Ethnicity and Equity: The Development of Linguistic Capital for a Subgroup of South Asian Individuals in Hong Kong

  • Tina ByromEmail author
  • Kam Yin Peggy Wong
  • Helen Boulton
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 32)


The importance of Chinese language learning has received much policy attention in Hong Kong, with the transition into particular forms of employment requiring specific levels of Chinese language acquisition and competence. Acquirement of linguistic capital therefore becomes an essential component in processes of social mobility where those who do not have access to the appropriate resources (economic, cultural and social) become disadvantaged. This chapter explores the experiences of Chinese language learning for six individuals who describe themselves as part of a South Asian ethnic minority group. Through semi-structured interviews, participants recounted the limited access to Chinese they had in the family home and the ways in which this contributed to their experiences of structural inequalities.


  1. Baker, C. (2014). A parents’ and teachers’ guide to bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, C., & Sienkewicz, A. (2000). The care and education of young bilinguals: An introduction for professionals. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  3. Berk, R. (1983). An introduction to sample selection bias in sociological data. American Sociological Review, 48(3), 386–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. London: University of Chicago Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  6. British Educational Research Association (BERA). (2011). Ethical guidelines for educational research. London: British Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  7. Bühmann, D., & Trudell, B. (2008). Mother tongue matters: Local language as a key to effective learning. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  8. Carmichael, S. (2009). Language rights in education: A study of Hong Kong’s linguistic minorities. Occasional Paper, 19. Hong Kong: The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  9. Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. (2017). Hong Kong 2016 population by-census – Thematic report: Ethnic minorities. December 2017. (1.7.2018).
  10. Centre for Civil Society and Governance at the University of Hong Kong and Policy 21 Limited. (2012). Study on racial encounter and discrimination experienced by South Asians. Equal Opportunities Commission.Google Scholar
  11. Coyne, I. (1997). Sampling in qualitative research. Purposeful and theoretical sampling; merging or clear boundaries. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 26, 623–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power, and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummins, J. (2001). Bilingual children’s mother tongue: Why is it important for education. Spring Forum, 7(19), 15–20.Google Scholar
  14. Cunanan, M. (2011). Dividing classes: Segregation of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong schools. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.Google Scholar
  15. Das, A., & Singh, S. K. (2014). Changing men: Challenging stereotypes. Reflections on working with men on gender issues in India. IDS Bulletin, 45(1), 69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Mejía, A. (2002). Power, prestige, and bilingualism: International perspectives on elite bilingual education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Education Bureau. (2014). Education support for non-Chinese speaking students – Reduction of examination fee level of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (Chinese) examination. (1.9.2014).
  18. Evans, S., & Green, C. (2001). Language in post-colonial Hong Kong: The roles of English and Chinese in the public and private sectors. English World-Wide, 22(2), 247–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Evans, V. (2013). Temporal frames of reference. Cognitive Linguistics, 24(3), 393–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Experian website. (2015). (3.1.2016).
  21. Gao, F. (2011). Linguistic capital: Continuity and change in educational language polices for South Asians in Hong Kong primary schools. Current Issues in Language Planning, 12(2), 251–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hongkong Post Circular Service website. (2012). (2.3.2014).
  23. Hu, L. (2007). Language policy, practice and diglossia in colonial and post–colonial Hong Kong. Annual of Language and Politics and Politics of Identity, 1, 85–94.Google Scholar
  24. Kennedy, K. J. (2012). The ‘no loser’ principle in Hong Kong’s education reform: Does it apply to ethnic minority students? Hong Kong Teachers’ Centre Journal, 11, 1–23.Google Scholar
  25. Ku, H., Chan, K., & Sandhu, K. K. (2005). A research report on the education of South Asian ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong. Centre for Social Policy Studies, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  26. Loper, K. (2004). Race and equality: A study of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong’s education system: Project report and analysis. Occasional Paper. Centre for Comparative and Public Law Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  27. Lust, B. C., Wali, K., Gair, J. W., & Subbarao, K. V. (2000). Lexical anaphors and pronouns in selected South Asian languages: A principled typology. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pandian, M. (1996). Towards national-popular: Notes on self-respecters’ Tamil. Economic and Political Weekly, 31(51), 3323–3329.Google Scholar
  29. Poon, A. Y. (2004). Language policy of Hong Kong: Its impact on language education and language use in post-handover Hong Kong. Journal of Taiwan Normal University: Humanities and Social Sciences, 49(1), 53–74.Google Scholar
  30. Qureshi, K., Charsley, K., & Shaw, A. (2014). Marital instability among British Pakistanis: Transnationality, conjugalities and Islam. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(2), 261–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reed-Danahay, D. (2005). Locating Bourdieu. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Skutnabb-Kangas, T., & Phillipson, R. (1989). Mother tongue: The theoretical and sociopolitical construction of a concept. In U. Ammon (Ed.), Status and function of languages and language varieties (pp. 450–477). Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  33. Skutnabb-Kangas. (2008). In S. May & N. Hornberger (Eds.), Language policy and political issues in education, volume 1 of encyclopedia of language and education (2nd ed., pp. 107–119). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. Tsung, L., & Gao, F. (2012). What accounts for the underachievement of South Asians in Hong Kong? The voices of Pakistani and Nepalese parents. Educational Research, 54(1), 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tina Byrom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kam Yin Peggy Wong
    • 2
  • Helen Boulton
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Nottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations