The role of minority language-speaking families, community and the majority society in the intergenerational language transmission of the Korean language in New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates and explores intergenerational transmission of the Korean language in Korean migrant families and the Korean community in an English-speaking country, New Zealand. Through the bioecological human development theoretical lens (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1999, 2001) Korean migrant families’ language beliefs, practices and consequences are examined in three contexts: individuals and families, minority language-speaking communities, and the majority society, and the inter-relationships in each context are discussed.
Previous research suggests that language use shifts from a minority language to a majority language within three generations in migrant families (Fishman, 1991). Fishman describes how the second generation become passive speakers of the minority language and tend to not pass on the language to the third generation. In addition, previous studies show that language shift in migrant families is most pronounced at adolescence (Fillmore, 1991; Fishman, 1991), but a recent New Zealand study reveals that 83% of Korean teenagers report an ability to speak both Korean and English (J. King & Cunningham, 2016), the highest rate of intergenerational transmission of any minority language community in New Zealand. This thesis examines intergenerational transmission in Korean households to investigate what factors are leading to such a high rate of intergenerational transmission and whether, in fact, language shift is occurring or not.
Korean migrant families were recruited and invited to share their experiences and stories about raising children as bilingual speakers, or otherwise, from both parent and child perspectives. Interviews were carried out with 11 Korean-born mothers, 11 New Zealand-born, and one Korean-born young adult aged from 16 to early 20s in order to explore their family language policy and practice while living in New Zealand, their attitudes towards acquiring English and transmitting their home language, and their beliefs about the relationship between the two languages. Bioecology of Human Development theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) was employed to thematically analyse collected data. Through the theory, intergenerational transmission of the Korean language in Korean migrant families was reviewed and discussed through three aspects: micro-, meso-, and macrosystems, and their inter-relationships, with a focus on how each system affects the others with respect to enhance or hinder, as well as influence each other in minority language transmission.
The findings in the microsystem, with its focus on interaction within the nuclear and extended family group, show that both Korean parents and children report the benefits and challenges of being bilingual in both Korean and English when living in an English language-centred country. Participants believe that minority language acquisition is important to maintain family ties and develop, understanding about heritage culture and cultural values across generations. Family language policy and practice plays a key role in minority language acquisition. This helps children to develop a self-identity that enables them to feel confident about positively participating in two different linguistic and cultural societies.
Findings from the mesosystem, with its focus on interactions in a wider Korean context, demonstrate that one of the factors that may contribute to this high rate of intergenerational Korean language transmission is the influence of Korean community organisations. These organisations facilitate interactions amongst diverse Korean speakers, and encourage intergenerational language transmission at the community level. The wider Korean community allows Korean migrants, especially New Zealand-born children of Korean migrants, to create a Korean-speaking environment where they learn to speak Korean using honorific forms at various cultural events and festivals. Doing this, the wider Korean community also promotes the Korean language and culture to mainstream society and plays a bridging role to make connections between minority and majority societies.
In the macrosystem the focus of Korean language transmission moves from a Korean-speaking environment to an English-speaking environment. The influence of both formal educational settings and a majority English-speaking society are reported to be influential factors on Korean language transmission. This leads Korean migrant families to keep, revise or change family language policy and practice. The findings in the macrosystem appear to reflect current trends towards globalisation and multilingualism (Ministry of Education, 2014, 2018; Office of Ethnic Communities, 2016). However, a general lack of information and multilingual awareness in the majority society hinders minority language transmission in migrant families (May, 2012; Office of Ethnic Affairs, 2013). Differing government policies create confusion for migrant families, who want their children to be bilingual, in their family language choices and practice.
The findings in this study have implications for providing rich, empirical, research data in intergenerational transmission of a minority language by exploring and understanding majority, country-born children, of migrants regarding their experience of, and feelings towards, minority language transmission when living in a majority society. This study found that micro family language practices are somewhat supported by factors in minority language community (meso) and wider New Zealand society (macro) leading to the current high rates of intergenerational transmission of Korean. However, certain elements are also evident which indicate that these high rates will not be maintained.