“I Call Them My Little Chinese Kids”: Parents’ Identities and Language Ideologies in a Mandarin-English Dual Language Immersion School
Research on bilingual education presents clear advantages for children’s linguistic, cognitive, and social development. However, recent criticism of dual language education programs has led to claims of dual language education as a marker of elite bilingualism or that parents play their roles as socially accepted “good parents” by sending their child to a bilingual school. This paper presents the linguistic ideologies of parents of students enrolled in two Chinese-English dual language schools in the MidAtlantic U.S. Qualitative data were obtained from in-depth interviews with 21 parents (mothers = 15, fathers = 6), the majority of whom have no Chinese ethnic connection. In drawing from theories of Family Language Policy, parents addressed the connections between Mandarin and economic, political, sociolinguistic, or sociocultural factors. Discussions with parents reveal both their knowledge and misconceptions regarding language learning theories. Findings also indicated that parental language ideologies often intertwine Chinese language with culture and nationality. Further, this research explores the ways parents uniquely shaped their identities in how they both accept and reject aspects of Chinese culture and language. My study reveals a more nuanced portrait of the parents who choose Mandarin immersion for their children, and explores the critical role that caretakers can play in informing bilingual policies and practices.
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