Biliteracy resource eco-system of intergenerational language and culture transmission: An ethnographic study of a Chinese-American community

Shuhan Chou Wang, University of Pennsylvania


The United States (US) has a wealth of linguistic and cultural resources stored in the indigenous and immigrant communities. In a host and heritage community contact situation, intergenerational transmission of the heritage language (HL) and culture (HC) becomes a challenging task. By focusing on two Chinese-American teenagers and their families, a Chinese HL school, and their co-ethnic community in Delaware for two years, this ethnographic study examines the processes and outcomes of the intergenerational language and culture transmission efforts. The study aims at answering: For the second generation children of an immigrant group, who have developed a certain degree of literacies in the dominant language and cultures, (1) What is the role of their family, the community school, and the co-ethnic community in transmitting literacies in the HL and HC to them? (2) What roles do HL and HC play in these teenagers', their families', and the co-ethnic community's lives? And, (3) What are the outcomes of the transmission efforts as demonstrated through these teenagers and their peers? A theoretical model, Biliteracy Resource Eco-System of Intergenerational Language and Culture Transmission, is proposed to describe, explain, and analyze the maintenance efforts of these teenagers, families, school, and community. Through participant observations, interviews, surveys, self-reports, and document analysis, this study collects and presents evidence of the roles a family and community school play in a child's education, particularly in creating spaces for the HL and HC that are not readily available in the public spheres of the society. It identifies the key factors in transmitting the HL and HC intergenerationally in the absence of a physically-bound ethnic neighborhood. It illustrates the struggles that these individuals must wrestle with in order to build children's biliteracy in the English and Chinese languages and cultures while trying to mainstream into the host society. Finally, it demonstrates how biliteracy as a resource can become an empowering tool for individuals and communities in advancing their educational, social, economic, and political goals.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Linguistics|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Wang, Shuhan Chou, "Biliteracy resource eco-system of intergenerational language and culture transmission: An ethnographic study of a Chinese-American community" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3152119.