A close look at Chinese immigrants in New Zealand : my language, my identity

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Gu, Jiajun (Leslie)
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Master of Creative Practice (Screen Arts)
Unitec Institute of Technology
Grbic, Victor
Wood, Becca
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
Chinese immigrants
identity construction
film studies
personal identity
national identity
migrant identity
Gu, J. (Leslie). (2019). A close look at Chinese immigrants in New Zealand : my language, my identity. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Creative Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10652/4833
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1 Do their language skills affect the identity of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand? 2 If so, what is the main impact and how it works? If not, then why do Chinese immigrants show a diverse attitude towards their identity? INTRODUCTION: This project aims to research the identity of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand through the creative practice of documentary making. The documentary Mooncake focuses on how language impacts on Chinese immigrants’ personal and national identities. The term personal identity here emphasises which ethnic group the migrants primarily mix with in their everyday activities, while national identity means how the migrants define themselves as a person in relation to the whole nation. [...] I am a documentary maker of Chinese descent. I came to New Zealand in early 2016 and English is my third language. The experience of moving to New Zealand and integrating with the culture here is the inspiration for this research and creation of this documentary. I have always been interested in the relationship between language and identity. Over the four years I have lived in New Zealand, I continue to work on my English - not only for the needs of my study and life in New Zealand but also because of my curiosity in the process of language learning and its impacts on me. In this process of learning, I experience a different ‘me’ when I use English, whether it is speaking, writing, or thinking. I used to believe that this feeling was mainly caused by the difference in logic between languages, but I was curious to investigate whether there might be other possible reasons for this. As I mentioned earlier, English is my third language. Before I began learning my second language Mandarin, the only language I spoke was Shanghainese. Shanghainese is a dialect spoken only in Shanghai. For those who speak Shanghainese, they cannot communicate with others who speak Mandarin. When learning Mandarin, I experienced a similar feeling to the process of learning English. The difference is that the English learning process had a more noticeable impact on my self-identity. I can sense that the way I talk and my personality change more when I use English. To better understand the impact that language has on identity, this study uses the process of documentary making to research people who have had similar experiences. As a documentary filmmaker, the process of making Mooncake is both a personal journey in relation to my own experiences as well as a method for communicating these findings publicly.
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