Parental experiences with children's heritage language maintenance and loss: Cases of eleven Czech and Slovak transnational immigrant families in the southeastern United States Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • McCabe, Marta
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • This qualitative study explored experiences of immigrant parents from the Czech Republic and Slovakia with heritage language (HL) learning and use among their children in the southeastern United States. Central European immigrants not only constitute an understudied population, they are highly unlikely to maintain the HL across generations given their relatively small numbers, geographical dispersal, higher rate of intermarriages, and the general absence of formal heritage language programs. Drawing on in-depth interviews and informal conversations with parents in eleven families in which one (n=5) or both (n=6) parents immigrated from the Czech Republic or Slovakia, this study presents an account of the parents' language goals, their home language practices, and the perceived challenges and opportunities in HL maintenance. The framework of transnational migration theories (Brittain, 2002; 2009) guided the analysis, exploring the potential of transnational practices to overcome the dominant society's strong pressures for language assimilation. Findings suggest that: (1) Parents highly valued the HL but generally did not see its future practical use for their children. (2) Parental effort at HL maintenance ranged from strong resolve to ambivalence. (3) Parents in mixed-marriage families experienced HL maintenance as a struggle from the start, while parents in all-immigrant families faced a dilemma of how much English to introduce. (4) English and the HL were often perceived as interfering with one another. (5) Parents felt isolated in their effort to promote and teach the HL. (6) All parents observed an intergenerational shift in the relationship to the heritage culture and a gap between their original goals and the children's current HL proficiency. The children's identity choices and their less-than-expected HL fluency triggered grief in many parents. The conditions contributing to HL retention came overwhelmingly from the transnational realm while factors interrupting HL maintenance came largely from the dominant society, supporting the argument that transnational involvement of immigrants affects HL retention positively. Regular and lengthy transnational trips overseas emerged as a crucial strategy for successful HL maintenance. In addition, approaching the HL as a practical resource facilitated HL learning and retention. Implications for public schools, language experts, and immigrant parents are discussed.
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  • In Copyright
  • Rong, Xue Lan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2014

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