Balancing goals and emotional responses to learning Chinese as a heritage language

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Chen, Yu-Jung, 1977-

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This study explored the learning experience of Chinese heritage language learners, focusing on the interaction of their multiple goals, their emotional responses, as well as the influence of their experience in their family and formal school contexts. The settings of this study were the sixth to eighth grade classes at two local community Chinese schools. Data were collected from multiple sources including students' responses to a self-report questionnaire, interviews with teachers, interviews with 19 focal students and their parents, and a semester-long retrospective observation journal. Data were analyzed using coding procedures suggested by Strauss and Corbin (1998) from a grounded theory qualitative approach. Results indicated that perceptions of Chinese school learning affected students' motivational goals and their emotional responses in the Chinese learning experience. These perceptions included (a) perceptions of the Chinese learning environment (instructional methods, teachers' characteristics, and peer influence), (b) perceptions of their ability, (c) perceptions of values and beliefs, and (d) perceptions of their available time and schedule. Students in this study reported having both learning intention goals (categorized as integrative and instrumental goals) as well as well-being (social and work-avoidance) goals. Students also reported experiencing both positive emotions (enjoyment, pride) and negative emotions (boredom, anger) in the Chinese learning context. The contextual factors, including students' formal school experience and their family experience also seemed to influence directly or indirectly students' perceptions of Chinese school learning as well as their motivational goals and emotional responses. How students balanced their multiple goals and their multiple emotions determined the extent of students' willingness to attend Chinese school, the extent of their engagement in learning Chinese, as well as the extent of their acknowledgement of their Chinese identity. Implications for research and practice are discussed.