Moving between diverse cultural contexts: how important is intercultural learning to Chinese heritage language learners?

Hui Ling Xu, Robyn Moloney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Research on heritage language (HL) education has been robust in recent decades due to the increasing presence of HL learners in foreign language programmes in universities across the world, in particular, in multiethnic and multilingual contexts such as the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia. While much research explores issues such as the diversity of learner groups, learning motivation, attitudes towards the HL, and linguistic peculiarities, there has been limited research attention to heritage learners’ intersection with intercultural language learning. HL learners move between languages and cultures often on a daily basis, which ‘happens at the threshold of their homes, not at the border between two countries’ (Kagan 2012). However, how ‘intercultural’ are this group of learners? Is there an awareness and critical recognition of how they negotiate the different cultural aspects in their lives? As learners of their HL, how will they perceive the relevance and effectiveness of an intercultural approach to learning Chinese? This chapter explores Chinese heritage learners’ perceptions of an intercultural learning task which calls for intercultural critical thinking. Using the students’ reflective journals and post-project reflective writing, the study maps a number of different themes in the responses of the heritage learners. The reflection appears to play a role in enhancing self-awareness in heritage learners. The goal of the study was to identify how to support heritage learner students in activating their own enquiry into their views and opinions of the ‘other’ and the self, in relation to their personal knowledge of China and Australia, as part of enhancing and motivating their language learning as well as developing skills in supporting effective and appropriate interaction with the HL community.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterculturality in Chinese language education
EditorsTinghe Jin , Fred Dervin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781137583222
ISBN (Print)9781137583215
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective


  • heritage language learner
  • interculturality
  • Chinese as a foreign language
  • teaching pedagogy


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