The Formation of Parental Language Ideology in a Multilingual Context: A Case Study in Taiwan

  • Rene Chen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


In the past ten years, the number of English cram schools has tripled in Taiwan and more than 70% of fifth and sixth graders claim they attended cram schools before receiving formal English education in primary schools. In response to pressures of both globalisation and localisation, the government introduced a school policy of learning a Taiwanese minority language, in addition to Mandarin, in 2005. The majority of parents, however, are not keen to encourage their children to learn a Taiwanese second language compared to the ‘trend’ of learning English (as a foreign language). This study explores family language policies using a multiple-case-study strategy with twelve families whose children attend a language school in Taichung, Taiwan, with two additional cases from different geolinguistic areas. The main focus is on how parents form their ideologies about language and language learning. The data were gathered using semi-structured interviews. The macro- and micro-factors which underpin the parents’ language ideologies are the central focus of analysis. Amongst these families the process of ideology formation involves more than three languages, English, Mandarin, Minnan and Hakfa (which, in this study, is the only representative of other minority languages spoken in Taiwan). The three Chinese languages appear as ‘mother tongue’ in various combinations amongst the parents in the study. The findings indicate that the influence of macro- and micro-factors on parents’ language ideologies is complex and interactive, rather than linear. Significant macro-factors identified include the local, national and global sociolinguistic environments, government policies and economic factors, notably the labour market. Macro-factors, as well as micro-factors, do not influence parents’ ideologies in isolation from each other. Similar, shared macro-contexts are responded to in diverse ways by the parents in the study, with familial mother tongue, educational experiences and different perceptions of the social roles of language all playing a part. Parents’ language ideologies are, therefore, clearly not structurally determined, but neither do the parents act as ‘free agents’ in their ideological choices which, in turn, have an impact on family language management and language practices. The complexity and fluidity of the Taiwanese language situation and the rapid social, political and economic changes that are taking place in the community make this study particularly valuable in enhancing our understanding of how personal language ideologies evolve.
Date of Award1 Mar 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJohn Lowe (Supervisor)


  • multilingual
  • parental language ideology

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