Multilinguals’ Language Attitude and the Effect of Socio-Political History: The Case of Taiwan

Ms Ivy Chen1

1University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Language attitudes are crucial in determining language preservation.  However, most research on language attitudes has only compared languages/dialects belonging to a society (e.g., Mandarin, Taiwanese), and contextual factors have not been systematically considered.  Therefore, the current study aimed to determine the extent to which the Taiwan context would affect the strength of attitudes on the prediction of language proficiency by targeting languages differing in status: Mandarin Chinese (official language), Taiwanese (mutually unintelligible ‘dialect’ of Chinese spoken by around 70% of the population), English (compulsory school subject), Japanese (previously taught during Japanese rule [1895-1945]) and French (rarely learned). Participants recruited through a community centre in Taipei completed a questionnaire designed following the most common cognitivist language-attitude model positing three major components (e.g., Baker, 1992): cognition (belief about other’s proficiency), affect (semantic differentials, Maguire, 1973), and behavioural intention (desire to learn).  Overall, participants had the most positive attitude towards compulsory languages (English, Mandarin) and higher desire to learn relevant foreign languages (English, Japanese).  Participants who were ‘more’ multilingual reported higher desire to learn relevant languages but held less-positive attitudes toward compulsory languages.  Multilevel path analysis revealed a significant effect of contextual factors on the effect of language attitude on self-perceived proficiency.


Ivy Chen is a PhD candidate and Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne; her research interests cover second language acquisition (SLA) and assessment. While her PhD research involves the creation of a corpus-driven test of collocational knowledge using an argument-based approach, her other research explores individual differences in SLA.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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