Perspectives Vs. Reality Of Heritage Language Development

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ResearchPerspectives vs. Realityof Heritage Language DevelopmentVoices from Second-Generation Korean-AmericanHigh School StudentsGrace ChoIntroductionThe United States is abundant inhuman resources and educational opportunities to produce many multiculturaland multilingual citizens. The number ofindividuals who speak a language otherthan English at home continues to increasesignificantly. According to the 2010 U.S.Census, the foreign-born population numbered 39.9 million (13% of the total population), an increase of 28.2% from 2000.About 85% of the foreign-born populationspoke a language other than English athome and 15% spoke only English at home(U.S. Census, 2010). These astounding statistics reveal great potential to maximizethe linguistic and cultural capabilities ofimmigrant children. To that end the development and maintenance of one’s heritagelanguage (HL) is essential.There is ample evidence that beingbilingual (i.e., maintaining one’s HL in addition to English) is beneficial and has nonegative effects on an individual’s ability tofunction in society (Krashen, 1998a). Pealand Lambert (1962) were among the firstresearchers to find a positive relationshipbetween bilingualism and cognitive ability.Their study showed that bilingual childrenhave greater cognitive flexibility than domonolingual children and that bilingualism promotes academic achievement,which, in turn, fosters higher academicexpectations.Analyzing national longitudinal data,Fernandez and Nielsen (1986) found apositive correlation between academicachievement and bilingualism among Hispanic- and European-American high schoolGrace Cho is a professor and chairof the Department of Secondary Educationin the College of Educationat California State University, Fullerton,Fullerton, California.students. A similar finding was seen in Matute-Bianchi’s (1986) ethnographic study ofMexican-American children, which reportedthat fully bilingual Mexican Americanstended to perform better in school and hada stronger Mexican identity when comparedto those who had weak bilingual skills.Having advanced bilingual skills alsowas shown to be related to higher gradesand standardized test scores (Bankston &Zhou, 1995; Garcia, 1985; Lee, 2002), lowerdropout rates (Rumberger & Larson, 1998),greater educational and occupational aspirations (Portes & Schauffler, 1995), and jobrelated advantages (Fradd & Boswell, 1999;Tienda & Neidert, 1984). Children who aremore motivated to develop their HL tend tohave higher self-esteem (Phinney, Romero,Nave, & Huang, 2001), a stronger sense oflinguistic and cultural identity (Pigott &Karoche, 2005), and positive attitudes toward their own ethnic group (Tse, 2000).Knowing multiple languages broadensthe number of people with whom one cancommunicate, grants access to supportivenetworks in the community (Dornbusch& Stanton-Salazar, 1995; Matute-Bianchi,1991; Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; Zhou &Bankston, 1994), and facilitates effectivecommunication with parents, elders, andthe HL community (Cho, 2000, 2008; Fuligni, 1997). As Krashen (1998a) has noted,HL development allows the HL learner. . . to profit from their [parents, extendedfamily members, and HL communitymembers] wisdom and knowledge, promotea healthy sense of multiculturalism, an acceptance not only of both the majority andheritage culture, but a deeper understanding of the human condition. (p. 9)Society also benefits from bilingualism in terms of business, diplomacy, andnational security. The U.S. governmentrecognizes the need for Americans whoare proficient in languages other thanMULTICULTURAL EDUCATION30English (Peyton, Ranard, & McGinnis,2001), particularly in terms of nationalsecurity, diplomacy, and international commerce (Kuenzi & Riddle, 2005) as well asin the private business and service sectors(Wright, 2003).Decline in Heritage LanguageDespite these benefits, research alsoshows the difficulty of maintaining or developing one’s HL. Research documents acontinuing pattern of decline in the use ofHL and in HL competence among languageminority groups, leading them to eventually lose their HL and become Englishmonolinguals.The use of the HL begins to declineas children of immigrants move throughschool. In this regard, Garcia and Diaz(1992) conducted a survey research withSpanish-speaking high school students inMiami, Florida. They found a decline in thepercentage of students who reported usingmostly or all Spanish. Among these students, HL was used more with parents, lesswith siblings, and even less with peers. Asimilar decline was found among Vietnamese-speaking children in elementary andmiddle school (Nguyen, Shin, & Krashen,2001) and across a number of languagecommunities (Wong Fillmore, 1991).HL competence is shown to declinewith age as well. Merino (1983) comparedHL competence with English competenceand found a decline in oral Spanish competence between ages five and seven,measured at two points in time in a test oforal language production. Zhou (2001) conducted a study comparing HL competenceof 363 Vietnamese-background teenagers,who were either born in the U.S. or arrivedbefore age six. At a two-year follow-up,61% reported a decline in HL competence,which was accompanied by an increase inEnglish competence. Espiritu and Wolf’s

Research(2001) study showed a similar patternamong Filipino-background students.The most commonly observed patternamong the U.S. immigrant population isthe language shift phenomenon (Castillo,2004; Portes & Schauffler, 1995). A consistent finding in the field of sociology oflanguage is that HLs are lost by the thirdgeneration of immigrants (Veltman, 1983).Moreover, the language shift from the immigrants’ HL to the dominant language ofthe host society has accelerated over theyears, showing a complete language shiftwithin two generations (Wiley, 2001).A large-scale study of over 5,000 second-generation adolescents in Florida andCalifornia showed that only 30% of theseadolescents were fluent in their HL. Themajority (72%) reported that they wereEnglish dominant and preferred speakingEnglish (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). Lopez(1996) found that English monolingualismat home increased from one generation tothe next and that the shift was more rapidin the third generation than in the secondgeneration. Such a shift was even morerapid among Asian-Americans as comparedto Latino-Americans across generations.The shift to the dominant language was alsonoted in research on Korean Americans.Korean Language GapOver one million Koreans live inthe U.S., of whom 30% are U.S. bornsecond-generation Korean Americans.Korean immigrants are geographicallymore dispersed than are other recentAsian immigrants, but the majorities areconcentrated in four large metropolitancities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago,and Washington, D.C. (Terrazas & Batog,2010). California has the largest numberof Korean immigrants of any state, and onein five Korean immigrants resides in theLos Angeles metropolitan area (Terrazas& Batog, 2010).Research on language use patterns ofKorean immigrants indicates a languagegap between parents and children. Studies show that first-generation Koreanimmigrants speak almost exclusivelyKorean at home and at work, while mostsecond-generation Korean Americanscommunicate predominantly in English(Hurh & Kim, 1984; Min, 2000; Shin,2005). Min (2000) reported that 77% ofsecond-generation Korean Americansspeak only or mostly English to theirparents after the age of five.Korean immigrants have been activelyinvolved in the maintenance and develop-ment of their children’s HL and culture.Korean ethnic schools, ethnic associations,newspapers, and professional organizations have been established to promoteculture and language (Geer, 1981). Lee(2002) found that U.S.-born Korean Americans have a strong desire to keep theirlanguage and culture. Regardless of thepresence of factors associated with slowing down the rate of shifting to English,however, the pattern of an accelerated shiftto English has been documented in Koreanimmigrant families (Shin, 2005) and hasbeen shown to have negative consequences(Cho & Krashen, 1998).Little empirical research has examined the cause of language shift or thefactors related to the HL developmentof language minority groups. This studyinvestigates the factors that facilitate orinhibit the HL development of secondgeneration Korean Americans, with a focuson adolescent HL learners, who go throughphases in the development of their identity,ethnic identity, and their attitudes towardHL development and HL speakers, whichare shaped during these phases (Erickson,1968; Tse, 2000).MethodParticipantsAll participants in this study weresecond-generation Korean-Americanhigh school students residing in SouthernCalifornia. The participants were recruitedthrough Korean language classes, Koreanweekend schools, Korean churches, anda university, as well as through personalacquaintances. Pseudonyms are used toprotect participants’ privacy. The studyutilized data collected through interviewsand derived from a questionnaire.To obtain a broad perspective, sevenKorean-American high school studentswere interviewed. All respondents were“second-generation” Korean Americansliving in the U.S. However, they also haddiverse backgrounds in terms of age, HLproficiency, access to HL materials, livingin an HL-speaking environment, and experiences learning the HL. The interviewdata yielded rich first-hand, in-depthperspectives of HL development, includingpromoting and inhibiting factors for HLdevelopment.A second group of participants consisted of 260 second-generation KoreanAmerican high school students. As seenin Table 1, the sample was balanced bystudent gender; 133 (51.2%) were femaleand 127 (48.8%) were male. Age of thestudents ranged from 14 to 18 years old(M 15.9 years). The criterion of secondgeneration was broadened by includingKorean-American youths who came toTable 1Questionnaire Participants’ Demographic Data (N 260)Variablen%GenerationU.S.-born second generation“Almost-second” generation, Age at arrival (M 3.67, SD lf-identified EthnicityKoreanAmericanKorean AmericanOther3111217612. LanguageEnglishBoth Korean and EnglishKorean23424290.09.20.8Studied or are Studying the Korean LanguageYesNo1807969.230.4Length of Time Studying HL (n 180)0-1 year1-3 years3-6 years72553839.129.920.7Age (M 15.9, SD 1.35)Note. Valid percentages are used.WINTER 201531

Researchthe U.S. before school age in addition tothose who were born in the U.S. As such,they all grew up and began their formaleducation in this country. Fifty (19%) were“almost second-generation,” coming to theU.S. when they were young (M 3.67, age atarrival; SD 1.66) and having lived in theU.S. most of their lives (M 15.4 years ofresidence; SD 1.92), and 210 (80.8%) weresecond-generation Korean Americans whowere born in the U.S. Only participantswhose parents are Korean speakers wereincluded in the final analysis.Data Collection and AnalysisPrior to the interview, each participant in the first group of seven subjectscompleted a comprehensive questionnaireto provide language proficiency data anddemographic information, which were laterused to guide the participant’s interview.All interviews were conducted in English,audio-recorded, and transcribed. Eachinterview lasted approximately 30 to 45minutes, and extensive notes were taken.As needed, follow-up questions were sentvia email for clarification and elaborationof certain responses. Salient quotationswere noted and are presented in the findings below .Descriptive statistics were used toanalyze the questionnaire data. Qualitative analysis was used for the data fromthe interview and from the responses tothe open-ended questions on the questionnaire. The data were coded and analyzedfor emergent themes according to stepsoutlined by Strauss and Corbin (1990).The interview data were used to develop items for the questionnaire, whichwas administered to the larger sample of260 subjects. Questionnaire items includeddemographic information, language proficiency and use, Korean language learningexperience, attitudes toward the Koreanlanguage, and possible facilitating andinhibiting factors in developing one’s HL.FindingsThe findings of the study include theparticipants’ language characteristics(e.g., language dominance, preference,use) and their perspectives on HL development, including their perceptions of whatpromotes or inhibits development of theirHL. In addition, mismatches between theirperspectives and the reality of how oneacquires an HL are presented. The resultsof the questionnaire are presented, and togive voice to the participants’ perspectives,salient quotes from the interviews andThese findings demonstrate a shift towardthe society’s majority language.Regardless of whether one is dominantin the majority language or prefers usingEnglish to Korean, most of the participantshad positive attitudes toward maintainingor developing their HL. As seen in Table 3,a total of 187 (75.1%) of the participantsreported that being able to speak, read,and write in Korean is very important,38 (15.3%) of the participants indicatedimportant, and only 24 (9.6%) respondednot important or don’t know.Participants also were asked to statetheir reasons for wanting to maintaintheir HL. As also seen in Table 3, a largemajority (n 219, 84.2%) indicated a desireto have a closer relationship with theirfamily. This was followed by being ableto communicate with Korean speakers(n 218, 83.8%), to understand the culture(n 162, 62.3%), and to enhance career opportunities (n 156, 60.0%).open-ended comments from the questionnaire are included.Participants’ BackgroundBecoming dominant in the majority language (i.e., English) seems to be acommon phenomenon among second-generation Korean-American youth. As shownin Table 1, most participants reportedEnglish to be their dominant languageor the language with which they feel themost comfortable. Specifically, 234 (90.

through Korean language classes, Korean weekend schools, Korean churches, and a university, as well as through personal acquaintances. Pseudonyms are used to protect participants’ privacy. The study utilized data collected through interviews and derived from a questionnaire. To obtain a broad perspective, seven Korean-American high school students were interviewed. All respondents were .

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