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Auteur: Ying WANG

Co-Auteur(s): Jackie Xiu YAN, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Social Identity and Cantonese Learning: The Impact of the Length of Residence and Gender on Mainland Chinese Students in Hong Kong

Abstract/Résumé: The increasing research interest in the interaction between identity and second language learning began in the 1970s and much progress was made in this area in the 1990s when Norton’s widely cited work on social identity, investment and second language learning signified a major breakthrough. Although the research scope of identity and language learning has expanded, particularly in the 2000s, the interaction between identity and second dialect acquisition remains unexplored. This study investigated the issues related to social identity and the learning of Cantonese as a second dialect in Hong Kong, focusing mainly on the impact of the length of residence and gender on mainland Chinese students. Statistically significant association between the length of residence and the subjects’ self-perceived listening and speaking proficiency in Cantonese was revealed through descriptive and inferential analysis. Meanwhile, no significant association was found between the length of residence, the subjects’ social identity and their investment in learning Cantonese. One year was identified as essential for acquiring an above-medium level of listening proficiency in Cantonese, while a longer period of time (2-3 years) was found to be critical to developing an above-medium level of speaking proficiency. The results showed that gender did not have significant influence on the subjects’ self-perceived listening and speaking proficiency, nor was it significantly associated with the subjects’ investment in learning Cantonese. However, it was revealed to be significantly associated with the willingness to be identified with mainland Chinese, the central element of mainland Chinese students’ social identity in Hong Kong: Male students were more willing to be identified with mainland Chinese. The findings on the influence of the length of residence are expected to enhance the understanding of the critical time span in sociolinguistic and second language acquisition research studies. Meanwhile, the influence of gender revealed in this study would provide great insights into the interaction between multiple identities and other complex issues related to identity in second language learning.