Parent & Child Communication Dynamics in Heritage Language Speakers

Jessica Nepomnyshy, Andrew Gerbs, Christabel Odoi

Language is often considered a window into a culture, but what happens when that window starts to close? In many families, heritage language communication can be a complex and nuanced issue, especially when it comes to older and younger siblings. While the older generation may have grown up speaking the language fluently, their younger siblings may struggle to maintain their proficiency. Data was collected and analyzed, showing the trend that older siblings were more proficient than their younger siblings when communicating with their parents in their heritage language. This correlates with our background research which discusses sibling language proficiency and code-switching within bilingual families. We explore the communicative differences between parents and their children, and how confidence when speaking, code-switching, and understanding of the heritage language all play small roles in the relationship children have with their parents. Our main findings indicated that the younger siblings had less proficiency and that parents were more likely to support heritage language use with their older child, which could create a closer relationship between them.

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