Heritage Language Maintenance and Biliteracy Development for Immigrants' Children: A Study of Chinese Immigrants' Family Language Policy and Biliteracy Practices
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This study reports on research that examines the family language policy (FLP) and biliteracy practices of middle-class Chinese immigrant families in a metropolitan area in the southwest of the U.S. by exploring language practices pattern among family members, language and literacy environment at home, parents’ language management, parents’ language attitudes and ideologies, and biliteracy practices. In this study, I employed mixed methods, including survey and interviews, to investigate Chinese immigrant parents’ FLP, biliteracy practices, their life stories, and their experience of raising and nurturing children in an English-dominant society. Survey questionnaires were distributed to 55 Chinese immigrant parents and interviews were conducted with five families, including mothers and children. One finding from this study is that the language practices pattern at home shows the trend of language shift among the Chinese immigrants’ children. Children prefer speaking English with parents, siblings, and peers, and home literacy environment for children manifests an English-dominant trend. Chinese immigrant parents’ language attitudes and ideologies are largely influenced by English-only ideology. The priority for learning English surpasses the importance of Chinese learning, which is demonstrated by the English-dominant home literacy practices and an English-dominant language policy. Parents invest more in English literacy activities and materials for children, and very few parents implement Chinese-only policy for their children. A second finding from this study is that a multitude of factors from different sources shape and influence Chinese immigrants’ FLP and biliteracy practices. The factors consist of family-related factors, social factors, linguistic factors, and individual factors. A third finding from this study is that a wide variety of strategies are adopted by Chinese immigrant families, which have raised quite balanced bilingual children, to help children maintain Chinese heritage language (HL) and develop both English and Chinese literacy. The close examination and comparison of different families with English monolingual children, with children who have limited knowledge of HL, and with quite balanced bilingual children, this study discovers that immigrant parents, especially mothers, play a fundamental and irreplaceable role in their children’s HL maintenance and biliteracy development and it recommends to immigrant parents in how to implement the findings of this study to nurture their children to become bilingual and biliterate. Due to the limited number and restricted area and group of participant sampling, the results of this study may not be generalized to other groups in different contexts.