Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Session 6: family language policy

Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen opened by presenting her study of family language planning and its links with macro policies. Family language planning cannot be looked at without a look at the bigger, societal picture. Her context is SIngapore, where there exists a policy of "public" English (langiuage of schooling, official domain) and "restricted" mother tongue (four designated mother tongues; for instance only Mandarin for all ethnic Chinese).

From her data, we see that a lot of families use English also in home situations, although a lot of families seem to be bilingual. From different evidence, it seems that as English is the language of schooling, and things like cultural identity and allegiance do not figure high in the parents' values and actions. It seems that "bilingual policy" (English + one of the designated "Mother Tongues") brings about educational and cultural homogenisation.

Question: Are there examinations in mother tongue? Yes, there are examinations, but the policy is changed very often and the status is not high.

Question: is there any questioning of the system? Of course there are critical people, but the rumour ;) is they are recruited to develop the system and made into part of system!

Question: what kind of an understanding of Mother Tongue does this kind of a system create? For instance Chinese: all other versions except Mandarin gradually seem to vanish.

Next, Ya-ling Chang discussed language ideologies among parents of New Taiwanese children. It seems that South-East Asian languages (usually the mother's) are not transmitted to children. Her data dealt with the situation of the languages of Vietnamese female spouses in Taiwanese families. She looks at her data from the point of view of language ideologies and (critical) discourse analysis.

Data was recordings of informal interviews with mothers in their 20s and 30s.

It seems that Vietnamese has the nature of the economy, of future work possibilities in Vietnam (economic capital) but not as social capital and not within Taiwan. Mandarin seems to provide the capacity for social advancement and education; Vietnamese has not comparable social status.

Questions: Have you interviewed children of Vietnamese, in order to find out their views? Not yet.

Question: What is the mother tongue in Taiwan? Younger ones shifting to Mandarin. There are different definitions for Mother tongue (for instance "home language"). Mandarin is the language of instruction.

1 comment:

  1. Coincidentally, the linguistic situation in Singapore was the topic of a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, 'Word of Mouth', specifically the 'meeting point' between English and Mandarin Chinese. Unfortunately you can no longer listen to the programme but here is a link to the summary of the broadcast: http://bit.ly/drvprD.