Chinese Language in Brunei

Co-Principal Investigator (Jan 2018 – Jun 2019)

Project title: The Pursuit of Chinese Language among Bruneian Youths: Social, Cultural and Economic Factors

Funding: FIC Research Grant, Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Project team members: Chang-Yau Hoon (PI), Noor Azam bin Hj Othman

The Chinese language (i.e. Mandarin) is widely spoken among the ethnic Chinese in Brunei Darussalam. Comprising around 10% of the population, the ethnic Chinese are the second largest ethnic group in Brunei. However, there is a dearth of literature on the ethnic Chinese in Brunei, and even less about the status of their lingua franca in Brunei. The market demand of Mandarin has rekindled interest in the language among Chinese and non-Chinese in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. China has also been investing heavily in promoting its language and culture in order to build its soft power on the world stage. Situated in these broader contextual developments, this project examines the current state of Mandarin learning in two Chinese middle schools in Brunei. Through school ethnography and interviews conducted with Mandarin teachers, students and parents, this project analyses the main factors driving Bruneian youths’ learning of Mandarin in schools in relation to factors such as the ethnic minority status of the Chinese in Brunei, the global economic rise of China, and the rapidly developing China-Brunei international relations.

Publications and other outputs from this project

Journal articles

  • Koh, S.Y., Hoon, C.-Y., & Noor Azam Haji-Othman. (forthcoming). “Mandarin Fever” and Chinese Language Learning in Brunei Middle Schools: Discrepant Discourses, Multifaceted Realities and Institutional Barriers. Asian Studies Review.
  • Article 2 (in progress)