Language Portraits of Four Transnational Educators from China: Experiences, Ideologies, and Teaching Practices


  • Jiameng Gao
  • Mark B. Pacheco


language portraits; language ideologies; multilingualism; transnational educators; teaching practices


This study uses language portraits (Busch, 2018) to shed light on the relationship between the multilingual experiences and teaching practices of four transnational educators who have lived, studied, and taught across China and the United States. Using multimodal thematic analysis methods (Coffey, 2015; Purkarthofer & De Korne, 2020), this approach highlights the ways in which language experiences and teaching practices are mediated by language ideologies. This approach enables the participants to visualise and describe their linguistic repertoires and multilingual experiences in relation to teaching practices in the focus group interview. Findings show that these educators from China value Chinese as a resource for teaching and learning. They hold an asset-oriented view of the students’ home languages and are willing to incorporate their home languages to support classroom teaching and learning. Although they have mixed feelings about English, due to negative learning experiences, they are aware of the economic value of the language, which sustains their efforts to improve their English proficiency and influences their career plans. Overall, the educators evidence an emerging, yet rudimentary, multilingual awareness. The entrenched ideology of Mandarin monolingualism, which prioritises Putonghua (Standard Mandarin) over other Chinese dialects, along with the global dominance of English and its associated language ideology, has profoundly influenced teaching practices in multilingual classrooms.


Abraham, S. (2021). Crafting a pedagogical third space in a transnational teacher education project. Teaching and Teacher Education, 97, 1-12.

Achugar, M. (2008). Counter-hegemonic language practices and ideologies: Creating a new space and value for Spanish in Southwest Texas. Spanish in Context, 5(1), 1-19.

Athanases, S. Z., Banes, L. C., & Wong, J. W. (2015). Diverse language profiles: Leveraging resources of potential bilingual teachers of color. Bilingual Research Journal, 38(1), 65-87.

Athanases, S. Z., Banes, L. C., Wong, J. W., & Martinez, D. C. (2019). Exploring linguistic diversity from the inside out: Implications of self-reflexive inquiry for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 70(5), 581-596.

Bacon, C. K. (2020). “It’s not really my job”: A mixed methods framework for language ideologies, monolingualism, and teaching emergent bilingual learners. Journal of Teacher Education, 71(2), 172-187.

Barone, T. (2006). Arts-based educational research then, now, and later. Studies in Art Education, 48(1), 4-8.

Barone, T. (2008). How arts-based research can change minds. In M. Cahnmann-Taylor & R. Siegesmund (Eds.), Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice (pp. 28-49). Routledge.

Barros, S. R. (2017). Rejecting Babel: Examining multilingualism without citizenship in the US postnational scenario. Current Issues in Language Planning, 18(2), 117-135.

Bartlett, L., & Vavrus, F. (2017). Comparative case studies: An innovative approach. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 1(1).

Blommaert, J., & Rampton, B. (2016). Language and superdiversity. In K. Arnaut, J, Blommaert, B. Rampton, & M. Spotti (Eds.), Language and superdiversity (pp. 21-48). Routledge.

Briceño, A. (2018). “En español esa palabra no tiene ningún sentido”: A cross-case analysis of three Mexican American dual language teachers’ language ideologies and instructional differences. International Multilingual Research Journal, 12(4), 288-301.

Brown, K. M. (2004). Assessing preservice leaders’ beliefs, attitudes, and values regarding issues of diversity, social justice, and equity: A review of existing measures. Equity & Excellence in Education, 37(4), 332-342.

Busch, B. (2017). Expanding the notion of the linguistic repertoire: On the concept of Spracherleben—The lived experience of language. Applied Linguistics, 38(3), 340-358.

Busch, B. (2018). The language portrait in multilingualism research: Theoretical and methodological considerations. Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies, 236, 1-13.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2008). Arts-based Research: Histories and new directions. In M. Cahnmann-Taylor & R. Siegesmund (Eds.), Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice (pp. 3-15). Routledge.

Chen, P. (1999). Modern Chinese: History and sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Chik, A., Markose, S., & Alperstein, D. (2019). Language portrait silhouettes. In L. A. Salas & E. O. Ager (Eds.), Creating quiet reflective spaces: Language teacher research as professional development (pp. 93-97). IATEFL.

Chilton, G., Gerber, N., & Scotti, V. (2015). Towards an aesthetic intersubjective paradigm for arts-based research: An art therapy perspective. UNESCO Observatory Multidisciplinary Journal in the Arts, 5(1), 1-27.

Coffey, S. (2015). Reframing teachers’ language knowledge through metaphor analysis of language portraits. The Modern Language Journal, 99(3), 500-514.

de Jager, A., Tewson, A., Ludlow, B., & Boydell, K. (2016). Embodied ways of storying the self: A systematic review of body-mapping. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2).

de Jong, E., & Gao, J. (2023). Preparing teacher candidates for bilingual practices: toward a multilingual stance in mainstream teacher education. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 26(4), 472-482.


Diamond, C. T. P., & Mullen, C. A. (1999a). Mirros, rivers, and snakes: Arts-based teacher development. In C. T. P. Diamond & C. A. Mullen (Eds.), The postmodern educator: Arts-based inquiries and teacher development (pp. 65-91). Peter Lang Publishing.

Diamond, C. T. P., & Mullen, C. A. (1999b). Art is a part of us: From romance to artful story. In C. T. P. Diamond & C. A. Mullen (Eds.), The postmodern educator: Arts-based inquiries and teacher development (pp. 15-36). Peter Lang Publishing.

Dong, J. (2009). ‘Isn’t it enough to be a Chinese speaker’: Language ideology and migrant identity construction in a public primary school in Beijing. Language & Communication, 29(2), 115-126.

Dressler, R. (2014). Exploring linguistic identity in young multilingual learners. TESL Canada Journal, 42-52.

Eisner, E. (2007). Art and knowledge. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 3-12). Sage Publications.

Ek, L. D., Sánchez, P., & Quijada Cerecer, P. D. (2013). Linguistic violence, insecurity, and work: Language ideologies of Latina/o bilingual teacher candidates in Texas. International Multilingual Research Journal, 7(3), 197-219.

Ellis, E. (2006). Monolingualism: The unmarked case. Estudios de Sociolingüística, 7(2), 173-196.

Farr, M., & Song, J. (2011). Language ideologies and policies: Multilingualism and education. Language and Linguistics Compass, 5(9), 650-665.

Fine, C. G., Strong, K., & Palmer, D. (2020). The impact of language ideologies in schools. Educational Leadership, 77(4), 58-65.

Fitzsimmons-Doolan, S. (2014). Language ideologies of Arizona voters, language managers, and teachers. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 13(1), 34-52.

Fitzsimmons-Doolan, S., Palmer, D., & Henderson, K. (2017). Educator language ideologies and a top-down dual language program. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 20(6), 704-721.

Fu, D., Hadjioannou, X., & Zhou, X. (2019). Translanguaging for emergent bilinguals: Inclusive teaching in the linguistically diverse classroom. Teachers College Press.

Gal, S. (1992). Multiplicity and contention among ideologies: A commentary. Pragmatics, 2(3), 445-449.

Gallo, S., Link, H., Allard, E., Wortham, S., & Mortimer, K. (2014). Conflicting ideologies of Mexican immigrant English across levels of schooling. International Multilingual Research Journal, 8(2), 124-140.

Gao, J. (2023). Portrait as a bilingual: An arts-based approach to language experiences of bilingual mainstream teacher candidates in the United States. (Publication No. 0060051). [Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Gao, Y. (2009). Sociocultural contests and English in China: Retaining and reforming the cultural habitus. In J. Lo Bianco, J. Orton, & Y. Gao (Eds.), China and English: Globalization and the dilemma of identity, (pp. 56-78). Multilingual Matters.

García, O., & Kleyn, T. (2013). Teacher education for multilingual education. In C. A. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics (pp. 1-6). Blackwell Publishing.

García, O., & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Palgrave Macmillan.

Gee, J. P. (2000-2001). Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. Review of Research in Education, 25, 99-125.

Gee, J. P. (2015). Literacy and education. Routledge.

a. Gilham, P., & Fürstenau, S. (2020). The relationship between teachers’ language experience and their inclusion of pupils’ home languages in school life. Language and Education, 34(1), 36-50.

Gkaintartzi, A., Kiliari, A., & Tsokalidou, R. (2015). ‘Invisible’ bilingualism–‘invisible’ language ideologies: Greek teachers’ attitudes towards immigrant pupils’ heritage languages. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 18(1), 60-72.

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Anchor.

Gorski, P. C. (2011). Unlearning deficit ideology and the scornful gaze: Thoughts on authenticating the class discourse in education. Counterpoints, 402, 152-173.

Gu, M. M., Kou, Z. C., & Guo, X. G. (2017). Understanding Chinese language teachers’ language ideologies in teaching South Asian students in Hong Kong. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 22(8), 1030-1047.

Hamman-Ortiz, L. (2021, September 27). Language and culture portraits. Notre Dame Center for Literacy Education.

Hepple, E. (2012). Questioning pedagogies: Hong Kong pre-service teachers’ dialogic reflections on a transnational school experience. Journal of Education for Teaching, 38(3), 309-322.

Irvine, J. T. (1989). When talk isn’t cheap: Language and political economy. American Ethnologist, 16(2), 248-267.

Kroskrity, P. V. (2004). Language ideologies. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 496-517). Blackwell.

Law of the People’s Republic of China on the standard spoken and written Chinese language, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, (2000).

Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. Guilford Press.

Lew, S., & Siffrinn, N. E. (2019). Exploring language ideologies and preparing preservice teachers for multilingual and multicultural classrooms. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 68(1), 375-395.

Li, D. C. (2006). Chinese as a lingua franca in greater China. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 26, 149-176.

Li, J. (2019). Language orientations in family language policies: An analysis of parents’

a. attitudes towards bilingualism in Chinese immigrant families of the north

b. Florida. SSTESOL Journal, 12(3), 17-25.

c. Li, J. (2023). Teaching across two hemispheres and shaping professional identities: A multiple case study of three Chinese mainstream teacher candidates’ experiences in the U.S.-based practica (Publication No. 0059788) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Li, W., & Zhu, H. (2013). Translanguaging identities and ideologies: Creating transnational space through flexible multilingual practices amongst Chinese university students in the UK. Applied Linguistics, 34(5), 516-535.

Linn, D. (2011). Voices of preservice teachers in the borderlands: Exploring cultural identity through language. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 13(1), 63-75.

Lo Bianco, J. (2009). Intercultural encounters and deep cultural beliefs. In J. Lo Bianco, J. Orton, & Y. Gao (Eds.), China and English: Globalization and the dilemma of identity, (pp. 294-309). Multilingual Matters.

Macedo, D. (2000). The colonialism of the English only movement. Educational Researcher, 29(3), 15-24.

Macías, R. F. (2014). Spanish as the second national language of the United States: Fact, future, fiction, or hope?. Review of Research in Education, 38(1), 33-57.

MacSwan, J. (2017). A multilingual perspective on translanguaging. American Educational Research Journal, 54(1), 167-201.

Martínez, R. A. (2013). Reading the world in Spanglish: Hybrid language practices and ideological contestation in a sixth-grade English language arts classroom. Linguistics and Education, 24(3), 276-288.

Martínez, R. A. (2018). Beyond the English learner label: Recognizing the richness of bi/multilingual students’ linguistic repertoires. The Reading Teacher, 71(5), 515-522.

McGroarty, M. E. (2008). The political matrix of linguistic ideologies. In B. Spolsky & F. M. Hult (Eds.), The handbook of educational linguistics (pp. 98-112). Blackwell.

McGroarty, M. E. (2010). Language and ideologies. In N. H. Hornberger & S. L. McKay (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language education (pp. 3-39). Multilingual Matters.

McNiff, S. (2008). Art-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 29-40). SAGE Publications.

McPherron, P. (2016). English in the professional lives of college graduates in China. TESOL Quarterly, 50(2), 494-507.

Mehmedbegovic, D. (2017). Engaging with linguistic diversity in global cities: Arguing for “Language Hierarchy Free” policy and practice in education. Open Linguistics, 3(1), 540-553.

Miller, K. (2017). “El pasado refleja el futuro”: Pre-service teachers’ memories of growing up bilingual. Bilingual Research Journal, 40(1), 20-37.

Milroy, J. (2001). Language ideologies and the consequences of standardization. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 5(4), 530-555.

Moje, E. B., Overby, M., Tysvaer, N., & Morris, K. (2008). The complex world of adolescent literacy: Myths, motivations, and mysteries. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 107-154.

Moodie, I. (2016). The anti-apprenticeship of observation: How negative prior language learning experience influences English language teachers’ beliefs and practices. System, 60, 29-41.

Mora-Pablo, I. M., Rivas, L. R., Lengeling, M., & Crawford, T. (2015). Transnationals becoming English teachers in Mexico: Effects of language brokering and identity formation. Gist: Education and Learning Research Journal, 10, 7-28.

Mora Vázquez, A., Trejo Guzmán, N. P., & Crosnoe, R. (2020). “The grass is always greener on the other side”: Transnational language teachers in Mexico and the United States. Latino Studies, 18(1), 82-103.

Mulvihill, T. M., & Swaminathan, R. (2020). Arts-based educational research and qualitative inquiry: Walking the path. Routledge.

Norton, B. (2010). Language and identity. In N. H. Hornberger & S. L. McKay (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language education (pp. 349-369). Multilingual Matters.

Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of transnationality. Duke University Press.

Otheguy, R., García, O., & Reid, W. (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307.

Perry, S. J. (2020). The negotiation of transnational identities and being a ‘nonnative’ English-speaking teacher abroad. Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 8, 111-126.

Piller, I. (2015). Language ideologies. In K. Tracy, C. Ilie, & T. Sandel (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of language and social interaction (1st ed., pp. 1-10). John Wiley & Sons.

Portes, A. (2001). Introduction: The debates and significance of immigrant transnationalism. Global Networks: A Journal of Transnational Affairs, 1(3), 181-194.

Prasad, G. L. (2014). Portraits of plurilingualism in a French international school in Toronto: Exploring the role of visual methods to access students’ representations of their linguistically diverse identities. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 51-77.

Purkarthofer, J., & De Korne, H. (2020). Learning language regimes: Children's representations of minority language education. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 24(2), 165-184.

Reyes, M. D. (1992). Challenging venerable assumptions: Literacy instruction for linguistically different students. Harvard Educational Review, 62(4), 427-447.

Ricento, T. (2014). Thinking about language: What political theorists need to know about language in the real world. Language Policy, 13(4), 351-369.

Rodríguez-Izquierdo, R. M. (2021). Monolingual ideologies of Andalusian teachers in the multilingual schools’ context. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1-13.

Roulston, K. (2010). Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice. Sage.

Rovira, L. C. (2008). The relationship between language and identity. The use of the home language as a human right of the immigrant. REMHU-Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana, 16(31), 63-81.

Rumbaut, R. G., & Massey, D. S. (2013). Immigration & language diversity in the United States. Daedalus, 142(3), 141-154.

Sajnani, N. (2012). Improvisation and art-based research. Journal of Applied Arts & Health, 3(1), 79-86.

Segers, R., Hannes, K., Heylighen, A., & Van den Broeck, P. (2021). Exploring embodied place attachment through co?creative art trajectories: The case of Mount Murals. Social Inclusion, 9(4), 116-129.

Serna-Gutiérrez, J. I. O., & Mora-Pablo, I. (2018). Critical incidents of transnational student-teachers in Central Mexico. Profile: Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 20(1), 137-150.

Settlage, J., M. Gort, and R. J. Ceglie (2014). Mediated language immersion and teacher ideologies: Investigating trauma pedagogy within a “Physics in Spanish” course activity. Teacher Education Quarterly, 41(3), 47-66.

Shen, Q., & Gao, X. (2019). Multilingualism and policy making in Greater China: Ideological and implementational spaces. Language Policy, 18(1), 1-16.

Sleeter, C. E., & Milner, H. R. (2011). Researching successful efforts in teacher education to diversify teachers. In A.F. Ball & C. A. Tyson (Eds.), Studying diversity in teacher education (pp. 81-103). Rowman & Littlefield.

Speicher, B. L., & Bielanski, J. R. (2000). Critical thoughts on teaching Standard English. Curriculum Inquiry, 30(2), 147-169.

Subtirelu, N. C. (2013). ‘English… it’s part of our blood’: Ideologies of language and nation in United States Congressional discourse. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 17(1), 37-65.

Szecsi, T., & Spillman, C. (2012). Unheard voices of minority teacher candidates in a teacher education program. Multicultural Education, 19(2), 24-29.

Szwed, A., & González-Carriedo, R. (2019). The role of language ideologies in the self-efficacy of preservice bilingual education teachers. Bilingual Research Journal, 42(2), 178-193.

Takeuchi, J. (2021). Language ideologies among Japanese foreign language teachers: Keigo and L2 speakers. Foreign Language Annals, 54(3), 589-606.

Tracy, S. J. (2020). Qualitative research methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact. John Wiley & Sons.

U?tuk, Ö. (2021). “Not me with my American flag”: Transnational teachers’ trajectories of language teacher socialization. TESL-EJ, 25(3), 1-16.

Varghese, M. M., & Snyder, R. (2018). Critically examining the agency and professional identity development of novice dual language teachers through figured worlds. International Multilingual Research Journal, 12(3), 145-159.

Vélez-Rendón, G. (2002). Second language teacher education: A review of the literature. Foreign Language Annals, 35(4), 457-467.

Villegas-Torres, P., & Mora-Pablo, I. (2018). The role of language in the identity formation of transnational EFL teachers. How, 25(2), 11-27.

Wang, Q., & Hannes, K. (2020). Toward a more comprehensive type of analysis in photovoice research: The development and illustration of supportive question matrices for research teams. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 19, 1-15.

Weisman, E. M., & Hansen, L. E. (2008). Student teaching in urban and suburban schools: Perspectives of Latino preservice teachers. Urban Education, 43(6), 653-670.

Wiley, T. G., & Lukes, M. (1996). English?only and standard English ideologies in the US. TESOL Quarterly, 30(3), 511-535.

Woolard, K. A., & Schieffelin, B. B. (1994). Language ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 23(1), 55-82.

Wortham, S. (2008). Linguistic anthropology of education. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37(3), 1-15.

Yang, J., & Jang, I. C. (2022). The everyday politics of English-only policy in an EFL language school: practices, ideologies, and identities of Korean bilingual teachers. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 25(3), 1088-1100.

Zacharias, N. T. (2019). The ghost of native speakerism: The case of teacher classroom introductions in transnational contexts. TESOL Journal, 10(4), 1-14.

Zhang, Y. F., & Hu, G. W. (2013). Between intended and enacted curricula: Three teachers and a mandated curricular reform in mainland China. In K. Menken & O, García (Eds.), Negotiating language policies in school: Educators as policymakers (pp. 123-142). Routledge.

Zhang, Y. & Wei, R. (2021). Strategic use of L1 in Chinese EMI classrooms: A translanguaging perspective. In W. Tsou & W. Baker (Eds.), English-medium instruction translanguaging practices in Asia: Theories, frameworks and implementation in higher education (pp. 101-118). Springer.

Zhang, C., Yan, X., & Liu, X. (2015). The development of EFL writing instruction and research in China: An update from the International Conference on English Language Teaching. Journal of Second Language Writing, 30, 14-18.

Zheng, D., Young, M. F., Brewer, R. A., & Wagner, M. (2009). Attitude and self-efficacy Change: English language learning in virtual worlds. CALICO Journal, 27(1), 205-231.

Zoeller, E., & Briceño, A. (2022). “We can be bilingual rather than an English learner”: Transnational teachers developing strength-based, language-focused pedagogy. Teacher Education Quarterly, 49(2), 33-57.