Is your mother tongue going to be extinct?

Hsinhua Wu

I speak Mandarin, Taiwanese and English.

Mandarin is the official language and generally spoken in Taiwan. Taiwanese is one of Chinese dialects. I speak it at home. It is my first language, but after going to school, it became my “second language”, second best language due to lack of practice. In some occasions, I try to “read” Japanese to my grandparents. Japanese is their second language. They always laugh when they hear my poor pronunciation. Taiwan was under Japanese rule for 50 years between 1895 and 1945. It is not uncommon to meet elders in Taiwan speaking Japanese. Besides English, Japanese language is popular because of the complicated relationship between Taiwan and Japan and its pop culture. However Korean’s popularity is starting to equal to Japanese. 120 Korean dramas in total have been televised in Taiwan in half year of 2011 (Hyun-kyung,2011). Young Taiwanese people tend to have a better command of English, Japanese, Korean than of Taiwanese. Taiwanese faces threat of extinction in Taiwan.

As a language teacher, I am sad to see a language dying. A languages holds a lot of knowledge, it is a big loss when it dies. Since I have seen communities switching to politically and economically more powerful or more popular language. I understand and appreciate the efforts that Quebec Governments put into protection of French. It is never an issue for me to send my kids to French schools. It seems to have no problem for children to achieve fluency in English on the island of Montreal.

There is indeed a radical need to rethink of the way how in which children learn language in Quebec. I am not going deeper in this subject, but I will like to express my concern. There will be less Francophone children achieve mastery in their language, French. Carolyn Kessler claimed that “ children develop faster in the language which is used most in their environment.” (Carolyn, 1984) When children start to go to school, they will receive imbalanced exposure to each language. A finding also showing that “lower exposure results in significantly lower receptive vocabulary score for the given language.” (MacLeod, Fabiano-Smith, Boegner-Pagé & Fontolliet, 2013). Quebec is located cheek by jowl with the provinces/countries which have an Anglophone majority. French may be in danger when Francophones or immigrants have the right to go to English public schools.

Language is a precious gift. First language connects you with your ancestors and it defines you. When learning a second language doesn’t necessarily mean losing the first one. There are SLA theories supporting the input plays an important role in language learning. Please keep in mind, it is possible you lose your first language when you don’t practice it enough.

Reference

     Carolyn, K. (1984). Language Acquisition Processes in Bilingual Children. Bilingual Education Paper Series, Vol. 7, No. 6.Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED255046.pdf

     Hyun-kyung, K. (2011). Korean drama gains popularity in Taiwan. Retrieved from: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/special/2011/08/139_93200.html

     MacLeod, A. A., Fabiano-Smith, L., Boegner-Pagé, S., & Fontolliet, S. (2013). Simultaneous bilingual language acquisition: The role of parental input on receptive vocabulary development. Child Language Teaching and Therapy,29(1), 131–142. Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1177/0265659012466862

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Is your mother tongue going to be extinct?”

  1. Melissa: Thank you for sharing your experience, Hsinhua! I have one question for you. Could you briefly explain what you mean when you say you see a great need to rethink the ways children learn language in Quebec? Maybe you could give an example? Thank you!

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    1. Hsinhua: Wow, I really don’t know how to make this story short. However, my husband is Francophone, he is from Rouyn Noranda, a very French city. He mentioned a bit about the English class in schools and their attitude toward this language. After he visited Taiwan, China and Japan a few times, he wonders why some Quebecers just don’t learn English well since they have more resources than the students in Asian countries. Moreover, 29% of English words come from French, after my husband learned Chinese; he understands it is much more difficult for us to learn English. So before Quebec language politics change, maybe we should look at the language learning methods Francophone students use here. It is just a simple thought from us. I may have different opinions after I complete this course or living here for another 10 years.

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  2. Hi, guys, sorry for some grammar mistakes. I wrote it in Word first, and I did correct them before I posted, but I do not know why those errors are back. I will be more careful with my next post.

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