Identity With On Languages

In an article written by Xiaowei Shi from Purdue University and Xing Lu from Depaul University, the researchers set out to answer the question: How does a bicultural identity evolve as Chinese American children grow from the period of adolescence to young adulthood? They want to examine the benefits and costs of bilingualism between the ages of twelve and twenty who are Chinese American. The researchers want to know they feelings toward the Chinese language and heritage that differ and are alike between adolescents and young adults and the experience of being Chinese American growing up.

There are twenty participants in the study. Ten whom are between the ages of twelve and fifteen, adolescents, and ten whom are between the ages of eighteen and twenty, young adults. All participants are second-generation, middle class Chinese Americans who were born in the United States or immigrated to the US before the age of three. They also understood spoken Chinese and used the language at home to communicate with family members while using the English language as their primary language in school and everyday life.

To conduct the study, the researchers decided to interview the participants.

In their findings, adolescents struggled with their identity while young adults were more serious and understanding of their identity. Throughout the interview, two themes occurred between the participants: the first being perceived benefits and costs of speaking Chinese at home and in school, the second being bilingual and bicultural identity development. For adolescents there were three themes within perceived benefits.

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Lu and Shi found that adolescents noticed that being able to speak Chinese helped them in keeping their ability to speak the language as well as providing better communication with family and extended family members. Adolescents also saw that having the ability to speak Chinese would benefit them in the future.

For perceived costs, adolescents viewed learning Chinese and going to Chinese school as a drag. “While saying this, they show mix feelings of reluctance and willingness, but even though their complaining on Chinese, the adolescents were fully aware that the Chinese culture would always be a part of them”. For young adults, the researchers saw four themes within perceived benefits. The YA viewed the ability of speaking Chinese allowed them to communicate with family and relatives, enable them to read Chinese, and improve their marketability by allowing them to do business with China directly. The also viewed the ability to speak Chinese to connect with their cultural heritage. For perceived costs, they experienced none. “The young adults understood the struggles that the adolescents were going through because as teenagers they felt the same conflicting feelings as well.

Now that they are older, they feel more comfortable with the language and want to embrace the language.”. In the second theme, bilingual and bicultural identity development, there were differences between the adolescents and young adults. Adolescents felt stuck in how to identify themselves and did not feel like they belong to either cultures. “Young adults on the other hand saw their search for belonging a good thing. They saw themselves as both Chinese and American for it’s a part of them. They viewed as being able to speak two languages as a gateway into connecting with their heritage and try to integrate both cultures into their lives”. The researchers thus concluded that as Chinese Americans grew older, they become more appreciative and conscious of their bicultural identity development.

The researchers were able to answer their question, how does a bicultural identity evolve as Chinese American children grow from the period of adolescence to young adulthood? They were also able to identify the feelings that Chinese American children felt and these differences between those feelings in adolescents and young adults. In the study there seems to be a few hanging questions. Throughout the study, the researchers noted that young adults wanted to discover their culture and connect with it, did they come across young adults who did not want to do that? Also, why did the researchers conduct the interview with the participants in English instead of using Chinese, despite being fully aware that the participants could also speak Chinese. Also, the study focused on participants who were above the age of eleven. What results could they get if they were to focus on individuals of younger ages?

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Identity With On Languages. (2021, Dec 19). Retrieved from

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