Bilingualism for the minor or the major? An evaluative analysis of parallel conceptions in China

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75 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is an analysis of two conceptions of bilingualism that exist in parallel in China. One is traditional bilingualism referring to the use of a native minority language and standard Chinese by minority groups and the other, seen as bilingualism with modern characteristics, is a modern-day phenomenon in which the majority Han group aspire to produce bilinguals with a strong competence in mother tongue Chinese and a foreign language, primarily English, by using Chinese and the foreign language as mediums of instruction in teaching school subjects. The focus of the analysis is on the latter for the simple reason that current literature on the new phenomenon is mostly available only in Chinese. An equally important aim of this paper is to explore the impact of the new phenomenon on minority education and to examine the reason why this impact is largely ignored in bilingualism discussions, despite obvious consequences with respect to ethnic identity, personality development and academic performance of minority students. Thus, the traditional conception is briefly reviewed at the start.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-551
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • 'Favour' policies
  • Additive bilingualism
  • Linguistic fusionism
  • Minority education
  • Partial immersion
  • Superior-inferior mentality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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