Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Bacon, Heidi


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF YUTAO YAN, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in EDUCATION, presented on November 21, 2022, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.TITLE: FROM THE MOST SPOKEN MANDARIN TO THE MOST CHOSEN ENGLISH: STORIES OF INTERNATIONAL CHINESE STUDENTS’ LANGUAGE INVESTMENT AT A RURAL MIDWESTERN UNIVERSITYMAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Heidi R. BaconThe purpose of this study was to investigate international Chinese students’ (ICS) English learning experiences at a rural Midwestern university. The study explored how ICS acculturated to a new learning environment which is dominated by English. The study also examined how ICS’s investment in English was influenced by their (re)constructed identities as they participated in local communities.The study employed a language-as-a-social-practice framework to interpret ICS’s learning English as an L2. ICS, in an increasingly globalized world, are expected to obtain linguistic and cognitive knowledge of English through which they help connect China to the Western world. They are also expected to participate in local target language communities in which they develop multilingual-and-multicultural consciousness to serve the larger global community. Meanwhile, second language socialization empowers ICS to exercise their multiple identities (e.g., linguistic, ethnic, social, cultural, and national identity) which can improve and enhance communicative competence in their professional social lives. A qualitative narrative inquiry was adopted as a research approach to address ICS’s acculturative experiences and language investment stories. Five participants were interviewed in Zoom meeting rooms and observed during virtual activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A researcher reflective journal was added to support data collection because of the cultural proximity between the researcher and participants. Two cycles of data analysis were conducted to develop 4 main themes: 1) ICS’s imagined communities, 2) L2 practice, 3) social networking, and 4) the influence of Covid-19. Research findings indicated that when in China, participants made study abroad decisions based on their imagination of English and the U.S. In the U.S., participants acculturated to an academic English discourse community but met with many difficulties (e.g., insufficient English proficiency and unfamiliarity with academic conventions). Their multiple identities were challenged when they initially participated in social interactions and socially networked within local communities. Covid-19 mitigation policies (e.g., stay-at-home, and social distancing orders) interfered with participants’ L2 socialization. ICS were expected to socialize using English in various academic and local discourse communities. Their multiple identities were challenged when they crossed multiple borders to make meaning in American cultural contexts. This study encourages China’s English educators to pay attention to language identity development and investment and to better prepare students for a multilingual and multicultural learning environment mediated by English. Findings also call for American educators to tailor their instruction to help ICS develop their transnational identities. Last, educators need to help ICS develop their multiple identities which can enable them to fulfill their language investment and achieve their learning goals.




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