Early experience and later multilingual attainments by ethnic minority students in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-210
Journal / PublicationAsia Pacific Journal of Education
Issue number2
Online published21 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Language learning has long been one of the most challenging issues facing non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students who are mainly ethnic minorities immersed in a multilingual environment in Hong Kong. Previous research on the education of NCS students suggested that early support from an immersion programme at a pre-school age may contribute to higher achievement in Chinese language skills. However, limited empirical evidence is available in the literature to shed light on the relationship between early immersion and language attainments of NCS students. This study aimed at surveying the experience and attainments in four languages among NCS students in local schools, and at filling the gap in the literature on holistic approaches to assessing language needs and development among young minority students. We used questionnaires as the major instrument to elicit information of ethnicity, age, family, language proficiencies, and other key variables. Responses were received from 230 NCS students in local primary and secondary schools where English is used as the medium of instruction. The results revealed a strong link between early acculturation and the later language attainments among the NCS participants. Our key finding corroborated previous research claims that early immersion may facilitate Chinese language acquisition by NCS students. Implications for immersion pedagogy are also discussed.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese as a second language, ethnic minorities, language development, language immersion, Non-Chinese-speaking students in Hong Kong