Parental Engagement in Children’s English Language Learning: A Case Study of Transnational Chinese Families in the United States

Primary author: Yue Huang
Co-author(s): Anne Marie Guerrettaz; Sarah Newcomer
Faculty sponsor: Anne Marie Guerrettaz; Sarah Newcomer

Primary college/unit: College of Education
Campus: Pullman


Transnational migration redefines the lives of millions of Chinese migrant families in the United States, including parental engagement in child language education. This case study examines ways how parents from two Chinese transnational families participate in their children’s English language learning at home while living in the United States, using observations, interviews, and discourse analysis. Grounded on the traditional Chinese parenting concept of guan (Chao, 1994) and the Third Space theory (Bhabha, 1996), this study proposes “transnational guan” as a hybrid form of parental engagement, impacted by the families’ transnational experiences. Findings revealed by this study include: (a) a unique, multimodal “storybook” genre and related parent-child shared reading activity, (b) new parental roles during children’s English language learning, including amateur tutor and bridge, and (c) interactions that elucidate nuanced dynamics of parent-child relationships. Regarding the theoretical contribution, this study presents that homes of the transnational families are a Third Space, and the transnational guan is the parents’ reactions to such Third Space. Concerning practical implications, this study uncovers unique academic goals of educated transnational families. It also breaks with dominant discourses and stereotypes of academically high-performing Chinese students in the United States by revealing more complete picture of their complex educational situations.