Learning Chinese as the United Nations Language? Implications for Language Learning Motivation and Identity in Adult Higher Education

Hugo Yu-Hsiu Lee


In this study, the researcher strives to build on earlier work in which the roles of motivation and identity in language learning in adult higher education were examined. In the present connection, the focus falls on the roles played by a seldom researched group consisting of staff members in an intergovernmental organization. This group is comprised of United Nations staff members (N=33/18 female, 15 male) involved with the United Nations Chinese language program at the UN Headquarter for the Asia region in Bangkok. The past research has shown that an adult language learner’s learning level becomes very high when s/he is sufficiently motivated. In this light, then, the researcher explores whether the language-learning process would be improved if adult staff members from an intergovernmental organization engage in language learning with a greater sense of a professional self/institutional identity than would be the case with a merely personal identity. Also considered is whether the language-learning process is enhanced by an individual/personal identity in contrast to having only a professional self/institutional identity. The findings show that UN staff members who are highly motivated to learn Chinese are more likely to harbor a mixture of both personal and professional identities. Nevertheless, prioritizing the learning of Chinese often stems from functional and practical reasons, i.e., from instrumental motivation. Finally, this study finds no clear links between Chinese heritage and success in Chinese language learning in the adult higher educational sector.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v9n1p168


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International Journal of Higher Education
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