Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Sally Hood

LC Subjects

Immersion Programs; Language in education; Foreign Language; Second Language Instruction


The trend of expanding language immersion access to all students calls for further research in multiple contexts, especially those with a sociolinguistic lens. Potowski (2004), among a few systematic language use researchers, conducted an investigation in an upper-grade two-way Spanish immersion classroom and utilized the identity investment concept in interpreting language use data for the first time. Her study inspired me to conduct the present research that describes language use by four first-grade students during mathematics and Language Arts instruction in a oneway fifty-fifty Mandarin immersion classroom in an urban public school in the heart of an African-American community in the Northwest. As a seasoned immersion educator, I explored interactions among linguistic input (Krashen, 1982), output (Swain, 2000), transfer (Cummins, 1979), and sociocultural identity (Norton, 2006; Potowski, 2004). This qualitative research involved observations using video- and audio- recordings with four focal students wearing lapel microphones over five weeks, followed by a semi-structured focus group interview. A total of 3,090 speech turns were coded and analyzed under five categories: the number of speech turns, vocabulary, grammar, linguistic functions, and other themes that emerged from the interview. Overall, students used Mandarin 61% of the time, a higher percentage than in Potowski’s (56%) study. Findings support the use of diglossia though not all students exhibited this behavior. Data indicated that the time factor alone cannot account for target language outcomes. The African-American girl, Abelina (a pseudonym), with the least exposure to Mandarin prior to enrollment at the researched school outperformed her native English-speaking peers. Her motivation, learning strategies, social identity, and Creole background may have contributed to her success. Implications for changes in immersion curriculum and instruction as well as calls for future research on trilingual education are shared.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.

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