L1 maintenance and cross-generational shift from L1 to L2 among Vietnamese Americans Social Issues Over the past 3 decades, there have been different studies on Vietnamese socialization and adaptation to the United States, as well as their language maintenance and shift (Luong, 1990; Pham, 1990; Bankston & Zhou, 1995; Young & Tran, 1999; Zhou & Bankston, 1994, 1998, 2000; Chung, 2000; McDonald, 2000; Nguyen, Shin & Krashen, 2001).
In the field of sociology, researchers have used survey and ethnographic methods to underscore the importance of maintaining the home language as a means to remain connected to one’s family and community, to support a strong social identity, and to promote high academic success. Zhou and Bankston (1994, 1998) found that the Vietnamese students of eastern New Orleans who were more integrated into their ethnic community demonstrated higher academic achievement than those who were not.
The level of integration into the Vietnamese community was based on self-reported measures of speaking Vietnamese at home, ability to read and write in Vietnamese, self identification as Vietnamese, and having close friends of the same ethnicity. Factors such as the adherence to traditional family values, commitment to a high work ethic, and the level of integration into the ethnic community all had significant effects on academic success.
Bankston and Zhou (1995) found a strong positive linear relationship between Vietnamese literacy and high academic achievement in English as well as between proficiency in spoken and written Vietnamese and orientation toward higher education in the majority English-speaking community. Of the students surveyed, the ability to read and write in Vietnamese was associated with a strong sense of social identification. Students who were literate in Vietnamese as well s English were more likely to place a high importance on college attendance, to spend more time on homework, and to receive high grades in school.
The researchers suggested that the positive contribution of bilingualism to high academic performance was both of a cognitive transference (e. g. , transfer of reading or decoding skills from Vietnamese to English) as well as a social transference of work habits and attitudes. In contrast to the academic success reported in Vietnamese students with high levels of integration into their ethnic community.
Zhou an Bankston (2000) found disproportionately high dropout levels and delinquency among less integrated youth. Less integrated youth were those who were less involved in their local ethnic com imunity and who assimilated to the “oppositional youth culture of other economically disadvantaged young Americans” (p. 54). Zhou and Bankston reported that Vietnamese adolescents ranked second highest among racial/ ethnic minority groups to be in correctional facilities—210 youths per 100,000—which ranked this ethnicity higher than all other Asian groups.
In addition, they reported the results of a national longitudinal study of adolescent health, which indicated that Vietnamese American adolescents were more prone to uncertainty, self-doubt, fearfulness, and depression than their white and black peers. Zhou and Bankston interpreted these results as feelings of rejection from the American mainstream as well as a disconnect with one’s own social and linguistic community, which may directly contribute to negative selfperceptions and may indirectly contribute to the high rates of institutionalization and gang involvement.
Given these results, it is clear that the issue of language maintenance is relevant to promoting balance and stability in one’s own linguistic and ethnic identity alongside academic and vocational success in the broader majority English-speaking community. The preservation of one’s native language and culture promotes social and mental well being of individuals that in turn benefits the larger society. Linguistic Issues Across Generations
L1 maintenance and cross-generational shift from L1 to L2 among Vietnamese Americans Besides large-scaled studies aimed at immigrant groups in the United States in general, there were several studies that have documented L1 maintenance and cross-generational shift from L1 to L2 specifically in Vietnamese American groups (Young & Tran, 1999; Nguyen, Shin, & Krashen, 2001). Young and Tran (1999) surveyed over 100 Vietnamese parents on the language use of their families and children.
These families had lived in the United States an average of 13 years, although there was a wide range of variability in the length of stay (approximately 70% of the parents reported 6 to 20 years in the United States). Of parents surveyed, Vietnamese was reported to be the sole home language in 84. 6% of homes, while both Vietnamese and English were spoken in 15. 4% of homes. At that time, no families reported speaking only English at home. Based on parent report, 59. 2% of the children spoke Vietnamese, while less than 8% spoke mostly English.
Among children, Vietnamese was still the preferred language in 45. 1% of families. Approximately 33% of children were reported to speak both languages, and 21. 6% of children spoke only English among themselves. Given that the length of stay for the majority of families was relatively short (less than 20 years), the children in these families seemed to be learning English quickly, with a growing number of children choosing to speak English with their friends. Based on these results, Young and Tran (1999) reported a rapid rate of shift from Vietnamese to English in this population.
Examined factors relating to language shift included family income, mother’s education, father’s education, and length of stay in the United States. Based on survey results, length of stay appeared to be the only factor that significantly affected language shift. The longer a family stayed in the United States, the greater the shift toward English use, whether in addition to Vietnamese or solely English. Although not statistically significant, there was an additional and rather unexpected trend related to length of tay: it seemed that the longer the stay in the United States, the more parents encouraged children to retain Vietnamese. These data suggested an increased awareness of the importance of maintaining one’s heritage language among families who have been in the United States for longer periods of time and who are more likely to experience a shift towards English monolingualism. Young and Tran emphasized the danger of rapid language shift and its affect on personal identity.
They suggested that the children in these families who speak only English may experience feelings of ambivalence, shame, or rejection of the home language and culture, which may contribute to a lowered self concept. Nguyen, Shin, and Krashen (2001) surveyed over 500 Vietnamese elementary school students, grades first through eighth, in the Central Valley area of California. Seventy-one percent of the students surveyed were born in the United States Of the 29% born outside the United States, the majority (67%) had lived in the United States for five years or more.
The students were given a Likert-scale questionnaire on their perception of Vietnamese and English proficiency, language preference, and attitudes towards the maintenance of Vietnamese language and culture. Of the students surveyed, 67% self reported speaking Vietnamese well. In contrast, only 23% of students reported good literacy skills in Vietnamese, and 58% reported little to no literacy skills in Vietnamese. The vast majority of these students (84%) selfreported speaking English very well. There was a trend among students surveyed to speak Vietnamese with parents, Vietnamese and English with siblings, and primarily English with friends.
When asked about student attitudes toward L1, most felt it was important to speak, read, and write Vietnamese and to maintain Vietnamese culture. They also reported that they would like to learn Vietnamese in school. In contrast to beliefs that retention of an immigrant language will inhibit the acquisition of English (L2), Nguyen et al. (2001) concluded that during the elementary school years, there seemed to be a strong trend of maintaining Vietnamese (L1) oral skills while gaining strong English (L2) skills.
According to a U. S. 000 Census Special Report on Asian Americans (Reeves & Bennett, 2004), approximately 93% of Vietnamese Americans reported speaking Vietnamese as the home language. Of these homes, 31% reported speaking English “very well,” and 62. 4% reported speaking English less than “very well. ” It should be noted that these percentages reflect overall language proficiency within a household that may include multiple generations. Older generations may speak less English and may be inflating the statistic of 62. 4% of limited English speakers.