Ecological perspectives of intergenerational minority language transmission
Montero, M. Kristiina
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Guided by a language ecology metaphor, the purpose of this study was to understand the language maintenance efforts of a Castilian Spanish heritage language community in Ontario, Canada using oral history methodologies. The study examined the intersection of policy, teaching, and learning of Castilian Spanish. The Spanish heritage language community under examination was made up of individuals who immigrated to Canada primarily from Spain in the 1960s and early 1970s and their Canadian-born children. The researcher conducted 16 in-depth, semi-structured interviews of thirteen members of the community: three key members of the organizational committee (aged 50 to 70), four teachers (aged 50 to 80), and six students (aged 30 to 34) who participated in the heritage language classes from first through eighth grade between 1977 to 1987. A total of 40 hours of recorded interview data were collected. Additionally, data were collected through informal conversations. All participants interviewed were women except for two men belonging to the third category of participants. Interview data were analyzed using narrative analysis and supported with archival data and focus group interviews. Theoretical frameworks used in the study were multiliteracies, global feminism, and the ecology of language maintenance. The school started by the children’s mothers was formed in order to teach the Spanish language to the second generation firstly, for moral reasons and secondly, for economic reasons. This contrasted to the reasons for which the second generation (i.e., the children) wanted to transmit the heritage language to the third generation, which was primarily for economic advancement rather than to become culturally enriched and to encourage family cohesion. The first generation saw themselves as instrumental to the teaching of the heritage language to the second generation; however, the second generation viewed themselves as occupying supportive rather than instrumental roles in the process of intergenerational language transmission and language maintenance. The findings also suggest that in professional settings, graduates of the heritage language school rely on oral language skills over skills requiring the use of printed text. This study informs the growing body of literature on heritage language learning in countries where English is the main language of currency.
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