Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Learning how to accommodate the interests and needs of Chinese heritage learners is a challenging task for college instructors.

Yi-Tzu Huang, a graduate student in The University of Iowa’s Second Language Acquisition Program, is researching the learning behavior of Chinese heritage learners and non-heritage learners in a classroom setting. Huang has found that heritage learners – American-born Chinese – have a higher oral proficiency with the Chinese language than the non-heritage learners, but possess no advantage in reading and writing.

“Their oral advantage can’t be transferred to reading comprehension and writing,” Huang said of the five pairs of heritage and non-heritage learners she observed at the UI for her research. “They struggle the same as non-heritage learners. If we want both groups to get engaged in the classroom activities, we can give them reading and writing. Then, non-heritage learners will not feel intimidated.”

Huang was honored by the Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) with the Walton Presentation Prize for her presentation on Chinese heritage learners’ interactive patterns in collaborative discussion during the CLTA’s annual meeting on Nov. 20, 2009, in San Diego, CA. A $500 prize is awarded to the individual with the best first-time presentation at the annual meeting.

Huang was one of three finalists who presented at the conference. Huang started work on this topic with Professor Judith Liskin-Gasparro in a course entitled Topics in Second Language Acquisition: Speaking. Huang has continued her work with Professor Chuanren Ke.