Language, Culture and Identity in Two Chinese Community Schools: More than One Way of Being Chinese?

Author: Sara Ganassin

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This book investigates the social, political and educational role of community language education in migratory contexts. It draws on an ethnographic study that investigates the significance of Mandarin-Chinese community schooling in Britain as an intercultural space for those involved. To understand the interrelation of 'language', 'culture' and 'identity', the book adopts a 'bricolage' approach that brings together a range of theoretical perspectives. This book challenges homogenous and stereotypical constructions of Chinese language, culture and identity – such as the image of Chinese pupils as conformist and deferent learners – that are often repeated both in the media and in academic discussion.

An insightful study showing the complex role of Mandarin Chinese as a factor of unity and of tension for diverse British residents of Chinese heritage. It illuminates the power of regional Chinese languages and cultures that demand ongoing negotiation of an intercultural identity within the frame of being Chinese. This is a valuable resource for researchers, course planners and teachers in Chinese and other world languages.

Jane Orton, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Sara Ganassin has produced an original and highly sensitive account of the lives and experiences of children attending Chinese community schools in England. She examines how the multiplicity of meanings, identities and positionings associated with being Chinese are managed and negotiated by children, parents and teachers, and how community schools provide rich sites for intercultural encounters. Ganassin is to be congratulated on producing such a valuable and insightful study.

Martyn Barrett, University of Surrey, UK

This important book offers a fresh perspective on (Chinese) community schools as sites of intercultural engagement; and language, culture, and identity construction – of children, their parents, and teachers. Grounded in ethnographic research, the study has rich examples that will benefit educators, researchers, and others in understanding how community schools can promote intercultural education, inclusion and social justice in multi-ethnic communities.

Prue Holmes, Durham University, UK

The in-depth reflections and elaborations on the methodology make the book a valuable reference for researchers who want to embark on conducting a similar kind of interpretivist ethnographic research in a
school or community setting [...] The information on the various dimensions of 'Chineses' makes the book a valuable reference also for researchers and trainers of intercultural communication. Overall, the book lucidly dissolves many complex topics into a pleasant read for a wide audience of educators and scholars.

Language and Education, 2020

[This book] is an engaging exploration of the experiences of young ethnic Chinese children of diverse backgrounds who attend community schools in the UK. Through the skillful use of interview transcripts Ganassin takes an intercultural approach to her exploration of students' understandings of who they are as young Chinese living in an English-dominant society, and how they understand the value and role of the study of Modern Standard Chinese ('Mandarin' hereafter) in their current and future lives, and the importance of Chinese culture as a critical aspect of their identity [...] She provides a rich and insightful exploration of the complex array of representations of what it means to be Chinese in contemporary British society.

Babel, Vol 55, Issue 1

The book achieved its aim and brought further insightful understanding to the interrelationship between culture, language, and identity in the Chinese community in the UK [...] It will bring awareness to those reading, especially to the minority/migrant communities who face increasing challenges to integrate and assimilate in their host countries.

LINGUIST List 32.223

This is an informative and thought-provoking publication worth adding to the library of anyone who is interested in understanding how young migrants, as well as their parents, maintain their identity linguistically and culturally in community language schools.

RELC Journal 1– 4

Sara Ganassin is a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and Communication at Newcastle University in the UK. She holds a PhD in Education from Durham University. Her research interests include heritage language learning and teaching, migrant and refugee communities, and internationalisation and mobility. Sara has also worked for seven years in the voluntary sector as project coordinator and researcher with migrant and refugee women and young people.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Constructing the Term 'Chinese'

Chapter 3. Research Design

Chapter 4. Chinese Community Schools: 'Spaces for People to Come Together and Learn from Each Other'

Chapter 5. One of Many Chinese Heritage Languages: 'I Can't Speak Mandarin but When I Speak Cantonese People Think that I am Local'

Chapter 6. Teaching 'Real' Chinese Culture: The Fable of the Frog at the Bottom of the Well

Chapter 7. Fluidity and Complexity in Pupils' Chinese Identities: 'I am Happy to be Chinese'

Chapter 8. Conclusions

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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