Duanduan Li

Associate Professor

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
Culture and language ideology in Chinese foreign language textbooks: a thematic analysis (2018)

Culture is central to a language learner’s trajectory to develop communicative competence. Textbooks are often the first point of contact to a foreign language (FL) learner’s target culture. It's the textbook’s responsibility to authentically help learners in their construction of cultural knowledge. With this responsibility comes a significant amount of power. For instance, many foreign language materials choose to reinforce inequality and nationalist cultural and linguistic ideologies. This thesis explores the language ideology behind the cultural representations in two popular series of Chinese foreign language (CFL) textbooks published in China: New Practical Chinese Reader and America: Integrated Chinese. Although many studies explore cultural representations in English FL textbooks, there is a scarcity of comparable studies focusing on CFL textbooks. Borne from my own experience, I often found CFL materials to be culturally reductive and outdated. A handful of scholars are challenging the cultural aspects and ideological orientations of CFL textbooks, and this thesis adds to that body of research. By way of thematic analysis, I chose a semiotic framework to connect pictures and texts about culture themes and analyze the latent ideologies of the textbook series. The prominent themes I found in the series published in the U.S. (Liu,Y. 2010) relate to basic language functions. Although the textbook employed traditional approaches to grammar sections and pattern drills (Zhou, 2011, p. 144), overall its approach attempts to be more interactive and communicative than the series published in China. Cultural themes in the materials published in China illustrate traditional learning styles and emphasize traditional culture. Both series reduce culture to nationalist ideology, which feeds into native-speaker bias, and are outdated in their representation of technology in FL use. I conclude that textbook authors must shift the focus of textbooks onto the learner’s needs. Additionally, teachers and students must be aware of the types of representations they come across. They must employ open and communicative methods to deconstruct them. Finally, textbooks authors must match learners’ realities through more use of technology, more open-ended communicative style exercises, and instead of idealizing native speakers, they should promote the goal of reaching communicative competence.

View record

Motivation of Mandarin speakers learning Cantonese in a transnational context: multilingualism and investment (2018)

Globalization has intensified the cross-border mobility of people and languages, which contributes to the number of transnationals and the prevalence of multilingualism. Mandarin and Cantonese are two Chinese varieties and the competition between them has been transported from primarily Chinese-speaking regions to regions outside of Greater China, thereby creating an international issue among these transnational language users. In some overseas Chinese communities, Cantonese used to be the lingua franca but is currently declining and being replaced by Mandarin due to political, economic, cultural, and demographic factors. However, there is a new generation of Mandarin speakers interested in learning Cantonese in some English-dominant locations, such as Vancouver, Canada. In general, Mandarin is the sole official language in Mainland China and Cantonese is defined as a dialect, but this positioning is problematized in different contexts. This thesis will focus on one transnational context to explore the motivation of official-language (Mandarin) speakers to learn a value-declining regional language (Cantonese) in English-dominant Canada.The construct of motivation has been carefully scrutinized in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) in the past decades, but I find there is a huge gap between the research on motivation to learn English and languages other than English (LOTEs). This thesis examines if the English monopoly on motivational theories can be generalized to explain Cantonese learning behaviors among a transnational group of students in a transnational context. Through examining the Cantonese learning process of 61 Mandarin speakers in a Canadian university in both quantitative and qualitative ways, the study reveals that idealized multilingual identities play a significant role in motivating students to pick up Cantonese. Integrative motivation alone fails to capture the motivational features of the Cantonese learners in this study but instrumental motivation together with other intrinsic and extrinsic factors are still functional. Based on this study, instructors should recognize students’ transnational practices and global identities as resources to develop their multi-competence. Another prominent recommendation concerns the availability of formal language education in languages such as Cantonese, which supports the expansion of Cantonese language provision.

View record

Negotiating language and literacies: intermediate level Chinese heritage learners' essay writing (2013)

With the interrelated trends of globalization and immigration, Chinese heritage language (CHL) learners have become a noticeable and growing constituent in language programs in postsecondary institutions. Despite impressive oral vernacular proficiency, they typically lack formal and sophisticated registers and their HL literacy is often underdeveloped. Although it has been widely acknowledged that the major goal of university HL education is to cultivate formal registers and develop literacy for academic or professional success, the research literature includes very few studies on university CHL learners’ Chinese literacy, and particularly essay writing proficiency.This thesis investigates intermediate level CHL learners’ HL essay writing, providing a detailed description of the unique features of their Chinese essays by close examination of their writing samples both on local and global levels. Furthermore, from the sociocultural perspective of literacy, the study explores the CHL learners’ daily language and literacy practice through one on one semi-structured interviews, which offers a greater understanding of the factors that have contributed to the existing features of their essay writing. This study finds that the CHL learners’ essay writing demonstrates their active use of all the language and literacy resources in their language repertoire. Their essay writing also shows certain amounts of hybridity and syncretism, characterized by a lack of formal vocabulary, transfer of syntax, organization and rhetorical strategies from the dominant language- English, on the one hand, their use of certain sophisticated words and set phrases, on the other hand, reflects the HL assets that they bring to Chinese classes and language production. Furthermore, the interviews reveal that English, Mandarin and Cantonese are practiced in different domains of the CHL learners’ lives, with English as their dominant language. Their literacy activities are far more mediated by English than Chinese, and their use of Mandarin and Cantonese is more oral than written. The thesis concludes that the ecology of the languages and literacies in the CHL learners’ lives strongly influences the features of their essay writing on both local and global levels.  

View record

Characterizing Oral Proficiency and Language Use of Long-Time Learners of Chinese as an Additional Language Using Computer Technology (2012)

This thesis is an investigation into characterizing the oral language proficiency of longtime Anglo-Canadian learners of Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) using computer technology. Semi-structured, informal, low-stakes interviews with five CAL learners were transcribed, segmented using freely available Chinese text parsing software, and analyzed using the methodologies from the field of complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) studies in second language acquisition. This thesis describes operationalization of these CAF indices in the CAL context, compares the results to participant self-assessments using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and makes recommendations for adoption of CAF measurement standards and future work in characterizing language proficiency in the realms of applied linguistics research and language pedagogy in the CAL context.

View record

The construction of the "ideal Chinese child": a critical analysis of textbooks for Chinese heritage language learners (2011)

Although previous research has demonstrated that textbooks are laden with explicit and implicit cultural, moral, and ideological values, too few studies have examined language teaching materials, and particularly heritage language textbooks, for such messages. This study is a critical analysis of Chinese as a Heritage Language (CHL) textbooks commonly used in community Chinese schools in North America. Materials from both China and Taiwan were analyzed. Specifically, research questions addressed in the present study are: 1) What are the topics and themes in these textbooks? 2) What are the moral and cultural values embedded in the texts? 3) How are "ideal identities" constructed and conveyed through the reoccurring characters used in the textbooks? Based on discourse analysis, as well as content analysis, this study builds on the notions of D/discourse, literacy, identity and language socialization to explore the construction of the “ideal Chinese child” in the textbooks and how this might impact students’ identity (re)construction. The findings show that the world constructed by the CHL textbooks is distinct from the world most CHL learners reside in. Until CHL textbooks can create meaningful intersections between those worlds, many students may feel ambivalent about or even alienated from the textually constructed heritage and about their own identities.

View record

A socio-historical analysis of Chinese heritage language education in British Columbia (2010)

Throughout Chinese-Canadian history, Chinese heritage language (CHL) education has always been a way to transmit linguistic and cultural knowledge across generations, to maintain communication among Chinese family members and other contacts, near and far, and to preserve Chinese culture and identity. Nevertheless, despite the great efforts made by many generations of Chinese immigrant communities to teach the Chinese language to Canadians from Chinese linguistic and cultural backgrounds in community schools, to date the ethnolinguistic vitality of Chinese language education in British Columbia, its role in history and society, and the factors that helped it survive and led to its current prominence have not been examined. This thesis describes the development of CHL education in BC, considering historical, educational, socio-political, and sociolinguistic factors that have shaped CHL education in society. The study draws upon archival data, including textbooks used at different periods of time, letters, school reports and journals, newspaper articles and other written documents, as well as oral interviews with current leaders and practitioners in Chinese language education in British Columbia. This research documents the various social-political influences on CHL education from both Canada and China during the tumultuous 20th century in particular, but also during current era. The study also reveals the significant role played by CHL education and advocacy during each period of Chinese-Canadian immigration history. The ethnolinguistic vitality of the local Chinese community has supported CHL education and inspired many people to learn Chinese as a heritage language in British Columbia. Finally, research on the benefits of heritage language education and maintenance are reviewed to provide an applied linguistic perspective on its proven efficacy, which complements the intuitive desires and beliefs of many generations of parents and community activists who have urged their children to keep the language alive. The thesis concludes by noting some of the positive developments and remaining challenges associated with Chinese language education, teacher education, and pedagogy in both community and formal education settings in British Columbia in the 21st century.

View record


Membership Status

Eligible for G+PS membership
View explanation of statuses


If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Sign up for an information session to connect with students, advisors and faculty from across UBC and gain application advice and insight.