The University of Sydney, Australia
Motivation of Chinese heritage language learners: A case study at an Australian university
This study investigates the motivation of Chinese heritage language learners at an Australian university and examines the major motivational orientations for Chinese learning. Drawing upon the theoretical framework of the three motivational levels proposed by Dörnyei and his colleagues (Dörnyei, 1994; Dörnyei & Ottó, 1998) and Csizér and Dörnyei’s (2005) model of the seven dimensions of motivation, this study aims to identify the main factors that motivate university heritage language learners to learn Chinese in Australia. Data were collected from 50 Chinese heritage language learners enrolled at an Australian university. Questionnaire and interview were two instruments to collect data. The findings reveal that the major motivational factors for Chinese learning are a combination of integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. First, integrative motivation influences Chinese learning. Learners’ positive attitudes towards the Chinese community and culture and their wishes to maintain their Chinese cultural heritage play an important role in motivating them to learn Chinese. Secondly, instrumental factors are also crucial. Learners are expecting practical benefits from Chinese learning, such as good job prospects and travelling. These factors are also reported as key motivational orientations for Chinese learning. In addition, the influence of socio-cultural factors on Chinese learning should not be ignored. The support and encouragement from the learners’ parents and relatives are a source of motivation for Chinese heritage language learning. Understanding the motivation of Chinese heritage language learners provides insights into the pedagogic practices of Chinese heritage language teaching in the Australian context. On one hand, teachers should strike a balance between the teaching of Chinese culture and pragmatic content. On the other hand, teachers are suggested to create learning opportunities for learners to interact with their parents due to the motivational orientations related to the family.