Towards a Multilayered and Multidimensional Analysis of Multilingual Education: Ideologies of Multilingualism and Language Planning in Chinese Higher Education

Xiuwen Chen, Fred Dervin, Jian Tao, Zhao He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative, the study reports on the ideological construction of multilingualism in higher education in mainland China. Through a new methodological approach combining intertextual discourse analysis and thematic analysis, this paper concentrates on the interplay of ideologies towards multilingualism between the macro-(national/provincial) and meso-(institutional) levels. We examine 22 political texts issued by agents of different levels, and sixteen paratexts containing language issues discussed by educational administrators and language education experts. The analysis of the texts reveals that there is a gap between the two levels in terms of the variety and connotation of terms related to foreign languages. The analysis of the paratexts identifies three categories of recurring values of languages and four categories of benefits from foreign language (education), among which the pragmatic value of foreign languages for national development is the most significant. Moreover, institutional agents mentioned the instrumental value of languages for personal development and their global cultural value. The multiple perspectives on multilingual education in the Chinese context demonstrate the complexities of the ideological construction of multilingualism in this early phase of diversifying multilingual higher education, which generate important implications for policy makers in China and other countries.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)320-343
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Higher education
  • language ideology
  • language policy
  • multilingual education
  • multilingualism
  • 516 Educational sciences

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