October 14, 2009

How to maintain the motivations of non-heritage students to learn Chinese in a Heritage Saturday School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada?

1.0 Introduction

We are in the age where every culture is submerged in a multicultural society. It would be therefore plausible to maintain heritage languages and cultures by means of educating posterity about centuries-old cultural traditions. The academic system is committed in passing these languages and culture to the next generation, and this is why heritage schools are born. Heritage schools are viewed as one of the most efficient ways in accomplishing this mission. The interest to partake in heritage schools, nevertheless, is not limited to heritage students but also extends its arms to non-heritage students.

Heritage Saturday School is a special class designed for non-heritage learners who do not have any Chinese (Mandarin) background to learn Chinese language on Saturdays. Thus, the students in this class were from various backgrounds besides Canadian: Vietnamese, Peruvian, French Canadian, American, Korean, Mexican, Polish, German, etc. Most of them are bilingually nurtured in Canada; some of them speak 3 languages already at age of 7 or 8. There is another reason to name it a special class, that is, the class was consisted by a group of multi-aged students who were from 5 years old to 15 years old.

2.0 Problem Statement

Given the difficulty by the age and the cultural difference, non-heritage students exhibit declining interest about learning the Chinese language and this had affected more on their learning of Chinese. There is the necessity therefore to explore the influencing factors on students' motivations to stay in the Mandarin program, and to find ways to optimize their interests in the targeted language and culture, therefore they would continue staying in the program with more effective learning result.

3.0 Aim and Objectives

The main aim of this study is to explore the motivations of non-heritage students in a heritage school so that it can contribute to curriculum design development. It specifically aimed to generate information that will aid in the development of learning and teaching materials within the Heritage Saturday School. The following are the research objectives:

  • To explore the motivations of non-heritage students the reasons why they should stay in the Heritage Saturday School and why not

  • To assess how can the Heritage Saturday School could possibly maintain such motivations and hence sustain the continuity of their learning experiences

4.0 Significance of the Study

After the completion of my studies, I assume a role within the academic world. Therefore, it is my responsibility to contribute and enrich the literature about motivations of both heritage and non-heritage students. This study will be relevant in understanding deeper these motivations and the lack thereof so that the heritage school system could strategise using the new information to be presented by this exploratory study.

5.0 Methodology

The study will explore the problem in a positivist view, using exploratory it aims to determine the present facts as well as facts that are not yet explored about the phenomenon (Saunders et al, 2003). Exploratory research will enable the study to look at the problem in both descriptive and exploratory manner. It will look into the problem by exploring the views of different sets of respondents, as well as by exploring different literatures related with the study. This approach is a preferred mean of finding out "what is happening to seek new insights" or "to ask questions or to assess phenomena in a new light" (Saunders et al, 2003; Robson, 2002).

This longitudinal study which will run for about two and a half years will conduct primary and secondary research. In primary research, the study will survey students about their learning experiences in the Heritage Saturday School. A structured questionnaire will be developed and it will be used as the survey tool for the study. It is planned that the questionnaire will have a 5 point Likert Scale, as well as ranking questions. Data on both medium will be compared and evaluated using SPSS. An interview schedule will be also designed to cater to the needs of the study.

Sources in secondary research will include previous research reports, books and journal contents. Works of David Block; David Widdoson, Bonny Norton, Patricia A. Duff; Terrence G. Wiley; etc will be consulted. Sometimes, secondary research is required in the preliminary stages of research to determine what is known already and what new data are required, or to inform research design. In this paper, existing findings on journals and existing knowledge on books will be used as secondary research. The findings from the journals and books will be evaluated in the data analysis. Types of research journals chosen are all related to Applied Linguistics, Socio-cultural factors; Sociolinguistic, Critical Pedagogy. Basically, interpretation will be conducted which can account as qualitative in nature.


Robson, C 2002, Real world research, 2nd edn, Blackwell, Oxford.

Saunders, M, Lewis, P & Thornhill, A 2003, Research methods for business students, 3rd edn, Prentice Hall, London.

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