In my personal experience as an Asian Canadian, many Asian families no longer pass on their native language to their children. I feel this may be detrimental in terms of young people losing their cultural identity. This presentation investigates the phenomenon of bilingualism in Asian families. From the cultural perspective, the advantages of passing on a native language include: the acculturation process may proceed more smoothly, it helps children remain bicultural, it allows deeper connections to form with one's ethnic culture, and it may aid to reduce the generational gap. From the cognitive standpoint, bilinguals have more choice in language expression, they perform more optimally in mathematics and language acquisition, they have higher functioning in terms of executive control, and it may delay the onset of dementia. On the other side, there are disadvantages of doing so. The parent and child may disagree on the value of retaining the language, young people may feel self-conscious when speaking the native language, and children born from parents who are from different ethnic backgrounds may not have the chance to learn the language. In terms of the cognitive side, bilinguals who are more proficient in one language may lag behind their peers in the performance of lexical tasks, when two languages differ in their linguistic structure, students may find it more challenging to learn the language of instruction, and the fluency of spoken language may suffer at the onset. However, the benefits for Asian immigrants to immerse their children in their native language may be the key to help families flourish. Therefore, in my point of view, Asian parents should continue to teach their children their native language by speaking it to them and encourage it to be spoken.
Gina Ko, Athabasca University, Canada
This paper is part of the ACP2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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