Julia Oliver Rajan
First Year Seminar: What are Heritage Languages?
13 September 2014
The Importance of Language Maintenance at Home.
Immigrant families come from numerous parts of the world to settle in the United States for a variety of reasons. Whether they come for economic prosperity or to escape persecution, and whether the stay is intended to be permanent or temporary, as long as they are speakers of a language other than English, they will face the dilemma of language maintenance. Parents have to make the decision whether they want their children to retain their culture, including their language, and have to find ways to make that happen in a country where assimilation can be very easy. That is why practicing all of these skills at home is so important.
The key point for the language to be maintained, it needs to be passed on to, and acquired by, each successive generation. Because language is tied not only to communication with family but to cultural identity as well, it is more than often parents who decide to teach their mother tongue to their children. Over time, many minority languages experience language shifts and changes. As children partake in school related activities, are exposed to media in the majority language, and become more assimilated into the dominant society, they may feel less positive towards their heritage language and use it less.
Although there are bilingual programs that give students access to education in their mother tongue, the effect on heritage language maintenance is minimal for a number of reasons. The intent is usually to foster more efficient English language acquisition, the programs are only offered in select areas they are offered only in languages with a large population, and many more other reasons. Language maintenance is then left largely to the family or community. Attitudes toward this language maintenance can vary from one language group to another, and from one family to the next,...
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