/3587691
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3587691 [Google Scholar]
  27. Scrimgeour, Andrew
    (2014) Dealing with ‘Chinese Fever’: The challenge of Chinese teaching in the Australian classroom. InNeil Murray & Angela Scarino (Eds.), Dynamic ecologies: A relational perspective on languages education in the Asia-Pacific region (pp.151–167). Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑94‑007‑7972‑3_10
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7972-3_10 [Google Scholar]
  28. Simons, Gary F., & Fennig, Charles D.
    (Eds.) (2018) Ethnologue: Languages of the world (21st edition). Dallas: SIL International.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove
    (1981) Bilingualism or not: The education of minorities. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Spolsky, Bernard
    (2004) Language policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. (2012a) What is language policy? In Bernard Spolsky (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of language policy (pp.3–15). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511979026.003
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511979026.003 [Google Scholar]
  32. (2012b) Family language policy – the critical domain. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33(1), 3–11. 10.1080/01434632.2011.638072
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2011.638072 [Google Scholar]
  33. Wang, Sing-Wu
    (2001) Chinese immigration 1840s–1890s. InJames Jupp (Ed.), The Australian people: An encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins (2nd ed., pp.197–204). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Yates, Lynda, & Terraschke, Agnes
    (2013) Love, language and little ones: Successes and stresses for mothers raising bilingual children in exogamous relationships. InMila Schwartz & Anna Verschik (Eds.), Successful family language policy: Parents, children and educators in interaction (pp.105–125). Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑94‑007‑7753‑8_5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7753-8_5 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Chinese Australian; family language policy; language attitudes; language use
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error