L2 Cantonese Chinese acquisition of Pakistani preschoolers in Hong Kong

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



In mainstream Cantonese-medium kindergarten classrooms nowadays, the number of non-Cantonese speaking Pakistani children is increasing. Since preschool education is not a prerequisite for schooling in the public sector, the majority of the non-Cantonese speaking Pakistani children acquire Cantonese through immersion at kindergartens where Cantonese is the medium of instruction. To what extent have the Pakistani preschoolers been able to develop Cantonese proficiency for schooling remains unknown to educators, policy makers and other social concern groups. Some such scholars as Rose (2000 & 2009), Achiba (2003), Dewart and Summers (1995) and Ellis (1992) have pointed out that the study of request forms used by young children would enable researchers to have a better understanding of the pragmatic competence (i.e. language and culture) of young children in their L1 and/or L2.

This paper adopts a pragmatic approach to examine (i) the relationship between L2 Cantonese pragmatic knowledge (language proficiency and cultural knowledge) and Pakistani preschoolers’ expression of Cantonese request strategies; (ii) the relationship between Pakistani parents’ Cantonese proficiency and their children’s Cantonese request strategies; (iii) the difference in the ability of using Cantonese request strategies by Pakistani preschoolers at different grade levels in kindergarten; i.e. K1, K2 and K3. All discussions in the paper are based on findings from an on-going research project which is cross-sectional in nature. Data are collected twice in one year from Pakistani children attending Cantonese medium mainstream kindergartens at K1, K2 and K3 grade levels. Data on preschoolers’ Cantonese request strategies are elicited through role-play between the interviewer and subjects by using toys. Cantonese proficiency of Pakistani parents’ is measured by self-assessment and is collected by questionnaire. The coding of request data is based on and adapted from Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper’s (1989) classification of requests in their Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP).

Source Publication

The 9th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB 9), 2013 Jun 10-13, Singapore

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