Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jan Mutchler

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dugan

Third Advisor

Lingling Zhang


Motivation serves as the driving force in second language learning. This study explores the motivation, challenges, and coping strategies among late-life Chinese immigrants to the United States as they navigate the English learning at an advanced age. Guided by Gardner's theory of motivation in second language learning, the research examines the interplay between individual motivation and societal factors shaping the English learning journey. Many older Chinese immigrants encounter limited English proficiency, posing barriers to their integration into American society. Understanding their motivation and challenges in learning English is crucial for providing effective support. Focused on older Chinese immigrating to the United States at age 60 or above, this study illuminates their post-migration English learning experiences and provides insights for tailored support. Through qualitative analysis of interview data, several themes emerge, each reflecting the complex landscape of motivation, challenges, and coping strategies. Participants' motivation for English learning is deeply rooted in familial bonds, a desire for independence and self-sufficiency, and lifelong learning aspirations. The motivation underscores the multifaceted nature of the immigrant experience and highlight the significance of familial ties and personal aspirations in driving English learning. However, the path to English proficiency is covered with obstacles. Cognitive difficulties, sensory impairments, transportation constraints, caregiving obligations, and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt progress. Despite these formidable challenges, resilience and determination emerge as prevailing themes, underscoring participants' unwavering commitment to their language learning goals. Coping strategies employed vary from translation tools and repetition to formal education, self-learning, and community engagement. Accessible learning options and community-based programs emerge as key facilitators in their language learning journey, emphasizing the need for tailored support that caters to the unique needs of older immigrants. In light of these findings, the study proposes a series of recommendations to support older immigrants in their English learning. These include program improvements, policy advocacy, adoption of age-friendly teaching methods, promotion of peer learning support networks, and integration of technology into language education. By addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by older immigrants, tailored support can pave the way for enhanced language learning outcomes, foster greater integration, and promote overall well-being within immigrant communities.


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