Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 08:25:14 -0500 From: Hyun-Sook Kang Subject: Developing in Two Languages: Korean Children in America
AUTHOR: Shin, Sarah J TITLE: Developing in Two Languages SUBTITLE: Korean Children in America SERIES: Child Language & Child Development PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2004
Hyun-Sook Kang Educational Linguistics, Graduate School of Education, The University of Pennsylvania
This book is the first-ever attempt to examine early childhood bilingualism in the Korean community in the United States. Beyond serving as an empirical account of the language situation of Korean immigrant children and their families, this book aims to argue, “the bilingualism of linguistic minority children is a resource to be cultivated and not a problem to be overcome” (pp. 2-3). As is the multifaceted nature of bilingualism, the book covers a wide range of linguistic, social, cultural and educational factors in the language development of Korean-American children.
This volume comprises seven chapters, along with an Introduction in which Shin provides an outline of the book, and situates her position as a 1.5-generation Korean-American immigrant, a former ESL learner, a teacher educator and a parent with young children. She expresses her concern that her insider position might have drawn her to become myopic about the significance of everyday acts surrounding the language situation in the Korean-American community. Despite her reservations, the detailed account of someone who has lived through the language situation from multiple perspectives is very convincing.
Chapter 1 reviews various paradigms of bilingualism ranging from a conversational analysis approach to the codeswitching phenomenon, a psycholinguistic perspective on child language acquisition and a sociolinguistic approach to maintenance and loss of a home language. Grosjean’s (1985, 1989) sociolinguistic definition of a bilingual is adopted: “the bilingual uses the two languages for different purposes in different circumstances” (pp.17-8). To study Korean-American children’s codeswitching behavior, Auer’s (1984, 1991, 1995) conversational analysis approach is employed, and its rationale and advantages are discussed. Drawing upon McLaughlin’s (1978) distinction, the developmental processes underlying two types of bilingual language acquisition (i.e., simultaneous and successive) are discussed. Shin uses Cummins’ (1996) framework to discuss bilingual education models (i.e., transitional vs. maintenance) and the effects of the bilingual programs on student achievement. The review of the various conceptual frameworks on bilingualism sets a stage for investigating multiple dimensions of bilingualism in Korean-American children.
In Chapter 2, the historical, societal and linguistic details of the Korean community in the US are provided. The review of the history of Korean immigration to the US and description of the demographic and social characteristics of Korean Americans help us understand the background of first-generation Korean parents’ emphasis on their children’s success in the U.S. formal education and English acquisition. It is pointed out that the lack of accent-free English skills hindered many Korean immigrants from obtaining jobs in the US commensurate with their educational levels and gaining access to the mainstream U.S. society. The social networking patterns centered around the Korean Christian churches and the sociolinguistic situations of Koreans in the US, including America-born and – educated Koreans, reflect their limitations in participating in the mainstream society beyond the Korean-American community. Given the stark cross-linguistic differences between English and Korean, a full mastery of English is a challenging task despite Korean parents’ intense desire and efforts. The enormous pressures Korean parents experience in tandem with the importance of English as a means to advance in the wider society attribute to language shift in the Korean- American community.
Chapter 3 describes the sources and collection methods of data that serve as a basis for the discussion in the following chapters: (1) spontaneous speech data of 12 Korean American first-grade children in the mainstream classroom in a New York City public school; (2) experimental language data elicited from the 12 Korean American children; (3) survey data from 251 Korean American parents with school-age children; and (4) follow-up interviews with selected survey respondents and their children. In the three ensuing chapters, Shin discusses the major findings of three empirical studies: Chapter 4 on Korean children’s codeswitching; Chapter 5 on the children’s development of Korean morphemes; and Chapter 6 on the survey and interview on parental attitudes towards language maintenance and shift.
Chapter 4 analyzes the Korean-American children’s codeswitching in the mainstream classroom with a sequential conversational analytic framework (Auer, 1984, 1995). With respect to participant-related codeswitching, it was revealed that when English was the preferred language of one of the children in the conversation, it usually took over the other participant’s preference for Korean. This was interpreted as evidence of the Korean children’s socialization into the language and culture of the mainstream American classroom, as well as the status of English as the more powerful, socially recognized language. More proficient bilinguals adapt to the linguistic needs of limited English proficient peers by switching to Korean, suggesting that bilingual children’s codeswitching serves the same communicative purpose as gestural or prosodic cues by monolinguals. In regard to discourse-related codeswitching, the Korean American bilingual children switch the languages at their disposal to coordinate turn- taking, preference organization and repairs and signal side sequences during the completion of classroom activities. Overall, it was argued that codeswitching is a valuable linguistic strategy used by the bilingual children, not a communicative deficit.
By looking at the Korean-American children’s acquisition of English grammatical morphemes, Chapter 5 addresses the differences between first- and second-language learners of English in acquiring the English grammatical features and language-specific influences on L2 acquisition. First, the differences in rank order of acquisition of English morphemes between Spanish- and Chinese-speaking children on the one hand and Korean-speaking children on the other, and the correlations between the Japanese and Korean children were presented as supporting evidence for the influences of L1 structures on the course of L2 acquisition (Korean is typologically closer to Japanese than Spanish or Chinese.) In addition, it was noted that the bilingual children’s acquisition of variant word order in Korean is influenced by their knowledge of English word order, given that a child L2 learner is still in the process of acquiring the L2 while learning the L2. The observation that the bilingual children lag behind their monolingual counterparts in terms of the grammatical development of Korean (e.g., their persistent use of the most unmarked Korean classifier) and English (e.g., their frequent errors in English plural marking) was interpreted as a result of the divided use of a language (e.g., Korean at home and English at school), and argued to be temporary if only the appropriate psychological, cultural and educational support is provided. Given the subtractive bilingual context in which the Korean-American children are placed, it is readily expected that these children would speak increasingly smaller amounts of Korean and eventually only have a passive knowledge of their native language while achieving a full competence in English.
On the basis of the questionnaire results that language shift within the Korean American family is underway, Chapter 6 discusses the personal, social and educational factors that contribute to the language shift in the Korean American families and community. It was revealed that the extent of language shift was highly related to the degree of the respondents’ exposure to English, indicated by the length of residence in the US and respondents’ age at immigration. On a personal level, the Korean American parents, who see their lack of English skills as constraining their participation in the wider American society, are determined to see their kids develop strong English skills at the expense of losing the home language while they recognize the intrinsic linguistic and cultural value of maintaining Korean. On a social level, immigrant parents’ perception that English is critical for academic and social success in America and that the attainment of unaccented, fluent English is often equated with prestige in the Korean American community are suggested as reasons for language shift. Finally, the consequences of advice given to immigrant parents by well-meaning but ill-informed professionals (e.g., teachers, doctors and speech therapists) to abandon the native language at home, as well as the effects of English-only policies on the education of language minority children were pointed out as social factors to speed up the pace of language shift. Despite the enormous pressures for language shift, Shin keeps an optimistic view on heritage language maintenance, and goes on to make suggestions.
Chapter 7 provides suggestions for successful transfer and maintenance of heritage languages in the family, community and societal levels. Shin starts with a list of recommendations for intergenerational transmission of home languages, and moves on to the community level. After discussing the role and contributions of heritage schools in minority language maintenance in America to date, she offers suggestions for effective instruction and teacher development in community-based heritage schools. She further suggests integration of Korean as a foreign language subject and even Korean-English dual language programs to enhance the positive attitude to the ethnic culture and language and bilingual development. On the societal level, she points out a need to achieve a diverse teaching population, referring to the predominance of white teachers in contrast to the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in the student population in schools. She concludes the book, urging parents, communities and educators “to be aware of the processes of bilingual development and convinced of the tremendous resources that linguistic minority children bring to our schools and society.”
Shin does an excellent job of accurately depicting the lived stories of the language situation in the Korean American community and disseminating academic research findings to a wider readership using her personal experiences as a 1.5-generation Korean-American, a teacher educator and a parent of school-aged children. I could not agree more with her observations, interpretations and arguments, drawing on the cultural, historical and linguistic backgrounds peculiar to the Korean American community. This volume will be helpful in courses on Asian American studies, sociolinguistics and teacher- education courses among many others.
Despite the strengths, this book has some shortcomings. One of the flaws concerns the organization: there seems to be little or no explicit connections among the three empirical studies constituting the book. As summarized earlier, the three studies address different dimensions of bilingualism drawing on distinctive conceptual frameworks. Other than looking at the participants from the same ethnic group in the US, there is no common ground linking the codeswitching behavior, morpheme development and language attitude issues, nor an explicit rationale given for selecting the three topics. Additionally, there is no direct connection between the empirical study findings (presented in Chapters 4, 5 and 6) and the practical recommendations for parents, educators and policy makers (given in Chapter 7). It might have been nice if there was tighter coherence embracing the three respective studies, and connecting the study findings and analyses with the implications and practical suggestions made.
In light of the data collection method, three issues stand out. First, there was little or no information about the Korean-American children’s language input and use outside of the classroom, as well as the baseline data about the children’s proficiency at the outset of the study. The spontaneous speech data were collected in the early-exit transitional bilingual education program in which the Korean children were enrolled. It is not surprising that English is the preferred language under the supervision of the teacher in the mainstream classroom, as evidenced by the observation that some Korean children chose to speak only English and that only a small portion of the speech data constituted codeswitching. A question arises about children’s codeswitching behavior among peers outside of the classroom. To track the bilingual children’s development in the two languages, as addressed in the experimental study, it might have been necessary to provide baseline data, specifically about their stage in terms of morpheme acquisition, beyond the school-administered test scores and the teacher’s observations (p. 70). A second problem is that there were no interview or questionnaire data on the participating children’s parents’ attitudes and beliefs toward bilingualism or language practices at home. Though the purpose of the survey study was “to supplement the findings from the children’s language data,” (p.79), there was no direct link between the studies on children’s codeswitching behavior and bilingual development and the parental attitudes toward bilingualism. On a related matter, a third issue is the wide range of age among survey participants, i.e., 32-54 years old. Given the original purpose of the survey as an investigation of school-age parents’ attitude toward language education, and the length of U.S. residence and age at arrival in the US as the two major factors that contribute to parental attitude, it is plausible that the 22- year range among the survey participants came into play in the survey results.
Finally, despite the depth of the analyses and discussions focusing on the Korean-American group, this book seems rather parochial in the scope. At different points throughout the volume, the Korean- American was referred to as “a significant ethnic group in the US,” a “model minority,” and so on. It was stated that Korean Americans constitute “the fifth largest population in the Asian and Pacific ethnic” without information of how large the Asian and Pacific ethnic population is in the US today. Previous research, in fact, revealed that some young Korean-American students, overshadowed by a small fraction of over-achieving fellow students from the same ethnic group, suffer from the perceived high expectations (Lee, 1994, 1996). Although the author’s effort was deeply understood to convince readers of the importance of her research findings and arguments, it might have been nicer to situate the current findings about the Korean- American community in the wider landscape of bilingualism. It might have been interesting to relate the current findings to the language situations in other ethnic and linguistic minority groups in the US or those in Korean communities in other countries outside of Korea.
Though the organizational, methodological and narrow-scope issues remain, the book as a whole does a superb job in portraying the lived facts of Korean immigrants in the US and their conflicts on the transmission and maintenance of a heritage language, as well as offering practical suggestions for parents, teachers and policy makers in achieving bilingualism.
Auer, P. (1984). Bilingual Conversation. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Auer, P. (1991). Bilingualism in/as social action: A sequential approach to code-switching. Paper read at the ESF Symposium on Code-Switching in Bilingual Studies: Theory, Significance and Perspectives, Barcelona, 21-23 March.
Auer, P. (1995). The pragmatics of code-switching: a sequential approach. In L. Milroy and P. Muysken (Eds.). One Speaker, Two Languages: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Code-switching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiation Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society. Ontario, CA: California Association for Bilingual Education.
Grosjean, F. (1985). The bilingual as a competent but specific speaker-hearer. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 6, 467-77.
Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolingual in one person. Brain and Language 36, 3-15.
Lee, S. (1994). Behind the model-minority stereotype: Voices of high- and low- achieving Asian American students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 25(4): 413-429. Lee, S. (1996). Unraveling the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of High and Low Achieving Asian American Students. New York: Teachers College Press. McLaughlin, B. (1978). The monitor model: Some methodological considerations. Language Learning 28, 309-332.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Hyun-Sook Kang is a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Linguistics in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She is currently working on her dissertation on the relative efficacy of different types of corrective feedback as an instructional condition in learning Korean as a foreign/heritage language at the university level. Her research interests include childhood bilingualism, language and culture and applications of technology to language learning and teaching.