Love, Language and Little Ones: Successes and Stresses for Mothers Raising Bilingual Children in Exogamous Relationships
Immigrants to Australia in exogamous relationships with English native-speakers are among the most disadvantaged when it comes to retaining and promoting their first language within the family. In the first few years of their settlement, they may be struggling to learn English at the same time as they are acculturating to a new environment and, often, negotiating a new relationship. Their partners may not speak their first language, and their children will have the seductions of English – a language of both local and global relevance – both inside and outside the home. Moreover, decisions about what language(s) to learn and use in the family can be influenced by macro social questions such as their relative status and the attitudes of the community, as well as to individual factors of proficiency in each language, living circumstances and the nature of family relationships and attitudes. In this chapter, we explore how these factors interact in early settlement to influence the use of the immigrant’s heritage language. The data are drawn from a large-scale longitudinal qualitative study of immigrants to Australia in the first 5 years of their settlement. Based on semi-structured interviews with 13 newly arrived immigrants living with English-native-speaking partners and their children, our analysis focuses on the factors that seem to enhance their chances of success in maintaining and building the use of their first language with their children. We explore how successful they have been and consider the implications for educators, counsellors parents and researchers involved in supporting this crucial aspect of early settlement.
KeywordsLanguage Policy Language Learning Mother Tongue Minority Language Bilingual Child
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