Maintaining Chinese As The Heritage Language

No matter how hard they have had to struggle to survive in the United States to learn English, Chinese immigrants traditionally never stop urging their children to maintain their heritage language.

In addition to immersing children in Chinese at home, many parents urge their children to attend Chinese language schools after regular school hours. Although Chinese immigrants come from different dialect backgrounds, when referring to Chinese heritage language in the United States, they normally mean Mandarin. Most Chinese language schools are nonprofit schools, which are operated by parents and open on weekends or after regular school hours.

The funding generally comes from tuition and fund-raising. Parents and communities provide great human resources to Chinese language schools, including instructors and staff. With more than 100 years of history, Chinese language schools have evolved into an organized and influential educational force that plays a significant role in Chinese language and culture preservation.

At the present time, Chinese programs target both non heritage language learners and heritage learners. In many places, heritage learners are fewer than those who wish to learn Chinese as a foreign language. The growing interest in learning Chinese as a foreign language is not directly related to maintaining Chinese as a heritage language or as a language used in bilingual education, as that concept is defined in the United States.

Overall, the Chinese language appears to enjoy an increased popularity that is likely to continue in the future. An important historical shift is that Chinese is now associated with higher-economic and social value than was the case in previous decades. This is motivating more heritage learners to maintain the language via public and private programs in which Chinese is taught and, collaterally, attracting nonheritage learners to learn Chinese.