Balancing L1 maintenance and L2 learning

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This chapter examines reasons for first language (L1) maintenance among Japanese immigrant families residing in Toronto, Canada, by conducting life history research (Cole & Knowles, 2001). The data are then analyzed using activity theory (Engeström, 1999). The findings indicate that L1 is viewed as a vehicle for establishing and retaining strong family cohesion while second language (L2) is seen as indispensable socio-economic capital (Bourdieu, 1991). As L1 is predominantly used orally at home, oral L1 development is nurtured while the written forms and honorific discourses are not actively used and enforced by some parents. This chapter explains how bilinguality among immigrant families often disappears after two generations as the language of intimacy is quickly replaced by L2. The chapter calls for a more collaborative and inclusive approach to assure ethnolinguistic vitality and continuity.


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