Face(t)s of first language loss 1999

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Face(t)s of first language loss 1999

    ? title : Face[t]s of First Language Loss author : Kouritzin, Sandra G. publisher : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. isbn10 | asin : 0805831851 printisbn13 : 9780805831856 ebook isbn13 : 9780585250885 language : English subject ? Language attrition, Linguistic minorities--Language, Sociolinguistics. publication date : 1999 lcc : P40.5.L28K68 1999eb ddc : 306.44 subject

     : Language attrition, Linguistic minorities--Language, Sociolinguistics.

    Page i Face[t]s of First Language Loss

    Sandra G. Kouritzin University of British Columbia

    LAWRENCE ERLBAUM ASSOCIATES, PUBLISHERS 1999 Mahwah, New Jersey??????????????????London


    Page ii The final camera copy for this work was prepared by the author, and therefore thepublisher takes no responsibility for consistency or correctness of typographical style.However, this arrangement helps to make publication of this kind of scholarship possible. Copyright ? 1999 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this bookmay be reproduced in any form, by photostat, microfilm, retrieval system, or any other means,without prior written permission of the publisher.

    Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers

     10 Industrial Avenue Mahwah, NJ 07430 Cover design by Kathryn Houghtaling Lacey Library?of?Congress?Cataloging-in-Publication?Data












    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????CIP Books published byLawrence Erlbaum Associates are printed on acid-free paper, and their bindings are chosen forstrength and durability.

    Printed?in?the?United?States?of?America? 10??9??8??7??6??5??4??3??2??1


    Page iii

    ???????? For?minority?language?children?everywhere ;


     may?they?grow?up?bilingual ????????


    Page v CONTENTS Preface ix Introduction 1 On What Pretext? 3 1. A Pre/text for Language LossResearch 7 Background 11 Definition of Terms 12 Context 13 Language Loss That Isn't: LanguageShift 14 Minority-Language Families 15 Individual Language Loss 16 The Majority-LanguageCulture 16 Questioning Findings and Methodologies 18 Considerations of the Present Study 19 Life History 19 Subjects 21 I. Face-Touching: A Story Book 25 A Musical Interlude 27 2. Ariana:Introduction 31 The Interview Context 31 The Life History Context 34 The Narrative Context 37 3. Ariana's Story: But I'm Canadian-Born 43 4. Richard: Introduction 51 The Interview Context 51 The Life History Context 55 The Narrative Context 59 5. Richard's Story: English Is a Full-Time Job 63


    Page vi 6. Lara: Introduction 75 The Interview Context 75 The Life History Context 77 TheNarrative Context 81 7. Lara's Story: An Outsider Looking In 87 8. Brian: Introduction 97 TheInterview Context 97 The Life History Context 100 The Narrative Context 106 9. Brian's Story:Nothing Too Deep 111 10. Helena: Introduction 119 The Interview Context 119 The Life HistoryContext 123 The Narrative Context 129 11. Helena's Story: Learning the Rules 135 II. DwellingIn The Borderlands 147 Borders 149 12. Introduction 153 Inhabitants 153 Nadia 154 William 155

    Dhiet 156 Greta 157 Alexandra 158 Kuong 159 Kurt, Cameron, and Julian 160 Alex 160 Naomi 161 Hana Kim 162 Minette 163 Nellie 164 Michael 165 Charles 165 13. Family Relationships 169 14.Self-Image and Cultural Identity 177 15. School Relationships 187


    Page vii 16. School Performance 195 17. The Meaning of Loss 201 Discordance 207 18. Conclusion 209 Not a Finale: A Decrescendo 209 Summary 209 Implications 211 Reflections 212 Appendix A:Life History Selection Criteria 215 Appendix B: Subject Biographical Information 216 References

     217 Author Index 225 Subject Index 227


    Page ix PREFACE The main motivation for this multiple case study is the desire to understandminority first language loss from a descriptive, narrative, retrospective, and personal pointof view, a point of view heretofore overlooked in language loss research. The purpose is not tosearch for causal relationships, nor to assume that first language loss is the consequence, orprimary cause of a set of social conditions, but instead to try to understand the meaning ofthe experience from an insider perspective. This rounds out the picture already painted bylinguistic analyses of the language loss process, and by statistical and ethnographic studies.This multiple life history case study accomplishes the following: 1. It describes, from an emic

     1 perspective, the intersection between language, identity, culture, and marginalization insome former minority-language speakers. 2. It offers a contextualized, personal, narrativeunderstanding of first language loss during second language acquisition. 3. It describes whatit means to lose a language, especially in terms of participation in the social, educational,and economic systems of the community. 4. It offers insight into individuals' perceptions oftheir communicative adaptation in deficit situations. 5. It opens a window on the livedexperiences of people who have lost a first language, as well as on the familial, social, andeducational consequences of first language loss. There are four major sections in this book.Preceding each section are short vignettes, creative commentaries on the text. Having titles inbold italics, these vignettes precede the sections they are meant to comment on; therefore, On What Pretext ? is meant to be read as a commentary on the literature review that follows it,and can be read either as a straightforward account of how language loss, immigrant experience,and cultural identity have permeated modern literature, or it can be read as a response to thetraditional form of the academic literature review that privileges the research genre as truthand penalizes story or poem as fiction. Readers are invited to interpret these vignettes asthey see fit, or to ignore them entirely. Some parts of the vignettes are borrowed fromliterature in poetry and prose, others mobilize artifacts from common culture, others speak tothe researcher experience; all have


    Page x been adapted especially for this document. Their inclusion, and the attempt to givevoice to multiple narrators, is intended to address my desire to create a text that ispolyphonous, performative, and invitational. 2 The first section, containing the vignette On

     ? and the chapter "A Pre/text for Language Loss Research," sets the stage for theWhat Pretext

    rest of the book, introducing theory and research concerned with first language loss. It alsobriefly describes the research on which this book is based, and the rationale for focusing onlife history case studies rather than more traditional forms of second language acquisition (ofwhich first language loss is a part) research. Part I, "Face-Touching: A Story Book," containsfive two-part stories. Following the vignette A Musical Interlude , Part I consists of five

    individual stories of first language loss, told by five different narratorsAriana, Lara,Richard, Brian, and Helenain their own voices and words as far as possible. Each story ispreceded by an introduction to the story's narrator that describes the interview context, the

    setting, the atmosphere, the sounds, the social climate, the time of day and year, all of whichhad an impact on the story that was told. In the introduction, I also give an overview of eachperson's life so that their language loss stories can be seen in terms of the bigger picture. Ialso comment on the narrative strategies and language use of each storyteller. Part II,"Dwelling in the Borderlands," is an emergent theme analysis of the issues concerning, andconsequences arising from, first language loss. After the vignette entitled Borders , and a

    separate introduction, it is divided into five chapters"Family Relationships," "Self-image andCultural Identity," "School Relationships,'' "School Performance," and "The Meaning of Loss."It draws on 21 completed life history case studies and 1 pilot study. Extensive use is made ofquotations, both to support the claims made in the text, and also to continue to address myconcerns with polyphony. The conclusion, like the introduction, contains one chapter and onevignette. The vignette, Discordance , represents the current attitudes toward immigrants and

    English as a Second Language students in Canada, and is meant as a kind of call to arms. Theconcluding chapter, purposely entitled "Not a Finale: a Decrescendo" summarizes and raisesquestions about this and future research, and explains the roles researching, re/searching, andwriting have played in my own life. It is hoped that the understandings arising from this bookwill not only enable readers individually to validate or change their views of the role ofminority languages in public education, but also to critically examine social systems, policy,and educational practice, with a view to:


    Page xi 1. facilitating the best possible language development for minority-language children,indeed, all children; 2. increasing the self-esteem and cultural identity of minority-languagestudents; 3. maintaining the integrity of minority-language families; 4. keeping minority-language students invested in completing and/or continuing their education; 5. engenderingequality of educational opportunity; 6. fostering a working antilinguicist multiculturalism. Iknow that I have been so influenced. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Any list of all the people who encouragedme, assisted me, or otherwise contributed to this undertaking is bound to be incomplete. I wantto thank my doctoral committee, Dr. Marion Crowhurst, Dr. Donald Fisher, Dr. Margaret Early,and Dr. Patricia Duff for all of their time, energy, and caring, and for always allowing me tofollow my own lead, while providing me with critique and guidance, without which I could nothave written the dissertation on which this book is based. In particular, I extend my thanks toMarion Crowhurst for at all times providing a model not only for the type of academic, but alsofor the type of person I would like to be. I also thank Donald Fisher for always being acaring, warm, and empathetic "touchstone." I wish to thank Dr. Jim Cummins, a reviewer of thisbook, whose support and encouragement have been most appreciated, whose work has given me avision of ESL academia to follow, and whose suggestions over the years have made me a morecareful, more thoughtful scholar. I am also indebted to a second reviewer of this book, Dr.René Galindo, who, above and beyond the call of duty, provided me with detailed and thought-provoking ideas and references, that, I hope, have made this a better book. A special thank youto Naomi Silverman who, in offering encouragement, support, judicious suggestions, andconfidence that I could complete this book while pregnant and then while mothering a new babyand a toddler, became more than an editor, a trusted friend. I appreciate the careful work ofBarbara Wieghaus, production editor, at Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. I am thankful also for thegenerous financial support I received in the form of doctoral fellowships from the SocialSciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (752-95-1791) and the University of British


    Page xii Columbia, and for the British Columbia Ministry of Education Research Grant, and theUniversity of British Columbia, Faculty of Graduate Studies' Mary Simpson Scholarship, all ofwhich gave me the time and resources to engage fully with this research and writing. I amfinally most grateful for the support of my family and friends. My mother and father, Jean and

Alex Kouritzin, never said " if you go to university," but instead always said " when you go

    to university," and they have stood by me every step of the way. My in-laws, Kozo and ChiemiNakagawa, have given their love and support, their trust and their name, and have neverquestioned what kind of unconventional wife their son has married. Thank you to my brother,Michael Kouritzin, and Angie, Trevor, and Vicky; to my sister-in-law, Mutsumi Koshima, andKazutoshi, Taiyo, and Haruhi; and to Yumiko and Tomoko, who will always feel like family. Thankyou to all of the volunteers for this study, to Wendy Pringle-Tanahashi, Katie Sookocheff, andLaura Kaminsky, unparalleled mothers and friends, and to Garold Murray, who listened to thisentire manuscript at least twice over the telephone, and did not once miss a word. A specialthank you to T. Gilbert Bunch who kindled in me (and countless others) a love of literature,and whose gruff challenge to me to work harder has always inspired me to do just a little bitmore. Thank you most of all to my husband, Satoru Nakagawa, for his love and support, hisstrength and guidance, his compassion and generosity, his many, many sacrifices.?.?.and forHanika and Tyrone. And thank you to my children for teaching me the most important things ofall. SANDRA G. KOURITZIN Endnotes 1. This term, commonly used in anthropological research,refers to the practice of working within and against the conceptual frameworks of the subjectsof research (Silverman, 1993, p. 24; see also Fielding & Fielding, 1986). I take the term tomean something slightly different from Van Manen s (1992) concept of hermeneutic phenomenology,in that subjects not only reflect on, but also interpret their experiences, and that I toointerpret and generalize from the unique and particular circumstances to the seemingly moregeneral and/or characteristic meaning derived from similar or divergent situations. 2. Thisphrase is borrowed from Patti Lather (personal communication, July 1994) and, in this instance,refers to academic texts that are written with the intent to delight as well as to inform.




    Page 3 On What Pretext? All good researchers must write a literature review mobilizing thearguments of experts and creating a justification, rationale, and framework for furtherresearchthis is one of the basic tenets of social science and educational research. As I haveto begin with a literature review, I should explain my crisis in writing it. First, this book,like any other research-based book, is a self-referencing document; the author decides whichbodies of knowledge inform the topic, then searches relevant databases, looking underidentifiable descriptors. I liken this to peeing in the corners marking the boundaries ofintellectual territory. The second approach is to ask "Self, what do you think are the bodiesof research that would have a bearing on this phenomenon?" In other words, despite itsexploratory nature, this project was no voyage of discovery. To use methodological terminology,like any other author, I began demarcating the academic boundaries of this research projectbefore I began, attending to nonfiction, research, and academic prose, dismissing high-flungrhetoric, letters to the editor, poetry, songs, and fiction, however worthy I felt them to be. But, just think for a momentwouldn't it be grand if we could write a review of lit'rature(think of Michael Caine pronouncing this word in the film Educating Rita ), if we could all

    accept that Carol Shields (1993) was righting/writing acceptable practice when she wrote that when we say a thing or an event is real, never mind how suspect it sounds, we honor it. Butwhen a thing is made upregardless of how true and just it seemswe turn up our noses. That's theage we live in. The documentary age. As if we can never, never get enough facts. (p. 330) Wouldn't it be liberating to follow these words, as if they constituted academic critique, andto mobilize fiction, poetry, drama, song, art, performance, and all other sensory expressions,in the creation, realization, and proliferation of knowledge? In that case, I know that I wouldthen ask Garrison Keillor (1985) to speak of one of the parenting dilemmas for immigrantparents who don't speak English, the inability to express themselves fully in a new language:

    America was the land where they were old and sick, Norway where they were young and full ofhopesand much smarter, for you are never so smart again in a language learned in middle age norso romantic or brave or kind. All the best of you is in the old tongue, but when you speak yourbest in America you become a yokel, a dumb


    Page 4 Norskie, and when you speak English, an idiot. No wonder the old-timers loved the placeswhere the mother tongue was spoken, the Evangelical Lutheran church, the Sons of Knute lodge,the tavern, where they could talk and cry and sing to their hearts' content. O Norway , land

     , thy dark green forest is where my soul goes to seek comfort of my childish fancies

    . O bird in the sky , tell medo they remember me in the old home or am I a stranger wherever I

     ? (p. 79) And while his many-timbered voice read these lines into surround-sound speakersroam

    in a dimly lit hall, a spotlight would focus on three old Norwegian bachelors in faded denimoveralls, sunburned, shirtless, white chest hair covering their once-brawny, now-sagging,torsos, sitting almost motionless on wooden benches outside a weathered Five-and-Dime, playinggin-rummy, and sucking their dentures, while the grocer, in a dingy, off-white apron, broom inhand, squinted into the sunlight, watching from the door. And then, to really personalize thetorments of immigrant parents, I would print Himani Bannerji's (1990) poignant description ofmothers' guilt in introducing what I can best describe as the "Ancient Mariner Syndrome" totheir families: What did I do, she thought, I took her away from her own people and her ownlanguage, and now here she comes walking alone, through an alien street in a country namedCanada. As she contemplated the solitary, moving figure, her own solitude rushed over her likea tide. She had drifted away from a world that she had lived in and understood, and now shestood here at the same distance from her home as from the homes which she glimpsed whilewalking past the sparkling clean windows of the sand lasted houses. (p. 141) The page, agrainy, dark gray photograph of a crowded, unseaworthy, wooden boat, far from land, withBannerji's words in white, would also contain quotations from Coleridge's (1962) famous poem,including the lines the ancient Mariner speaks"I pass, like night, from land to land;/I havestrange power of speech" (lines 586-587)and the Wedding Guest's reaction to the ancientMariner"I fear thee, ancient Mariner!/I fear thy skinny hand!/And thou art long, and lank, andbrown,/As is the ribbed sea sand./I fear thee and thy glittering eye,/And thy skinny hand sobrown." (lines 224-229)which lines, respectively, represent the immigrant and the hostexperiences. Next, I would allow Timothy Findley (1986) to speak for my storytellers about whatit means to lose something intangible, something maybe even unrecognized, something connectedto one's history, one's


    Page 5 identity, one's soul: Nothing I can think to say or write reflects my sense of loss. Ifeel not only dispossessed but impotent. Incompetent. On the one hand cheated of reasonableexpectations, I also sense a failure in me to do some duty. Though what that duty might be Icannot tell. Something I wanted to save has been destroyed behind my back. (p. 1) At the sametime, in the background, the music of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi would play, the end of

    the first verse coinciding with the end of this passage, and then the volume would increase,allowing Joni's haunting, whispery voice to remind us of things lost. As her voice faded away,the sound of one timpani would begin to reverberate, slowly vibrating until it entered bodilyinto the audiences' souls, interfering with their heartbeats, and inspiring achingly melancholy

    nausea. To illuminate the struggles of the life history storytellers whose painfully summonedwords have given birth to this research project, I would, on linen gilt-edged pages,painstakingly copied by an aged monk's hand, have the words of Carol Shields (1993) inscribed: All she's trying to do is keep things straight in her head. To keep the weight of her memoriesevenly distributed. To hold the chapters of her life in order. She feels a new tendernessgrowing for certain moments; they're like beads on a string, and the string is wearing out. Atthe same time she knows that what lies ahead of her must be concluded by the efforts of herimagination and not by the straight-faced recital of a throttled and unlit history. Words aremore and more required. And the question arises: what is the story of a life? A chronicle offact or a skillfully wrought impression? (p. 340) The initial letter, the "A" in "all" would beprinted in large, green block font, hand-embossed and decorated in scarlet, with vinesencircling its base and rimming the page. Finally, after I had finished the review of languageloss, I would read aloud Denise Chong's (1995) practical words on the difficulty of writinglife histories: Once my research was done, the challenge was to press it flat onto the pages ofa book. Taking on such a responsibility was daunting. There are as many different versions ofevents as there are members of a family. The truth becomes a landscape of many layers in anever-changing light; the details depend on whose memories illuminate it. (p. XIII) asphotographstaken from the same angle at different times of day in color, black and white,infrared, and sepia-toned films of a barefoot child picking daisies on a deserted street in anabandoned gold rush town


    Page 6 were splashed randomly on the walls of a round room. But, this is not the accepted normin academic literature reviews, and so I lay before you a more standard text.


    Page 7 1. A Pre/Text for Language Loss Research So , if you want to really hurt me , talk

     . Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identityI am my language badly about my language

    . Until I can take pride in my language , I cannot take pride in myself . Until I can accept

     , Tex - Mex and all the other languages I speak , Ias legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish

     . Until I am free to write bilingually and to switchcannot accept the legitimacy of myself

     , while I still have to speak English or Spanish whencodes without having always to translate

     , and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakersI would rather speak Spanglish

     [ sic ] me , my tongue will be illegitimate rather than having then accomodate

    . Anzaldúa (1991, p. 207) In March 1988, I moved to the island of Kyushu in Japan to take up ajob teaching English literature in a small university there. I was one of three "native-speaker" teachers; the other two were Leah, a very experienced 35-ish ESL teacher from London,England, and Emiko, an elderly American woman of Japanese ancestry. Emiko's office was justdown the hall from mine, and, perhaps because we were both North American, she often used toinvite me to come for a visit over o - cha and o - senbei (green tea and rice crackers). In

    my conversations with Emiko, I often found myself unable to understand what she was saying,feeling that our conversation was stilted and somehow disconnected, despite our common "nativeEnglish speaker" status and our mutual eagerness to be friends. She often misunderstood mywords, or replied in such a way that I knew she had interpreted only the surface meaning. So,for example, when I explained the special wheat-free, gluten-free diet I had to follow to avoidcomplications from celiac disease, she asked me how much weight I had lost, and offered me asandwich. Although she was comprehensible, and certainly able to express herself adequately, ifnot in a native-like manner, I found myself wondering why she had been hired to teach theEnglish language when her grammar, her pronunciation, her lexicon, and her word choice werenonstandard. At the time, I was immersed in my English literature background, and naivelyassumed that Iand other native speakers whom Phillipson (1992) would describe as being fromcore-English-speaking countries rather than from periphery-English-speaking countries"owned"English and had the right to impose our standards of usage on others. 1 When I overheard her

speaking Japanese with our department head, I assumed that she was


    Page 8 hired for her fluency in that language. As I became more proficient in the Japaneselanguage, I was able to recognize that Emiko made mistakes in Japanese, that she was oftenunintelligible to Japanese speakers, and completely unable to read Japanese script. I foundthat I was able to decipher more of the department meeting agendas, that I could more readilyunderstand current slang, that I was more willing to ask grammatical questions in midconversation, to make mistakes, to repeat words or phrases when my mouth refused to reproducethe sounds I heard in my head. I now know that, in comparing myself to Emiko in terms ofidentity development and investment (Peirce, 1995) in both English and Japanese, I wasexperiencing many aspects of the political and personal dimensions of language learning,associating our language varieties "not just as symbols of group identity, but as emblems ofpolitical allegiance or of social, intellectual, or moral worth" (Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994,p. 61; see Crawford, 1992b, for discussions of the dominant discourses and ideologies ofEnglish in the United States and Crawford, 1992a, for a historical review of same) and therebyjudging us both in terms of our "linguistic capital," which ".?.?.like any other form ofcapital, enables those [of us] who have it to get ahead of those who do not" (Heath, 1989, p.394). Over time, Emiko and I shared life stories. She had been born of Japanese immigrantparents in southern California where she grew up speaking English because her parents wantedher to be completely American, and, according to their traditional belief, " go ni iraba , go

     " (when you go to the country, you have to surrender to local customs). In 1942,ni shitagae

    when Emiko was 16 years old, both of her parents died within months of each other, and, tocomply with their wishes, she sailed to Japan to leave their remains at the family gravesite.While she was in Japan, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war onJapan. An American citizen, Emiko's passport was confiscated and she was held in a kind ofhouse arrest. Until the end of the war, she was not allowed to have any English books or tospeak in English, though she was told to do some translation for the government. She had oneEnglish book that she managed to hide under the tatami floor of her house, and which remained

    her most prized possession. In the final days of the war, she was forced to marry the militaryson of a wealthy zaibatsu 2 family, apparently in the hope that his being married to anAmerican national would save him from arrest and prosecution. During the American occupation,she explained, she lived in the most southern regions of Kyushu, far from Tokyo, and wasprevented from leaving the village; therefore, she was unable to reclaim her American


    Page 9 passport. She intimated that her life with her husband had been abusive and miserableuntil his death a few years before I met her, and that she had had little control over her ownlife. When the American occupation was over, Emiko was the mother of three sons, established,with a family and a career teaching English as a second language in Japan. Without access tothe intricacies of the Japanese language, she was unable to advocate for herself, and later, atthe time I met her, she said simply ''I had nowhere else to go. No one to go to." Having spenttheir lives experiencing discrimination because their mother was different from other mothers 3 , Emiko's sons grew up to have little respect or even tolerance for her Americanness. Emikowas kind to me. In addition to the friendship and hospitality she offered me, she introduced meto a famous Baptist women's college where I began teaching part-time on my days off from myuniversity. When she "retired" from teaching, on reaching retirement age, 4 and against herwill, I learned that her employment and my own had been on different terms. After a 3-year,contractually based period of research, writing, publishing, and teaching, I was guaranteedlifetime employment with generous annual salary and bonus increments. Emiko, it turned out,had, for 30 years, worked on a part-time contractual basis, considered, for the purposes ofpayment (much less than I earned), to be a native speaker of Japanese, but billed, for thepurposes of university advertisement, as a native speaker of English (see Amin, 1997; Nero,1997; Tang, 1997; Widdowson, 1994; for discussions of a few of the native speaker/nonnative

    speaker, White/non-White issues in English language teaching). At her retirement, she was notinvited to return, leaving a bitter rift in our department. When I later began doctoral studiesin second language acquisition and teaching English as a second language, I found myselfthinking about Emiko, and questioning how she might define her cultural identity and theconstitution of her cultural community when language "is the means by which members ofcommunities communicate with one another, and how individuals establish that they are, in fact,members of the same cultural community" (Wong Fillmore, 1996, p. 435). I knew that the foreignteachers in our ken (like a state or province), did not really consider Emiko to be a memberof "our" cultural community, even though it encompassed native and non-native English speakersof all ages and racial backgrounds from Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria,Iceland, Jamaica, India, the United States, and other places. I was also aware that theJapanese cultural community did not consider Emiko to be one of their members, nor did sheconsider herself to be one of their number. I sensed that Emiko was out-of-sync with


    Page 10 both cultural communities, primarily because of her communication and culturalorientation difficulties, but I didn't have the educational background to understand or nameher isolation. Later in the doctoral program at the University of British Columbia, directed tothe article "When learning a second language means losing the first" by Lily Wong Fillmore(1991), I began to understand what had happened in Emiko's life, and to piece that togetherwith the way minority language children are generally regarded in public schools and with myown life. I remembered growing up in an ordinary middleclass suburb with the O'Haras, thePetersons, the Cowies, the Glovers, the Martins, the Carmichaels, the Stanleys, the Carmacks,and the Henrys, and how, because my own last name was Russian, I was always called "Fritzie-bum," or sometimes, "Russian dame". Defiant, I tried to learn Russian words from a book, but,without help, I learned from context only the words for "grandma," ''grandpa," "please,""thank-you," "good-bye," and "go to your place" (this last phrase was directed at the dog, butis now the only phrase my husband knows in Russian). From the beautiful items in mygrandparents' home, I wove a fantasy tapestry of my Russian history and ancestry that Ibelieved in more than I believed in "the truth"-and was made to feel ashamed when I discoveredthis made me a liar. With my expanding linguistic knowledge, I became aware that my husband'snative dialect is not really a dialect at all, but a language , which had been forbidden by

    the conquering Japanese, and nearly eliminated. I began to feel a commitment to my 105-year-oldgrandmother-in-law, to my husband's parents and their families, to never forsake the languageand culture of their island, and to bring our children up within the glowing embers of thevehement, passionate, and reverent Tokunoshima heart. I became aware that language loss hadbeen a recurring theme in my life, one to avoid if our children were to become not onlybiracial, but bicultural and bilingual as well. Keeping in mind words from Shaw's (1977) Major Barbara that had foreshamed 5 personal disclosures all my adult life-"Come, come, mydaughter! don't [sic] make too much of your little tinpot tragedy" (p. 140)-I decided to tellthe stories of people who had once known their first languages, but had lost them when theystarted school in Canada. I decided to tell my own story only by way of explaining my passionfor this topic, and my commitment to the prevention of first language loss during theacquisition of one of Canada's official languages. 6 In the end, I realized that, for me, amore compelling question than "how do we take English and get it inside kid's heads?" is"should we take English and get it inside kid's heads; what are the consequences?"


    Page 11 As I read about language loss, and then about bilingual education and the education ofmigrant students in Europe, I became politically motivated to prevent what had happened toEmiko and the other children I read about. Second language acquisition no longer soundedantiseptic or objective to me, but filled with political posturing and hidden motivations. LilyWong Fillmore's article, and the discovery of a like-minded body of researchers including Jim

    Cummins, Bonny Norton [Pierce], Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, and Robert Phillipson, led me to feministresearch, critical theory, poststructuralist paradigms, alternative ways of knowing, holisticresearch methodology-and eventually resulted in the research presented here. Background Thetheoretical framework informing this book stems from current understandings of what isgenerally referred to as "first language loss," which usually means restricted minority-language acquisition in a majority-language submersion setting. First language loss may referto lack of first language development, delayed first language development, or a progressiveloss of previously-acquired language ability (Verhoeven & Boeschoten, 1986). From a wide-scalesurvey, Wong Fillmore (1991) pointed out the inherent difficulties arising from first languageloss. She claimed that while language loss has always occurred in North America, it has neverbeen so widespread, or prevalent, or swift, as at the present. According to Wong Fillmore, fewAmerican-born children of immigrant parents are fully proficient in the ethnic language, evenif it was the only language they spoke when they entered school,.?.?.even if it is the only onetheir parents know. (p. 324) Wong Fillmore claims that first language loss is more serious thanin past generations; that is, she argues that language loss now occurs suddenly between twogenerations rather than more slowly across several generations. As a result, some individualsare losing the means with which to maintain relationships with their parents, their families,and their cultures. Given this acceleration and change in circumstance, it seems reasonablethat research on first language loss should include a narrower, and more personal, perspectivethan those that have dominated research to date. To this end, between three and fiveinterviews, each of 2 hours' duration, were conducted with 21 adults


    Page 12 who described themselves as having lost a childhood minority first language. Each casestudy was written in the form of a life story, almost entirely in the words of the narrator.Five representative stories were then chosen for full inclusion in this text (see Appendix A:Life History Selection Criteria), and individual analyses examining the interview context, thelife history context, and the narrative context 7 were written for each. In the penultimatesection, "Dwelling in the Borderlands," all 21 case studies have been reviewed in an emergenttheme analysis, with interview excerpts quoted to enhance our understanding of familyrelationships, self-image and cultural identity, school relationships, school performance, andthe meaning of first language loss. Definition of Terms According to Van Els (1986, cited in DeBots, Gommans, & Rossing, 1991, p. 87) there are four situations in which language loss mayoccur: 1. Loss of a first language in a first language environment (e.g., first language lossin elderly people), 2. Loss of a first language in a second language environment (e.g., loss ofnative languages by immigrants), 3. Loss of a second language in a first language environment(e.g., foreign language loss), and 4. Loss of a second language in a second languageenvironment (e.g., second language loss by elderly migrants). In this study, we are concernedonly with the second scenario as it arises in two distinct situations (immigration andcolonization). A number of terms are either synonymous with language loss or related to it,including, but not limited to, "language attrition," "language shift," "language change,"''language death," "language obsolescence," and "subtractive bilingualism". In general, thefollowing definitions apply: 1. Language loss occurs ".?.?.when [a] minority group membercannot do the things with the minority language that he [sic] used to be able to do.?.?.?.Someof the proficiency he [sic] used to have is no longer accessible" (Fase, Jaspaert, & Kroon,1992, p. 8). It may also refer to incomplete or imperfect learning of a language spoken inchildhood. 2. Language shift usually refers to "the change from the habitual use of onelanguage to that of another" (Weinreich, 1952, cited in de


    Page 13 Vries, 1992, p. 213) either by a language community or an individual. 3. Languageattrition, language regression (De Bots & Weltens, 1991), or language erosion (Kravin, 1992;Smolicz, 1992; Taft & Cahill, 1989), "may refer to the loss of any language or any portion of alanguage by an individual or a speech community" whether because of aphasia, aging, or for any

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