Connected Immigrant Communities Chaney 2010  'Literature Review' chapter

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :

Meng and Meurs (2009) examine the effects of intermarriage, language, and economic advantage. They find that immigrants who have some skill in the dominant language of the country to which they immigrate tend to intermarry and earn more income (Meng and Meurs). Marrying outside of one's culture may influence language acquisition due to social and economic needs to advance within the adopted culture.

Moua and Lamborn (2010) note that ethnic socialization practices by parents of immigrant adolescents strengthen the ethnic heritage connection between adolescent, parent, and ethnic community. These include native language use, marriage ties, taking part in cultural events, sharing history, and preparing traditional foods (Moua and Lamborn). As noted previously, immigrant parents tend to congregate in ethnic communities, where they are essentially immersed in the ethnic culture. The native language is often the most utilized if not the exclusive language in the home. However, children are acculturated into the American culture and are taught English language literacy in schools. While immigrant children learn and use English, which increases over time, use of language by immigrant parents is limited by their sense of native ethnic ties to their culture.

Oh and Fuligni (2009) studied the effects of adolescents heritage language use and proficiency on the parent/child relationship. The investigators found that the use of language was not as strongly indicative of positive relationships with parents than was proficiency in the heritage language. The implication is that immigrant parents may wish to see that their children preserve cultural heritage integrity through, at the least, being proficient in the heritage language. The influence of family ties on heritage language preservation would appear to be strong as indicated by the outcomes of this study (Oh and Fuligni).

Bacallao and Smokowski (2006) examined the ways in which Mexican family structure changed after immigration into the United States. They surveyed adolescents and adults from 10 undocumented Mexican families. Adolescents helped parents assimilate into American culture, and parents helped children attempt to stay grounded by promoting familial ties. However, jobs took parents away from the children, which resulted in risk-taking behaviour by the adolescents and conflict between parents and children. Additionally, to counteract the negative impacts of immigration, Mexican immigrant parents tended to become more authoritarian. Language is at the heart of any culture. Language defines the ties that bind families and communities together. As immigrants arrive to a new country, the adults tend to rely more heavily on their heritage culture, while the children attempt to assimilate into the adopted culture. The study indicated that while conflicts arise from immigration issues, families can stay strengthened through a mutual bi-directional relationship between parent and child, with one helping the other. For English language acquisition, the implication is that the Mexican adolescent 'helps' the parent by guiding them through an acculturation process (Bacallao and Smokowski).

Schwartz (2008) examined the relationship between the family domain and language preservation of immigrant families. The role of family language policies was assessed in relation to preserving the heritage language of the family. Results showed that literacy in heritage language was a primary immigrant family policy, and that non-linguistic factors such as social and demographic variables were positively associated with preserving the heritage language of immigrants. The study also found that heritage language and adopted language were of mixed use in the home setting (Schwartz). This study supports previous research that shows the preservation of heritage language is related to social factors such as ethnic enclaves.

Park and Sarkar (2007) examined the role of immigrant parent's attitudes toward preserving the heritage language for their children, even while the children were immersed in the adopted culture, such as the education system. The investigators found that immigrant parents tended to want their children to maintain their heritage language, as they thought it not only gave them an economic advantage (bilingualism being desired by employers) but also that it maintained the heritage culture of the child and brought them closer to their parents and grandparents through shared cultural attributes (Park and Sarkar).

Nesteruk (2010) reviewed the nature of immigrant parental attitudes toward heritage language preservation in their families. Immigrant parents tended to want their children to have proficiency in the heritage language if not outright fluency. Parents used the heritage language more at home, with some mixed-use of English, which was dependent upon cultural assimilation issues such as proximity to ethnic enclaves, and social issues of employment and education. Immigrant parents perceived that societal forces among their children were causing a loss of use of the heritage language in favour of using the English language (Nesteruk).

English language acquisition by second generation immigrant children encounters a strong social force in the educational system of the United States. ELL's (English Language Learners) and TESOL efforts (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) have underlying factors which influence the acquisition and use of English in the schools by immigrant children whose first language is not English (Blatchley and Lau). Suarez (2007) states that most ELL's are born in the United States, yet familial tie issues interfere with the acquisition of English in the school and social system. Parent's wish to have their children speak the heritage language at home. Children do use mixed-language at home, yet follow the family trends. Immigrant parents may not be well-schooled and may have some fear about acculturation, which is reinforced through living in ethnic enclaves and persistent use of the heritage language in family situations (Suarez).

Zhang (2004) reports that the persistence of using the heritage language at home depends largely upon the parental involvement aspect. While immigrant parents tend to use their heritage language at home, they realize that the eventual use of English is inevitable, and so may feel pressured to preserve the native language among their children (Zhang).

Ishizawah (2004) finds that the trend to not acquire English in immigrant households is strongly influenced by the presence of multi-generational family relations living in the same household. Families which had three generations in the same household tended to display more native language use (heritage language) by children in the household. The presence of grandparents was a significant factor in use of the heritage language by children in the same household (Ishizawah).

Hurtado and Vega (2004) utilized data from the National Chicano Survey and the California Identity Project to examine the role of the language shift from Spanish to English among Latino immigrants. The findings suggest that over time, there is a shift from using the heritage language to using the English language, yet familial ties persist which result in linguistic bands, where bilingualism of Spanish and English results (Hurtado and Vega).

Guardado (2002) examines the factors involved in heritage language use in Hispanic immigrant family homes. Using a survey questionnaire, the study results showed that heritage language use in the home was strongly influenced by the attitudes of the parents in maintaining or preserving the cultural language. While outside societal forces were impacting the development of the second language in a positive manner (increased learning and use of second language), the impact of family forces upon the use of the heritage language in the home could either facilitate or lead to a decline of heritage language use in the home (Guardada).

Portes and Hao (2002) report on an acculturation model that looks at issues of self-esteem, language acquisition type, and family dynamics. The investigators posit that selective acculturation processes may be a preferable linguisitic assimilation dynamic for immigrant families. While full linguistic assimilation is often the outcome of immigrant families language acquisition, the authors note that the level of fluency in bilingualism can explain linguistic assimilation. Linguistic assimilation in this respect represents selective acculturation. To describe the model, the authors discuss different degrees of fluency and the association to family relations and gender differences. They find that there is a breadth of linguistic adaptation types, and that becoming bilingually fluent is the preferred type. Other findings indicate that fluent bilinguals have more self-esteem and ambition, and less with parents, than other language types (Portes and Hao).

Pease-Alvarez (2002) notes that language acquisition among immigrant families is often dependent upon family dynamics, specifically factors relating to the social and personal sphere of family processes (Pease-Alvarez). Romero et al. (2004) make an interesting association between close family ties, education level, and bilingualism. Second generation immigrants who have higher educational achievement have closer family ties than those children with low familism; additionally, children that are bilingual in Spanish and English have higher levels of educational attainment and closer family ties than children that speak only Spanish (Romero). Close family ties would seem to help preserve heritage language, though the research suggests that full linguistic acquisition is an often highly preferred outcome for immigrant families.

It should be noted that the role of family ties in English language acquisition, as indicated by the literature review, points to the interaction of various factors in linguistic acquisition. The role…

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