According to the reply from our interviewees, we found out four factors affecting their language choice.


1. Family inheritance


Family inheritance plays an important role in determining one’s language use.

Family determines a person’s mother tongue and often the most confident language. In our case, family determines whether the second generation’s mother tongue as Cantonese or Thai, and whether they grow up as bilingual. Family can also affect a person’s language attitude. For example, the brother of the 3rd family uses the Thai language only when he would like to make fun. Therefore, for him, there’s a kind of association that the Thai language is not really for communication but only for making fun.

Image source:
Family Pictures

2. Medium of instruction


The second factor is the medium of instruction used in schools.

This helps to build a person’s language repertoire. In our study, the second generation learns English and Mandarin at schools. While they grow up, they gradually find speaking English more confident than Mandarin or even Thai. This is because the secondary schools and university they go to use English as the medium of instruction and they have a lot of chances to use English. Therefore, the medium of instruction has a great influence on a person’s language choice.

Image source:

3. Use of language in one’s social circle


In addition, we find out that people tend to use the language that is the most commonly used in their social circle.

Since the Thai-Chinese would like to fulfill the purpose of communication, they will use Cantonese if they are talking to their friends in Hong Kong. It may not be an intentional convergence (Giles & Coupland, 1991) that they would like to show that they are part of the community, but rather a more natural and direct language choice.

Giles, H., Coupland, N., & Coupland, I. U. S. T. I. N. E. (1991). 1. Accommodation theory: Communication, context, and. Contexts of accommodation: Developments in applied sociolinguistics, 1.


Image source:

4. Motivation from one’s identity


The last factor is the motivation from their identity.

Some of them regard the ability to speak the Thai language as a characteristic of a Thai-Chinese. This motivates them to learn more about the Thai language and the culture. For example, one of our interviewees minors in the Thai language at the University because she would like to learn more about this language. On the other hand, the younger brother of the third family has less motivation to acquire the Thai language as he believes that he is a Hong Kong-er so it is fine for him just to know Cantonese and English, which are the dominant languages in Hong Kong.  

Image source: