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Heritage Language Development

Studies in Bilingualism (SiBil)

Editors Kees de Bot University of Groningen

Thom Huebner San José State University

Editorial Board Michael Clyne, University of Melbourne Kathryn Davis, University of Hawaii at Manoa Joshua Fishman, Yeshiva University François Grosjean, Université de Neuchâtel Wolfgang Klein, Max Planck Institut für Psycholinguistik Georges Lüdi, University of Basel Christina Bratt Paulston, University of Pittsburgh Suzanne Romaine, Merton College, Oxford Merrill Swain, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Richard Tucker, Carnegie Mellon University

Volume 32 Heritage Language Development: Focus on East Asian Immigrants Edited by Kimi Kondo-Brown

Heritage Language Development Focus on East Asian Immigrants

Edited by

Kimi Kondo-Brown University of Hawai‘i at Ma¯noa

John Benjamins Publishing Company Amsterdam/Philadelphia



The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences – Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ansi z39.48-1984.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Heritage language development : focus on East Asian Immigrants / edited by Kimi Kondo-Brown. p. cm. (Studies in Bilingualism, issn 0928–1533 ; v. 32) Includes bibliographical references and indexes. 1. Native language. 2. Immigrants--East Asia. P120.N37 H47 2006 401/.93--dc22 isbn 90 272 4143 0 (Hb; alk. paper)


© 2006 – John Benjamins B.V. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm, or any other means, without written permission from the publisher. John Benjamins Publishing Co. · P.O. Box 36224 · 1020 me Amsterdam · The Netherlands John Benjamins North America · P.O. Box 27519 · Philadelphia pa 19118-0519 · usa

Table of contents Acknowledgements


Author information


chapter 1 Introduction Kimi Kondo-Brown


section 1 Heritage language development among East Asian immigrant families chapter 2 The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and devolopment: Case studies of Chinese immigrant children’s home practices Guofang Li chapter 3 Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning: Experiential narratives of Japanese immigrant families in Canada Mitsuyo Sakamoto chapter 4 Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean Eunjin Park




 Heritage Language Development

section 2 The influence of educational institutions on heritage language development chapter 5 Heritage language development: Understanding the roles of ethnic identity, schooling and community Kiyomi Chinen G. Richard Tucker


chapter 6 High-stakes testing and heritage language maintenance Sarah J. Shin


chapter 7 Japanese English bilingual children in three different educational environments Asako Hayashi


section 3 Heritage language use and proficiency: Associated and predictive factors chapter 8 Heritage language maintenance by Korean-American college students Eun Joo Kim chapter 9 First language use and language behavior of Chinese students in Toronto, Canada Evelyn Yee-fun Man



chapter 10 East Asian heritage language proficiency development Kimi Kondo-Brown






Acknowledgements I would like to thank the reviewers commissioned by John Benjamins for their thorough and valuable feedback as well as the editorial and production staff, especially Dr. Thom Huebner and Mr. Cornelis H. J. Vaes, for their editorial support in helping me to produce this book. I would also like to thank all of the contributors to this volume for their creative work and cooperation. The idea for this book arose when I was the principal investigator of the funded University of Hawai‘i NRCEA (National Resource Center East Asia) heritage language instruction project during 2003–2006. I thank the NRCEA for the inspiration. Lastly, I wish to thank my husband, James Dean Brown, for his encouragement and support throughout this project. Kimi Kondo-Brown November 9, 2006 Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i

Author information Kiyomi Chinen is Lecturer in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Irvine. Asako Hayashi is Lecturer in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Los Angeles. Eun Joo Kim is a faculty member in the College of Education at Pacific University. Kimi Kondo-Brown is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Guofang Li is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Evelyn Yee-fun Man is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Eunjin Park is ABD in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Mitsuyo Sakamoto is Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Studies at Sophia University. Sarah J. Shin is Associate Professor of Education and Co-Director of the MA Program in ESOL/Bilingual Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. G. Richard Tucker is Paul Mellon Professor of Applied Linguistics and Head of the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University.

chapter 1

Introduction Kimi Kondo-Brown

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

“I never spoke Japanese at home ‘cause everything was in English at school, and my friends were all local children who spoke only English, you know. I thought, ‘This is Hawaii, everybody speaks English.’ At some point, I didn’t speak Japanese at all. I thought it was normal.... When I was growing up in Hawaii, nobody at school encouraged me to learn Japanese. It was only my mother who cared and worried about it.” (Kondo, 1997, pp. 378)

Heritage language development When children with foreign-born parents start socializing in the dominant language outside the home, the children’s first-learned non-dominant languages (which may also be called “mother tongues” or “first languages”) may remain strong or gradually become secondary to the dominant language. The “heritage language (HL) learners” discussed in this book are school-age or young adult children who are using or learning their first-learned non-dominant languages as their primary or secondary languages in various social settings and for different purposes. Thus, unlike traditional foreign language (FL) learners who come from families who usually speak the dominant language only and have chosen to learn a second language in FL classes, HL learners have initially acquired certain levels of linguistic and cultural competence in a non-dominant language mainly through interaction with foreign-born parents and/or other family and community members (UCLA Steering Committee, 2000; Valdés, 1995, 2001). Studies concerning HL acquisition and instruction have become a subdiscipline in the field of applied linguistics, a subdiscipline where the researchers examine the linguistic, pedagogical, social, and political issues related to HL learners (e.g., Brecht & Ingold,1998; Brinton & Kagan, forthcoming; Davis, 1999; Kondo1.

For more discussion on defining “heritage languages,” see Kondo-Brown (2002, 2003).

Kimi Kondo-Brown

Brown, 2003, 2005; Krashen, Tse, & McQuillian, 1998; Lynch, 2003; Peyton, Ranard, & McGinnis, 2001; The UCLA Steering Committee, 2000; Valdés, 1995, 2005; Van Deusen-Scholl, 2003; Webb & Miller, 2000). This book with a focus on East Asian HL learners extends this line of research by examining questions of how policy makers, school administrators, teachers, and immigrant parents can work together in order to create optimal learning contexts for heritage learners in East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) at home, in school, and in the community. The work collected in this book is based on empirical data gathered in various learning and social settings in the U.S. and Canada. The contributors (including myself) are mostly from East Asian immigrant backgrounds and have worked closely with students from such backgrounds. In this book, we speak to the needs for future work within East Asian communities in order to promote the HL development of younger and older learners.

Growing East Asian immigrant population in the United States and Canada In the U.S. and Canada, immigrants account for approximately 12% and 18% of the total population in their respective countries (Migration Policy Institute, 2004a). Within this huge foreign-born population are speakers of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean whose numbers are on the rise each year. The latest migration patterns for East Asian immigrants in each country are clearly shown in Figures 1 and 2, which show the cumulative numbers of recent immigrants from China (the mainland China and Hong Kong), Japan, Korea, and Taiwan in the U.S. and Canada, respectively (between 1989–2003 in the U.S., and between 1990 and 2004 in Canada). As the figures show, among East Asian immigrants, the increase of immigrants from China seems to be the most remarkable in both countries: In the U.S., the number of immigrants from China increased by 87% between 1990 and 2000, and it ranked fourth within the nation’s immigrant population (Grieco, 2004); in Canada, immigrants from China form the largest single immigrant group (Migration Policy Institute, 2004b).

2. In this chapter, the term “immigrant” includes both foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens and lawful Permanent Residents.

Chapter 1.  Introduction

Figure 1.  Cumulative number of immigrants from China (excluding Hong Kong), Hong Kong, Japan, Korean, and Taiwan, admitted to the U.S. during fiscal years of 1989–2003.

Source. This figure was created using data obtained from the Office of Immigration Statistics (2006), Table 3. Immigrants admitted by region and country of birth: Fiscal years of 1989–2003.

Figure 2.  Cumulative number of immigrants from China (excluding Hong Kong), Hong Kong, Japan, Korean, and Taiwan, admitted to Canada during fiscal years of 1990–2004.

Source. This figure was created using data obtained from the Migration Policy Institute (2004b).

Kimi Kondo-Brown

Compared to speakers of Chinese, the increase of speakers of Korean and Japanese seems less dramatic. Nonetheless, the most recent U.S. and Canadian migration data (Migration Policy Institute, 2004b; The Office of Immigration Statistics, 2006) suggest that these groups are steadily increasing each year. For example, recently, about 20,900 speakers of Korean have immigrated yearly to the U.S. and about 5,200 to Canada. Indeed, the U.S. immigrant population from Korea increased by 52% between 1990 and 2000, which makes it the seventh largest immigrant group (Yau, 2004). As for the Japanese group, about 6,800 Japanese have yearly immigrated to the U.S. in recent years and about 1,000 to Canada. As Figure 3 shows, the U.S. ranks by far the highest in terms of the number of living-abroad Japanese nationals as permanent or long-term residents. Additional immigrant population data further indicate that, in the U.S., children from Chinese and Korean immigrant families are among the top eight groups of children from immigrant families, totaling about 445,000 and 324,000, respectively (Beavers & D’Amico, 2005). Children from Japanese immigrant families are fewer in number. Nonetheless, the numbers of living-abroad Japanese children are increasing each year: As of 2004, over 54,000 Japanese children are living abroad, of which approximately 40% live in North America (including Canada), and many of their parents are actually permanent residents (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 2006; also see, Yamada-Yamamoto, 1998).

3. These estimates are based on the following figures reported in the U.S. and Canadian census data: In the U.S., the cumulative number of immigrants from Korea was 292,121 during the 14–year period between 1989 and 2003 (The Office of Immigration Statistics, 2006); in Canada, the cumulative number of immigrants from Korea was 73,350 during the 14–year period from 1990 to 2004 (Migration Policy Institute, 2004). 4. These estimates are also based on the following figures reported in U.S. and Canadian census data: in the U.S., the cumulative number of immigrants from Japan was 95,968 during the 14–year period from 1989 to 2003 (The Office of Immigration Statistics, 2006); in Canada, the cumulative number of immigrants from Japan was 13,979 during the 14–year period from 1990 to 2004 (Migration Policy Institute, 2004).

Chapter 1.  Introduction

Figure 3.  Comparison of total number of Japanese living in the U.S., China, and England as permanent or long-term residents during fiscal years of 1990–2003.

Source. This figure was created using data obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. (2006). “Permanent residents” are those who have received a permanent visa, while “long-term residents’ are those who reside longer than three month.

Personal and national merit of heritage language development In the 1980s and early 90s, the personal benefits of HL development for students with immigrant backgrounds were widely discussed in educational research. For example, the U.S.-based research on students from immigrant backgrounds suggests that HL development is interconnected with positive ethnic identity development and academic success (e.g., Delgado-Gaitan & Trueba, 1991; Gibson,1988; Golden, 1990; Nielsen & Lerner, 1986: Trueba, Cheng, & Ima, 1993; Portes & Rumbaut, 1990). Likewise, earlier Canada-based studies about the educational outcomes of HL development are positive, suggesting that HL development may actually help language minority children learn the dominant language and improve their overall academic achievement (Cummins, 1981a, 1983; Cummins & Danesi, 1990; Danesi, 1986). Although a number of those educational studies thus reported on the positive personal benefits of HL development for children from immigrant backgrounds, policy makers’ and the general public’s views on the personal and national merits of HL development seem to have been more or less divided both in the U.S. and

Kimi Kondo-Brown

Canada. That is, on the one hand, languages other than English have been viewed to be an indispensable national resource that will enhance the nation’s economic, cultural, and moral growth, while on the other hand, linguistic diversity is viewed as impairing national unity and creating increasing antagonism and conflict in society (Crawford, 1992; Cummins, 1995). For example, in the U.S., the existing paradoxical national language policy seems to reflect the nation’s ambivalent attitudes toward multilingualism. Specifically, while foreign-born children are encouraged to become speakers of English even at the expense of their HL maintenance or development, mainstream monolingual children are encouraged to become speakers of languages other than English (Kondo, 1997; Ovando, 1990; Wiley & Lukes 1996). Such double-standards in American language policy seem to have created an inefficient and frustrating situation for university students from immigrant backgrounds: These students whose HL abilities have rapidly diminished while they are in mainstream monolingual schools re-learn their family languages in college to complete their FL requirements (Kondo, 1997, 1999). In Canada, the establishment of the Multiculturalism Act of Canada (Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada, 1991) seems to officially encourage the promotion of the national ideal of multilingualism. The establishment of such a language policy appears to suggest that Canada is more in favor of HL development than the U.S. However, this does not mean that political controversy over HL development is nonexistent (Ricento & Burnaby, 1998). In fact, strong political opposition does exist about the teaching of HLs in the Canadian public school as being “socially divisive, excessively costly, and educationally retrograde in view of minority children’s need to succeed academically” (Cummins, 1995, p. 137). .

Heritage language schools and university programs While political debates concerning the merits of HL development may continue in the U.S. and Canada, an increasing number of HL learners are studying East Asian languages in diverse school settings partly due to the aforementioned expansion of this immigrant group. Among various educational programs available for East Asian school-age HL learners in the U.S. or Canada, research emphasizes the central role that community-based heritage schools play in HL maintenance among school-age children (e.g., Cummins, 1995; He, 2001; Man, this volume; Shibata, 2000; Shin, this volume). Although there are some notable two-way immersion or mother-tongue maintenance programs in East Asian languages, which are offered as part of regular school-day K–12 curricula (e.g., Hayashi, this volume; Lao, 2004; Sohn & Merrill, forthcoming), the majority of school-age HL learners study these

Chapter 1.  Introduction

languages at community-based HL schools (Chao, 1996; Douglas, 2006; Shin, 2005). For example, in the U.S., Korean and Chinese HL learners attend over one thousand and 600 HL schools, respectively (Chao, 1996; Shin, 2005). In the case of school-age Japanese HL learners, hoshuukoo (supplementary Japanese schools), which primarily serve Japanese children who are planning to return to Japan after a short stay, also play a critical role for Japanese HL maintenance (Chinen & Tucker, this volume; Kataoka, 2005). There are over 80 hoshuukoo in the U.S., and a growing number of the hoshuukoo students are actually U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. who study Japanese as their HL (Kataoka, 2005). Due to the most recent stronger enforcement of English-only policies in American K–12 schools (Shin, this volume), the role of non-formal HL schools (including hoshuukoo) has become even more critical in HL maintenance. For postsecondary East Asian HL learners, various university programs across the nation play an important role for their HL development (Kondo-Brown, 2003; Shirane, 2003; Van Deusen-Schooll, 1999). According to Shirane (2003), an increasing percentage of the students studying East Asian languages at American universities today are actually HL learners who already have language backgrounds. In particular, learners in university Korean programs are mostly HL learners (E.J. Kim, this volume). Notable linguistic and curriculum development studies are on the rise to improve instruction for teaching university HL students who are studying East Asian languages in either traditional FL classrooms where non-HL learners are also present or in special, less heterogeneous HL classrooms (Kondo-Brown, in press).

Aim and scope of this book Although the role of formal and non-formal education in HL development is critical, school and university programs do not exist in a vacuum. In order to promote HL development among school-age and university learners, it should be understood fully in its many layers of interconnected contexts of learning at home, in school, and in the community, as well as in its relationships to larger societal questions. Such a view is consistent with the literature on bilingualism and biliteracy, first language (L1) maintenance and attrition, and language socialization, in which a number of macro-sociological and micro-psychological contexts are viewed to determine or at least influence the course of bilingual or biliteracy development (e.g., Arnberg, 1987; Baker, 1992; 1996; Bayley, Schecter, & Torres-Ayala, 1996; Bayley & Schecter, 2003; Döpke, 1992; Fishman, 1991; Grosjean, 1982; Hakuta

Kimi Kondo-Brown

& D’Andrea, 1992; Hornberger & Skilton-Sylvester, 1998; Kondo, 1997; Romaine, 1995; Søndergaard, 1981; Tse, 2002; Wong Fillmore, 1991a). This global view of HL development is also congruent with a number of bilingual, biliteracy, and second language development models that conceptualize language development as dynamic and cumulative being influenced by a mix of socio-structural/socio-cultural and social-psychological factors that are at play in various formal and informal contexts of learning (e.g., Clément, 1980; Gardner, 1985; Gardner, Tremblay, & Masgoret, 1997; Hamers & Blanc, 1982; Hornberger, 1990, 2003; Landry & Allard, 1992; Wong Fillmore, 1991a). Among these models, Hornberger (2003) has discussed the utility of her biliteracy model with specific reference to HL development. She proposed that, in order to encourage and promote biliteracy development in HLs, we need to understand this phenomenon fully on “the continua of biliteracy,” which considers a number of intersecting individual, contextual, and media-related factors at macro and micro-levels in the family, school, and community contexts. The present volume is a collection of studies that seek to answer the question of what individual, micro-psychological, and macro-societal factors are promoting or discouraging the maintenance or development of child and young adult HL learners’ spoken and/or written skills in East Asian languages. It will also seek to answer the question of what school and home environments and practices would best serve HL development. The entire book (except for the last chapter) is made up of empirical research where the collected data are quantitatively and/or qualitatively analyzed. The last chapter overviews and critiques previous empirical studies (including the work in this collection). Chapters 2–4 in the first section (Heritage Language Development among East Asian Immigrant Families) examine factors and practices influencing HL maintenance and development among East Asian immigrant families residing in the U.S. or Canada. Chapter 2 by Li examines the role of parents in facilitating immigrant children’s HL maintenance at home. Li’s study is a cross-case analysis of ethnographic data collected from two Chinese immigrant families residing in Vancouver and Saskatoon, Canada. Li suggests that Chinese immigrant parents strongly believe in HL maintenance, and they utilize a variety of strategies and resources to encourage their children to maintain their L1. At the same time, these parents are concerned that their children’s Chinese development might hinder their learning of the dominant language. Li argues that, although the parental role in HL development is critical, parents alone cannot help the immigrant children become bicultural and biliterate: Institutional support outside the family domain is essential for resolving parental issues concerning HL maintenance and supporting their efforts to promote their children’s HL learning.

Chapter 1.  Introduction

Chapter 3 by Sakamoto demonstrates how social factors may influence Canada-based Japanese immigrant families’ beliefs and choices about Japanese language maintenance for their children. Using a life history research method, oral narratives data were collected from six Japanese immigrant parents living in Toronto, Canada. Analysis of the data indicates that the Japanese parents’ efforts at L1 maintenance are largely motivated by the desire to retain family cohesion. Specifically, most Japanese parents encourage and nurture the development of Japanese oral skills because they consider such skills necessary to maintain intimacy at home. However, some do not enforce or actively use the written forms and honorific discourse because such skills do not contribute to family cohesion. Sakamoto observes that Japanese, as the language of intimacy, may be quickly replaced by the dominant languages if parents as well as children do not perceive it as the language necessary to express intimacy. Chapter 4 by Park emphasizes the role of parents and grandparents in HL development by examining language socialization processes among six Korean immigrant families living in New York. All participating families have at least one preschool-age child, who speaks Korean as his/her mother tongue, and have at least one grandparent regularly interacting with the child. Based on audio/video recordings of naturally occurring immigrant family conversations, Park investigated the processes whereby Korean children learn the proper use of Korean honorifics when interacting with their grandparents at home. Park emphasizes the importance of providing proper home environments from early ages in order to develop Korean HL learners’ HL maintenance. Park’s focus on the acquisition of Korean honorifics seems adequate considering the fact that the development of Korean honorifics has been one of the major pedagogical concerns in teaching Korean as a HL (e.g., Jo, 2001; H.-Y. Kim, 2003; Yu, 2002). While Chapters 2–4 in the first section examine HL maintenance issues within the family domain, Chapters 5–7 in the second section (The Influence of Educational Institutions on Heritage Language Development) examine how educational institutions can promote or hinder HL development among East Asian HL learners in the U.S. Chapter 5 by Chinen and Tucker examine the role of hoshuukoo in HL learners’ identity formation and their HL development. Questionnaire and self-assessment data were collected from second-generation Japanese Americans (7th through 11th grades, N=31) who were attending at California-based hoshuukoo. Quantitative analyses of the data indicate that (a) these students’ perceived Japanese proficiency levels in four skills, attitudes toward hoshuukoo, and degrees of association with Japanese identity are interrelated and (b) self-rated Japanese proficiency levels are also related to perceived vitality of the Japanese community. Cross-sectional analysis of the quantitative data additionally suggests that older hoshuukoo students identify

 Kimi Kondo-Brown

themselves more strongly as Japanese than their younger counterparts. Qualitative analysis further indicates that the hoshuukoo students feel that the school not only helps them learn Japanese, especially literacy skills, but also serves as a site where the students can socialize with peers from similar language backgrounds. Based on all of these findings, Chinen and Tucker argue that attendance at hoshuukoo may not only promote the development of Japanese proficiency but also foster a satisfying sense of ethnic group membership where the members identify themselves as Japanese-speaking bilingual/bicultural individuals. Chapter 6 by Shin investigates the alarming impact of the current test-driven American educational policies on HL education in general and East Asian languages in particular. Shin observes that high-stakes testing has come to exert a growing pressure on American education since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act and that the new testing requirements have created urgency and pressures on public school teachers and administrators to raise test scores on Englishonly tests. Shin also examines the effects of the testing requirements on HL maintenance based on interview data from immigrant parents and school teachers. Shin argues that the new American educational policies are likely to discourage HL learning in schools and offers suggestions for raising public awareness of the value of HL education despite the pressures that discourage it. Chapter 7 by Hayashi examines the effect of bilingual programs in promoting HL maintenance, bilingualism, and bilitearcy. In Hayashi’s study, survey and proficiency data were collected from 4th and 5th grade school children attending two different bilingual programs in the U.S. (n = 33): a Japanese bilingual program in California and a transitional bilingual program in Massachusetts. Equivalent data were also collected from Japanese child counterparts attending an English immersion program in Japan (n = 30) for comparison purposes. The data analysis indicates that, while the students in any of these programs generally have favorable attitudes toward bilingualism and toward Japanese language, there are significant differences in Japanese and English proficiency levels among the three groups. Correlational and regression analyses indicate that the speaking and writing proficiency scores of these students in either language are most strongly associated with their use of the respective language inside and outside of school. Based on these findings, Hayashi emphasizes that, in order to promote bilingualism and biliteracy among Japanese HL learners, concerted efforts by teachers, parents, and community individuals are essential to maintain balanced use of both languages inside and outside of school. Chapters 8–10 in the third section (Heritage Language Use and Proficiency: Associated and Predictive Factors) analyze a number of individual and social-psychological factors associated with or predictive of East Asian HL use or proficiency.

Chapter 1.  Introduction

Chapter 8 by E.J. Kim investigates what individual and social-psychological factors best predict Korean American college students’ (N = 120) maintenance of HL proficiency. Data were collected using a language background survey (both quantitative and qualitative data) and a Korean language proficiency test, which consists of vocabulary, grammar, writing, and reading comprehension subtests. Correlational analysis of quantitative data indicates that, first, such factors as age of immigration, schooling in Korea, intensity of HL use, Korean identity, and motivation are significantly related to Korean language proficiency. Second, regression analysis indicates that, among these factors, the intensity of HL use proved to be the best predictor of the Korean proficiency test scores. Analysis of qualitative data additionally reveals that those who maintain a higher level of Korean proficiency are more committed to maintaining Korean language and heritage, have had more parental involvement in maintaining the language, and use more Korean than those who are not as proficient. Chapter 9 by Man examines the relationships among Chinese HL learners’ L1 use and language contact variables (e.g., frequency of contact, stability of contact, etc.) as well as perceptions of ethnolinguistic vitality of the Chinese community. The participants were 115 children aged eight to 18 from Chinese immigrant families (mostly from Hong Kong) who had arrived in Canada at various ages (from 1 to 14). They attended community-based Chinese heritage schools in Toronto, Canada to maintain their Chinese heritage. The data on these students’ language use and contact in various contexts (e.g., home, school, as well as outside home and school), language attitudes, and vitality perceptions were collected. The data analysis indicates that these students’ use of Chinese in these settings is powerfully influenced by language contact variables and also by language attitudes and vitality and maintenance beliefs. Chapter 10 by Kondo-Brown examines the scope, methodologies, and findings of recent empirical research about individual and contextual factors associated with HL proficiency development in East Asian languages. It also examines the literature that reports how parents view and experience HL proficiency development. Kondo-Brown concludes that: (a) the East Asian HL learner population is highly heterogeneous in their reported or demonstrated proficiency levels due to large differences in the quality and frequency of contacts and use of the target HL, and (b) such differences in the amount of language contact and use are accounted for by a number of L1 background factors as well as social-psychological factors such as attitude, motivation, orientation, and vitality perception. On the basis of the research findings, Kondo-Brown suggests directions for future research concerning East Asian HL proficiency development. I hope that the studies in this collection will (a) promote research on East Asian HL development in applied linguistics, (b) encourage parental, community,


 Kimi Kondo-Brown

and national support for East Asian HL development, and (c) improve the teaching of heritage students’ oral as well as written skills in East Asian languages in various educational settings within and beyond the U.S. and Canada.

section 1

Heritage Language Development among East Asian Immigrant Families

chapter 2

The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development Case studies of Chinese immigrant children’s home practices Guofang Li

Michigan State University

Drawing on two ethnographic studies on Chinese immigrant families’ home literacy practices, this chapter addresses the issue of Heritage language (HL) loss and the role of parents in facilitating immigrant children’s HL maintenance and development in the home milieu. The results indicate that the parents as well as their ethnic communities play a significant role in their children’s HL maintenance, and they employ a variety of strategies and resources to facilitate their children’s first language learning. However, due to the lack of mainstream school and societal support, the parents experience different barriers in fostering the children’s positive attitudes toward HL learning, and their actions often did not match their beliefs. These findings suggest that relying on parents alone cannot help the immigrant children become bicultural and biliterate. More institutional support from policy makers and schools is needed.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2001 population survey, in 2050, one of the greatest increases in the U. S. population will be Asian Pacific American (Asian-American) (from 3.7% in 2000 to 8.9% in 2050), second only to Hispanics. In Canada, Asia and Pacific countries have become the leading source of immigration since the 1990s (53.01% in 2001), with China (including Hong Kong) being the No. 1 source country (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2002). In the Province of British Columbia (B.C.) alone, Asian immigrants accounted for 87.2% of its population growth during 1993–2000. With the increasing Asian (and Hispanic) immigration to North America, the issue of heritage language (HL) maintenance and development becomes more and more significant in shaping students’ language learning and identity formation in the host society.

 Guofang Li

Though HL learning has 300 plus years’ history in the U.S. and Canada, the field of HL education and learning has encountered various socio-political, sociopedagogical, and socio-cultural barriers in its advancement (Chow, 2001; Fishman, 2001a; Van Deusen-Scholl, 2003). There is a consensus among the research findings that language shift and language loss is widespread and HLs are usually not maintained and rarely developed among the different generations of immigrants (Krashen, 2000; Peyton, Ranard, & McGinnis, 2001; Wong Fillmore, 1991a). In light of these recurrent findings, researchers have generated much needed discussions and research agenda to help boost HL awareness and its education. In general, research has focused on three overarching areas. The first area is policy considerations. Fishman (2001a), Valdes (2001), and Van Deusen-Scholl (2003), for example, focused on the socio-political issues of HL education such as the definitions of HLs and HL learners, the debate on bilingual education, and the policy orientations concerning HL education. Researchers in this strand of research increasingly call for more collaborative efforts between institutions such as between government agencies and public schools and the immigrant homes/communities to help revive HL development. The second strand of research focused on the role of community language schools in the HL development including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language schools. For example, Shibata (2000) examined the community effort to open a Japanese HL school in a small town with low ethnolinguistic vitality. Chao (1996) and M. Li (2005) reported similar community efforts concerning Chinese HL schools. In these studies, the researchers emphasized the concerted efforts of parents in promoting HL maintenance. The third strand of research focuses on the socio-psychological relationship between HL learning and individual or group identity formation (Cho & Krashen, 1998; Kondo, 1997). For example, S.K. Lee (2002) and Cho (2004) made connections between HL maintenance and students’ school achievement and ethnic identity formation while many other researchers such as Kondo (1998) and Wong Fillmore (1991b, 2000) looked at first language loss. Other researchers such as Tse (2000) and Wharry (1993) analyzed the effects of ethnic identity formation on bilingual maintenance and development, focusing on various affective factors such as attitudes and motivation on ancestral language maintenance. Among these studies, a common finding is that parental attitudes toward their HL play a significant role in shaping the children’s HL use and their motivation to learn the language. These various strands of research, though focused on different dimensions of the same issue, have all alluded to the important role parents can play in HL learning and maintenance. In fact, more and more researchers (e.g., Fishman, 1991; G. Li, 2006a; Reyhner, 1995) have come to realize that the homes, not government policies or laws, are the key to minority/ heritage language preservation. Fishman (1991) argues that the home should be a protected domain for minority language

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development

development. In his view, public use of languages is of no great value unless the language in question is in full use in the home and community domains. Indeed, in the current socio-political climate in which school and government support for bilingual education is lacking, the responsibility to maintain and develop the HL falls mostly on the shoulder of the immigrant parents (Hinton, 1999). However, there is a paucity of research on parents’ practices undertaking such important tasks, especially in their home milieu. Most research on parents’ role in HL maintenance focused on either their efforts in community language schools (e.g., Chao, 1996; M. Li, 2005; Shibata, 2000) or their attitudes toward and awareness of bilingual education (e.g., Lai, 1999; Lao, 2004). Few studies have examined the specific strategies and practices immigrant parents employ and the ways they allocate resources in their home milieu to support. As a result, how HL is used, taught, and practiced in immigrant homes remains largely unknown. This chapter aims to fill this gap in research by examining the issue of HL use and the role of parents in facilitating immigrant children’s HL maintenance and development in the home milieu. Drawing on two ethnographic studies on Chinese immigrant families’ home literacy practices, I explore how parents (as well as their ethnic communities) play a significant role in their children’s HL maintenance, and the different strategies and resources they employ, as well as the barriers they encounter to facilitate their children’s first language learning. To better understand the Chinese parents’ home practices in HL maintenance at home, in the following, I review research findings on various factors that affect HL learning and development, particularly factors related to home influences.

Factors that affect heritage language maintenance and development Becoming bilingual has been proven to have many benefits. Children who are more motivated to learn their HL tend to have more positive outlook on their ethnic identity (Mills, 2001; Tse, 2000), better academic achievement (Lee, 2002), better social interactions and relationships with HL peers, and more personal gains (Cho, 2000). However, there are many external and internal factors that affect immigrant children’s attitudes toward and use of HL and hence their opportunities to gain these benefits. These factors can be socio-geographical, institutional and familial. One of the most important factors is related to ethnolinguistic vitality, that is, the status and prestige of a language as perceived by members of that language (Allard & Landry, 1992). In a multilingual society, a HL’s vitality is often linked to the symbolic role that people assign to the HL and the dominant language such as English. Parents or families who attach importance to maintaining and developing the language and emphasize the need to continue speaking the language often


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foster positive influence on the children’s perception of the language. Several studies on Latino families and communities (e.g., Schecter & Bayley, 2002; Vasquez, Pease-Alvarez & Shannon, 1994) have concluded that when immigrant families display positive attitudes toward bilingualism and accord an important role to HL in the formation of cultural identity, their children tend to have a positive attitude to the HL and hence more motivation to learn the language. In contrast, when families afford a more important role to English in their making-it in the mainstream society and view the HL as a hindrance to their fast rack to Americanization, their children show a consistent shift toward English. In addition to the parental or familial attitudes, the degree of home support also matters. Many researchers (e.g., Hinton, 1999; Kondo, 1997; Luo & Wiseman, 2000; Mills, 2001; Oh, 2003) have found that parents who explicitly display positive attitudes toward HL have strong influence on the children’s attitude as well as language use and proficiency. For example, when parents choose to use HL at home and enforce a HL-only policy at home, the children tend to develop more positive attitude toward the language and higher levels of proficiency in the language and they also would more likely to continue to use the language even after exposure to English compared with children whose parents do not make this effort (Hakuta & Pease-Alvarez, 1994; Oh, 2003). Guardado (2002) even suggests that the types of encouragement parents give to their children to speak the HL can have a facilitating or detrimental effect. For example, when parents use an authoritarian discourse that demands children to use HL at home tend to facilitate their language shift rather than preventing it whereas when parents use more positive and entertaining methods, children are more motivated. In addition to fostering a positive attitude, what parents actually do with their children in HL in the home milieu also play a significant role in HL maintenance. For example, parents who actively involve their children in everyday conversations, problem solving, and family interactions through the use of the HL tend to be successful in intergenerational transmission of the language. Furthermore, whether parents engage their children in HL literacy activities (in addition to orality) at home also matters. Children who are taught to read and write in HL and have consistent opportunities to interact in the HL through written texts tend to have more positive attitudes toward the language and are less likely to lose the language (Fishman, 1991; Schecter & Bayley, 2002; Vasquez, Pease-Alvarez & Shannon, 1994; Li, 1994). Besides these intergenerational influences, Tse (2001) in her study on successful bilinguals discovers that having a peer group that values the HL is also a critical factor. Such a peer group not only can help one develop positive attitudes toward the language, but also can socialize him/her into different literacy-related activities in the language. Another factor that is related to the ethno-linguistic vitality of a language is a member’s socio-geographic location. For immigrants who resettle in

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development

cities with high percentage of their ethnic representation (e.g., Vancouver, Toronto, and New York), HL is perceived to be more useful and prestigious than those who settle in cities with low ethnic representations. In cities with high HL vitality, members are exposed to a richer literacy environment and more variety of experiences with the language. For example, in their study of Spanish maintenance in two Latino communities, Schecter & Bayley (2002) found that in San Antonio where Latinos are a majority, Spanish has more vitality and is better maintained than that in San Francisco Bay Area where Latinos constitute a minority. A strong ethno-linguistic community therefore has a paramount importance in facilitating families’ efforts in HL maintenance. Several studies (e.g., Guardado, 2002; Vasquez, Pease-Alvarez & Shannon; 1994; Li, 1994) have shown that the community not only provides HL access and resources but also extensive social networks that are essential for children’s continued use and utility of the language outside home. Another important factor is contact with institutions that value the HL. These institutions include both those in the HL community such as weekend language schools and community organizations and those in non-heritage communities such as public schools. Support from institutions both inside and outside the ethnic communities can greatly shape an individual’s positive attitudes toward his/her HL. In HL community, students who receive formal instruction in weekend language schools and are involved in a variety of heritage cultural activities tend to develop more positive views of the language and are exposed to more varieties of literacy activities (Hinton, 1999; Oh, 2003; Tse, 2001). Similar positive attitudes can also be shaped by non-heritage communities when public schools value and validate minority cultures and languages in their instructional practices. Research has reported that when schools devalue students’ first language and enforce English-only policy it often results in students’ negative attitudes toward their first language and culture and their rapid language shift to English (G. Li, 2002, 2005; Valdes, 2001). In sum, many factors may affect children’s attitudes toward and use of HL. These factors are related to the access and exposure to literacy-related activities and children’s experiences with HL in the literacy environment (Tse, 2001). How are these factors played out in individual children and their families’ first language practices at home? In the following pages, drawing on two ethnographic studies in two Canadian cities, I explore how two Chinese families in different socio-geographic locations effect (or do not effect) HL use and learning at home.

Method In the following I provide a cross-case analysis of ethnographic data from two sites of research conducted in Vancouver and Saskatoon, Canada, using interviews and


 Guofang Li

participant observations. The purpose of this analysis is to aggregate multiple and mixed data sets together under a common conceptual theme to help lead to a better understanding of the different factors that influence Chinese HL learning and development in different socio-geographic locations. Following Merriam’s (1998) suggestion for cross-case analysis, a within-case analysis is first carried out to determine whether the separate studies have both the uniqueness and the commonality of participants’ experiences to be pooled together for a fresh analysis. Specifically, one family (focal child Anthony Chan) from a Vancouver site with high Chinese language vitality and one family (focal child Yang Li) from a Saskatoon site with low Chinese vitality were selected. Data for the Chan family were collected during the 2000–2001 school year while data for the Li family were collected during 1998–1999 school year. My fieldwork for Anthony Chan entailed weekly visits (one school day per week) to Anthony classroom. During the school visits, I observed Anthony’s interactions with peers and teachers, and took field notes of my observations. I also collected, read, and/ or photocopied samples of his written work. I had informal conversations with Anthony’s mother during the research process. Towards the end of the research project, I also conducted a semi-structured interview with her at her home. The interview was two hours long and was audio-recorded. Observations and informal interviews with the Li family took place weekly for eight months when I visited the Li’s apartment. These observations were usually one to three hours long and were recorded in field notes. Formal interviews with the Li parents took place toward the end of the research project. The interview lasted about two hours and was audio-recorded. Additionally, I collected samples of Yang’s writing and drawing, and participated in some of the games and activities Yang played with his parents. The commonality of the two focal children is that they both are in the elementary school, and both of their families highly value their first language learning. However, they differ in many ways. For example, Anthony Chan is a second-generation immigrant child who was born in Canada while Yang Li is a 1.5-generation immigrant child who was born in China. Once the two families were selected, a cross-case analysis that focused on HL learning is conducted to generate new insight in the home literacy practices. Such analysis allowed me to develop more sophisticated descriptions of how HL is practiced and maintained in the different families in different socio-cultural contexts (Miles & Huberman, 1994). 1. Anthony Chan’s family spoke mostly Cantonese though the parents could speak Mandarin, the standard Chinese. Yang Li’s family spoke mostly Mandarin though the parents could speak another dialect from their hometown. Since all dialects share the same written language and the parents referred to Chinese as their first language, in this article, Chinese, rather than the dialects, is used to refer to the HL.

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development

Case study of home practices in heritage language learning In the following, I provide an account of two families’ experiences maintaining their HL at home. As the description will demonstrate, though the families differ in many ways, they share many similarities in their experiences and their stories are unfortunately examples of early first language shift and loss. Yang Li’s experiences: Chinese as a bridge to English literacy The Li family is one of the new wave of immigrants who came from mainland China to further their studies in Canada. Mr. Li, a former engineer in China, first came in 1996 as a master’s student at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. Mrs. Li came a year later with their five-year-old son Yang Li. Also a former engineer, she now worked as a lab assistant on a casual basis at the University. Saskatoon is a medium sized city with a small number (4,000) of Chinese immigrants who were scattered in the city without forming a solid ethnic community. Though there was a weekend Chinese school run by the local Chinese community, the enrollment rate was low. The Li family lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor above a Chinese café, which was several blocks away from the University and one block away from Yang’s school. Though both parents have studied English in school in China, they both struggled with English, and besides work, they spent a lot of time trying to improve their English. Yang came to Canada with exceptional Chinese language ability. He was talkative and eloquent, and he spoke in the manner of an adult. He could carry a conversation with adults in Chinese for a long time, even on the telephone. Yang attended kindergarten for a year in China and could read and write many Chinese characters. When he first came to Canada, he did not know a single word of English. When he first went to the Canadian elementary school, he was called a “cry-boy” because he could not understand what was going on in the school and often cried when he got frustrated. In some classroom activities, although Yang knew quite a bit content in Chinese (for example, about animals), he could not make the teacher recognize his ability because of his language difficulty. Yang cried everyday when he came back from school. He asked his mom if he was stupid and told her that it was not very good to be Chinese. In order to teach him English, his father made bilingual word lists and flash cards in Chinese and English using the children’s books they borrowed from the public library. Both he and his wife taught Yang to read the bilingual word lists every day. Yang’s comprehension level in Chinese was much more advanced than his English ability. Though he could not read many of the English books, he often “read” them in Chinese by looking at the pictures. He was also a good storyteller and en-


 Guofang Li

joyed retelling stories in Chinese. He was very interested in space and big animals such as dinosaurs, and was able to retell information about many planets, and make up stories about them. For example, a story he retold in Chinese went like this: “In the space, the stars crashed. One UFO did not fly away. The UFO shined with light. The light was so hot that it melted all the other stars around it and they exploded.” Yang’s advanced Chinese literacy skills affected what he liked to read in English. For example, he did not like those books for beginners that his teacher sent home with him from school. In his words, they were “baby books”. On the contrary, he liked books with story lines and more words. His mother commented that he could understand some of the story lines by looking at the pictures, and could retell the stories in Chinese. But if he read line by line, those storybooks became discouraging because there were too many new words. Yang’s parents observed that since Yang was more developed in his Chinese literacy, he heavily depended on his Chinese to learn English. Mrs. Li noted: Yang learns the meaning of words in Chinese first. Unlike English as first-language learners who, once they learn how to read a word, understand the meaning. For Yang, the procedure is more complicated – he has to internalize the meaning in Chinese after learning a new English word, then he can get the meaning of the English words.

Realizing that Chinese was important for Yang’s English learning, Mr. and Mrs. Li tried hard to maintain Yang’s Chinese literacy skills in order for him to have a sense of language continuity when learning English. They continued to teach him Chinese characters using simple Chinese poems they downloaded from the Internet in the first couple of months after Yang started school in Canada. As Yang enjoyed listening to stories, Mrs. Li read him a Chinese story every night before he went to bed. She noticed that Yang already figured out different functions of English and Chinese, “It’s so strange that he knows the difference. It’s clear to him that English is something he has to learn, a necessity for school and for talking with other non-Chinese people. But to listen to Chinese stories is a pastime, a relaxing moment. I guess it’s the same as us.” In order to foster his continued development in Chinese, Mrs. Li borrowed Chinese children’s stories from other Chinese friends, stories from Chinese classics such as The Monkey King, and The Three Kingdoms. When they ran out of Chinese stories, they read the Chinese textbooks they brought from China. Besides reading Chinese storybooks, Yang’s parents also paid attention to his development in math and general knowledge building. For math, they used Chinese math textbooks to teach him additions and subtractions, and they also made up some math homework for Yang to complete everyday. For general knowledge building, Mr. Li often taught him geography of the world by reading books and

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development 

maps to Yang in Chinese. Six-year-old Yang already demonstrated amazing talent in geography, and he could locate most of the countries in the world on the map, and tell the geological features, the climate, and the animals of the country. For example, one day he pointed out Australia on the world map on the wall above his bed and told me in Chinese about Australia – the desert, kangaroos, and even the population. At a book sale in the downtown public library, Mr. Li bought an old Atlas of the Great Lakes. The atlas soon became Yang’s favorite. He read all the charts and illustrations and compared the sizes of Detroit, Chicago and Toronto. After being in Canada for almost a year, Yang made significant progress in English learning. He could speak English in different contexts, and read books in English on his own. Seeing that Yang could now read English words on his own, Mr. and Mrs. Li gradually reduced Yang’s Chinese learning. They no longer typed bi-lingual wordlists for him or taught him Chinese characters using poems from the Internet. Instead, they now focused more on his improvement in English reading and writing by asking Yang to read aloud the books in English and then copy the books several times. They identified some strong Chinese interference in Yang’s spoken English. For example, Yang had little sense of plural forms or tenses in English because there are no similar rules for tense change in the Chinese language. To help him acquire good English, they decided not to send Yang to learn Chinese or teach him Chinese themselves until his English had reached native-like proficiency. Although they want him to learn Chinese, they think that learning Chinese will negatively influence his progress in English. They admitted that it was not a good thing to stop his training in Chinese, “but we have no choice. Right now his English is not good enough. If we add Chinese to him, it’s not good for his English.” Besides reading and writing in English, Yang’s progress in English gradually allowed him to be immersed in English TV programs and videos. He loved watching cartoons on TV such as The JP, The Simpsons, Bugs Bunny, and CBC Playground and English videos such as Air Force One and Speed. He also showed strong interest in collecting hockey cards and several pop stars and bands such the Spice Girls, Back Street Boys and Shania Twain. As Yang’s English progressed, his ability in Chinese was receding. Mrs. Li started to notice that Yang began to lose his oral Chinese ability, “He couldn’t express himself as well as before. He got very frustrated sometimes because he could not remember some words. Now he uses some English words to replace them. But sometimes he does not have the English words either.” He also began to lose his ability to read and write the Chinese characters he learnt before. For example, he wanted to write to his grandparents in China, but he could not. He told his mom what he wanted to say to them and she wrote it down in Chinese. He then copied her mom’s writing and sent it to China. It was hard for him to write this way. He

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said, “I forgot most of my Chinese!” So now when he missed his grandma, he just wrote in English. Yang’s language shift and his new interests in Western culture made his parents realize the overwhelming influence of the larger English environment. Even though they continued to speak Chinese at home and socialize among the Chinese circle of friends, Mr. Li noticed that they could not do much to change the inevitable tendency in Yang’s new identity formation: I guess if Yang lives in this environment, he’ll experience some difficulty [in keeping his Chinese identity]. Once you’re in this environment, you can’t avoid the influence of the so-called Western culture. They receive it in school; it’s shown on TV and in movies. You can’t detach from it. But he’ll have some Chinese influence from us too. I expect the culture in him in the future will be 20% Chinese, 80% Western. He’s been in Canada less than a year, and Western culture influence is already dominant. Ten years later, it would be stronger and stronger.

Anthony Chan’s experiences: “I was supposed to know Chinese but I don’t.” Different from the Li family, the Chan family represented the immigrants who came from Hong Kong because of its return to China in 1997. They came to Canada in 1987 before the big rush of immigration in the 1990s, and they settled in a predominantly Chinese community in Riverview, British Columbia where Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) was the main language of communication. As Mrs. Chan noted, “There’re many Chinese here…We have Chinese grocery stores, Chinese restaurants…sometimes I feel as if I live in Hong Kong, especially in this neighborhood.” Mrs. Chan had post-secondary education in Hong Kong and was an executive secretary before moving to Canada. She was now working as an executive assistant in a children’s hospital, and was also taking courses in alternative medicine. Mr. Chan received an undergraduate degree in Hong Kong and a master’s degree from the U.S. Before moving to Canada, he worked as an advertising agent first in New York, then in Hong Kong for a few years. Now he worked as a print marketer in Riverview. Both of them could speak fluent English and Chinese, but according to Mrs. Chan, Mr. Chan was not proficient in Chinese writing as he did not like it and could only write if it was “simple and straightforward.” Seven-year-old Anthony was born and raised in Canada, and was their only child. He was in the second grade, and his English was at the grade level. In school, he appeared quite nervous and rigid. In the first year when he drew pictures, he usually drew tiny, tiny pictures and pressed very hard with the pencils until there was a big hole in the paper. He had also developed a tacit way of avoiding learning in school. His teacher noted that “he behaves in a very quiet way, and he doesn’t act out behaviorally. But he is …resisting passively.” Because of his attitude, he was

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development

not doing the best he could, and “he is not very spontaneous, and you don’t feel a lot of creative ideas in his writing. He stays in a very safe zone.” For example, his descriptions of events often appeared to be very “dry” without much detail. He wrote, “When I went to the doctor I got a shot. I think I was five years old when I took that shot.” “The Gingerbread Man is running away from the grandma.” He was very cautious about speaking up and participating in classroom activities. Since the school enforced an unofficial English-only policy, Anthony, like many other Chinese children, rarely showed that he knew Chinese and never spoke Chinese in school. When asked about his Chinese, he said, “I don’t know how. I’m supposed to know, but I don’t know. My mom and dad always speak to me in English at home.” At home, Anthony was a busy child. He was enrolled in six different afterschool classes including Chinese: (a) swimming lessons once or twice a week; (b) kickboxing lessons once a week Tuesday (to learn self-defense and self-discipline); (c) piano lessons once a week on Sunday and practice nearly every day; (d) Chinese lessons two hours per week on Saturday; (e) soccer games and practice once a week on Saturday; and (f) math school several times a week (this was dropped later due to his teacher’s suggestion, but continued at home by his father using math textbooks from Hong Kong). Because of these different lessons and the longevity of his eating habits (which usually took about an hour and half to three hours to spoon-feed him at dinner), that they “don’t have much time to read” at home. Even if he had time to read, he often read English storybooks. Despite his own denial of knowing Chinese, Anthony attended a weekend Chinese school every week to learn how to read and write in Chinese. He told me, “I’m in level one Chinese. I go once a week. We have class for about two hours. We have a lot of homework, writing Chinese.” He drew a picture of himself writing Chinese at home (Figure 1). Anthony did not like Chinese classes and considered learning Chinese very hard and boring. He enjoyed reading English storybooks (such as the Franklin series) and watched English cartoons (such as pokemon and digimon) at home. A few years ago, he was able to watch some Chinese TV programs at home but because he (or his parents) they rarely watched it so they unsubscribed the programs. Now Anthony was occasionally exposed to the Chinese radio when his parents listened to it sometimes.


 Guofang Li

Figure 1. Anthony writes Chinese at home.

Note. This figure is from Li, G. (2006b). Culturally contested pedagogy: Battles of literacy and schooling between mainstream teachers and Asian immigrant parents (p. 117). Albany: SUNY Press.

Mrs. Chan considered Anthony’s English to be better than his Chinese. She noticed that Anthony sometimes used “Chinglish,” that is, he spoke English sentences “in Hong Kong style.” She was not happy about this hybrid English as she did not want him to pick up a Hong Kong accent, “I want him to learn real English.” For this reason, Mr. and Mrs. Chan decided to speak to him in English at home. In terms of dealing with the two cultures, though they lived in a predominantly Chinese community, the Chans considered themselves more open-minded in raising Anthony in the Canadian culture: …Because of the kind of the work we do, we have lots of interaction with people from different culture. We are in a better position than those people who don’t work or work in companies owned by Chinese. We observe more [Western] things than the traditional Chinese family. Every St. Patrick’s Day, we and Anthony wear green…and Christmas, we don’t usually put up a tree…We don’t observe Chinese festivals as much. Chinese New Year is something important, and we give out red packages. But other festivals, we don’t even remember. Like, the dragon boat festivals, sometimes I don’t even remember.

Even though they considered their home culture was a mix, both Mr. and Mrs. Chan believed that it was important for Anthony to learn his first language Chinese. They all wanted him to know both languages. Although they did not expect him to be able to write Chinese, they wanted him to know how to speak and to learn how to write some basic characters in the language (e.g., writing his name). Mrs. Chan commented, “I think it is important to have both languages. Even if one

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development 

is proficient in English, I don’t think that’s enough. People will look at you as Chinese and they expect you to know Chinese.” Originally they wanted him to go to the Chinese school twice a week on Saturdays and Sundays, but Anthony refused to go, so they made him attend Chinese school only once a week. Mr. and Mrs. Chan noticed Anthony’s resistance to learning Chinese. Even if they spoke Chinese to Anthony, he would reply in English. Sometimes when Mr. and Mrs. Chan insisted, and Anthony wanted something desperately, he would reply in Chinese. Otherwise he “refused to use Chinese” even though he knew how. The Chans tried to force him to speak Chinese on weekends, but it was hard to follow through because of Anthony’s reluctance to comply. Gradually, they had to use English to communicate with him. Mrs. Chan could not figure out why he started to reject Chinese as she remembered that in preschool Anthony was actually bilingual and preferred to use Chinese. She recalled Anthony’s change in his choice of language use: I don’t know why. When he was in preschool, there were a lot of Chinese, and most of them, a lot of them moved from Hong Kong recently. They don’t speak English at all. When they came to preschool, they all like to play with him because he speaks English and Chinese. We had a Filipino nanny, so he spoke with her in English even when he was very little. So he knows both. By the time he was 3 he went to preschool. I didn’t like when they all spoke Chinese at preschool. My husband actually talked to the teacher, and she said, “There is nothing I can do because I don’t understand what they are talking about.” And the same thing happened when he went to kindergarten. But since he was in grade 1, the first few months, he spoke some Chinese but then I think children are learning to speak English already, so he refused to speak Chinese.

Despite the fact that Anthony did not like to use Chinese, he still dutifully went to Chinese school every Saturday and did his Chinese homework. Mrs. Chan told me that the Chinese homework was almost all the writing Anthony did at home. Realizing that Anthony had lost his first language, Mrs. Chan commented, “I think from a family [perspective], their children won’t be able to speak English and [parents] want them to be speaking in English. But they don’t know that with time, they will lose their Chinese.”

Understanding the families’ home practices: A discussion From a school point of view, both Yang Li and Anthony Chan’s experiences could be seen as success stories as both children succeeded in achieving English literacy (Wong Fillmore, 2000). However, the price they paid for their success is that both children quickly lost their HLs with only one year of public school experiences.

 Guofang Li

Yang Li and Anthony Chan’s home practices and their rapid language loss suggest that there are many school and home factors that affect their HL development. Ethnolinguistic vitality is not a determining factor Though the two children’s families differ in many ways, they seemed to have followed a similar path to language loss. Yang Li came from a family with limited financial resources and resided in a community where Chinese was viewed to have low ethnolinguistic vitality. Besides his home environment and a few social occasions with Chinese friends, Yang was seldom exposed to Chinese literacy activities or environmental print in Chinese. On the contrary, Anthony came from a financially better-off family and resided in a community where Chinese was deemed to have a high status. Anthony had more literacy access in the community whether it was in restaurants, grocery stores or his various after-school classes. However, both children experienced language loss. This result suggests that ethnolinguistic vitality of the HL may not matter in one’s motivation to learn the language as some researchers have argued (e.g., Tse, 2001). Rather, influences from powerful institutions such as public schools and families may have much stronger impact on learners’ decision to learn or not learn the language. Forces from more powerful institutions matter Both Yang and Anthony had received formal instruction in Chinese from different sources. For Yang Li, he first received instruction in his Chinese kindergarten school and then from his parents in his initial months in Canada. For Anthony, he had been receiving formal instruction from a weekend Chinese language school. These instructional support from both home and community schools undoubtedly helped develop their levels of proficiency in Chinese, it is however limited in its impact on the children’s motivation to become better Chinese language learners. Though their reluctance to learn the language might be related to the rigid methods that are often characterized Chinese instruction, I contend that forces from more powerful institutions such as the public schools may have played a much more significant role in shaping the learners’ attitudes toward Chinese learning. For Yang Li, his initial negative experiences in the public school may have shaped his negative perceptions of the value of the Chinese language and the meaning of being Chinese. For Anthony Chan, the school’s English-only policy may have sent him the message that Chinese is not valued or welcomed and therefore he needed to pretend that he did not know any Chinese. As Wong Fillmore (2000) described: Children in such situations, irrespective of background or age, are quick to see that language is a social barrier, and the only way to gain access to the social world

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development 

of the school is to learn English. The problem is that they also come to believe that the language they already know the one spoken at home by their families, is the cause of the barrier to participation, inclusion, and social acceptance. They quickly discover that in the social world of the school, English is the only language that is acceptable. The message they get is this: “The home language is nothing: it has no value at all.” If they want to be fully accepted, children come to believe that they must disavow the low status language spoken at home. (pp. 207–208)

What parents do or do not do is vital Lastly, forces from the families played a determining role in shaping the children’s attitudes and learning experiences. That is, what parents do or do not do to support their children’s HL matters. Though all the parents believed that it was important to learn Chinese, their beliefs, however, were not translated into action. In fact, in both families’ actual practices, they believed that Chinese was a hindrance to their children’s English development, especially accent acquisition and grammar learning. Yang Li’s parents, for example, stopped teaching him Chinese reading and writing in fear of its interference in his English learning. Anthony’s parents decided to speak English rather than Chinese to him to support his English learning. These attitudes and actions inevitably validated similar messages the children already received from the public schools and the wider society. Due to these erroneous perceptions, the parents in the two families did not make full use of the resources they had to provide a variety of access to and opportunities for different literacy activities conducive to successful HL learning. For example, Yang Li’s family did not take advantage of the local Chinese school to foster his continued development in Chinese. In order for him to learn English quickly, they did not enforce a Chinese-only home environment either. Instead, they allowed Yang to gradually move to use English at home. For Anthony, though the family made use of the community Chinese language school, they did not reinforce his learning at home by providing him with access to a variety of oral or written Chinese. Though they tried Chinese-only weekend, they were not forceful in the actually implementation of such a policy at home. In sum, a multitude of factors from different sources resulted in the two children’s rapid first language loss. These factors from school and home suggest that maintaining a HL is an extremely difficult task for parents no matter where they are situated and what backgrounds they come from. Efforts and support from different sources need to work together to ensure successful HL maintenance.

 Guofang Li

Learning from the two families: conclusions and implications Wong Fillmore (2000) argued that language loss is not a necessary or inevitable outcome when children acquire a second language. When learners have adequate support from parents, schools and the larger community, they can be resilient and achieve success in becoming bilinguals (Tse, 2001). The two families’ home practices and their children’s experiences suggest that both parents and educators need to work collaboratively in helping learners become bilingual and biliterate. First, parents and educators from public schools can help foster positive attitudes toward learners’ HLs by valuing its use in both school and home. Both school educators and immigrant parents need to be informed of research findings that HL learning benefits English language learning, rather than hinders it. For parents, such an understanding will help them form the right attitudes toward the HL, pass on these positive attitudes and values to their children, and make better decisions on what they do at home to promote HL learning. That is, they can emphasize the value of the language through both their beliefs and their actions. With the understanding that becoming bilingual can be advantageous for students’ cognitive and academic development, schools that endorse English-only practices should establish bi-lingual policies that allow learners to use both English and HLs in school setting. Teachers also need to learn how to foster bilingual and biliteracy development through instruction. For example, they can learn about how to foster positive transfers from one language to another or use one language as a basis to learn the other. Second, parents need to work closely with their ethnic community to ensure HL maintenance in their children. They need to use whatever resources available to foster their children’s continued development in the language especially in communities with low ethnolinguistic vitality. As Yang and Anthony’s experiences demonstrate, relying on the family efforts alone (e.g., Yang) or the community schools’ efforts alone (e.g., Anthony) would not lead to fruitful results. Parents need to reinforce their children’s continuing effort to learn and use their first languages at home, for example, by constantly speaking to the children in the language or engaging them in a variety of authentic reading and writing activities. As mentioned earlier, parents can also adopt a HL-only policy at home. In addition to these efforts, parents also need to make use of community resources such as the Chinese language schools to develop their children’s literacy skills. Researchers have found that many Chinese parents view the Chinese schools as a place of ethnic networking and often do not have high expectations on the schools to help their children develop high levels of literacy skills (Chao, 1996; Lao, 2004; M. Li, 2005). Such perceptions may adversely lower the demands they put on the community schools to achieve high standards, and hence hinder their children’s

Chapter 2.  The role of parents in heritage language maintenance and development

opportunities to achieve success in HL literacy. Therefore, parents need to not only make use of the community schools, but also participate in the decision-making of the school in terms of raising its expectations and standards. Their active participation will in turn have positive impact on their children’s perceptions of their HLs. In conclusion, parents can play a significant role in shaping their children’s success in HL learning. However, achieving such success will require concerted efforts between parents, public schools, and community organizations. Such broadbased efforts will benefit not only the HL learners and their ethnic communities, but also the nation as a whole.


chapter 3

Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning Experiential narratives of Japanese immigrant families in Canada Mitsuyo Sakamoto Sophia University

This chapter examines reasons for first language (L1) maintenance among Japanese immigrant families residing in Toronto, Canada, by conducting life history research (Cole & Knowles, 2001). The data are then analyzed using activity theory (Engeström, 1999). The findings indicate that L1 is viewed as a vehicle for establishing and retaining strong family cohesion while second language (L2) is seen as indispensable socio-economic capital (Bourdieu, 1991). As L1 is predominantly used orally at home, oral L1 development is nurtured while the written forms and honorific discourses are not actively used and enforced by some parents. This chapter explains how bilinguality among immigrant families often disappears after two generations as the language of intimacy is quickly replaced by L2. The chapter calls for a more collaborative and inclusive approach to assure ethnolinguistic vitality and continuity.

According to the 2001 Canadian census data (Statistics Canada, 2001), of the half million residents of the largest Canadian metropolitan city of Toronto, approximately one in every four people’s mother tongue is neither English nor French, the two official languages of Canada. The cultural and linguistic diversity with which this city has been endowed is a national wealth, yet heritage language (HL) promotion and maintenance have been largely neglected. There has been considerable debate on the relationship between English learning and first language (L1) loss, some arguing that there is little or any relationship between early exposure to dominant language and L1 loss (e.g., Pease-Alvarez & Hakuta, 1993) while others claim the possibility of L1 quickly succumbing to the majority language (e.g., Wong Fillmore, 1991b, 1991c; Fishman, 1991; 2001a; 2001b), and immigrant parents are left in uncertainties as to how exactly their children’s SLA will impact their L1. However, given a risk for language shift among minorities (Fishman, 1991), I

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

wished to explore why certain families actually choose to pursue L1 child-rearing. In order to explore this, I turned to five Japanese immigrant families who have raised or are raising bi- and trilingual children in Toronto.

Why maintain a language? Defining bilingualism Competence in two languages, while it was deemed inauspicious in earlier times (Cummins, 1984a), is reported to be beneficial to both cognitive and linguistic development (Ben-Zeeb, 1977; Hakuta & Diaz, 1985; Verhoeven, 1991, 1994). However, a common perception of bilinguals as the “sum of two monolinguals in one person” (Grosjean, 1989) is prevalent even today. That is, in line with the notion of “ideal bilinguals” (Skutnabb-Kangas,1984), bilinguals are often misunderstood as having equivalent language capacity in both L1 and second language (L2). However, Grosjean (1989) reminds us how language learning is highly domain specific. Particular context gives rise to a particular language use and patterns, shaping the vocabulary, syntax and register. It is not difficult to understand how the life of a bilingual would not consist of identical contexts in L1 and L2, as different languages are learned and used in different domains. English may be the language of choice at school, but L1 may be the preferred language at home, and this distinction gives rise to particular language forms the bilingual child will acquire. In this paper, the term “bilingual” is used not to reflect the unrealistic notion of ideal bilinguals. Rather, it is based on the perception of both the parents interviewed in this study as well as that of the researcher in determining the bilinguality of the children of participants. This perception mostly derived from the oral functionality of the bilingual child who conversed with the parents mainly, if not exclusively, in L1 (i.e., Japanese) at home. Their native-like performance in terms of L1 conversation skills was deemed to be sufficient to label them as JapaneseEnglish bilinguals. Consequences for a first language loss Even with a plethora of research that report on the positive effects of bilingualism (e.g., Ben-Zeeb, 1977; Cummins, 1981b,1984a, 1989, 1991a, 1991b, 1991c, 1991d, 1993, 1996, 2000; Hakuta & Diaz, 1985; Verhoeven, 1991), many immigrant families are not pursuing bilingual child-rearing. Why is this the case? First, new immigrants are usually eager and determined to integrate into the society (Kouritzin, 1999, p. 19). They espouse dominant ideologies, envisioning L2 (in this case, English) as the language of power and prestige – a highly desired

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

commodity (Bourdieu, 1991). The prevalent misconception of L1 as a deterrent, or an interference, in learning L2 can discourage immigrant parents to abandon L1 maintenance altogether (see Kondo-Brown [Chapter 10], this volume). In fact, many immigrant parents, including those in this study, are often advised by wellintentioned teachers to switch to English use at home. It is not difficult to predict some grave detrimental effects the use of English at home can have on a child as well as on the parents. Limited L2 proficiency use at home can only encourage limited L2 development, resulting in a prolonged discomfort with L2 as well as possibilities for fossilization of L2 errors on the part of children (Kouritzin, 1999, p. 192). Aside from linguistic struggles, the family dynamic between the parents and children can lead to a tragic shift where the respect for parents quickly gets replaced by a feeling of animosity, resentment, frustration, and contempt by the children whose L2 oral proficiency quickly exceeds that of the adults (Wong Fillmore, 1991b). While inversion of authority in immigrant families alone is disconcerting, immigrant parents need to fight against particular social ascriptions they are assigned by schools. For example, immigrant parents are often misinterpreted as those who are indifferent, impartial, uninterested and uninvolved in the academic performance of their children (Cummins, 1996; Soto, 1997). This is far from the truth. Successful academic achievement is something any good parent would want to have for their children. Yet, given the limited English knowledge or the dominant culture, immigrant parents are often left in the dark to cope with child-rearing in a foreign context. For this reason, the Japanese community in Toronto initiated the establishment of various organizations themselves that serve their community. For example, the Japanese Language School of Toronto Shokokai Inc., commonly known as the “hoshuukoo” (supplementary Japanese school), is one that caters to Japanese children who need to keep up their L1 and heritage culture (C1) knowledge at par with the children in Japan so that the transition will be smooth once they return to Japan. Immigrant children often attend other Japanese language schools whose focus is more on the language itself, ranging in demands from being very rigorous and intensive to relaxed. Heritage language, in this sense, carries various meanings for the Japanese and Japanese-Canadians in Toronto. For 1. Currently there are several Japanese schools in Toronto, including Japanese School of Toronto Shokokai Inc. (commonly known as “hoshuukoo”) which caters to Japanese children who will be returning to Japan after a few years living abroad. The purpose of hoshuukoo is to provide students with subject knowledge so that they will be able to quickly make the transition upon their return to Japan (see Chinen & Tucker, this volume). For this reason, the school offers subjects other than the Japanese language, such as mathematics, science, history and geography, and they use the same text books as those used in Japan. On the other hand, other schools such as Toronto Kokugo Kyoshitsu, Nisshu Gakuin, and Nikka Gakuen all provide instructions that focus on Japanese language development. The clientele includes children from immigrant families and inter-ethnic couples.


 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

example, children who come from inter-ethnic marriages have different needs and demands compared to children who come from mono-ethnic families who are planning to return to Japan in later years. Similarly, the first generation Japanese (i.e., Issei) and the third generation families (i.e., Sansei) have different linguistic expectations and demands. In order to meet different needs and expectations, Toronto currently has several different Japanese language schools. Later in this paper we will see how L1 and L2 are learned in different social domains on the part of bilingual children, and this schism, ironically, was interpreted as the integral component in maintaining the L1. This implies that, while immigrant parents aspire to full integration of their children in the dominant society, they are left to isolate themselves and pursue L1 maintenance among themselves, detached from social infrastructures established by the dominant culture (i.e., Canadian public schools). This results in the disenfranchisement of immigrant families from the dominant society. A dilemma between desires to integrate and the necessity to disengage from the society at large – this is something many immigrant parents endure for the sake of their children’s well-being. This dilemma of theirs is often not given the appropriate recognition or concern by educators. Instead, immigrant parents are given an ascription of incompetence and disinterest in promoting successful education for their children. Worse, we find this ascription internalized and accepted on the part of immigrant parents and children themselves (e.g., Kouritzin, 1999, p. 198), adding to the vulnerability of minority families. Advising immigrant parents to use English at home, as mentioned earlier, masks how educators have treated the minority families as second-class citizens. The ascribed relegated social status further reinforces immigrant parents’ desires for their children to integrate into the dominant culture and gain membership in the dominant community. For this reason, minority parents are often marveled and thrilled to see how well and how quickly their children learn English when the children are younger (Wong Fillmore, 1991b, 1991c) without realizing the possible long-term consequences of L1 loss. Their L1 is often not envisioned as a desirable commodity accruing social and financial wealth, so it is understandable how many parents abandon L1 use at home. In order to raise bilinguals, it requires effort and financial resources on the part of parents, having to strictly adhere to L1 use at home, to send their children to L1 schools, or to make frequent visits back to the home country (See Kondo (1997) for further discussions pertaining to Japanese mothers’ influences on their children’s language development). Unless there is a sure and worthy pay-back in return, it is not difficult to see why many opt out of pursuing bilingual child-rearing. I argue that intimacy achieved among family members is the primary reason why immigrant parents choose to maintain the L1 at home. Without intimacy and care parents will not be able to establish and sustain family cohesion. In turn, with-

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

out language, the task of establishing such cohesion is infeasible. Throughout the interviews, the majority of the participants indicated their familiarity with other immigrant parents’ failed attempts to establish rapport with their children, where the children grow up to be disrespectful towards the parents (See also Wong Fillmore, 1991b, 1991c). Having witnessed such tragic cases, participants in this study made a deliberate choice to maintain Japanese at home, irrespective of counterarguments they may have received along the way. Abandoning L1 use at home is simple. They were encouraged by well-intentioned teachers to use more English at home. Yet my participants chose to maintain L1. All participants did mention how they would have abandoned L1 use if they were all fluent in L2. They all attribute their choice of L1 maintenance to their limited L2. However, while this might be the case, it is important to realize how they could have adhered to incomplete L2 practice at home. For example, it is not uncommon to find immigrant households where the parents speak in L1 but the children respond in L2. This might be a compromise that works relatively well, and this arrangement could have been one of the possible choices my participants could have made. However, they opted not to. Exclusive L1 use and the demand for a fuller L1 development were found among all my participants. The absolute necessity of language to communicate makes L1 an indispensable tool for parents whose L2 is limited. While my participants maintained L1 at home by choice, it is somewhat ironic to realize how the disenfranchisement on the part of immigrant parents from the rest of the society gives rise to a condition that promotes L1 maintenance. One might argue that the overall success of French immersion programs in Canada (Swain, 1996) is a counter-argument to the necessity for social isolation described above. However, French as L1 knowledge cannot be confused with another language as L1 in a Canadian context. French, along with English, is the official language of Canada, providing social status and privilege that other nonofficial languages do not enjoy. Often high profile occupations in Canada – be it diplomats, politicians, and so on – require bilingual fluency in both French and English. One can acknowledge that it is a language of necessity to gain access to an elite community. In contrast, Japanese is viewed differently. It is a language that would be beneficial to have in addition to English and French – not something that can be of social and economic value on its own. Foreign language knowledge is deemed as something extra in climbing a social ladder. Given many discouraging factors that are counter-nurturing in promoting bilinguality in languages other than English and French in Canada, it is not surprising that L1 use is not necessarily widely practiced among immigrant families. Even in cases where HL maintenance is found in immigrant households, this maintenance is often short-lived. L1 is appreciated not so much as a language

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

of economical benefits, but rather as a tool for intimacy and affection among immigrant families. The second-generation, who grow up to be bilinguals, no longer resort to L1 use once they themselves become parents. For this reason, language vitality is not something that is commonly sustained beyond two generations, unless the language can be assigned power and prestige that the majority language enjoys (see Man, this volume). Cummins and Danesi (1990) describe the reality of language extinction as the depletion of national linguistic resources. Academic success and second language proficiency Given the importance of English knowledge in Canada, parents are worried about the possible ill effects L1 maintenance can bear on L2 learning. Specifically, academic success is measured by the L2, and not L1, proficiency, and it is not surprising to see how this is often the parents’ primary concern (see Li, this volume). Children are described as efficient and quick language learners when they are young, bringing astonishment as well as a sense of pride for parents who themselves struggle in mastering the L2 (Wong Fillmore, 1991c). Language learning on the part of young children can appear perfect and rosy, picking up native speakerlike accents and idiomatic expressions (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1984). As immigrant children are described to have gained L2 oral proficiency much quicker than L2 academic proficiency (Cummins, 1996), parents as well as educators are often illequipped to realize the linguistic difficulties that bilingual children may encounter. Children’s L1 as well as L2 vocabulary growth is one area that would be of concern to immigrant families. Pearson, Fernândez and Oller (1995) conducted a study consisting of 24 Spanish-English bilingual children aged three years and younger. They were compared to 35 monolingual children using four measures of lexical knowledge: English, Spanish, the total vocabulary (i.e., lexicon in English and Spanish combined minus the common words) and the total conceptual vocabulary which measured the lexical concepts. The result showed that the bilingual children’s vocabulary size in each language was smaller compared to the monolingual children. However, when the combined knowledge in two languages was compared to the monolinguals, the two groups displayed comparable vocabulary size. In a society that acknowledges and values both L1 and L2 knowledge, bilinguals will not be disadvantaged, given the comparable vocabulary size when the L1 and L2 lexical knowledge is combined. However, in a world where L1 knowledge is largely neglected and only the L2 knowledge is assigned importance, it is obvious that bilingual children are in a struggle to meet the demands of performing at par with their monolingual peers.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

One might argue that lexical knowledge is only a mere dimension of the multifaceted phenomenon of bilingualism. However, lexical knowledge is a particularly important form of knowledge, as Cummins (2000) describes vocabulary knowledge as the primary indicator of language proficiency level. Corson (2001) also notes how lexical knowledge assigns particular social status, thus defining the location of the individual in a social sphere. Corson (1995; 2001) describes the two sets of vocabulary types found in English language: Anglo-Saxon words and Graeco-Latinate words. Anglo-Saxon vocabulary refers to words found frequently in everyday speech. In contrast, Graeco-Latinate words are those which are used infrequently and found mostly in academic writing. As the demand for such elevated, academic vocabulary knowledge is low when the children are younger, combined with their native speaker-like oral skills, the children’s L2 performance is often interpreted by the parents and the educators as unproblematic. However, troubles begin to manifest once children reach their teens. There is an increasing demand for academic literacy, and for those children who do not have access to academic L2 literature outside the classroom, it proves to be a challenging task to acquire the necessary Graeco-Latinate vocabulary needed for academic success. As Grosjean (1989) points out, L1 and L2 are learned in a domain-specific way, whereby school and home impose their unique literacy practices. Given this reality, the lack of L2 academic input on the part of minority children needs to be addressed and compensated by the school. Immigrant parents making a difference Home language policy and use is one of the major life decisions immigrant parents must make on behalf of their children. Their decision is critical, possibly having a long-term impact on the life trajectory of their children. For this reason, language maintenance, or abandonment, needs to be an informed, carefully planned decision. However, instead, they are often ill-advised, not given any sufficient guidance or feedback from educators, policy makers, or researchers. Rather, they are found to rely mostly on word of mouth from other immigrant parents in their own community. When the matter concerns the well-being of their children, immigrant parents, no matter how limited their L2 proficiency might be, are active in seeking the optimal way to raise their children in a foreign context (see Li, this volume). As parents, they have strong desires to have an intimate, caring relationship with their children, wanting to be actively involved in their children’s lives. For this reason, when their L2 is limited, L1 is not something they can give up easily. Many parents, without consultation with or support from local schools or educators, opt

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

for taking L1 teaching in their own hands. For example, Cummins and Danesi (1990) report: …more than 69,000 students are enrolled in 369 heritage language schools operated by ethnocultural community groups that receive funding from the federal government’s Cultural Enrichment Program…While no fees are involved for the program funded by the Ontario government…, the major costs for additional class time operated by community groups are borne by the parents on a fee-paying basis. (p. 38)

As we will see later in this paper, parents find viable ways to vitalize the L1 and sustain a strong family cohesion at home. Ironically, this complete separation of L1 and L2 does seem to promote the development of the two languages. Schools taking on the responsibility of L2 education and parents looking after L1 teaching at home – this arrangement appears to have certain temporary effects and benefits, but its long-term consequences are unpromising as they only compromise the full and continuous development of L1 and L2. That is, only particular registers and genres of languages unique to the particular context are learned, resulting in unbalanced language development. The clear separation of L1 and L2 teaching also contributes to the perpetual silencing of immigrant voices, whereby the members of the dominant society are unaware of the struggles and challenges minority families face in maintaining L1 at home. Worse, by internalizing the dominant ideologies that deem L2 as the only language that matters, the minorities themselves are often unaware of the silencing of their own voices and the long-term consequences of their approach in maintaining L1 at home. Finally, as long as the dominant society remains incognizant of the mechanism of HL maintenance, or non-maintenance for that matter, social structures and values will retain their status quo. This further contributes to the ascription of power and status to L2 knowledge alone, relegating L1 as the insignificant language that virtually carries no socio-economic values. All these factors feed into the vicious circle of language extinction (Fishman, 2001b) in which endangered languages disappear after two generations. In sum, systemic annihilation of minority language is socio-economically determined, and its execution is embedded in our everyday practices. Unless this status quo can be intervened in prescriptive, functional ways (Fishman, 2001c), disappearance of heritage languages will remain a norm.

2. See also Balderas, 195l; Delgado-Gaitan, 1994; McCaleb, 1994; Torres-Guzman, 1995; and Weinstein-Shr & Quintero, 1995 for more examples of minority parents’ active involvement in their children’s education.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

Research questions This study aimed to provide descriptive accounts of the experiences of raising bilingual children in a Canadian context with the focus on socio-cultural factors that are found to be conducive to language maintenance. Specifically, the research questions are as follows: 1. What factors influence immigrant parents’ language choice for their children? 2. What social support is there that is conducive to language learning and maintenance? What are the dynamics among these social supports? 3. What are the strategies used by immigrant parents to enhance their children’s language learning? 4. What is the nature of the experiences these immigrant parents have when raising their children in a foreign environment? 5. Are the observations made by the immigrant parents congruent with claims made by SLA theories, especially in terms of vocabulary learning?

Method This study adopted life history research methodology. It seeks an “in-depth exploration of an individual life-in-context” (Cole & Knowles, 2001, p. 11) by collecting narrative accounts of those who actually live “in-context,” then placing them in a larger social framework in order to unravel the complex dynamics between the individual and the society. In order to provide a visual illustration of the dynamics involved, Engeström’s (1999) activity model was used. The activity model derives from activity theory, which envisions activity as a particular outcome of the dynamic interplay of individuals (i.e., subject and object), tools (i.e., moderating artifacts), and social setup (i.e., social rules, community, division on labor). An activity is understood as a system of equilibrium in which all factors (i.e., individual, meditating tool, social rules, etc.) involved sustain a particular social dynamism, illustrated as a triangular model (See Figure 1). This in turn implies that any change occurring in one apex of the triangle induces changes in other areas, giving rise to a different activity. In this study, the goal was to explore and document social factors giving rise to bilingual child-rearing as an outcome.


 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

Figure 1. Activity model

Note. Adopted from Engeström (1999, p. 31)

Participants Five Japanese immigrant families residing in Toronto, Canada, participated in this study. There are in total six participants (five Japanese mothers and one Japanese father) as one family volunteered to participate as a couple. The intention was to interview at least one of the parents, but it was difficult to arrange interviews with the fathers who were often away at work during the day. Moreover, in many situations, fathers were found to be less involved in the process of child-rearing, leaving the majority of the responsibilities to the mother, therefore less willing to participate in the study. Given the predominant role mothers play in children’s HL maintenance, especially in fostering the oral skills (Kondo-Brown, 1998), mothers were viewed as better informants in terms of describing the language learning and maintenance process on the part of the children. The interviews often took place during the day when the children were away at school, allowing my participants to spend a prolonged period of time discussing the matter with me. Table 1 shows their background profiles.

3. All the names of my participants are pseudonyms, except for Hiroshi’s and Eiko’s family who chose to maintain their real name in the study.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

Table 1. Participant profiles at the time of data collection Name


Eiko Hiroshi Yumiko Naoko Michiko

Homemaker Artist Hair stylist Journalist Teacher

Year of Arrival (Years in Canada) 1983 (17) 1983 (17) 1983 (17) 1979 (21) 1968 (31)



1976 (24)

Children at Home (Age) Karin (13) Yuki (9) Ai (7) Joh (16) Kei (29) Risa (26) Shuji (38) Kimiko (37) Mineko (32)

Canadian-born children? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

All participants were born and educated in Japan, and were in an intra-ethnic marriage whereby the spouse was also born and raised in Japan. Inter-ethnic couples were not included in this study in order to assure comparison among the experiences of the participants. In terms of home language practice, there are similarities as well as differences among the participants. Eiko and her husband exclusively use Japanese at home with their only daughter, Karin. Karin in turn only uses Japanese with her parents. The parents are avid readers and Karin too enjoys reading in both Japanese and English. Eiko used to send Karin to hoshuukoo which had to be disrupted due to other commitments. Karin then switched to studying Japanese through Kumon for a while. On occasion, Karin expressed her discontent with the lack of assistance she received in terms of her English homework, noting how her other Canadian friends were being helped by their parents at home. Eiko admited she was unable to provide the support Karin sought. Yumiko and Hiroshi were found to be most active and demanding in their children’s language learning. Their two daughters, Yuki and Ai, were enrolled in an early French immersion program, and at the same time they attended Japanese Saturday school noted for their rigorous Japanese program. The girls used Japanese not only with their parents but with each other as well. From Hiroshi and Yumiko’s perspective, Japanese learning was something their daughters were expected to do without question. The parents exclusively used Japanese at home, actively purchased Japanese books and rented Japanese videos to enjoy as a family. Yumiko remembers how their car always had a collection of tapes of Japanese songs for children, which they played whenever they were driving. The parents 4. A private tutorial service which offers not only language drills but also in other subject areas, most notably mathematics. It is done via correspondence, so the student may work on the exercises at a time that is convenient for them.

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

also made an effort to take their daughters to events that celebrated Japanese festivities organized by various Japanese organizations in Toronto as well as to visit a Japanese nursery home. Hiroshi also volunteered at their daughters’ school to offer Japanese drawing workshops for children. Community involvement that promoted cultural learning and cultural exchanges was something this family actively practiced and enjoyed. On the other hand, Naoko shared her more relaxed approach towards L1 maintenance. She had her son Joh enrolled in hoshuukoo, but did not force him to attend, resulting in the disruption of his attendance. Like Karin, Joh faced time constraints as he got older and was involved in more extra-curricular activities, leaving little time to attend and study for hoshuukoo. However, the family still practices exclusive Japanese use at home. While at times Joh approaches his parents with questions pertaining to language, his parents always willingly assist him with Japanese vocabulary, but he is left to look up English words on his own. While he no longer formally studies Japanese, Joh maintains his cultural ties with Japan by engaging in online activities such as surfing the internet and downloading Japanese music. Like Naoko, Michiko had her two children attend hoshuukoo when they were younger, but had them discontinue it when they reached their high school when they expressed their discontent in attending, having been given heavy workloads. The children use Japanese with their parents as well as each other. Finally, unlike other participants in this study, Tama did not resort to Japanese schooling but chose to teach Japanese to her children on her own. She exclusively used Japanese with her children, encouraged reading in Japanese, and provided and supervised Japanese workbook exercises. “I took on teaching Japanese to my kids for my own self-interest. I didn’t know English,” she laughingly admitted. Tama did acknowledge the lack of interaction with other Canadian families, as she felt uncomfortable in an English environment. Tama’s children used Japanese with their parents but prefered to use English among themselves. However, despite the fact that the children did not receive any formal Japanese schooling, the children have developed sufficient Japanese skills which allow them to enjoy Japanese television programs and Japanese print materials including the internet, newspaper, and magazines. Life history research Life history research appreciates human experiences not as arbitrary entities but rather as outcomes stemming from meaning-making processes (Cole & Know5.

Hinamatsuri (girl’s festival) is one example of such events.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

les, 2001). Choices people make are understood as intelligent choices, achieved through interaction among the individual, the environment, and mediating artifacts. That is, the choices a person makes have inherent ties to social conditions. For this reason, in life history research, the individual’s thoughts, beliefs and values are collected, documented, and then placed in a larger social framework to explore the ties between the individual and the social. In this paper, an attempt was made to explore the experiences Japanese immigrant parents had in raising their children bi- and trilingually, and to understand their experiences from a more macro perspective, delineating the cause and effect of the choices parents made. Epistemological function of narratives Narratives act as a tool providing meaning-making in human experiences. We gather, organize, and understand our experiences through the telling of our stories. Narration of a story then acts as an agent to affect others’ understanding and beliefs (Jackson, 1987), making the sharing of narratives a social meaning-making process (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 4) that brings forth such things as reflection, compassion, appreciation, and resonance. Told stories can become a mediating artifact for others, using them to advance their own interests. By disseminating the voices of immigrant parents in a form of an academic research paper, it is hoped that it would invigorate exchanges of dialogue among researchers, educators, policy makers, parents and students. This is deemed a crucial step in identifying and understanding the mechanism of HL maintenance among immigrant families. Data sources Participants of different ages from various backgrounds were solicited to participate in this study as I wished to explore the various stages of HL maintenance. Eiko, Naoko, Yumiko and Hiroshi provided me with a real-time account of what it is like to be raising bi- and trilingual children. On the other hand, Michiko and Tama had rich, valuable insights in terms of their children’s L1 maintenance, having already completed their child-rearing. While many declined involvement in the study, these six participants expressed their fascination with and enthusiasm for their children’s language learning, wishing to learn more about the language learning process, to seize this opportunity as a forum to pose questions and concerns, and to endorse their experience as valid and valuable. Interviews with the participants provided an integral part of the data. Participants were asked to choose the language for the interview, and all participants

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

unanimously chose Japanese. Each interview session was audio-recorded and parts were later transcribed for analysis. The excerpts given in this paper are English translations provided by the researcher. One session generally lasted for two hours and the number of interviews with each participant ranged from one to seven. The parents who were practicing bi- and trilingual child-rearing at the time of data collection were interviewed more frequently than those who had children who had grown up to be bilinguals. This is because the latter group relied on their memory to retrieve information whereas those who were raising their children could give descriptive accounts of what was occurring as they happened. Other data sources included journal entries made by the researcher, field notes kept by the researcher during the interviews, a feedback sheet provided to each parent after each interview, and other items such as the children’s tests, written samples, drawings, and photographs. In particular, feedback sheets, written in Japanese by the researcher, provided a valuable forum for the researcher to ask questions based on the topics raised in the interview as well as to clarify interpretations made by the researcher. The feedback sheet was approximately one to two pages in length, and given to the participant at the following interview session. The feedback sheet proved to be an important tool to establish trust and rapport between the researcher and the participants, as well as to provide a foundation upon which each interview was built. Data collection and analysis: the process Data analysis was done in a formative as well as in a summative way. That is, after each interview session, the researcher went through the field notes that were kept during the session, made a journal entry reflecting on the interview, listened to the taped interview, then wrote the feedback sheet based on the journal entry, the taped interview, and the field notes. This cyclical process facilitated the identification of the emerging themes. The researcher’s interpretations were then triangulated by sharing them with her participants in a form of discussions and feedback sheets. In cases where misunderstanding, misinterpretations, or misrepresentations were identified, they were immediately rectified and documented. In this manner, the lived experiences of the participants provided important and necessary insights for the researcher to vicariously appreciate the participants’ narratives.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

Results and discussion The data revealed significant commonalities among participants’ narratives. First, excerpts of individual stories are shared, and then a discussion follows pertaining to bilingualism as a social phenomenon. Stories of five families Of all the participants, Eiko expressed the most ambivalence in raising her daughter Karin bilingually. She describes her approach in terms of L1 maintenance “chuutohanpa,” meaning mediocre or incomplete. When Karin was younger, Eiko had her take up violin lesson and attend hoshuukoo, the supplementary Japanese school held on Saturdays, in addition to regular school work. Eventually, Eiko’s insistence on attending hoshuukoo diminished for several reasons. First, Eiko began to feel the burden she was placing on Karin by having her continue Japanese schooling. This led to Eiko’s feeling of guilt. She explained how she felt that having the child grow up to be bilingual is making a demand that far exceeds that expected of a child in a monolingual environment, requiring a bilingual child to manage twice the workload. She confessed how she “feared that (attending hoshuukoo) may have been burdensome for Karin, knowing that regular school work was most important.” Imposing twice the workload on her daughter seemed unfair to Eiko, who accepted her L2 as the most important language to know. Yet, at the same time, she expressed her resistance in Karin becoming too ‘Canadianized’: I’m resistant to Karin adopting the Canadian way of life, but at the same time I feel sorry to impose on her the Japanese way. I have come this far still without solutions.

For Eiko, bilingualism is something she longs for her daughter as well as something she fears as a possible impediment to her daughter’s life chances. Her ambivalence results in Eiko’s feeling of guilt for interfering with Karin’s Canadian upbringing. While she questions her own approach to L1 maintenance, Eiko nevertheless expressed her overall satisfaction with the level of L1 knowledge Karin has come to acquire. “Daily conversation (in Japanese) is not a problem,” she acknowledges: As a mother, I’m told by others who are Japanese, that Karin speaks good Japanese. I think it’s because she is the only child. I paid extra attention to keep her Japanese. I think it is still continuing…others tried but they had more than one child or didn’t pay as much attention…for this, people think it’s rare. I’m satisfied with the outcome. It’s good for me as well as for Karin. But I feel that (Karin’s Japanese) is deteriorating as I’m doing nothing (to foster language development).

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

Interestingly, Kanji used frequently up till grade 3 or so, she does remember. She uses them to leave me a memo.

For Eiko, she has achieved the threshold level for Karin’s L1 development. Since L1 is regarded as a tool to achieve family bonding, Eiko is thankful that she experiences little obstacles if any in communicating with her daughter. However, because the focus of communication is conveyance of meaning, Eiko does acknowledge that she only adheres to simple vocabulary which Karin would understand. In order to surpass this stage and improve Karin’s L1 skills, Eiko feels that Karin needs to take the initiative to learn herself: To go beyond this level, Karin needs to be motivated herself. This current level is the maximum level I can achieve at home.

For Eiko, bilingual child rearing is all about striking a balance between L1 and L2 learning. Given her way, Eiko would actively impose L1 learning on her daughter. However, L2 learning as well as other activities such as violin practice are also deemed vital to Karin’s growth. Eiko has defined her balancing point as the ability to communicate orally with Karin in unobtrusive ways. This point of balance is not defined haphazardly, but through profound reflection, and a sense of struggle and uncertainties, on the part of Eiko. If Eiko had adopted the policy of not maintaining L1 at home, as previously advised by one of Karin’s kindergarten teachers, Karin’s language development may have taken a totally different turn. Yet Eiko chose to adhere to L1 use at home in order to actualize and fulfil what she deems to be in the best interest for her daughter. Yumiko and Hiroshi shared a more optimistic and active view on raising their two daughters, Yuki and Ai, trilingually. Their daughters were enrolled in an early French immersion program, but even before the actual schooling, the two girls were cared for by their French-Canadian babysitter who talked to them primarily in French. The couple was also familiar with other Japanese children quickly losing their command of the Japanese, frequently code-switching and often capable of understanding, but unable to speak in, Japanese. Yumiko felt that it was the parents’ responsibility to assure constant and consistent L1 use at home: If the parents code-switch (then the children will be doing it too). When I first came to Canada and visited homes of other Japanese, I noticed that children mixed languages when the parents do…I am always being careful (not to mix the two languages). There are times when using the English word would be so much easier (than using Japanese expressions)…

6. “Kanji” is the Japanese word for “Chinese characters.”

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning 

The couple’s determination to raise their children trilingually is supported by people around them. For example, Yumiko explained how a school teacher advised them that literacy development in one language can foster another: The teacher I mentioned to you the other day recommended to me to teach Japanese (to my children). That way they will be able to read French like they can read Japanese.

Yumiko and Hiroshi also used other resources to actualize trilingual child-rearing. They claimed to provide videos in three languages, listen to tapes in Japanese, and encourage home literacy by providing plenty of Japanese books at home. Having been advised that Japanese literacy skills will translate to literacy skills in other languages, they actively sought Japanese language use at home. In fact, their observation confirms the transfer of literacy skills among L1, L2, and L3: I’m fascinated by the fact that, although they are learning reading and writing only in French, they can also read and write in English…Yuki is now in grade three but her French reading skill, apparently, is at a grade four level. And according to the teacher’s report card, her Japanese is not bad at all either. Yes. So I believe the same skills are developing.

An assurance from the surroundings that validates the L1 use at home is a source of encouragement and motivation for the family to continue using L1. They feel that L1 use is vital in order to assure family cohesion. Through effective communication, children can feel their parents’ love and care. Their parents’ values and beliefs can be better understood and transferred if the children share the language and cultural values their parents have. These factors translate to a well-rounded upbringing of the children. Without such intimate and caring rapport, children can grow up to be disrespectful and delinquent (See Wong Fillmore, 1991b, for similar cases among Korean and Hispanic families) – something Hiroshi feared would happen if he and his wife had abandoned L1 use at home. He shared his thoughts: …when the parents use limited English to raise their children, the children will eventually come to disrespect their parents…And I heard that the children come to neglect their parents, so the kids become, how would you describe them, delinquent, or run away from home. That they become disrespectful towards their parents…And disciplining them, um, I feel that I can’t do it without using my dominant language.

Believing in additional bilingualism (Lambert, 1975) where two languages develop without interfering with each other, and having a desire for strong family cohesion, language maintenance was something that was done unequivocally by Yumiko and Hiroshi.

 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

In contrast to Eiko, Yumiko and Hiroshi, Naoko has an older child, a Canadian-born teenage son named Joh. Naoko attested that her choice to raise her son bilingual was because she has seen successful cases of bilingual upbringing by other Japanese immigrant parents. Having seen successful models, she was convinced that bilingual child-rearing was feasible and indeed desirable. As a fluent Japanese native speaker, it did not even cross her mind to practice L2 child-rearing with Joh. Her reluctance to practice L2 use was acknowledged and praised by Joh’s teachers who all firmly believed in the benefits of bilingualism. Without hesitation, Naoko had her son enrolled in hoshuukoo as soon as he was old enough to attend. As Joh is the only child, he was immersed in an exclusively Japanese environment at home. Coupled with the formal Japanese schooling he received on Saturdays, the parents were, overall, pleased with his L1 proficiency. Naoko noted how Joh’s L2 development remained relatively unproblematic until he reached high school: Joh is an A student excelling in all subjects, except for English. Naoko noted how his lower grade in English was a point of concern: Problem is, he gets A in everything but he gets B’s in English…It’s because the essays…vocabulary is limited no matter what. My son gets half the English vocabulary compared to those from 100% English speaking families because the other half is Japanese.

Naoko noticed that her son increasingly encountered language-related problems in both L1 and L2 as he got older. For example, in terms of Japanese language learning, the amount of Kanji became overwhelming when Joh reached the fifth grade. While Joh encountered a few problems in terms of L1 and L2 vocabulary, Kanji acquisition, and the appropriate usage of honorific forms, Naoko nevertheless firmly believed that bilingual child-rearing was possible. However, interestingly, despite her positive belief in bilingualism, she was not an enthusiastic believer in trilingual child-rearing, having witnessed many cases which had failed: … I think it’s quite a challenge… English, French as well as Japanese. I’ve also heard many stories of those who failed (in the attempt to teach three languages to their children).

In sum, for Naoko, other people’s narratives proved to be an important source of information for decision making. Her firm belief in bilingual child-rearing, her consistent and continuous L1 use at home, her decision to send her son to hoshuukoo, and her reluctance to practice trilingual child-rearing all stem from the experiences of others. Michiko also has two children who grew up to be bilingual adults and her experiences have been relatively similar to Naoko’s. Interestingly, Michiko recalls how she never explicitly expressed her desire to adhere to Japanese at home. Nev-

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

ertheless, her children have grown to address their parents solely in Japanese. Initially, Michiko and her husband arrived in Canada with the intention of returning to Japan in a few years. This influenced her attitude towards and practice of using L1 at home. However, while her children are fluent Japanese-English bilinguals, their Japanese language development was not entirely auspicious. Michiko’s two children, Kei and Risa, displayed relative ease in learning both L1 and L2 when they were younger, but aspects such as Japanese honorific forms and Kanji learning proved to be increasingly difficult as they got older. However, Michiko expressed her level of satisfaction in terms of her children’s L1 proficiency: If you are going to live in Canada, it’s not necessary (to maintain L1). Of course it would be good if you can, but…As long as we can communicate (in Japanese) on a daily basis, and that the children can communicate with relatives in Japan, I’m content.

Similar to other participants in this study, Michiko perceived the L1 as a tool to establish rapport: Michiko:

As long as they have no difficulties communicating in Japanese (I’m okay).


You say that because you feel it’s okay as long as you can understand each other…?


That’s right. Yes. And, um, for example, I feel it’s good enough if they can communicate with their relatives in Japan.


I see,


But, as for Risa, I don’t think she can use Keigo… But she already has the basics, so I’m not too worried.

She expressed her own feeling of uneasiness whenever trying to use English with others, and for this reason the use of L1 was a natural thing she could do with her children. She shared how the family often talked extensively in Japanese about the day’s events, through which the family increasingly became cohesive. Michiko had a relaxed approach to L1 maintenance, believing that her children had the basics to build on if they chose to continue developing their L1 as adults. Although the children code-switched from time to time, Michiko’s primary concern was the conveyance of meaning, and for this reason code-switching was not regarded as something gravely problematic. Kei and Risa discontinued Japanese language schooling when they had reached high school, reasons similar to Joh and Karin whose demands outside hoshuukoo increased. For Kei, belonging to a local base7.

“Keigo” is the Japanese word for “honorific forms.”


 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

ball team which played games on Saturdays required him to leave hoshuukoo. Michiko noted her and her husband’s disappointment, but she did not feel that the hoshuukoo attendance was something to force upon their children. While the discontinuity of Japanese language schooling did not have a detrimental effect on her children’s oral performance, Michiko quickly realized how her children’s Japanese vocabulary development suffered: Conversation is fine, but beyond that…reading and writing…and um, the vocabulary stops expanding. If they had gone to high school they could have acquired more elevated vocabulary…That was a bit unfortunate...they cannot read Kanji. Hiragana, Katakana are not a problem but Kanji…I got them a high school workbook for home study, but couldn’t do it (at home).

While the children read books and watched movies and television programs in English, they did not practice any activities pertaining to Japanese literacy. This imbalance, however, did not concern Michiko, “as long as they have no difficulties communicating in Japanese on a daily basis.” For Michiko, “ability to communicate is most important.” In terms of English development, Michiko had a similar concern as that of Naoko. Kei and Risa’s limited English vocabulary size proved to be a slight deterrent in performing at par with English monolingual peers when they reached high school. However, she expressed her overall satisfaction with the Canadian education system, noting that the academic performance of her children excelled in general. Like Naoko, Michiko did not pursue trilingual child-rearing, fearing that teaching Japanese and English was already demanding enough. In contrast to other participants who relied on various social infrastructures in raising their children bi- or trilingually, Tama raised her three children bilingually in isolation. She actualized this by having, on a daily basis, an individual thirty-minute Japanese lesson as each child returned from school. She collected Japanese teaching materials such as books and drills, and had her children read aloud Japanese passages, do Kanji exercises, write compositions, and so on. She attributed her enthusiasm to maintain L1 largely to her own limited L2: It never occurred to me to use English at home…There were teachers who did advise us to use English more often, but instead of complying, I shared my view about language learning with those teachers; that children will be confused if I use my limited English at home. I think it’s better to separate the two and have the children learn English at school and I teach Japanese at home.

Tama admitted that she tried to learn the L2 herself, and expressed her gratitude for the Canadian parents and teachers who strived to promote inclusion by en8. “Hiragana” and “Katakana” are basic Japanese syllabaries.

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

couraging Tama’s participation in school affairs. However, language barriers made her interactions with other Canadians awkward, and for this reason she chose to withdraw. As for the Japanese community, “back then there weren’t that many Japanese to begin with,” she explained. This led to her seclusion and autonomous effort in maintaining L1 exclusively at home. Bilingualism as a social construct In recent years, bilingualism has been depicted as a cognitively, linguistically, and economically favorable phenomenon in the field of applied linguistics. Yet bilingual child-rearing is not the norm among immigrant households. Through the examination of immigrant experiences, we discover that the language choices and policies people make are largely influenced by social factors. That is, a particular social makeup gives rise to particular bilingualism as a social outcome. The necessary factor in promoting bilingualism and bilingual child-rearing lies in the social setting and the available cultural mediating artifacts which parents can manipulate to achieve their goal. By identifying the conducive social factors that support bilingualism, parents can exercise their power in making decisions pertaining to language policy and language use (Berryman, 1983; Sancho, 1979) instead of being uninformed and anxious about the possible long-term consequences of the language choice they make on behalf of their children. What is particularly striking is the role other people’s narratives play in immigrant families’ decisionmaking processes. For example, Yumiko and Hiroshi explained how their daughter’s school principal, teachers, and an acquaintance from Amnesty International convinced them that trilingualism was possible and preferable. Similarly, Naoko expressed her positive outlook on bilingual child-rearing, having witnessed successful role models. At the same time, observing other people’s unsuccessful practices also provided exemplars of what not to do for Naoko. In this sense, narrative exchanges provided an integral source of information for immigrant families. Various social interactions give rise to a particular social activity. In order to illustrate the social components which facilitate and support language maintenance as well as additional language learning and how these components influence each other, Engeström’s (1999) activity model was adopted. In this study, the subject is the immigrant parent, trying to practice successful bilingual child-rearing. The object is someone the subject exerts his/her action on, in this case the child. Mediating artifacts are the tools used by the subject to achieve the subject’s goal. The subject, the object, and the mediating artifacts are within the confines of social rules and the communites they exist in. An activity model is one way to illustrate the dynamic interactions among all social forces that culminate into one particular resulting


 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

action. From the narratives shared by the participants in this study, the following model (see Figure 2) believed to be conducive to multilingualism was derived: Figure 2. Activity model conducive to multilingual child-rearing

All participants in the study adhered to L1 use at home as their L1 was stronger than their English. They could have chosen to discard L1 use, as advised by well-intentioned teachers whose concerns were on the children’s L2 development. However, the parents chose to use their L1, knowing that this was the language that best served their interest of raising their children in loving and responsible ways. Their decision led to exclusive L1 teaching at home and L2 teaching at school. At first glance, this arrangement works well where the two languages are separated. Such separation discourages code-switching and the children are expected to establish a certain level of language proficiency. With aid of social infrastructures such as French immersion programs and hoshuukoo, parents were actualizing bi- and trilingual child-rearing that targeted each language in different social domains. The separation of each lan-

Chapter 3.  Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

guage in such a manner emulates one-parent one-language rule (Saunders, 1982; 1988), which is claimed to be conducive to language development. However, the clear separation of L1 and L2 learning contexts implies that the children learned the two languages in two very different domains, making different demands on language development. That is, at home, the oral L1 was used primarily as an effective means to establish family bonding. On the other hand, schools increasingly place importance on written academic genres. While children perform seemingly at par with their monolingual peers in terms of L2 development, L2 vocabulary knowledge is identified as one area of concern for older bilingual children’s L2 academic performance.

Conclusion and implications In the midst of globalization, language knowledge can be instrumental in accruing social status and mobility. Given this fact, language maintenance can be understood as a viable and effective way to achieve academic and career success. However, the examples illustrated in this paper describe language maintenance as a commodity which is not easily attained, as many social factors discriminate against HL, regarding it only as an add-on, something extra which can be useful, but not necessary, in accessing power. Despite such hegemonic practices, the Japanese immigrant parents in this study chose to maintain their children’s L1, largely to preserve and promote family bonding. Ironically, the parents’ limited L2 facilitated the exclusive L1 use at home, demanding their children to develop their L1 skills. However, this approach only necessitates the development of certain types of language skills while neglecting others, resulting in an unbalanced and incomplete L1 proficiency. Children’s L2 development, while deemed unproblematic when the children are younger, proved to be a source of concern for the parents, having observed stagnation in L2 vocabulary growth. This exasperated the anxiety felt by the immigrant families, fearing that the imposition of L1 learning interfered with their children’s L2 learning. This in turn implies that, in order to eradicate such fear, attempts must be made to assure immigrant children’s complete and comprehensive L2 learning. Given an assurance that L1 learning will not impede L2 development, immigrant parents can actively pursue bilingual child-rearing. Finally, it is important to realize that the prevalent approach in L1 maintenance described in this paper relies on the parents to initiate and adhere to L1 use at home while schools take on the onus of teaching L2. At first glance, this division of labor appears effective for bilingual child-rearing, but when the motivation behind L1 retention is to establish family cohesion, this motivation factor no longer supports L1 maintenance after two generations as the second generation who grow


 Mitsuyo Sakamoto

up to be bilinguals often abandon L1 since they do not require to resort to L1 in raising their children. That is, given the current approach, languages are destined to disappear after two generations unless L1 is assigned social prestige that makes L1 learning financially and socially rewarding. A model believed to be conducive to multilingual child rearing was presented, which calls for a society that adopts a collaborative and inclusive approach to bilingual education.

chapter 4

Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean Eunjin Park

New York University

This chapter discusses an ethnographic and sociolinguistic study that examines the patterns of language socialization of six Korean-American families in the New York metropolitan area, particularly the ideologies and linguistic practices that surround politeness. All participating families had at least one 2– to 4–yearold child, spoke Korean as the mother tongue, and had at least one grandparent who regularly interacted with the child. The author collected 80 hours of audio/ video recordings of naturally occurring family conversations and then analyzed the grandparents’ roles in the transmission of linguistic and cultural heritage in terms of politeness. Findings highlight the parents’ expectations of grandparents as linguistic and cultural resources for the family and grandparents’ actual influence on children’s cultural practices and language use.

Every language has its own ways of encoding culture-specific values and ideas. The ways in which community members use language reflect the community’s social structures and beliefs. In acquiring their mother tongue, children from languageminority families internalize the beliefs of their heritage culture, but when they enter school, they rapidly lose proficiency in their heritage language (HL) (Doyle, 1996; T. Kim, 1998; Kuo, 1974; Shin, 2005; Shin & Milroy, 1999), almost inevitably leading to a loss of the tools needed to practice and transfer their heritage culture (Wong Fillmore, 2000). To understand, prevent, and reverse language shift in language-minority families, one must first understand the socialization processes through which young children initially acquire their HL. With this knowledge, we can provide optimal environment for heritage learners in the home, school, and community. This chapter focuses on a study of pre-school age children’s use of HL at home, particularly how their language competence may be affected by interaction with their grandparents. The study results provide crucial information for languageminority families concerned with maintaining linguistic and cultural heritage as

 Eunjin Park

valuable community resources and for policymakers and educators wanting to nurture heritage learners and promote diversity within the society.

Language socialization This study’s theoretical framework draws upon the concept of language socialization, which is both “socialization through the use of language and socialization to use language” (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986, p. 163). Children become competent members of their community by participating in language socialization activities (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984, 1995; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986) – linguistic interactions between a novice and an expert, usually, but not exclusively, a child and caregiver – internalizing social speech that is shared with them by community members. The internalized dialogue – “inner speech” – structures and restructures how children perceive and interpret the world around them(Vygotsky, 1978) and controls their behavior, values, and morals (Tappan, 1997). Through language socialization practices, cultural values and language are transferred to the next generation. Also transmitted through this socialization process are language ideologies – community members’ beliefs regarding a specific language or features of language, speakers of language, production of language, teaching and learning of language, and interpretation and understanding of language. Community social structures have been linked to community members’ linguistic behaviors (Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994). Language socialization research attempts to understand how language ideologies are reflected in the community members’ use of language, particularly with and around children. Children assume an active role in language socialization (Giddens, 1979; Ochs, 1988). Immigrant families often observe that children socialize their immigrant parents, who may have less contact with the dominant language and culture, into their own school experiences(Ochs, 1986). In many language minority families, children’s use of English at home increases once they enter school (Shin & Milroy, 1999), and parents start using English with their children, often believing that they are helping to improve their children’s academic achievement (Shin, 2005). Investigating children’s language socialization patterns will increase understanding of the intricate relationships between cultural ideas and linguistic practices. However, few studies address language socialization of bilingual children in the United States (He, 2001; Smith-Hefner, 1999; Zentella, 1997), and no studies have dealt with how young Korean-American children are socialized through HL use. Studies of Korean-English bilingual children have focused exclusively on their usage patterns of English versus Korean (cf. Baek, 1992; Min, 2000; Oh, 1988; Shin, 1998, 2005; Yoon, 1996). This study examined how language ideologies are

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean 

transferred and restructured through the interactions among three-generations of family members in a Korean immigrant community in an attempt to shed light on HL maintenance and shifts. Transmission and practices of the cultural value of politeness was a particular focus of this study.

Politeness Politeness plays a significant role in language socialization for Korean children in part because to be polite, one must acquire certain linguistic features and cultural norms. One crucial component of politeness is the culturally distinct concept of self. Concept of self A person’s idea of self is socially constructed, resonating the ideologies of the society to which he/she belongs (Mead, 1932; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). The perceptions and definitions of self differ according to each society’s basic beliefs and ideologies. How a person presents his/her self to the public is determined by the culture-specific concept of self (Goffman, 1955). The public side of self, called face, is “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (Goffman, 1955, p. 319). In other words, face is an aspect of self that a person presents to others with the expectation that they will perceive and interact with this aspect of self according to shared value systems. Universally, adults socialize children through how they treat and react to the children’s and other adults’ faces; however, positive social values differ across cultures and, consequently, the concept of self, including face, are culture specific. Definitions and perceptions of self are one of the distinguishing features between Western and Eastern ideologies. R. Brown (1996) argues that in the East, the self “is said to be relational, interpersonal, or collective whereas the self in the West is individualistic and autonomous” (p. 39). Clear relationships exist between the concept of relational self and linguistic forms in Asian languages such as Javanese, Japanese, and Korean. When interacting linguistically, speakers of these languages express their social identity in relation to others, highlighting the relational aspect of self (e.g., hierarchy). Failure to indicate the relational hierarchy with appropriate linguistic features is regarded as rude, ignorant, and resistant to the societal order. Thus, knowledge about the cultural concept of self is essential for culturally effective and polite interactions.

 Eunjin Park

Politeness strategies and social index Among the most prominent and controversial explanations of the processes involved in polite interactions is Brown and Levinson’s (1978) Politeness Theory. Drawing on Goffman’s (1955) notion of face, they define face as the public selfimage that community members want to claim for themselves. Negative face is the desire to be unimpeded by others; positive face is the desire to be approved by others in certain respects. In the course of interaction, face can be lost, maintained, or enhanced. Brown and Levinson (1978) suggest a prototype of a Model Person (MP) – one who is able to choose appropriate strategies of politeness to effectively communicate and achieve his or her goals. Acts that are contrary to face desires are “facethreatening-acts” (FTA). When people need to perform an FTA, they apply one of five politeness strategies to mitigate the imposition or threat: bold on record, positive politeness, negative politeness, off-record, and avoidance of FTA. Three factors interact with FTA: social distance, power, and degree of imposition (Brown & Levinson, 1978). The latter factor can vary from culture to culture, but, aside from that, Brown and Levinson argue that their theory of politeness is universal. Yet their theory, based on the Western concept of self, has been criticized as invalid for East Asian cultures, such as those of China, Japan, and Korea (Ide, 1989; Kasper, 1990; Sohn, 1986), where politeness is not only a strategy to redress face-threatening-acts, but also a social index that marks sociocultural information and expresses relational self with appropriate linguistic features (Agha, 1994; Kasper, 1990). In Korean culture, it is considered polite to indicate one’s relative status with proper behavior and linguistic features (Hwang, 1990; Koo, 1996; C. Lee, 1996; H. Lee, 1991; J. Lee, 1999; Sohn, 1986). For example, at a dinner table, a younger or lower-status person should wait for an older or higher-status person to start eating; when two people meet, the younger or lower-status person should initiate the greeting with a bow and a proper phrase to an older or higher-status person. In addition, Korean speakers should choose honorific levels that are appropriate to their hierarchical relationships when speaking with others; one who fails to index the hierarchical relations is subject to social sanction. To investigate how polite linguistic features function, especially in societies in which relational status is highly valued, I conducted this study with the assumption that politeness is both a strategy and an index of critical sociocultural structures, such as hierarchy. In Korean, this broad category of politeness is marked linguistically, mainly through the use of honorifics.

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean

Korean ideologies and practices of politeness As children acquire their HL, they also internalize the cultural ideas that are attached to it. The sociocultural norms and decorum in Korean society can be traced back to the teachings of Confucianism (K. Kim, 1996; Koh, 1996). Since the Joseon Dynasty of Korea accepted Confucianism as the official ideology (Sohn, 1986), Confucianism has been the foundation of ethics, morals and life styles. Its strong influence on Korean cultural values is reflected in Korean linguistic practices, including the use of honorifics. The teachings of Confucius suggest ideal relationships between members of various social categories: between the king and his people, there should be righteousness; between husband and wife, difference; between older and younger, order; between parents and children, affection; and between friends, mutual trust. Each of these relationships, except between friends, has shaped the hierarchical order of Korean society: people are subordinate to the king, wife to husband, younger to older, and children to parents (T. Kim, 1998; Min, 2000; Sohn, 1986). Hierarchical Korean society believes that harmony occurs when people know their relational status and behave accordingly (K. Kim, 1996). As mentioned above, social acts indicate hierarchical relationships, such as the order of eating and serving food and the greeting and farewell rituals. Korean speakers consciously mark these asymmetric relationships with appropriate linguistic features, such as honorifics. Honorifics are linguistic features that mark relative social status (Brown & Levinson, 1978; Saville-Troike, 1982) and index social deference (Irvine, 1998). Korean honorifics are a set of obligatory linguistic markings indicating relational sociocultural status (e.g., generation, age, sex, and social status) across a range of speaker relations, including speaker-addressee, speaker-referent (person talked about), and addressee-referent. Korean children are socialized to display their respect and deference to others by using appropriate honorifics. From birth, Korean children are placed into a web of relationships that are marked by the kinship terms that they use and that are directed to them. These terms designate the generational hierarchy, age, and gender of the addressee and/or speaker. Since there is no second person pronoun that children can use to address someone older in Korean, it is crucial that they learn proper kinship terms. Table 1 summarizes the kinship terms used among three-generation Korean family members.


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Table 1.: Korean addressee terms among three-generation family members Speaker  Addressee

Common Address Terms

Child  father Child  mother Child  grandfather Child  grandmother Parents  unmarried child

Appa/abeoji (daddy/father) Eomma/eomeoni (mommy/mother) Halabeoji/halabeonim (grandpa/grandfather) Halmeoni/halmeonim (grandma/grandmother) First name, neo (you), yae (child), or birth order + jjae (order) Grandchild’s name + abi/abeom (father) or first name Grandchild’s name + eomi/eomeom (mother) or first name Grandchild’s name + abi/abeom (father) Grandchild’s name + eomi/eomeom (mother)

Parents  married son Parents  married daughter Parents  son-in-law Parents  daughter-in-law Male child  elder sister Male child  elder brother Female child  elder sister Female child  elder brother

Nuna Hyeong Eonni Oppa

As Table 1 indicates, more kinship terms are available for a younger person to use when addressing an older person than for an older person to use when addressing a younger person. A younger sibling is expected to use kinship terms to address an elder sibling (nuna, hyeong, eonni, and oppa), but an elder sibling can address younger siblings by their first names. Similarly, parents and grandparents address young children by their first name, but these children must use appropriate kinship terms when addressing their parents and grandparents. Thus, the burden of indicating relational hierarchy is placed on the lower ranking speaker. Younger or lower status speakers are also expected to indicate their relational status with appropriate addressee honorific verb-suffixes. Researchers have organized the addressee honorific verb-suffixes into six categories, which Martin (1964) describes as plain, intimate, familiar, polite, authoritative, and deferential, from the least polite to the most polite. Sohn (1986) specifies the verb-suffixes for each level and labels them as plain (-ta), intimate (-e/a), familiar (-ney), blunt (-so), informal deference (-eyo), and formal deference (-supnita), and C. Lee (1996) and W. Lee (1991) concur with this description. Lee and Ramsey (2000) attach each verb-suffix to the bare verb ha- (do) to describe the honorific levels: plain (haera), panmal (hae), familiar (hage), semiformal (hao), polite (haeyo), and formal (hapsyo). (See Table 2.)

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean 

Table 2.: Classifications of Korean addressee honorific verb-suffixes Degree of politeness Least polite

↓ ↓

Most polite

Martin (1964)

Sohn (1986)

C. Lee (1996) and W. Lee (1991)

Lee & Ramsey (2000)


Plain (-ta)


Plain (haera)


Intimate (-e/a)


Panmal (hae)


Familiar (-ney)


Familiar (hage)


Blunt (-so)


Semiformal (hao)


Informal deference (-eyo)


Polite (haeyo)


Formal deference (-supnita)


Formal (hapsyo)

Koreans are aware of two levels in their everyday conversation: panmal (literally translated as “half-talk”) and jondaemal (“respect-talk”). Panmal includes utterances ending with –ta and –a/-e and it is used among the same ranking people and/or in close relationships; jondaemal includes utterances ending with –yo and –pnita (Kim-Park, 1996; Lee & Ramsey, 2000). Among the six types of suffixes for addressee honorifics, –yo and –a/-e are most frequently used (Sohn, 1986; Wang, 1990), representing jondaemal and panmal,respectively. Y. Kim (1997) studied the use of honorifics in adult-child interactions and found that Korean children in middle-class families begin to use jondaemal as early as age two. Since Korean children are socialized to use honorifics mostly at home rather than at school, one’s patterns of honorific use may reveal family background and class membership (Wang, 1990). Thus, failure to use appropriate honorifics brings shame to oneself and to one’s family. In immigrant families living in the U.S., the pressure and passion to teach and learn proper honorifics is the same as that found in Korea. In Korean-American families, parents and grandparents try hard to teach their children to speak proper honorifics (Park, 2003). Children in Korea raised by and into multi-status relationships. However, Korean-American second-generation children lack the context to practice various levels of honorifics (Jo, 2001). Thus, the Korean immigrant families who want to maintain and nurture their children’s HL proficiency face challenges they did not expect to face in Korea. Studies about polite linguistic features in the Korean language emphasize prescriptive analysis of honorific usage, and complicated use of honorifics has been

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detailed (cf. M. Lee, 1994; Lee & Ramsey, 2000; C. Lee, 1996; W. Lee, 1991; Sohn, 1986). However, most studies are dyadic conversations between adult Korean speakers. The socialization of Korean children in the correct usage of honorifics has not been examined. Thus, this study, based on naturalistic data, set out to examine how Korean speakers use honorifics and how children are socialized to use these honorifics. The importance of the grandparents’ role became apparent early on in the data collection.

Intergenerational transmission Intergenerational transmission of HLs is the most effective way to preserve and even revive languages (Fishman, 1991; 2001d; Skutnabb-kangas, 1988). Grandparents are thus potentially great resources for children to acquire, maintain, and develop their HL proficiency and knowledge of heritage culture. In immigrant families, grandparents are often the primary reason for using HL in the home. Parents almost exclusively use HL with their own parents (the children’s grandparents) (Shin, 2005), and they want their children to do the same (Doyle, 1996). Children also think they should use HL with their grandparents (Kanazawa & Loveday, 1988; Wu, 1988). Previous studies found that children’s HL proficiency has a positive correlation with their relationship with their grandparents: the closer the relationship, the better their language proficiency and vice versa (Luo & Wiseman, 2000; Sridhar, 1988; Wu, 1998). Similarly, when children lose their HL, they have a more distant relationship with their grandparents (Schmidt & Padilla, 1983; Silverstein & Chen, 1999). The values and morals of heritage culture are conveyed through transmission of its language. Similarly, the use of the Korean language transfers the concepts of politeness to the next generation; in particular, Korean children internalize how to indicate hierarchical relationships to express deference and respect while learning the appropriate use of honorifics. Thus, when language shifts occur in KoreanAmerican families, not only do parents lose the means to socialize their children into competent members of the Korean community, but children also lose the tools to express their respect and deference in appropriate Korean tradition. Shin (2005) stated that Korean-Americans who cannot use honorifics properly are regarded as being “not genuinely Korean” (p.65). In Korean-American families, children’s socialization of politeness is closely related to developing and maintaining proficiency in the Korean language. Korean grandparents play a significant role in socializing children into the cultural value of hierarchy, deference, and respect, expressed and practiced as politeness. Even

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean 

though many immigrant Korean families depend on grandparents or other elderly Korean women for childcare (K. Park, 1997), there are few studies of Korean elders (Shin, 2005); moreover, few studies have examined how grandparents affect children’s HL development, despite the local belief that grandparents are great resources for HL and culture. To bridge the gap in research, this study examined the language socialization processes of Korean-English bilingual children in threegenerational Korean-American families, focusing on grandparents’ influences on transmission of HL and culture. The present study investigates the ways in which the cultural and moral value of politeness transmitted through language to children in three-generational families and the role that the grandparents’ presence and interactions with the children plays in this transmission process. This study also examines the ways in which parents and grandparents use the linguistic features that mark politeness, particularly the addressee honorific verb-suffix –yo, with and around children. In particular, it explores how the grandparents’ presence and interactions with and around the children shape their linguistic environment and how the grandparents affect the amount and type of –yo utterances used with and around children.

Method Ethnographic and qualitative methodologies were employed to investigate how Korean-American three-generational families transmit the HL and culture to their young children (cf. Clancy, 1986; Kulick, 1997; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986;). The everyday linguistic practices are investigated to reveal the transmission process of cultural values and practices of politeness in terms of language socialization, which includes both socialization to use language and socialization through language (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984). Data collected included ethnographic observations, audio and videotaping of linguistic interactions, and participant interviews. Community and participants The number of Asian or Pacific Island immigrants living in New Jersey increased 162% between 1980 and 1991 (Romano, 1991). By 2000, New Jersey had the fifth largest Asian population in the U.S. (Barnes & Bennett, 2002). The rapid growth of Korean population re-shapes the neighborhood of New Jersey suburbs. This study was conducted in Bergen County, which has the largest Korean population in New Jersey (Jung, 2002). Approximately 100 Korean-owned small businesses (e.g., grocery stores, nail shops, bakeries, beauty salons, coffee shops, day-care centers, cosmetic stores, liquor stores, and restaurants) are on the main

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street of Palisades Park, a town in Bergen County (Sharkey, 1997). In 2002, 90% of all businesses in this town were Korean owned (D. Kim, 2002a). Almost half (45%) of Palisades Park homeowners were Korean-Americans (D. Kim, 2002a). In Ridgefield, a town south of Palisades Park, a shopping mall filled with Koreanowned stores was built in 1998, and in 2002, the Korean population of Ridgefield was estimated at 25% (D. Kim, 2002b). In Korean-American communities in the U.S., Christian churches are the center of traditional culture and community (Goldman, 1993; Min, 2000; K. Park, 1997; Shin, 2005). Korean-Americans started having Christian meetings in New Jersey around 1985 (Hanley, 2000), and since that time, most of the Korean-American congregations rented existing church buildings for Sunday worship services, weekday Bible studies, and fellowship meetings (Ginsburg, 1994; Hanley, 2000). This study focuses on one of the Korean-American congregations, established in Paramus, New Jersey, in 1986. The congregation has grown rapidly each year; in 2000, it consisted of approximately 700 members (Hanley, 2000). Six Korean-American families were recruited for the study through the church network: Four families were residing with grandparents and two families were meeting grandparents at least once a week. All participant families had at least one 2– to 4–year-old child, both parents’ first language was Korean, and parents and grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. over ten years ago. Data collection and analysis I visited each family to audio/video record the interactions among family members, and I took detailed field notes to help my analysis of these recordings. The visits were done at various times of day (e.g., weekend mornings, weekdays dinner, before and after school) and the recordings were of various types of activities (e.g., playing with blocks, doing homework, eating, watching TV, playing a game). I visited each family anywhere from 9 to 19 times, and each recording session lasted one to two hours. In total, 80 hours of audio and video recordings of naturally occurring family conversations were collected over a 15–month period. From the 80 hours of recordings, I identified the speech events that contained politeness ideas and linguistic practices. These speech events were transcribed, coded, annotated and examined. Korean data was transcribed following the New Romanization System. Transcripts were standardized according to the CHAT 1. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Korea formally proclaimed this system of Romanization in 2000. Publications in Korea, such as textbooks, have followed this system since February 28, 2002. Road signs, official billboards, and information posted at cultural sites must implement this system by December 31, 2005.

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean 

system of the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) (MacWhinney, 2000). (See Appendix A) In addition to these recordings, five adults of the participant families volunteered to be interviewed. During these nonscheduled and open-ended interviews, these volunteers were asked to talk about what they thought of their linguistic practices with and around their children, about raising a “good” and “polite” child, and about grandparents’ influence on raising children. I transcribed the interview recordings, made annotations, and analyzed them. Analysis focused on the grandparents’ roles in transmitting linguistic and cultural heritage in terms of politeness. Interview transcripts were examined to determine the expectations on grandparents’ roles in children’s HL and culture acquisition and maintenance. To find how cultural value of politeness is transmitted through language, I identified utterances containing the ideas of politeness and the use of the addressee honorific verb-suffix –yo and analyzed them in the context of situation and interlocutors and the linguistic forms and functions.

Discussion of central findings Examination of language socialization processes of children in three-generational families reveals an intimate relationship between the practices of cultural value of politeness and the maintenance of HL. This section begins with the parents’ expectations for grandparents in the child rearing processes regarding transmission of HL and culture, followed by a discussion of the transmission processes of HL and culture, in terms of the ideologies and linguistic practices of politeness. Particular attention is paid to the roles that grandparents play in socializing children into the hierarchical order and the proper use of honorifics. Expectations on grandparents’ role The interviews with the five adults reveal that parents expect grandparents to be HL and culture resources. Parents report that the most important advantage of living with grandparents is that children can learn HL and culture more naturally than can children in nuclear families. John states that because his family is living 2. A nonscheduled interview is one in which the interviewer is “free to present the questions in the way in which it seems most suitable for each interviewee” (Briggs, 1986, p. 20) unlike the scheduled interview where the wording and order of questions are fixed. 3.

“Where the range of possible answers is not specified” (Briggs, 1986, p. 20).

4. Pseudonyms are used for participants’ names throughout this chapter.

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with his parents-in-law, his children can learn how to respect adults and acquire Korean language better: So, because we are living with Grandmother and Grandfather, respecting adults, children seem like learning that kind of thing naturally. I mean, that, if we teach them just several times that that’s wrong, they understand well. I heard that other kids cannot understand that kind of thing. At least, that, in Korea, we eat, when [after] adults lift the spoons, even though that is a small thing, but as we live, that, children seem like learning something like respecting adults. And the most important thing is Korean language. When I see kids around Jake’s age [eightyears-old], the ones who speak Korean well, people ask them if they live with Grandmother and Grandfather. There is something – Most of those kids [living with grandparents] know much of Korean language.

As this example for the interview indicates, John believes that his children learn the heritage culture and language naturally because of their residential structure: Because they are living with grandparents, it is easier to teach the children to respect adults. He mentions as an example the eating order in Korean culture, in which younger people should wait until the oldest person at the table lifts his/her spoon to eat. John states that because they are living with grandparents, children understand that they should show their respect to adults in their daily interactions, such as observing the eating order. He also mentions that from his experience, most of the children who can speak Korean well are living with grandparents. Jennifer, who lives with her mother-in-law, also reflects a parent’s expectation of grandparents being HL and culture resources: The merits to live with Grandmother is, it is good because children learn customs such as respecting adults, that something we should display to adults, what we should do, greeting when someone comes and adults’ eating first when we have meal. They may learn these kinds of things even if they live only with mom and dad, but they watch and learn as they live together [with grandparents], and if I serve a kind of fruit, I give it to grandmother first. That’s something we actually do. It is better than mom and dad’s teaching, so that kinds of things are good. And first of all, because living with Grandmother, I think it is good that children keep Korean. Because [Mother-in-law] speaks Korean well. [Mother-in-law] speaks correct Korean.

Both John and Jennifer emphasize that children can learn and keep Korean language because of living with their grandparents. Like John, Jennifer points out that children can learn how to respect adults by living with a grandmother. She, too, notes that the idea of hierarchy can be transmitted to children naturally through such daily practices as serving and eating food – children can observe and learn that grandparents should be served first and that they should wait until their

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean 

grandparents have started eating. She adds that children learn how to greet others by living with their grandparents. In particular, she notes that her mother-in-law (children’s grandmother) is an ideal Korean speaker from whom her children can learn correct forms of the language. Aware of children’s language shift from Korean to English, parents expect that grandparents continue using Korean with children. Jennifer discussed what she expected children’s grandmother to do in the milieu of children’s language shift: Our mother [children’s grandmother] speaks Korean, but English, because children speak English, she tries to speak English but her English is not a correct one, isn’t it? So I told Mother, “Mother, you’d better,” it’s not correct English, so just stop it, and you, because children learn wrong things, so, wrong things, so rather than speaking wrong thing, it is not correct English. So I told her to speak only Korean with children.

Concerned with the grandmother’s limited English proficiency, Jennifer states that she specifically asked grandmother to speak only Korean with children. Another grandmother (Judy) talks about her English use with children: Sometimes I, because I want to learn some [English], I forgot what I learned a little in the past. So, as she [Emily] does [speak English], it can be reminded. So sometimes I speak English with her, [but I think] it won’t do, then, I tell her, “Speak Korean!”

Judy says that she sometimes speaks English with Emily to refresh her knowledge of English. Both Jennifer and Judy note that grandparents accommodate children’s language choice as far as they can, given their limited English proficiency. However, both also reflect on how parents do not welcome grandparents using English with children and how grandparents feel uncomfortable doing so. Socialization of hierarchy Parents expect grandparents to play two roles in the child-rearing process: to be the symbol of hierarchy and the source of Korean language. These two roles are closely related in that the idea of hierarchy is expressed appropriately only by using the Korean language. As in other cultures in which one should speak and act according to his/her relational hierarchical status (Ochs, 1988; Smith-Hefner, 1999), Korean children are explicitly taught to pay attention to the hierarchical structure of their family and society. They receive direct instructions to indicate their deference and respect with appropriate verbal and nonverbal behaviors to older or higher-status persons. Daily routines, such as having a snack or meal, are ideal for studying how the hierarchical structure is sustained and transferred to the next generation.

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At meals, Koreans have individual rice bowls (and soup bowls) and share all of the other dishes, which are put at the center of the table. In the participant families, mothers prepared food sometimes, but not always, with the grandmothers’ help. When the food is cooked, family members are called to the dinner table. The children of this study usually helped the mothers and grandmothers to set up the table with spoons, chopsticks, and water glasses. The mothers or grandmothers placed the dishes on the table. Then mothers put rice in each bowl and brought it to the table. Now is the time that the teaching of serving order should occur. Children either observe or practice serving food to the grandparents first. When the food is served, the rest of the family should wait to eat until the oldest person lifts the spoon. An attempt to eat before the oldest person does is regarded as very rude and ignorant behavior. Socialized to observe the order of food serving and eating, Korean children learn the hierarchical structure of their family members, which reflects the structure of society. The activity of eating occurred frequently during the recording sessions: 45 of the total 80 recording sessions included children’s eating activities. Grandparents participated in eating with the children in six recording sessions – one snack and five dinners. Interestingly, the explicit teaching of serving and eating hierarchy was only occurred during interactions with grandparents. The following discussion focuses on the ways in which the idea of hierarchy was transmitted and practiced in the speech events of these six recording sessions. The instructions of hierarchical order in serving and eating food are direct; simply stated the oldest person should eat first. The following example demonstrates how the mother (Lisa) explicitly teaches her child (Natalie) to serve the grandmother (Nancy) first when they are having a snack. Natalie is at home with Lisa and Nancy when her cousin (Mike) comes to visit with his mother (Ashley) and his younger sister (Lily). Lisa brings out a fruit plate. (In this and subsequent examples, utterances marked with the suffix –yo are bolded and underlined. Symbols and abbreviations used for each speaker are from the CHAT system.) 1*MOT:

Natalie, nugu meoncheo deurineun geoya, Natalie? [Natalie, whom do you serve first, Natalie?]


Lilydo meogeo. [Lily, (you) too eat.]


Eo? [huh?]




Nugu meoncheo deurineun geoya, eo? [Whom do you serve first, huh?]

Chapter 4.  Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language use in Korean


Mola. [Don’t know.]


Yeogiseo naiga nuga jeil maneo, eo? [Who is the oldest one here, huh?]


Who’s king?




Eu? [huh?]



10*MOT: Lily?



Natalie Mola. [Don’t know.]

12*MOT: Mola? [(You) don’t know?] 13*MOT: Halmeoni meonjeo deuse-yo geurae-ya-ji. [(You) should say “Grandma eat first.”] 14*CHI:

Halmeoni igeo (>). [Grandma, this xx.]

15*GRM: (]. [Carry (it) well. (Give it to) Daddy.] 14*FAT:

[]. [(You) should greet, “Did you go and return peacefully.”]



28*MOT: [].

37*GRM: [].


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[Greet Daddy did you go and return.]

39*GRM: []! [Go and return peacefully!]

Corrects Natalie’s greeting



[]? [Did (you) forget?]


[] [