Broaden Career Prospects: Heritage Language Maintenance for Ethnic Chinese in BC
By Caroline Locher-Lo
Canada’s demographic makeup has been influenced dramatically by a large infusion of Asian immigrants over the past 25 years (Guo & DeVoretz, 2006). Visible minorities now comprise 19 percent of the Canadian population (Liodakis & Satzewich, 2010). In the year 2010 alone, Canada received over 280,000 new immigrants, the highest level in 50 years. These migrants came from over 170 countries (ibid), with Mainland China continuing to be the top source country to British Columbia since 1998 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2016). Since 1991, the Chinese language cluster has been the top non-official language spoken in the Greater Vancouver Area (Statistics Canada, 2016), and over 250,000 individuals in British Columbia, including immigrants from Taiwan, identify Mandarin as their spoken language at home (ibid).
Aside from this influx of ethnic-Chinese immigrants, Canada has also experienced the effects of the increased transnational mobility of people (Water, 2006; Zhang & Guo, 2014), financial resources, and technology in recent decades, especially of affluent Chinese immigrants. Mainland China has risen as an economic super power, and a growing number of young ethnic-Chinese have chosen to receive their education in Canada (Canadian Bureau for International Education, 2016). China’s recent rise in commercial influence, the potential to conduct business with 20 percent of the world population, and the grand scale of transnational Chinese mobility all contribute to the explosion of global Mandarin education in the past few decades (Curdt-Christiansen & Hancock, 2014; Duff, Anderson, Doherty, & Wang, 2015; Zhang & Slaughter-Defoe, 2009).
The large influx of immigrants from Asia carry with them an enormous amount of linguistic and social capitals (Bourdieu, 1986). To establish themselves in the newly-landed society, preserving this valuable asset they inherently posses provides these youths the niche they need to land jobs and build a career. That is not to say acquiring the dominate language for integration purposes is less critical; possessing two languages would broaden their prospects, thus strengthen their capability for career development in BC.
Caroline Locher-Lo earned her advanced degree in Business Administration at Eastern Washington University in the United States. After working in British Columbia for years, she pursued a second advanced degree in Education concentrating in Justice, Ethics, and Law at Simon Fraser University. She commences her doctoral studies in the department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, focusing on equality to incite progressive social change.
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