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Parental Attitudes, Social Context, and Bilingualism Yalda M. Kaveh NNETESOL 2013 University of Southern Maine/Boston College Yalda Kaveh

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Presentation on theme: "Parental Attitudes, Social Context, and Bilingualism Yalda M. Kaveh NNETESOL 2013 University of Southern Maine/Boston College Yalda Kaveh"— Presentation transcript:

1 Parental Attitudes, Social Context, and Bilingualism Yalda M. Kaveh NNETESOL 2013 University of Southern Maine/Boston College Yalda Kaveh

2 Bilingual or Monolingual, Why Should We Care? 52.7% of Europeans are fluent in at least one language other than their mother tongue, while only 9.3% of Americans can claim such bilingual fluency. (Trimnell, 2005) “While there are some success stories of developing bilinguals in the second generation, the reality of many immigrant families is a gradual loss of the heritage language as English becomes the dominant language” (Nesteruk, p. 2010).

3 FAQ What is bilingualism and who is a bilingual? What’s the big deal about bilingualism? © Joyce Hesselberth NY Times

4 Benefit of Bilingualism  Cognitive Bilinguals are more cognitively flexible, have double vocabularies, and develop special skills by learning to solve logic problems in different ways and handle multitasking.  Linguistic Bilingualism increases metalinguistic awareness and positively affects the ability to learn additional languages later in life. (Brisk, 2008; Cummins, 1979; Klass, 2011) © Harriet Russell NY Times

5 Benefits of Bilingualism  Academic Cognitive and academic development in the first language is highly significant in becoming fully literate and academically proficient in the second language. Bilinguals have higher achievement in education, reading, vocabulary, and math because of their superiority in formulating scientific hypothesis and deductive reasoning skills (Brisk, Burgos & Hamerla, 2004; Brisk, 2008; Clark, 2000; Collier, 1995; Cummins, 1980a)

6 Benefits of Bilingualism  Economic Bilingualism helps nations in international commerce and business and societies in sociocultural integration.  Social Students’ ties with family and community depend on home language fluency; without it, family relations are often conflicted and may even collapse. (Brisk et al., 2004; Brisk, 2008; Fillmore, 1991)

7 Factors Affecting Bilingualism  Individual Factors Age Gender Learner’s Identity Personal Attitudes Internal Pressures  Social/Group Factors Linguistic Economic Political Cultural Family School Peers Community & Society Media (Brisk et al., 2004; Nesteruk, 2010)

8 My Study The Influence of Parental Attitudes on Children’s Bilingualism: The Case of Six Iranian Immigrant Families in Two English-Speaking Countries © PBS “The Iranian Americans”

9 Purpose: Exploring the influence of home language experiences and parental attitudes toward the first and the second language on children’s bilingualism

10 Participants Six Iranian immigrant families in two English-speaking countries, the U.S. and England. All have children with the average age of 19 who were either born or grew up in these two countries. Group A: live in Maine, U.S. Group B: live in London, England

11 Maine Vs. London © ragingwireragingwire city-evening-lights-river.html

12 Maine Vs. London Maine A very recent report from the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Institute at the Pennsylvania State University: Bangor, Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, and Lewiston- Auburn are among the 25 least diverse micro areas in the nation Most of the children in this study grew up before the recent demographic changes (Lee, Iceland & Sharp, 2012) London A large population of immigrants Large community of Iranians Kids attend Farsi schools during the weekend

13 Data Collection I. Online Survey 10 Questions asking about:  The children’s fluency in Farsi  The parents’ attitudes towards Farsi and English  Parental strategies for language use at home,  Reasons parents attribute to their children’s success or failure in becoming bilinguals (See Appendix A)

14 Assigned Name Country of Residence Number of Children Age of the Daughter(s) Age of the Son(s) Farsi Listening Comprehension Ability Farsi Speaking Ability A1U.S.21417WellElementary A2U.S.22327Very WellRather Fluent A3U.S Varying Abilities* 1 Varying Abilities* 2 B1England1 21Almost WellRather Fluent B2England21018Almost WellRather Fluent B3England Very WellVery Fluent Table 1. Characteristics of the Participant Families * 1 The two older children understand Farsi very well; the two younger children understand it almost well. * 2 The two older children are fluent Farsi speakers; the two younger children cannot really speak Farsi.

15 II. Telephone and Skype Interviews with three of the families To find more about the contextual factors for the children in these families To find out how consciously or unconsciously these parents had contributed to their children’s improvement or deterioration of Farsi. A2: has two children who are proficient in Farsi but never use it to speak to their parents at home A3: has four children- two of them are bilinguals and the other two are monolinguals. B1: Ease of access. (See Appendix B)

16 FINDINGS 1. Parental Attitudes toward L1 & L2: Highly Influential on Bilingualism Parents whose children are fluent Farsi speakers, B1, B2 & B3, consider L1 and L2 equally important, while parents whose children can’t speak Farsi or do not use it to speak to them, A1, A2 & A3, consider English more important than Farsi. 3 of the parents with bilingual children attributed their success to their effort in introducing their cultural heritage by talking to their children in Farsi, or by showing it through their behaviors.

17 2. Parents Are Not Aware of the Significance of L1 in L2 Development Five of the six parents believe L1 proficiency has no effect on L2. One family believes it’s hard to know All the parents declared that they have NEVER attended any events or read ANYTHING on bilingualism Four out of six, almost 66.6%, indicated having no strategy and that anyone can speak any language he/she wishes (see chart 1). The other two parents said that they speak Farsi and their children respond in English.

18 Parental Language Strategy at Home

19 Also… All parents said they use Farsi as their everyday language Parent B1specifically uses Farsi to talk about behavior, heritage, and respect. Families A1 and B2 switch to English for more complicated and technical issues

20 3. Social Setting is as Influential as Home Setting Families whose children speak Farsi fluently and frequently mentioned having a community of friends or family members nearby with whom the children could communicate in Farsi. Parents believe having no Iranian community around and using English all the time are main the reasons for losing Farsi, while having Farsi-speaking friends and family members around is one major reason for keeping the language. A2 son’s sudden interest in Farsi in DC

21 4. Attending School Intervenes in the Maintenance of L1 85% of the parents motioned detrimental effects for schools regarding their children's heritage language fluency and literacy. Children started speaking English at home when they started school. In families with more than one child, younger siblings, started speaking English even before school because of their older siblings.

22 Flashback to the Literature: Attending school and being totally surrounded by the English language is a huge transition for language-minority children. Once they start school, they quickly find the key to acceptance is English and are motivated to stop using their primary language because they think it is of no use any more. (Clark, 2000; Fillmore, 1991; Garcia, 2000)

23 Arguments Bilingualism can be highly influenced by the way parents consider and use the two languages. Children will be even more unwilling to speak their native language when they see their parents are talking to them in English. Parents are not to be blamed. They need to be informed.

24 Arguments Detrimental effects of schooling on heritage languages can be ameliorated by motivating children for their L1 through introducing the beauties of their language and culture while not imposing it. Having a community of native language speakers can highly increase the interest in speaking that language. When there is no community, a tight family-school partnership can be of great help. Family’s support for L1 won’t be effective when children feel the pressure of being considered “aliens” in school and among their peers.

25 Flashback to the Literature: “Teachers and parents must work together to try to mitigate the harm that can be done to children when they discover that differences are not welcome in the social world represented by the school” (Fillmore, 1991, p. 345) Families, students, and teachers need to be aware of the benefits of bilingualism, the challenges of becoming a bilingual, as well as the ways of addressing those challenges at home, in school, and in the community. (Rodríguez, 2008)

26 Implications for Practice Bilingualism needs ubiquitous awareness: Families need to be informed in order to support L1 at home ELLs and non-ELLs need to learn to accept everyone, including themselves, with all their differences; And, we, teachers, need to be prepared to promote bilingualism among our students and their families by our knowledge and positive attitudes.

27 Implications for Practice We need to start looking at our students as “funds of knowledge”. ©keepcalmandposters

28 References Klass, P. (2011, October 11). Hearing bilingual: How babies sort out language. The New York Times. Nesteruk, O. (2010). Heritage language maintenance and loss among the children of eastern european immigrants in the USA. Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development, 31(3), doi: / Rodríguez, M. Victoria. (2008). How to support bilingualism in early childhood. Texas Child Care Quarterly, 32(3), Trimnell, E. (2005). Why you need a foreign language and how to learn one. New York: Beechmont Crest.

29 More practical suggestions for practice? Learning about our students’ backgrounds and integrating their history, geography, language and culture in our curriculum Ethnic festivals Inviting parents to classrooms Other ideas?

30 References Brisk, M.E., Ed. (2008). Language, culture, and community in teacher education. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate (for the American Association of College for Teacher Education). Brisk, M. E., Burgos, A., & Hamerla, S. (2004). Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Clark, B. A. (2000). First- and Second-Language Acquisition in Early Childhood, Issues in Early Childhood Education: Curriculum, Teacher Education, & Dissemination of Information. Proceedings of the Lilian Katz Symposium (Champaign, IL, November 5-7, 2000), Collier, V. P. (1995). Acquiring a second language for school. The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education (NCBE), 1(4). Cummins, J. (1980). The cross-lingual dimensions of language proficiency: Implications for bilingual education and the optimal age issue. TESOL Quarterly, 14(2),

31 References Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 221–251. (Reprinted in the National Dissemination and Assessment Center, Bilingual Education Paper Series, September, 1979) Fillmore, L. W. (1991). When learning a second language means losing the first. Early childhood research quarterly, 6(3), Garcia, K. (2000). Raising bilingual kids. Hispanic, 13(3), 74. Kipp, S., Clyne, M., & Pauwels, A. (1995). Immigration and Australia's language resources. AGPS. Lee, B. A., Iceland, J., & Sharp, G. (2012). Racial and ethnic diversity goes local: Charting change in American communities over three decades. Department of Sociology and Population Research Institute The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from pdf.


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