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Sociocultural Misalignments Faced by Preschool Chinese Emergent Bilinguals: A Case Study

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There is a paucity of research about the schooling experiences of preschool Chinese emergent bilinguals. This is especially evident when compared to other minoritized groups and warrants attention because of the rapid increase in Chinese immigrants in the US recently. This study investigates the sociocultural misalignments a group of preschool Chinese emergent bilinguals from low socioeconomic backgrounds encounter in school and the implications of these misalignments. The study spanned 7 months and included participant observation, interviews, and collection of textual/visual evidence as methods of inquiry. Findings point toward assimilationist tendencies in school as students experienced challenges becoming independent, making decisions, adjusting to individualistic outlooks, and adapting to different dining habits. Despite the subjugation of home culture under school culture, parents and students remained silent about their needs. The findings suggest that this silence needs to be reinterpreted in light of cultural and class differences. The author also proposes the deconstruction of the model minority myth surrounding Chinese students and the reimagination of new ways to collaborate with families and students so that both home and school cultures can be equally honored.

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  1. 1.

    García et al. 2008 propose the use of the term “emergent bilinguals” over “English language learners,” because the former honors the home language students possess as they begin to acquire English in school while the latter discounts the home language and culture and over-privileges the English language.

  2. 2.

    1.5 generation immigrants are defined as immigrants who were born overseas and moved to the United States at an early age (Portes and Rumbaut 2005).


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I would like to thank the following individuals for their helpful suggestions throughout the research and writing process: Dr. Lesley Bartlett, Dr. Celia Genishi, Dr. Mariana Souto-Manning, Marilu Cardenas, and Kevin Kwan.

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Correspondence to Tang T. Heng.

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Heng, T.T. Sociocultural Misalignments Faced by Preschool Chinese Emergent Bilinguals: A Case Study. Early Childhood Educ J 39, 61–69 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-010-0432-y

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  • Chinese immigrant
  • Cultural and linguistic diversity
  • Early childhood
  • Emergent bilinguals
  • Model minority myth
  • Sociocultural misalignments