Linguist’s concern at heritage language report

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Thomas Kis-Major  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 03:23
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Thanks Romina and Maria Aug 12, 2014

Thanks, I published it mentioning you as my source on:
http://www.scoop.it/t/what-would-you-loose-if-nobody-would-translate


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
Russian to English
+ ...
Who is he to tell people Aug 12, 2014

what they should (culturally not legally) do, and what they should not do. They can do whatever they want, and whatever they think is better for them, or more pleasurable-- to the extent it is legal.

It is nice if people speak the language of their ancestors, if they want to, and if they are interested in that culture. Otherwise, they can do whatever they want. Holding onto your ethnic culture when neglecting the culture of the place where you live is not very constructive, in fact. There has to be some balance.

[Edited at 2014-08-12 20:47 GMT]


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 01:23
Japanese to English
+ ...
Interesting Aug 12, 2014

My wife teaches Japanese to two Syrian refugee children here in Japan. Their parents speak Arabic, mostly, but the kids go to Japanese schools and have Japanese friends so they pretty much abandoned Arabic. As far as I know, the family plans to live in Japan forever, so their "heritage language" seems pretty useless to the kids other than for religious worship.

The sole purpose of language is communication. If no one around you speaks your language, it isn't really helping you to communicate. So it doesn't really have a purpose. There are other ways to learn about your original culture...hell, you could read about it in your "new" language.


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Texte Style
Local time: 18:23
French to English
who's giving orders? Aug 12, 2014

Liliana, if you read the article you'll see that nobody's telling anyone what language to speak. They're simply worrying that some young children may experience loss of identity if they don't learn their heritage language because of lack of promotion of these languages. And nobody is suggesting that support for learning heritage languages should be provided to the detriment of dominant culture language learning!

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Mark
Local time: 18:23
Italian to English
Language for language's sake... Aug 12, 2014

Orrin Cummins wrote:

The sole purpose of language is communication. If no one around you speaks your language, it isn't really helping you to communicate. So it doesn't really have a purpose.
Seems a little extreme to me. Does it really have to be *immediately* useful? I would say not: it's a resource they may be able to draw on later in life; or not, but they only have the choice if someone makes the effort to give it to them.

And then, what about passive appreciation of literature in the "heritage" language, for example? You might not think of that as "communication" per se, but it has a value.

And I've read in various places that being bilingual has benefits in and of itself, in terms of certain mental capacities and skills. Not that I know all that much about it, mind.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
Russian to English
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Well. It's true. I based my observations on the synopsis Aug 12, 2014

Texte Style wrote:

Liliana, if you read the article you'll see that nobody's telling anyone what language to speak. They're simply worrying that some young children may experience loss of identity if they don't learn their heritage language because of lack of promotion of these languages. And nobody is suggesting that support for learning heritage languages should be provided to the detriment of dominant culture language learning!


of the article. It is a very interesting problem--it would be nice to hear form someone whose ancestors spoke a totally different language than the one the person does. They might feel slightly uprooted. In fact, most of my ancestors spoke different languages as their mother tongues than what I do, and I always felt some void that had to be filled in-- with another language or another culture.

As to bilingualism, or multilingualism--yes, it is great, but it cannot be forced on anyone. It should happen in a natural way. Otherwise, the children may end up not speaking any language well at the age of seven or eight.

[Edited at 2014-08-12 21:03 GMT]


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 01:23
Japanese to English
+ ...
Children live in a world of extremes Aug 12, 2014

Mark Dobson wrote:

Orrin Cummins wrote:

The sole purpose of language is communication. If no one around you speaks your language, it isn't really helping you to communicate. So it doesn't really have a purpose.
Seems a little extreme to me. Does it really have to be *immediately* useful? I would say not: it's a resource they may be able to draw on later in life; or not, but they only have the choice if someone makes the effort to give it to them.

And then, what about passive appreciation of literature in the "heritage" language, for example? You might not think of that as "communication" per se, but it has a value.

And I've read in various places that being bilingual has benefits in and of itself, in terms of certain mental capacities and skills. Not that I know all that much about it, mind.


But what we are really talking about here is children. As an adult, I see what you are saying and even agree with you to an extent, but those points are completely lost on a child.

And that is what we are really talking about is children, isn't it?

I watched a TV program a while back about a 90-year-old Japanese woman who married a Maori guy who was in Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force after WW2. She moved with him back to New Zealand in the 1950s and has lived there ever since. Her husband (who has since passed away) and his family spoke mostly Maori, and for over half a century she has been more or less isolated from native Japanese speakers. But when the Japanese TV crew interviewed her, she could still understand and speak Japanese just fine.

So when we think about the topic of this article, what we are truly considering is the effects that migration has on children who have not really "established" their native language yet. Adults are not going to lose their native language if they migrate to an area that speaks something else.

I can assure you that to children who are being ridiculed daily because of their inferior grasp of the language that everyone around them is speaking, there is nothing more important than learning to speak that language as soon as possible--even if that means losing their old one.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I absolutely agree with Orrin. Aug 13, 2014

From what I've seen, it is absolutely essential for children to integrate--to feel a part of their (new) community, and learn a language that will help them to progress when learning other subjects in school ( in that language).

As to adults who have migrated--well, they won't loose their L1 completely, but it may become rusty. It also depends if their L1 is a popular language (easily accessible through the media) or a rare language, plus what their attitude towards that language is (interest, attachment).


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:23
German to English
What was the real issue Aug 13, 2014

My understanding, based on the very brief article cited, was that the report considered bilingualism detrimental to language learning (children's learning another language at home would slow and harm their learning of the local language). The linguist may simply have said nothing more than that this thesis is absolute hogwash, according to the current state of research on the subject.

Of course it is a major problem if children are not introduced to the local language until they enter school at five or six, but that is what childcare is for. Parents with an inadequate or very inadequate grasp of the local language cannot fix this problem.

Regarding my situation: My children's German sometimes contains strange Anglicisms, but I think that I have done them much less lasting harm by speaking English to them than I would have done by speaking German to them, with all of my shortcomings in terms of grammar and pronunciation. And their German certainly does not seem to be lagging behind that of their peers.

In terms of the cultural issue: It would certainly bother me if my children could never enjoy any of the stories I read as a small child or growing up; if they could not communicate with my parents, brothers, sisters, nieces (except the one who has learned German), and nephews; and if I could not pass on to them a host of phrases from my own father and the rest of my family to them. If my German were worse than it were, it would also be fairly horrible to never be able to communicate with my own children in a language that I felt at home in.

The linguist seemed to be taking exception to the argument of the report that losing one's parents' language makes an important contribution to learning the local language, and I do not see what could be controversial about rejecting this recommendation.


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Linguist’s concern at heritage language report

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