Maintaining support for home languages is one of the most important issues for multilingual societies such as Australia, where almost one in four people live in homes where a language other than English is spoken. The loss of home languages represents a significant loss of a national economic resource, as well as a loss of connection and weakening of identity for children as they are growing up. The declining study of languages and language attrition among second and third generation migrants have are emerging as key issues for educators. This study focuses on Language maintenance in the early years. It presents the results of a qualitative study of early literacy practices of 15 Chinese speaking (Mandarin, Cantonese and Chinese Vietnamese bilingual), mothers and carers with pre-school aged children, living in in an inner-city area of Sydney. For the most part, the mothers and carers in this study were outside the formal early childhood system, accessing supported playgroups and mothers groups. The focus of this qualitative study was on two socially, linguistically and geographically distinct groups of Chinese speaking mothers with pre-school aged children in informal child care settings. The observational and interview data presented relates to the attitudes and practices of mothers around home language maintenance and the resources available to them. The results of this research showed that the Chinese and Vietnamese Chinese mothers in this study wanted their children to maintain both their home language and culture and to start to learn English in the years before they started school. The study also identified a range of affordances and hindrances that impacted on these efforts. Some of these factors were specific to local communities and the paper discusses the varying levels of access to language resources observable between the two groups.
|Keywords:||Language Maintenance, Informal play-groups, Chinese language|
Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Language Studies, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia