Identity, immigration and first language attrition

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Long term bilingual immigrants often report that they perceive first language attrition after years of living in a second language surrounding. This paper focuses on the individual’s own perception concerning first language attrition and identity. It deals with questions such as: To what extent does living in another country and speaking another language influence one’s mother tongue? If individuals experience first language attrition, do they really ‘suffer’ from it? Is there any objective evidence for their supposed decline of language skills? Data from a study of attrition in German migrants in the Netherlands will be discussed, showing the close relation between language (decline) and identity as a result of interacting factors over the lifespan.


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