Identifying Chinese heritage learners' motivations, learning needs and learning goals

a case study of a cohort of heritage learners in an Australian university

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There is increasing enrolment of Chinese heritage language learners in tertiary Chinese language classrooms across Australia. Educated in English, Chinese heritage learners are of diverse national origins and the Chinese language varieties to which they have been exposed through family or community are also diverse. Recent research in this field has called for greater attention to pedagogical questions in heritage language study, entailing a better understanding of learners and their learning motivation. This study was driven by pedagogical concern as to the perceived underachievement of the learner group and low retention rate at the beginner level. Through an analysis of quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data, the study closely examines the particular motivational orientations, learning needs, and goals of a group of Chinese heritage language learners in one Australian university setting. Motivation from heritage and cultural identity is balanced by the drive towards employment prospects, or perceived economic capital of learning Chinese. The students' goal of communicative competence is at odds with the apparent traditional Chinese teaching goals, which have stressed complex written literacy construction. This study fills a significant gap in the field by identifying research-based pedagogic implications and strategies for teaching Chinese heritage learners in the Australian context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-393
Number of pages29
JournalLanguage learning in higher education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright de Gruyter 2014. Article originally published in Language learning in higher education, 4(2), pages 365–393. The original article can be found at Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Chinese heritage language
  • Motivation
  • Learning needs
  • Australian tertiary context
  • Foreign language pedagogy

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