Negotiating Family Language Policy in Heritage Language Maintenance: Experiences of Immigrant Families in Australia

Raqib Chowdhury, Novi Restuningrum

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    In many immigrant families, parents put considerable efforts in maintaining the use of heritage language, a task often challenging due to the subtractive monoglossic approaches prevalent in schools and the attendant decline of the child’s use of heritage language (see Author, 2015; Kang, 2016). This decline is said to occur even faster in multi-child families, especially with the child’s younger siblings (Spolsky, 2008). Examining the Family Language Policies (FLP) of seven non-English background immigrant families living in Australia, this paper explores how the adoption of FLP by parents can be influenced by a number of factors including language ideologies both inside and outside family domains, parents’ first and second language status, and the nature of domicile. This paper also critically considers FLP in relation to the complexities of heritage language maintenance in Australia - a country that despite being culturally diverse, still offers scarce additive bilingual environments, especially for children and students. As this study looks at why and how parents implement Family Language Policies and the complexity of their connection to domicile and identity, it utilises a case study design, whereby by going beyond “what” questions, the design allows the implementation and utilisation of “how” or “why” questions (Yin, 2003). Constituting the boundedness (Merriam, 1998) of each of these unique cases are the families of the parents participating in this study within which they had implemented, to various degrees, and to various success rates, communication in heritage language at home. The research involved seven parents from seven different cultural backgrounds, namely - Russia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Indonesia who were living in Melbourne at the time of the study. Seven mothers were randomly selected from among those who had contacted the researcher upon responding to public announcements. The data was collected through three rounds of in-depth semi-structured individual interviews with each parent over a period of three months, exploring the rationales, strategies, and behaviours of FLP implementation. In analysing data, cross-case comparisons (Lichtman, 2006) were made to identify possible correspondence between contextual variables and FLP choice. The data from a total of 21 interviews was revisited to identify core categories and recurring patterns, which then became the primary basis for theory development (Hays & Singh, 2012) in this study. It was found that families living outside their home countries would often impose upon their children to speak their heritage language in order not to lose the language, although the level of implementation of heritage language use in the family context significantly varied. While some families used the heritage language exclusively, others let English freely intervene the use of heritage language at home. In particular, this investigation also establishes the nature of correlation between their domicile status – whether families were living temporarily or permanently, and the adoption of a particular language ideology. The notion of different FLP choice between families with temporary residence and permanent residence status develops because of the analysis on the future prospects of the heritage language maintenance that the families are confronted with. The discussion is envisioned to broaden scholarly debates in the area of bilingualism and second language acquisition in bilingually subtractive environments, such as in the English-speaking West.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2018
    EventInternational Conference on Education, Psychology and Social Studies 2018 - Tokyo, Japan
    Duration: 10 Jul 201812 Jul 2018
    Conference number: 5th


    ConferenceInternational Conference on Education, Psychology and Social Studies 2018
    Abbreviated titleICEPS 2018

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