By: Sion Eugene Lee

Language Loss – A Background
Language Attrition/Loss : a societal or individual loss in the use or in the ability to use a language, implying that another language is replacing it Language Shift: the change from the habitual use of one language to that of another • Early research focused on loss & shift and disregarded maintenance & revitalization • Languages not associated with economic or political power had no future Is an individual/group really free to choose to cease using a language? Parents and Children experience different levels of acculturation and vastly different life experiences The Children • HL they know holds no importance in school • Chinese HL is seen as a problem not a resource • HL does not have a place outside of the home Children develop an increasingly negative attitude towards HL as they progress through school The Parents • View the HL as a resource • Increases opportunities at finding work and getting accepted into university • Preserve culture and heritage As Adults • May feel something is missing after losing the HL • Spend extra time & money to (re)learn a language • Work in a different country in an attempt to experience the culture that was lost

“My Chinese is so poor I won’t be able to give my children a Chinese name!”
What is said: “Try to speak English at home.” “Only English is allowed in class!” What is heard: “Your language is useless in this country.”

Heritage Language Loss in the Chinese Immigrant Community
• Heritage Language(HL) loss amongst children is well documented in the Chinese community • 50.6% of parents in the US report a negative shift away from the HL when children enter into English or Bilingual early education programs • When children are in a HL program 10.8% of parents reported a shift away from the HL • Older siblings are less interested in using the HL than the younger siblings

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. - Ludwig Wittgenstein The Results of Heritage Language Loss
As Children • Children experience a quick language shift compared to their parents • Families experience dissonant acculturation between different generations • Children will start using different language and its associated values • Members of the family may become alienated • between immediate family members • between self and members of the HL community • Lack of deep conversations & meaningful interactions between parents and children • Loss of family and cultural curriculum • Self identity confusion

Policy Implications
For Teachers and Schools • Validate the student’s knowledge of another language • Allow students to obtain credits for HL courses promoting HL growth and maintenance • Integrate the parents and community into class projects (dual language storybooks) • Training courses focusing on language training and cultural diversity As Researchers • Determine the difference in the needs of a child needing language maintenance versus learning a HL as a second/foreign language

“…See, I spend most of my day in school, in school, we don’t really speak Chinese. So I don’t feel like it’s necessary.” (Zhang, 2009)

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