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1536.Language Choice English or Russian Kasatkina Natalia

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Copyright ОАО «ЦКБ «БИБКОМ» & ООО «Aгентство Kнига-Cервис»
Министерство образования и науки Российской Федерации
Ярославский государственный университет им. П. Г. Демидова
Natalia Kasatkina
LANGUAGE CHOICE:
ENGLISH OR RUSSIAN?
Ярославль 2011
Copyright ОАО «ЦКБ «БИБКОМ» & ООО «Aгентство Kнига-Cервис»
УДК 81'24
ББК C 550.563
К 22
Рекомендовано
Редакционно-издательским советом университета
в качестве научного издания. План 2010/2011 учебного года
Рецензенты:
Leslie Dupont, PhD University of Arizona, College of Education;
Karen C. Spear Ellinwood, PhD, University of Arizona,
Research Specialist College of medicine, Dept of cell biology & molecular medicine;
Olga Schegoleva, PhD, Associate Professor.
К 22
Kasatkina, N. LANGUAGE CHOICE: ENGLISH OR RUSSIAN?
/ N. Kasatkina; Yaroslavl Demidov State University. – Yaroslavl: YSU, 2011. –
184 p.
ISBN 978-5-8397-0846-4
The resolution of the language question—whether to maintain the mother tongue, shift
to the mainstream language, or try to maintain two or more languages in the family–
creates a lot of psychological complications and linguistic reflections. The present book
explores how external variables and internal controversies affect the choice of language
by an individual family member as well as the family as a whole unit, and how this
choice, in its turn, impacts the relationships within the family.
This study draws on the several theoretical domains of immigration, psychology, and
language acquisition. The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) data set helps
to address the quantitative part of this book, while the qualitative part is based on in-depth
case studies of four immigrant families.
Building on the fundamental position that development happens as the result of the
resolution of controversies, I suggest that there are four levels of controversy located in
the language-choice model: societal, family, personal, and eventual outcomes of these
three levels. Four ―language choice‖ profiles, designated as ―Amotivational,‖
―Instrumental,‖ ―Intrinsic,‖ and ―Intrinsic +,‖ have emerged out of the theoretical and
research findings. The findings show that the crucial characteristics of the families who
chose to maintain the mother tongue and foster bi-literacy in their children are the
following: (1) a stress on knowing the country of origin and its culture; (2) a declared
desire within the family that the children be different from the parents‘ perception of
American children; (3) an emphasis by the parents on the children's ―Russianness‖ and on
the formation of that ethnic identity; and (4) an emphasis on a consistently realized,
strong language policy at home.
УДК 81'24
ББК C 550.563
Yaroslavl Demidov State University,
2011
ISBN 978-5-8397-0846-4
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Copyright ОАО «ЦКБ «БИБКОМ» & ООО «Aгентство Kнига-Cервис»
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................... 9
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................... 10
RESEARCH QUESTIONS.......................................................................................... 14
ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK................................................................................. 14
CHAPTER 1 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................ 16
IMMIGRANTS FROM THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
TO THE UNITED STATES ........................ 17
REASONS FOR IMMIGRATION.................................................................................. 21
ACCULTURATION: GENERAL THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS AND PECULIARITIES OF RUSSIAN
IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES .............................................................. 24
PROBLEMS RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS FACE ................................................................... 28
LANGUAGE CHOICE .............................................................................................. 34
HERITAGE LANGUAGE ACQUISITION ......................................................................... 37
LANGUAGE SHIFT ................................................................................................ 39
LANGUAGE CHOICE AND LEVELS OF DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.................................... 41
John Berry ...................................................................................................... 42
A. S. L. Lam ..................................................................................................... 44
Robert Gardner .............................................................................................. 46
DISCUSSION OF THE MODELS ................................................................................. 48
OPPOSITIONS AND CONTROVERSIES AT THE SOCIETAL LEVEL .......................................... 50
MULTILINGUALISM VERSUS MONOLINGUALISM .......................................................... 51
Additive versus Subtractive Perspectives ........................................................ 52
Ours versus Theirs Pronominal Oppositions .................................................... 53
MOTIVATORS ..................................................................................................... 54
Oppositions/Controversies at the Individual Level .......................................... 54
Language Acquisition as a Need (Deficiency versus Growth Needs) ............... 54
Instrumental versus Integrative Orientations ................................................. 56
Intrinsic-Extrinsic Dichotomy .......................................................................... 58
Status versus Solidarity .................................................................................. 60
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DISCUSSION ....................................................................................................... 61
CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................... 62
CHAPTER 2 METHODOLOGY ........................................................................ 64
VALIDATION OF DATA........................................................................................... 71
Question 1. How do parents and children in immigrant families from
the former Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting language
orientations and practices? ................................................................. 72
Question 2. In what ways do multilevel decision-making processes
influence the language practices of immigrant families
in the United States? ........................................................................... 74
Question 3. What factors affect the choice of language immigrant families
speak within different domains? ......................................................... 75
Question 4. What specific motives trigger changes in children’s English
language acquisition and Russian language and culture? .................. 77
THE FAMILIES ..................................................................................................... 80
The Holod family ............................................................................................ 80
The Rhapiro family ......................................................................................... 82
The Gorodec family ........................................................................................ 84
The Horoshun family ...................................................................................... 86
CHAPTER 3 DATA ANALYSIS......................................................................... 88
THE FAMILY LEVEL ............................................................................................... 93
What specific motives trigger changes in children’s English-language
acquisition and Russian language and culture maintenance? ........... 95
Conclusion: Perception and Emigration .......................................................... 97
Conclusion: Reasons for Emigrating ............................................................... 99
The Holod Family.......................................................................................... 100
The Rhapiro Family....................................................................................... 101
The Gorodec Family ...................................................................................... 101
Conclusion: Parental Attitudes and Children's Language Acquisition ........... 102
Conclusion: Motivation and Language Behavior .......................................... 105
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How do parents and children in immigrant families from the former
Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting language orientations
and practices? .................................................................................... 105
Conclusion: Generational Perceptions of Cultural Identity ............................ 111
Conclusion: Language—War or Peace? ........................................................ 114
When do parents, grandparents, and their children speak
Russian and English? ......................................................................... 114
Conclusion: Literacy Practices or “Language Enclaves” ................................ 118
In what ways do multilevel decision-making processes influence language
practices of immigrant families in the United States? ...................... 119
Language Policy Established at Home .......................................................... 119
Conclusion: Language Policies at Home ....................................................... 123
What factors affect the choice of language immigrant families
speak within different domains? ....................................................... 123
Conclusion: Factors Affecting Language Choice............................................ 128
DISCUSSION ..................................................................................................... 130
KEY FINDINGS................................................................................................... 140
Documenting Language Loss across Three Generations ............................... 140
“Unconscious Immigration” and “Jew by Passport” ..................................... 141
Perception of Identity in the Three-Generational Household ........................ 142
Enclave: American or Russian ....................................................................... 143
Logistic Regression—What Predicts Russian Language Maintenance?......... 144
Language Choice Profiles.............................................................................. 145
CHAPTER 4 CONCLUSION........................................................................... 147
LEVEL 1: CONTROVERSIES AT THE SOCIETAL LEVEL ..................................................... 148
LEVEL 2: CONTROVERSIES AT THE FAMILY LEVEL ....................................................... 149
Language as Problem versus Language as Right and Resource .................... 149
Ours versus Theirs Pronominal Oppositions .................................................. 150
LEVEL 3: CONTROVERSIES AT THE PERSONAL LEVEL ................................................... 150
LEVEL 4: OUTCOMES OF THE THREE LEVELS OF CONTROVERSY ..................................... 151
IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH .................................................................. 153
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EPILOGUE ........................................................................................................ 154
APPENDIX A. GENERAL INFORMATION ...................................................... 155
APPENDIX B. WHEN DO YOU SPEAK RUSSIAN?.......................................... 156
APPENDIX C. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ........................................................ 157
APPENDIX D. MOTIVATIONAL ORIENTATIONS ........................................... 161
APPENDIX E. SITUATED ETHNOLINGUISTIC IDENTITY................................. 166
APPENDIX F. HSPP CORRESPONDENCE FORM ........................................... 170
APPENDIX G. MINOR'S ASSENT FORM ....................................................... 172
APPENDIX H. PARENT/GUARDIAN PERMISSION/INFORMED
CONSENT ......................................................................................... 173
APPENDIX I. PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR RESPONSIBILITIES
INFORMATION SHEET ...................................................................... 174
REFERENCES .............................................................................................. 176
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LIST OF TABLES
TABLE 2.1: BRINGING TOGETHER “PUSH/PULL AND NEGATIVE/POSITIVE”
PERSPECTIVES .............................................................................. 22
TABLE 2.2: LANGUAGE SHIFT ................................................................. 40
TABLE 2.3: THE MULTI-AGENT MODEL OF LANGUAGE CHOICE .................... 45
TABLE 3.1: RESEARCH QUESTIONS, DATA-COLLECTION STRATEGIES,
AND ANALYSIS .............................................................................. 79
TABLE 4.1: PERCENTAGES OF THE SYNTHETIC COHORTS WHO SPOKE
A NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE AT HOME: FOREIGN-BORN CHILDREN
AND U.S.-BORN CHILDREN OF FOREIGN-BORN PARENTS ..................... 90
TABLE 4.2: LOGISTIC REGRESSION MODEL PREDICTING SPEAKING
RUSSIAN LANGUAGE AT HOME ...................................................... 126
TABLE 4.3: THE IMPACT OF THE NUMBER OF GENERATIONS LIVING IN THE SAME
HOUSEHOLD ON THE FREQUENCY OF THE LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME 127
TABLE 4.4: ENGLISH PROFICIENCY GROUP PREDICTION FROM ORDINAL LOGISTIC
REGRESSION .............................................................................. 133
TABLE 4.5: LANGUAGE CHOICE PROFILES ............................................... 139
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LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1.1. DISTRIBUTION OF RUSSIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIES
IN THE UNITED STATES. .................................................................. 13
FIGURE 2.1. ADAPTATION OF IMMIGRANTS. ADAPTED FROM CROSS-CULTURAL
PSYCHOLOGY: RESEARCH AND APPLICATION, BY J. BERRY, Y. POORTINGA,
M. SEGALL, & P. DASEN, CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND:
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2002.............................................. 26
FIGURE 2.2. INFLUENCE OF GROUP-LEVEL AND INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL VARIABLES
ON ADAPTATION OF IMMIGRANTS. ADAPTED FROM BERRY, POORTINGA,
SEGALL, AND DASEN, 2002. ........................................................... 44
FIGURE 2.3. THE FUNDAMENTAL MODEL (ADAPTED FROM GARDNER,
2001, 2006). ............................................................................. 47
FIGURE 2.4. LANGUAGE CHOICE MODEL OF DE JURE AND DE FACTO FORCES
(DEVELOPED WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF SPEAR-ELLINWOOD, 2007). ....... 50
FIGURE 2.5. MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS. ADAPTED FROM THE WEBSITE
OF THE MENTAL HEALTH LIBRARY). .................................................. 55
FIGURE 4.1. PERCENTAGE OF FIRST AND LATER GENERATIONS WHO SPEAK RUSSIAN
AT HOME. .................................................................................... 91
FIGURE 4.2. HISTOGRAM OF NUMBER OF RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS COMING
TO THE UNITED STATES. ................................................................. 94
FIGURE 4.3. RELATIONSHIP OF LINGUISTICALLY ISOLATED HOUSEHOLDS TO CITY
POPULATIONS............................................................................. 125
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ABSTRACT
The resolution of the language question—whether to maintain the
mother tongue, shift to the mainstream language, or try to maintain two or
more languages in the family—creates a lot of psychological complications
and linguistic reflections. The present study explores how external
variables and internal controversies affect the choice of language by an
individual family member as well as the family as a whole unit, and how
this choice, in its turn, impacts the relationships within the family.
This study draws on the several theoretical domains of immigration,
psychology, and language acquisition. Relying on these theoretical
frameworks, the major findings are synthesized, and a paradigm of
language choice at the family level is formulated.
A mixed-method research design allows a broad outlook on the
Russian-speaking immigrants, comparison of immigrants from the former
Soviet Union with immigrants of other nationalities, and restricted and
concentrated analysis at the family level. The Integrated Public Use
Microdata Series (IPUMS) data set helps to address the quantitative part of
this research, while the qualitative part is based on in-depth case studies of
four immigrant families.
Building on the fundamental position that development happens as the
result of the resolution of controversies, I suggest that there are four levels
of controversy located in the language-choice model: societal, family,
personal, and eventual outcomes of these three levels.
Four ―language choice‖ profiles, designated as ―Amotivational,‖
―Instrumental,‖ ―Intrinsic,‖ and ―Intrinsic +,‖ have emerged out of the
theoretical and research findings.
The findings show that the crucial characteristics of the families who
chose to maintain the mother tongue and foster bi-literacy in their children
are the following: (1) a stress on knowing the country of origin and its
culture; (2) a declared desire within the family that the children be different
from the parents‘ perception of American children; (3) an emphasis by the
parents on the children's ―Russianness‖ and on the formation of that ethnic
identity; and (4) an emphasis on a consistently realized, strong language
policy at home.
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Copyright ОАО «ЦКБ «БИБКОМ» & ООО «Aгентство Kнига-Cервис»
INTRODUCTION
In my years of living in the United States, it was not until
relatively recently that I had given thought to the issue of language
choice in the families of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
However, my academic training and cross-cultural experience have
now made me reflect upon the role of language in immigrant
communities in general and Russian immigrant families in particular.
My personal interest in this topic arose from the combination of
personal encounters with Russian-speaking immigrant families whose
children do not speak Russian, possibly because of parental or societal
pressure to speak English; and the families' perception of what
constitutes language choice in their host society. As this interplay
between personal inquiry and socio-cultural studies continued, I
became very sensitive to the perspectives various disciplines offered
regarding the language-choice dilemma.
Language choice has been analyzed by many disciplines. There is
no single approach to the phenomenon or definition of the term. Every
field offers its own vision of the concept and brings its own set of
variables influencing language choice. This versatility makes it
possible to approach the issue from different angles.
In examining the ―choice of language‖ question, I am interested in
the intersection of three broad areas: immigration, education, and
psychology. How do they interact and relate to one another? Research
in the field of education and working with people has always been
―the hardest science of all‖ (Berliner, 2002). I came to the realization
of this fact about sixteen years ago when I made a decision to become
a teacher. To begin with, I had to ―beg for mercy‖ from the members
of my family since they were doctors who had already made a choice
for me. My career path was pre-determined the moment I was born—
elementary school, middle school, high school, and medical school,
with all foreseeable degrees coming with it. I was almost ready to
accept this ―package,‖ but my passion for teaching stopped me and
drastically changed my life. I was accepted at the Teacher Training
University in Yaroslavl (Russia), where I was exposed to many new
and exciting educational practices and theories. My life became an
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exciting path full of theories, interesting readings, projects, and
discoveries. The world of language, linguistics, and teaching
bewitched me.
I grew up in a world where no one talked about ―immigration.‖
This was a taboo topic for a rather long period. Unwittingly, however, I
was exposed to the lives of immigrants from the former Soviet Union
by marrying one of them. Now, as the mother of two little children, I
am also personally interested in the educational, cultural, and linguistic
experiences of immigrant children and families living in the United
States. My recent reflections about my role as a researcher have
sharpened my perspective and raised my consciousness about
positionality issues. I belonged to one group (Russians living in
Russia), and my mentality was shaped by a strong link between the
place where I lived and my Russian identity. I was an ―extreme
outsider‖ to immigration issues, but my situation now as I write this is
more complex. I do not perceive myself as an ―insider.‖ I remain a
Fulbright scholar, yet I also share an insider‘s perspective. Being very
much aware of the concerns shared by immigrants from the former
Soviet Union, I am trying to stay as objective as I can about everything
I see and hear. I do have my own biases, preferences, and concerns, yet
I have to be conscious of them and carefully analyze the way they
might influence the discoveries I make and the conclusions I reach.
In our daily lives, we make hundreds of choices. When immigrants
come to a new land, they have to make even more vital decisions than
before. Language choice becomes one of the paramount decisions they
have to make. Very often parents decide on what language(s) to use not
only for themselves but for their children as well. Since many parents
have come to the United States hoping for betterment for their children,
their decisions become of crucial importance in relation to how their
children use language. The adults feel an enormous responsibility to
provide their children with what they consider to be the best resources
available in the country of settlement. Frequently, these decisions of the
middle generation (middle, because they are located between their
children and their own parents) impact the elder (grandparent)
generation who are more likely not to speak the language of their
country of origin and consequently have less flexibility with finding
jobs and participating in the English-speaking life. One of the decisions
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the parents have to negotiate is whether to keep or to drop speaking of
the mother tongue at home or to try and find a golden mean between
these two dichotomous choices. These decisions and their
consequences involve all three generations. Spolsky (2009) says that
―language policy is all about choices" (p.1). This statement refers to
different levels, two of which are society and family. In this manner,
the present study attempts an examination of external factors affecting
the choices made by families and individuals within these families in
addition to the individual characteristics that interplay in the decisionmaking process. This study is particularly unique because it draws on
the several theoretical domains of immigration, psychology, and
language acquisition; synthesizes the major findings; and formulates a
paradigm of language choice at the family level relying on these
theoretical frameworks.
The present book fills a perceived gap in the knowledge about
Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union by
analyzing this population in a quantitative way using a very large
database and then zooming into the family level and looking at three
families from a qualitative stance. Also unique is that this mixedmethod research approach allows comparison of immigrants from the
former Soviet Union with immigrants of other nationalities and
reveals some unusual characteristics of this group.
Governmental language policies in the U.S. have to be based on
the needs of the targeted populations and more attention has to be paid
to the impact of education and language policy on immigrants from
the former Soviet Union. My hope is that this research will help, in
regard to this issue, to ―decrease the turnaround time between the
generation of knowledge and its transition into policy‖ (Schensul,
Schensul, & LeCompte, 1999).
Although teachers are often the primary point of contact between
government language policies and the children of immigrants, school
teachers are frequently not aware of the cultural heritage their students
carry. To increase this understanding, more research revealing the
hidden peculiarities and truths of different cultural groups has to be
conducted.
Many parents are concerned about heritage language maintenance, language loss, generational problems, and miscommunication
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among family members when grandparents and children speak two
different languages and do not understand each other. My research
might assist in understanding the roots of these challenges and help to
prevent some of the problems.
The families of Russian-speaking immigrants are spread all over
the United States, which is demonstrated in the map presented in
Figure 1.1.
Geographical Distribution of Russian Families
Household serial number (Frequency)
17 - 50
363 - 713
57 - 108
780 - 1442
126 - 340
1495 - 192441
Figure 1.1. Distribution of Russian immigrant families in the United States.
The map above illustrates that this group resides in almost each
state, preferring the East Coast. Thus, the concentration of the Russian
speaking population is much lower in Tucson, Arizona, where the
qualititive facet of this current study has been conducted. Moreover, in
Tucson this group is scattered, and there is no Russian-speaking
enclave as in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where one
can successfully function in society without knowing English.
My intellectual goal is to study and understand how a particular
context within which the participants find themselves influences their
actions and choices (Maxwell, 2005). As a researcher, I have a unique
opportunity ―to understand how events, actions, and meanings are
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shaped by . . . unique circumstances‖ (Maxwell, 2005, p.22). This
research gives me an opportunity to explore, for example, how the
scatteredness of the Russian-speaking immigrant community affects
their motivation to maintain their heritage language and culture.
Another goal is to identify the strongest sources of motivation to
acquire English and/or maintain Russian among Russian immigrants
from the former Soviet Union. Language attitudes vary across
immigrants of different ages. Attempts by older generations to retain a
heritage language often face misunderstanding and protest from the
younger group. This inevitably causes intergenerational tensions and
conflicts. Based on case studies of immigrant families, another
feasible goal is to explore how family members negotiate their
conflicting language orientations and practices.
Research Questions
Four research questions have guided my research inquiry:
1. How do parents and children in immigrant families from the
former Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting language orientations
and practices?
2. In what ways do multilevel decision-making processes
influence language practices of immigrant families in the United
States?
3. What factors affect the choice of language immigrant families
speak within different domains?
4. What specific motives trigger changes in children‘s English
language acquisition and Russian language and culture maintenance?
Organization of the Book
The present chapter introduces the researcher, the research topic,
and research questions. An attempt was made to outline the possible
significance and novelty of the current project.
Chapter One will review the literature regarding various
perspectives on language choice related to immigrants from the
former Soviet Union and provide a historical background of the
problem of immigration from this country. The discussion of external
(societal) influences as well as internal influences (motives) impacting
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the choice of language to acquire and speak in the host society will
become a foundation for further research.
In Chapter Two the methodology for the research work will be
laid out. Quantitative and qualitative research methodology as
supplementing one another will be clarified. The Integrated Public
Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) data set, which contains a stratified
sample of the U. S. population, will be used for quantitative research,
and the MAXQDA processing program for qualitative data analysis
will be utilized for the qualitative part of my study. In addition,
descriptions of the families will be included in this chapter.
Chapter Three will describe the results of the research. First, the
synthetic-cohorts method will be implemented to document the
Russian language shift within three generations in the Russianspeaking population from the former Soviet Union and to compare
this group with Hispanic and Non-Hispanic groups. Then the research
questions will be addressed using the mixed-method research
paradigm.
I will discuss the research findings in Chapter Four. I will
problematize the findings and attempt to suggest four language-choice
profiles, every family representing a separate profile.
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CHAPTER 1
LITERATURE REVIEW
―For any speaker of it, a given language
is at once either more or less his own or more
or less someone else‘s, and either more or
less cosmopolitan or more or less parochial–
a borrowing or a heritage; a passport or a
citadel. The question of whether, when, and
for what purposes to use it is thus also the
question of how far a people should form
itself by the bent of its genius and how far by
the demands of its times.‖
Clifford Geertz, 1973, p.241
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the multidimensional
model of acculturation experience and to explore various perspectives
on language choice related to immigrants from the former Soviet
Union. Specifically, in the first part, I am going to answer the
following questions: What do we know about immigrants from the
former Soviet Union? What data are available? What is/was peculiar
in the process of immigration of this population and its further
acculturation in a new socio-cultural environment? What
compromises do they make (if they do) in adopting American ways of
life while attempting to preserve their own cultural traditions?
This chapter provides historical background of the problem of
immigration from the former Soviet Union. Here, I describe the
meaning of the word ―Russian‖ in the context of a host country,
discussing some peculiarities of acculturation of the Russian
immigrants as well as providing general conceptualizations of
acculturation. Then I further elaborate on the issue of language choice
that immigrants face and consider various theoretical approaches to
the concept of language choice. Further on, I proceed with the
discussion of external (societal) influences as well as internal sources
(motives) impacting the choice of language to acquire and speak in the
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host society. I pay special attention to the discussion of the term
―heritage speakers of the Russian language‖ and review what is
happening with the language across three generations of immigrants
from the former Soviet Union.
Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union
to the United States
Immigration is a major world-wide phenomenon that produces
complex interactions among individuals from all over the globe; these
interactions include exchanges of ideas, values, and customs (Safdar,
2002). Large-scale immigration is one of the most important social
developments of our time (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001).
The United States of America becomes the new home to an
average 800,000 immigrants each year (Dimitrov, 2004). Based on the
U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2006, every 31 seconds one person
is being added to the U.S. population as a result of net international
migration. In 2004, the nation‘s foreign-born population numbered
approximately 35 million, comprising about 12% of the total U.S.
population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005) (Nesteruk, 2007). Many of the
immigrants are parents of children who are either immigrants or, more
commonly, U.S. citizens themselves (Nesteruk, 2007).
By the arrival of the 21st century the idea that immigrants make
vital contributions to the economic prosperity of the country was
strengthened by the achievements of the descendants of eastern and
southern European immigrants who entered the country between the
1880s and the 1920s (Fleegler, 2005). The United States has always
celebrated its immigrant heritage, and American leaders often recount
the story of renewal and rebirth brought by newcomers from abroad.
At the same time, Americans have always worried about the
economic, political, and cultural changes caused by immigration
(Martin & Midgley, 2006).
Most of the attention of US demographers has historically
focused on the "big three": Hispanics, African-Americans, and AsianAmericans. However, the last ten years have witnessed the sharp rise
of other emerging groups, some of whose populations have now
achieved critical mass. Russian-Americans are one of these groups. In
1990, the U.S. Census reported only 334,000 foreign-born residents
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from the former Soviet Union, but nearly 450,000 immigrants have
arrived over the past decade according to the Statistical Yearbook of
the Immigration and Naturalization Service (SYINS) (LashenykhMumbauer, 2005). In addition, an estimated 250,000 undocumented
Russians flocked to the U.S. in the 1990s, resulting in a total
population growth rate of almost 200% for the period (LashenykhMumbauer, 2005). According to Ginsburg (2002) in LashenykhMumbauer (2005), the Russian-speaking population in the United
States is one of the fastest growing minorities. During 1993-2003,
approximately 500,000 Russian speaking immigrants came from the
former Soviet Union to the United States (Epshteyn, 2003). According
to Kisselev (2005), almost 70,000 Russian-speaking immigrants have
moved to the U.S. every year. The literature refers to the immigrants
from the former Soviet Union as ―Russian‖ despite the fact that this is
a heterogeneous and multilingual group of people. This reference
causes a great deal of confusion. To avoid further complications, I
shall try to explore how different researchers explain the phenomenon,
using a wide variety of arguments. Malko (2005), in her study,
explains that the word ―Russian‖ refers to the immigrants of Russian
ethnic background in addition to immigrants from other Soviet
republics where Russian was spoken, taught in schools, and used in
home settings as a compulsory discipline. She assumes that those who
went through the Soviet system of education had similar types of
experiences, regardless of ethnic background.
After their arrival to the United States, immigrants from the
former Soviet Union preferred to call themselves Russian to reflect
their linguistic and cultural reality and to simplify explanations to
Americans (Andrews, 1999 in Malko, 2005). Even if some immigrants
were unsure how to identify themselves, their choice was guided by
their proficiency in Russian over other languages spoken in the
household (Malko, 2005).
Jews were a big group that immigrated to the United States from the
former Soviet Union during different historical periods. They were
classified as the fifth largest refugee group to enter the United States in
the period 1981-1990 (Vimala, 1995). Many Jews recognize themselves
as Russian because they have changed their nationality registration (the
5th line in the Soviet passport where the ethnicity of every individual was
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stated) in their internal passport because of fear of persecution and
intermarriage. Ninety percent of children of mixed marriages who are
registered as Russian (Epshteyn, 2003) have started identifying themselves as Jews to simplify the emigration procedure. Thus, current immigrants to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union should be viewed as a
very diverse group of individuals and not as a monolithic cultural unit.
Successive groups of Russian-speaking immigrants came in several
waves, and there is little agreement among scholars on the precise time
delimiting each wave (Malko, 2005). A second disagreement lies in the
difference of perception of the starting point of emigration from Russia.
According to Malko (2005), the first wave (1880-1914) comprised
Yiddish-speaking Jews who fled pogroms and economic migrants who
fled from rural overpopulation, poverty, and underdevelopment. Eightyfive percent arrived from the western parts of present-day Ukraine, and
the remaining 15 percent from Russia. However, Andrews (1999) argues
that the period of immigration preceding the First World War cannot be
referred to as a ―wave,‖ as this term has to be used only for Russian
speakers, whether ethnic Russians or not.
Each war or revolution has caused emigration from the country of
origin. Thus, there was a peak of emigration that followed the upheavals
of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the Civil War of
1918-1921. Almost 20,000 Ukranian immigrants and 30,000 Russian
refugees came to the United States. Many of them were military officers,
members of the old aristocracy, professionals, intellectuals, and others
opposed to the Soviet regime (Malko, 2005). According to Andrews
(1999), the First Wave was not an exclusively American phenomenon
but part of a diaspora to many different countries. The original locus of
emigration was Paris, but for various reasons many of these emigrants
eventually resettled in the United States.
A lot of people were displaced by the upheavals of the Second
World War. This group consisted mostly of ordinary Soviet citizens
caught up in the Nazi occupation of and subsequent retreat from vast
portions of that country (Andrews, 1999).
In a discussion of emigration during Soviet times, Epshteyn
(2003) distinguished among several stages of immigration to the
United States. The first Soviet period of immigration to the United
States from Russia occurred between 1948 and 1970 and averaged
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2,700 people annually. The second stage lasted from 1971 to 1980,
with an annual average of 34,700 emigrants. The third stage began in
1981 and lasted until 1986. It was called the ―depressed stage‖
because only 5,800 people were granted visas on an annual basis.
Finally, in 1987 the immigration rate in the United States reached
102,700 people per year until 1989. In 1990 the numbers tripled to
377,200. More than half of the Soviet emigrants during this period
were Jewish, 28% of whom went to the United States.
Andrews (1999) specified that from the early 1970s, the Brezhnev
regime eased emigration restrictions for Soviet Jews. As a face-saving
ruse, the Soviet Union officially maintained that the destination of all
these emigrants was Israel; however, numerous people made their way
to the United States. The American government granted these
immigrants refugee status, thereby exempting them from immigration
quotas, and Jewish organizations were active in assisting with their
resettlement. Russian immigrants, mostly of Jewish descent, came to
the U.S. up until 1995 to flee religious persecution and to escape the
political chaos created by the fall of the Soviet Union (LashenykhMambauer, 2005). According to Kisselev (2005), this population
tended to assimilate more easily into the American culture. Most of
the Soviet-Jewish immigrants who arrived during this time settled in
large metropolitan areas on the East Coast. Typically, these people
were highly educated, with over 60% having a college education prior
to immigration (Kisselev, 2005).
Andrews (1999) analyzed the waves of immigration with relation
to the level of English language acquisition and Russian language
maintenance. He found that the descendants of the First Wave have
maintained a degree of bilingualism, with English as the dominant
language. At worst they have had to study Russian as a foreign
language if they are interested in it at all. The Second Wave benefited
from institutions established by the first wave such as Saturday
schools and summer children‘s camps. In other instances they created
similar organizations of their own. However, the Americanization of
the second wave of immigration was also well underway. The Third
Wave is quite another case, for its ties to the homeland and native
languages are more immediate. Moreover, this migration was
numerically larger, at least in the United States, than the first two
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Russian waves. The acculturation of the second generation has already
begun, but it is also easier for them to maintain their native language if
there are large numbers of speakers in the host country, particularly in
concentrated groups. Finally, the language of the Third Wave is
currently renewing itself with the arrival of new immigrants.
Reasons for Immigration
When coming to a foreign country, migrant populations are driven
by various circumstances. Ager (2001) states that immigrants to the
United States have included people moving for negative as well as
positive reasons. By ―negative‖ he indicates refugees fleeing from
persecution, whether religious, political, economic, social, or racial;
while ―positive‖ reasons are mainly economic. Moving for negative
reasons implies that many migrants want to ―recreate their former
society in a new place, often continuing to use its language and only
using that of the host community when necessary‖ (Ager 2001, p.109),
whereas economic migrants motivated by economic wellbeing in the
rich country are more likely to adopt the host language, but do so
simply as a tool to a better life. Berry, Poortinga, Segall, and Dasen
(2002) propose a reactive-proactive continuum for migration
motivation, where they differentiate between push motives, including
involuntary and forced migration with negative expectations, and pull
motives, including voluntary migration and positive expectations.
According to this continuum, so-called ―negative‖ reasons can be
combined with push motives when immigrants were forced to leave
their country of origin, whereas ―positive‖ reasons are associated with
―pull‖ motives. The combination of the above-mentioned perspectives
is reflected in Table 2.1
This generalized schema is not relevant when considering the
cases of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In the majority
of situations, especially when talking about recent waves of
immigration, immigrant families from the former Soviet Union and
Russia chose to be ―pushed‖ from the country and had positive
expectations, which conflicts with the continuum described above.
Ogbu and Simons (1998) distinguish between autonomous, voluntary
(immigrant), and involuntary (nonimmigrant) minorities. According to
this classification, the main difference between voluntary and
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involuntary minorities is that voluntary minorities moved to the
United States more or less willingly ―because they expect[ed] better
opportunities (better jobs, more political or religious freedom) than
they had in their homelands or places of origin,‖ (p. 164) whereas
involuntary minorities ―are people who have been conquered,
colonized, or enslaved‖ (p.164). Ogbu and Simons (1998) also state
that refugees ―who were forced to come to the United States because
of civil war or other crises in their places of origin are not immigrants
or voluntary minorities. They did not freely choose or plan to come to
settle in the United States to improve their status. However, they share
some attitudes and behaviors of immigrant minorities which lead to
school success‖ (p.164).
Table 2.1
Bringing Together “Push/Pull and Negative/Positive” Perspectives
Push motives—negative
reasons
Pull motives—positive
reasons
Migration motivation
Involuntary
Voluntary
Main reasons for
immigration
Persecution
Economic
Orientation
Re-creation of the
former community
Adoption of a new
(host) culture
Language
Keep the language
of origin
Adopt the language
of a host country
Expectations
Negative
Positive
For the purposes of the current work, I am mostly interested in the
distinction between involuntary immigrants and refugees. Immigrants
from the former Soviet Union and of Jewish descent left the country
as refugees because of crisis in the country; however, they were also
looking for better opportunities, which made them voluntary
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minorities. People submitted paperwork proving the need for
voluntary political asylum, often without any obvious reasons for
doing this. These ―false negative‖ or ―false positive‖ reasons
characterize the recent waves of immigration from the former Soviet
Union. By ―false‖ I assume the official reason of immigration was
political or religious motivation that allowed immigrants to come to
the United States under the ―refugee‖ status; however, the underlying
or ―true‖ reason to immigrate was purely hope for economic wellbeing
and better lives for their children. According to Mesch (2003),
motivations present at the time of migration do not affect language
proficiency; however, they definitely shed some light on attitudes
toward languages.
Historically, research done in the field of immigration uncovers
some of the reasons that motivated the Russian population to
emigrate. According to Watson (2006), among them are the following:
(a) discriminatory state policies causing thousands of religious
believers to emigrate; (b) persecution under the Soviet government,
and, as a result, the inability to obtain the status of a political refugee,
even though they were not discriminated against directly (Watson,
2006); (c) discrimination against ethnic groups after the Soviet Union
collapsed (for example, all negative events in Russia were blamed on
ethnic Armenians) and Russians in the republics of the former Soviet
Union (for example, Latvia and Uzbekistan); (d) poor economic
conditions; (e) medical-emergency situations; (f) recruitment policies
of American companies, causing a brain-drain phenomenon; (g)
Russian-American marriages; (h) military draft avoidance; and (i)
better opportunities for the children when the emigrants' futures
looked bleak (Watson, 2006). Lashenykh-Mumbauer (2005) posits
that up until 1995, Russian immigrants came to the United States to
flee religious persecution and to escape political chaos created by the
fall of the Soviet Union, whereas in recent years, Russians have been
entering the United States with working and student visas, some with
the intention of earning money and returning home and others with the
hope of obtaining residency status. Epshteyn (2003) lists the following
reasons for the emigration of Russian Jews: (a) persecution, (b)
victimization, (c) mockery under tsarism, (d) physical extermination
of Jewish families during the Russian Civil War, (e) extermination of
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the Jewish intellectual elite under Stalin, (f) the Holocaust, (g) antiSemitism in the post-war decades, and (h) the increase of antiSemitism during the perestroika and Glasnost years.
Lashenykh-Mumbauer (2005) distinguishes newly-arrived
Russian immigrants from refugees and immigrants of the first, second,
third, and fourth waves by several important characteristics: (a) the
majority of recent immigrants relocate to the U.S. single-handedly,
without extended family members; (b) recent non-Jewish immigrants
do not enjoy any governmental benefits or support of from local
religious communities; (c) a great number of Russian immigrants do
not belong to any religious group and are not involved in resettlement
programs or refugee services; and (d) Russians are no longer
considered refugees, as their country of origin is no longer viewed as a
place of religious and political persecution.
Acculturation: General Theoretical Assumptions
and Peculiarities of Russian Immigrants
in the United States
The reasons that forced people to migrate are various. Some had a
lot of time to get ready for this most serious step in their lives; others
had to pack and go without an opportunity to think about the future.
The stage of preparation for emigration is related to the issue of
timing. The amount of preparation time available to emigrants leaving
the former Soviet Union was a factor in their senses of well-being
when they arrived in the United States. The ability to transfer their
savings or sell their property or the necessity to flee as ―empty
vessels‖ with minimal to no resources impacted their ability to arrive
in the United States with new assets at their disposal.
The last, most recent ―wave‖ of immigration is different in terms
of the amount of time and type of preparation they have undergone.
Watson (2006) posits that recent immigrants to the United States have
been exposed to American youth culture while living in their home
countries. They grew up listening to American music and watching
Hollywood movies. Acquiring this cultural knowledge was helpful on
the one hand but was a disservice on the other. People thought that
their lives would suddenly turn into fairytales: Hollywood movies
about wealth, beauty, and success. Watson (2006) shows that
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immigrant perceptions of America, which were largely based on
television shows, caused very high expectations. Departure from these
illusions produced depression, deviant behavior patterns, and
frustration.
Upon arrival in a new country, all immigrants begin the process
of adapting to a new society and way of life (Lashenykh-Mumbauer,
2005). The figure presented below introduces a general framework
that ―outlines and links psychological acculturation, and identifies the
two (or more) groups in contact‖ (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen,
2002, p. 351).
Berry et al. (2002) define adaptation as ―long-term ways in which
people rearrange their lives and settle down into a more-or-less
satisfactory existence. It is ―more-or-less‖ because adaptation . . . can
range from being very positive through to a very negative way of
living in the new cultural setting‖ (p. 369). Successful adaptation
depends on a range of psychological (or internal) and socio-cultural
factors (Berry et al. 2002). People have different views about how
much they want to integrate with a host society, and they adopt
varying acculturation strategies. Kisselev (2005), emphasizing that
acculturation is a complex and multidimensional process, summarizes
the factors it includes: (a) continuous and long-term contact with one
or more cultures or subcultures; (b) continuity and change of
attitudinal and behavioral patterns along multiple cultural/ethnic
dimensions; and (d) a process that involves various strategies and
varied outcomes, including conflict and adaptation.
Acculturation attitudes, according to Berry (1997), refer to two
fundamental issues facing immigrants. One involves the decision to
maintain one‘s culture of origin, and the other refers to the extent to
which the immigrant wishes to have contact with and to participate in
the mainstream culture. The bi-dimensional model, Berry (1992,
1997), combining the two dimensions, yields the following four
acculturation strategies: (a) integration, (b) assimilation, (c)
separation, and (d) marginalization. The integration strategy reflects a
desire to maintain key features of the migrant culture, while also
adopting key features of the majority group. Assimilation occurs when
maintenance of the migrant culture is seen as inconvenient, while
adaptation to the culture of the majority group is highly important.
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The separation strategy reflects a preference to maintain features of
the migrant culture while rejecting the culture of the majority group.
Culture A
Psychological
Cultural Changes
Acculturation
Culture A
Culture B
Individuals
in Cultures
A and B
Contact
Culture B
Cultural / group level
Adaptation
Individuals
in
Cultures
A and B
Psychological
Behavioral
changes
Sociocultural
Acculturative
stress
Affective
Cognitive
Psychological/individual level
Figure 2.1. Adaptation of immigrants. Adapted from Cross-Cultural
Psychology: Research and Application, by J. Berry, Y. Poortinga, M. Segall, &
P. Dasen, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Finally, marginalization refers to a rejection of both the migrant
and the majority culture. A lot has been said about assimilation in the
literature. Saxena (2009), for example, takes a less radical stance on the
discussion of assimilation than Berry (1997), who states that
assimilation happens when a person who is a first-generation
immigrant adopts key features of the majority group, and the second or
third generations become indistinguishable from the mainstream
culture (Buehler, 2005). Saxena (2009) suggests that when assimilation
occurs, it does not mean that ―ethnic ties or traditions must be lost
altogether; rather, similarities and common interests between ethnic
groups come to replace ethnic differences in terms of salience during
interethnic interaction, even if immigrants maintain ethnicities. This
can take place within one generation or across several, and on the
individual and group level‖ (p.30). Portes, Fernandez-Kelly, & Haller
(2008) suggest that the process of assimilation does not go in one
direction; rather, it can be segmented into several distinct paths, some
leading upward but others downward: ―These alternative outcomes
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reflect the barriers to adaptation encountered by second generation
youths in today‘s America . . .‖ (p. 5).
Thus, bringing the frameworks discussed above together, when
two or more cultures meet, this contact initiates the process of
acculturation. Primary acculturation strategies are assimilation,
integration, separation, and marginalization. These strategies lead to
adaptation, which involves settling into a more or less satisfactory
existence. For the purpose of the current work, it is necessary to bring
together the research being done about adaptation and acculturation
strategies of Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Birman and Trickett (2001) measured acculturation along three
dimensions: language competence, cultural identity, and behavioral
acculturation. Their research has shown that it takes about 6-7 years to
shift from being very Russian-oriented to being acculturated in both
cultures along the measures of behavior and identity.
Malko (2005) stated that assimilation was the most typical
acculturation strategy used by immigrants from the former Soviet
Union. However, the strategy of separation experienced by some
parents (when they preferred to reject the culture of the majority
group) led to negative psychological outcomes for their children,
resulting in depression. The strategy of integration was pursued by
those individuals who had high proficiency in their native language
and English. Those who had low proficiency in their first language
and in English oscillated between separation and assimilation.
Information on how Russians experience acculturation is sparse
(Kisselev, 2005). The dimensions studied more frequently are gender
and age. Special attention has usually been paid to the person‘s age at
the time of arrival in the United States rather than to the length of time
spent in this country (Kisselev, 2005). When acculturation starts early,
the process is generally smooth, and personal flexibility is maximal
during these early years (Berry et al., 2002). These findings are
supported by research done by Birman and Tyler (in Kisselev, 2005),
who have claimed that older men and women tend to be more attached
to the Russian culture than their younger peers.
Gender also influences the acculturation process (Berry et al.,
2002). Despite the proclaimed equality of sexes, men usually have
held more positions of power in the former Soviet Union than women.
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Even women with impressive educational attainments have rarely
been promoted to leading roles in Soviet society (Kisselev, 2005). In
addition to holding full-time jobs, they have performed all housework
and childcare. However, this may have prepared them better than men
for immigration (Kisselev, 2005) since immigrant women who enter
the job market to support their families have often acquired greater
family responsibilities, whereas their husbands have experienced a
loss of status and a concomitant lowering of self-esteem (Chun &
Akutsu as cited in Kisselev, 2005). This fact contradicts the
conclusions made by Berry et al. (2002), who emphasized that females
may be more at risk for problems than males.
Russian immigrants in the United States adopt various
acculturation strategies that help them better fit into the host society.
Vimala (1995) identifies three directions of adaptation relevant to
Soviet Jews: (a) striving to adopt American-Jewish ways; (b)
developing parallel Soviet Jewish institutions unconnected to
American ones; and (c) developing syncretic behavior that
incorporates symbols and behaviors from both the Soviet and the new
American context.
Lashennykh-Mambauer (2005) names the ability to have access to
Russian television channels, Russian books and newspapers, and
Russian food as key coping strategies. Spending American and
universal holidays in America with Russian people is another way to
relieve stress. The aforementioned strategies provide the participants
with the feeling of being in "another world"—in the "Russian world,"
where they are able to experience familiar rituals and interactions.
Good English language skills are also a potential key to success in the
host society and a factor related with lessened alienation, as English
proficiency increases chances for a better job and for a better
relationship with the host society (Lashennykh-Mambauer, 2005,
Fridman, 2000).
Problems Russian Immigrants Face
The problems that immigrants face when moving to a new society
are manifold (Safdar, 2002). Lashenykh-Mumbauer (2005) have
distinguished five (see list below) major groups of problems that
Russian immigrants face: (a) communication- and transportation28
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related problems, (b) problems related to legal issues, (c) problems
with social satisfaction, (d) financial problems, and (e) problems with
obtaining desired medical help. These problems are also common for
other immigrant populations. However, the contexts and the roots of
the issues are historically and culturally bound. Thus, Malko (2005)
determined that Russian students‘ difficulties with adjustment were
due to different practices of school socialization—collectivist in the
Russian classroom and individualist in the American classroom.
Collectivist cultures, where people rely on each other‘s help, strong
social networks, and confianza (mutual reciprocity) (Moll, Amanti,
Neff, & Gonzalez, 2005), inevitably lead to limited social interactions
and anxiety in the strongly individualist United States: the feeling of
not belonging to American society, of being not welcomed by
American people (Malko, 2005). Despite the diversity among Russian
immigrants from the former Soviet Union, their strong ties with
collectivistic culture also imply strong multi-generational and
extended-family connections (Nesteruk, 2007). When relatives are not
physically present in a new country, the immigrants might experience
―ambiguous loss and often construct a psychologically present family‖
(Boss, 1999, in Nesteruk, 2007). Russians characteristically have a
higher need for affiliation and dependence on others and therefore a
lower need for autonomy than Americans (Dimitrov, 2004).
When families migrate to new countries and cultures, they leave
behind many people from their personal social networks (Kisselev,
2005). Not only do individuals have to adapt to new communication
patterns, new social structures, and different goals, but they may also
lose their traditional resources and patterns of support (Pliskin, 1987
in Safdar, 2002). Absence of social networks and the trust and support
of people of the same origin increase feelings of despair and of strong
nostalgia for the homeland and culture. Despite years of living in the
United States, first-generation immigrants from the former Soviet
Union have reported feeling attached to ―our old world,‖ feeling
―conflicted,‖ and living ―between two worlds.‖ They have continued
to look at their lives in the United States through a dual frame of
reference, often comparing contexts of living in the United States with
those of the country they immigrated from (Nesteruk, 2007).
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Religion and religious attitudes are other factors underlying
difficulties Russian immigrants often encounter. For many years
religion was a forbidden topic in the former Soviet Union, and the
culture of religious ceremonies, Sunday schools, and church gatherings
has only been reestablished recently in Russia and surrounding
countries. To Russian immigrants in the United States, however, church
has become an important place where former Russians can meet and
socialize (e.g. Watson, 2006). This mismatch between past-life nihilism
and present-day religious activities has caused ―problems with spiritual
nourishment‖ (Malko, 2005). In the big cities with strong Russianspeaking enclaves there are Christian churches where services are in
Russian. In Tucson, for example, there is a Ukrainian church, where
services are conducted in Ukranian. People have a chance to meet there
on a weekly basis, establish social network, and speak their native
language. Church becomes the only place where people have a chance
to speak their mother tongue and see immigrants from their homelands.
These churchgoers impatiently anticipate Sunday services in contrast to
their pre-immigration experiences. In the Soviet Union religious
ceremonies were forbidden, and the majority of elderly people were
brought up as nihilists. This mismatch of original attitudes towards
religion and current weekly visits to the local church creates an ironic
shift in attitude and belief, as the church suddenly becomes much more
central to immigrant life.
Lack of English proficiency is another cause of adjustment
problems in the host society. Most female Russian immigrants have
not been able to use their Russian education and professional expertise
in America. In addition, their lack of English proficiency has created
serious obstacles for those who have attempted to reeducate
themselves and start second professional careers in the United States
(Malko, 2005). English proficiency is clearly a factor related to
decreased feelings of alienation, increased chances for better jobs, and
improved relationships with the host society (Fridman, 2000).
It is important not to neglect the fact that Russians, or those who
label themselves as ―Russian,‖ are an extremely culturally diverse
group. When Russian immigrants find themselves in a new host
country, many of them disregard this diversity and become excited
when they hear others speaking the same language as they do. In
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certain instances these high hopes turn to discomfort when they realize
that their former country-folk do not support and share their values
and traditions. The underlying assumption of most members in a
migrant ethnic group is that communicating with its representatives
should be easier than communicating with members of other cultures.
However, when the values of ―other Russians‖ turn out to vary
significantly, that variance causes disappointment and frustration
(Dimitrov, 2004). In fact, it was found that 16% of the discrepancies
between the values of immigrants and the way they were expected to
behave in the United States occurred when Russians communicated
with other Russians, not with Americans (Dimitrov, 2004).
Membership in any group influences people's perceptions and
lives. Some feel closely connected to the groups they are members of;
others, however, only experience these connections as tenuous and
distant (Healey, 2006). Coming to a new country as an immigrant
inevitably makes a person a part of an immigrant community, no matter
how he/she feels about it. Inevitably, the differences between an
immigrant's previous and new status and professional position create
tensions and dissension within the migrant group. Portes , and Rumbaut
(2001) state that immigrant groups differ in three background factors:
human capital (education, job experience); models of incorporation
(governmental, societal, and communal); and family composition.
Thus, demographic, psychological, and social factors prior to migration
play important roles in acculturation to a new society. In particular, a
person‘s age, gender, education, job prestige, cultural distance in terms
of religion, and reasons for migrating affect his or her course of
acculturation (Berry et al., 2002) and cause more intra-group tensions.
The ability to maintain ―pre-immigration‖ prestige is a particularly
important psychological need for the majority of immigrants, who
make judgments about each other based on the education and career
they used to have in the country of origin.
Much has been said about between-group tensions caused by
prejudice and cross-cultural differences; however, not much attention
has been paid to the issues of intra-group tensions. Russian
immigrants experience the following tensions arising within their
group: (a) tensions between recently arrived immigrants and those
who have arrived much earlier; (b) tensions between those who are
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Russian-speaking but born and raised in the U.S. and those who are
Russian immigrants; (c) tensions between male and female
immigrants (Malko, 2005); (d) tensions between generations; (e)
tensions based on geographical status and prestige attached to where
immigrants lived before they came to the United States, as well as
ranking of occupations in the former Soviet Union; and (g) tensions
based on leaving the Soviet Union as refugees from religious
persecution versus for economic reasons (Vimala, 1995).
Russian-speaking immigrants in the United States are one of a set
of very sensitive groups. It is a well-known fact that immigration
involves enormous life adjustments. Barkhuizen (2006) summarizes
the ―costs‖ of immigration; among them are emotional costs often
caused by identity conflicts, acculturation ambiguities often resulting
in a considerable amount of stress, and language difficulties. Another
―price‖ parents have to pay for immigration is refusal by their children
to speak the mother tongue (Portez et al, 2001). This phenomenon
results in a growing distance between the parents‘ and children‘s
cultures. The gap between the two generations is very painful for the
parents, as a majority has been trying to do make the best choices for
their children.
One of the choices they have to make for their children is finding
appropriate schools and ensuring that their integration into the new
society is as smooth as possible. Language choice is another crucial
decision made by a family. Family members have to choose which
language(s) to speak within the family, at school, and within the
broader community. However, the parental desire to maintain the
heritage culture and language often runs into an inter-generational
wall of misunderstanding and the younger generation's refusal to share
cultural roots. Sabatier and Berry (2008) underscore the point that
immigrant parents try to adapt to a new life by seeking a balance
between the need for cultural continuity within the family and the
need to conform to the new demands and constraints of the
environment in which they now live. The majority of parents have
chosen to immigrate for the betterment of their children‘s lives
(Sabatier & Berry, 2008) and try to do everything to support their
children in acquiring education and ―cultural competency‖ to succeed
in the new society (Nesteruk, 2007). However, they often fight hard to
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prevent the negative influences of the society from entering the family
system (Nesteruk, 2007). Sabatier and Berry (2008) emphasize two
kinds of discrepancy between the parental practices of immigrants and
those of the society of settlement and the generational gap between
values of immigrant parents and their children. On the one hand,
―there is evidence that for the benefit of their children, parents try to
transmit cultural and familial points of reference to their children and
embed them in a cultural social network of meaning‖ (p. 163), and on
the other hand they ―encourage future expectation in accordance with
the values and demands of the society of settlement and promote the
development of competencies that are useful in order to become fully
adapted, at least at the economic level‖ (p. 163).
Different family members acculturate at different paces.
Generally, immigrant children in the United States adjust to the
conditions of a new life quicker and easier than their parents, and
English language acquisition plays a crucial role in this relatively
speedy adjustment. In addition, the Americanization of the third
generation often undermines the role of parents as authority figures.
Kovalcik (1996), as stated in Nesteruk (2007), found that feelings of
loss and failure in parents was particularly acute among those Soviet
Jewish immigrants whose social status decreased as a result of
immigration to the United States. As parental authority has
diminished, the children's authority might have significantly increased
as they become ―translators of the language and culture to their
parents‖ (Nesteruk, 2007).
The arguments I have presented above suggest that immigration
causes many fundamental changes in the people's lives and senses of
identity. Some problems Russian-speaking immigrants face are
common to the majority of immigrants and have to do with issues such
as transportation, language acquisition, medical care, finance, and
parenting. However, immigrants from the former Soviet Union also
face a range of peculiar, culturally rooted problems that other
immigrant groups do not experience. These issues arise because of
strong ties with collectivistic culture, strong multi-generational and
extended-family connections, a higher need for dependence on others, a
lower need for autonomy, and a shift from nihilism to a richly spiritual
life that provides opportunities to connect with other immigrants.
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Special attention has to be given to changes that take place at the
family level. Firstly, parental authority may diminish because their
social status changes. Secondly, their pace of acculturation and
English language acquisition is much slower than that of their
children. Parents face a dilemma regarding whether to try and
maintain their ancestral language and force their children to use it or
to allow their children to shift to English. How do families choose
what language to speak in different domains? Are these choices
voluntary or involuntary? Which disciplines study the issue of
language choice, and what do these approaches have in common?
Language Choice
I will start this part by elaborating on language choice in the
context of sociolinguistics. Fishman (1965) suggested that the best
way to approach the issue of language choice was through the
understanding of who speaks what language to whom and in which
settings, specifically in communities that are characterized by
multilingualism. His argument is that domains of behavior include
contexts such as family, friends, religion, education, employment, and
government, and that the immigrant is likely to use a different
language in different domains (Fishman 1986 in Mesch, 2003). An
individual makes these language choices based on (1) a personal
understanding of what is appropriate within the domain and (2) a
contextual interpretation of each particular social interaction (Spolsky,
2009). Spolsky has also argued that a domain is a social space: home
and family, church, the workplace, public entertainment venues, and
government venues. Each of these domains has its own policy, with
some features managed internally and others influenced by forces
external to the domain (Spolsky, 2009). Consequently, language
choice at the family level can be simultaneously regulated internally
and influenced by external controls.
Research in the field of immigration shows that the domain of
―home and family" plays a crucial role in language transmission,
maintenance, or shift. A stream of research also emphasizes the role of
the family in migration decisions (Chiswick, Lee, & Miller, 2005).
The role of the family cannot be overestimated. ―A family is a social
system in which each individual contributes to the quality of life and
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the family as a unit‖ (Sabatier & Berry, 2008, p.162). For many, the
main reason for emigration is to improve the life of the family and to
provide more opportunities for the children. Furthermore, this decision
then influences the choice of language the family will use in daily life
(Sabatier & Berry, 2008). Fishman (1991) contended that language
practice in the home was the most critical factor in predicting whether
a language would be maintained across generations. After all, it is in
the family that the peculiar bond with language and language activities
is fostered, shared, and fashioned into personal and social identity
(Fishman, 1991). The home environment plays an important role in
building up encouragement, respect, and interest in second language
learning. Parents can help to motivate their children through
encouragement and by setting an example (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2001
in Garcia, 2005).
Language choice is also an integral ingredient of the acculturation
process of immigrants (Barkhuizen, 2006). Families have to choose
which language or languages to speak within different domains. For
immigrant parents these decisions have significant consequences for
what happens socio-linguistically to their children in their new
country (Barkhuizen, 2006).
It is also a parental choice whether to make an effort to establish a
language policy at home or to allow children to make language-use
choices on their own. Some parents are guided solely by intuition,
others by the experiences that other parents share with them; still
others follow the recommendations of their children's teachers. Very
often parents do not have formal training in sociolinguistics or
linguistics and therefore do not think about what language their
children will be speaking after they arrive in a new country. That is
why after emigration to the United States, parents face many
unexpected issues that have to do with language acquisition and
choice. Yelenevskaya and Fialkova (2003) (as stated in Barkhuizen,
2006), have argued that ―immigration mobilizes people‘s awareness of
language‖ (p. 64), and ―they become, for example, aware of both the
instrumental (e.g. for success in education and employment) and
symbolic (e.g. valuing one‘s own socio-cultural values)‖ (p.64)
functions of language. Nevertheless it is crucial to try and find
answers to the following questions: Why do families tend to make
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particular choices? How informed and well thought out are parental
choices? What guides their decisions and practices? What
explanations are suggested in the literature?
Chiswick, Lee, and Miller (2005) suggested that English language
exposure plays a significant role in immigrants' language choices and
find that ―exposure prior to migration, time units of exposure in the
destination country, and the intensity of exposure per unit of time in
the destination‖ are the most important variables that affect English
language acquisition (p. 250).
Age of entry into a new country is considered to be the most
crucial factor influencing a range of variables Mesch (2003). Stevens
(1999) (as cited in Mesch, 2003), shows that even when length of
residence, family background, and educational history are controlled,
the effect of age at migration remains strong. It is much easier for a
child than an adult to acquire the language of a new country. When
people migrate to new countries of residence as adults, they are very
unlikely to obtain mother-tongue proficiency in the new country's
home language.
Another measure of exposure is the length of time that the
immigrant resides in the new country (Mesch, 2003). Residential
concentration is important as well. If immigrants prefer to live in
enclaves with high concentrations of people who speak the same
language, they are less exposed to the local language and use it less
frequently in their daily interactions (Mesch, 2003).
At the household level, Mesch (2003) has introduced the following
factors influencing language skills: (a) an unmarried status creates an
incentive to become proficient in the language because unmarried
immigrants must carry out the activities of daily living, whereas
married immigrants whose spouses are from a similar background may
resort more often to their mother tongue in family interaction; (b) the
presence of children impacts the language family members speak at
home, for example, the tendency of parents to speak their mother
tongue with their younger children; c) household size affects an
immigrant's opportunities to speak his or her native language with other
family members. Interestingly enough, studies related to household
factors show varying results. Some studies of young children have
shown that their parents prefer to use their mother tongue to show
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affection and intimacy (Pavlenko, 2004), while other studies have
suggested that if little children start going to daycare and their exposure
to the language of the host society increases, the whole family begins to
use English more frequently (Mesch, 2003).
Chiswick, Lee, and Miller (2005) have found that the presence of
children lowers parental language proficiency if children serve as
translators for their parents and if parents use the origin language at
home to transmit it and their origin culture to their children. In addition,
because of the greater exposure to the host-country language in school,
children may serve as their parents‘ teachers and role models in using
the targeted language. The role of siblings has been emphasized in the
literature as well. The larger the number of siblings going to daycare
and socializing with other children on the playground and in the
classroom, the greater the number of linguistic interactions in the home
with speakers of the host-country language, and the fewer the
interactions with their foreign-speaking parents in the mother tongue,
particularly in the youngest children (Chiswick, Lee, & Miller, 2005).
Heritage Language Acquisition
It is necessary to address the issue of Russian language
acquisition as a heritage language. Generally, a person can be a part of
a heritage-language group even if he or she has not acquired the
heritage language. However, the present study is concerned only with
groups within which the heritage language is still alive. I am
particularly interested in the acquisition of the Russian language by
the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to the United
States approximately twenty years ago or less. The majority of the
first and second generations (grandparents and parents) in this group
speak their native language, Russian. Even if in some cases they have
chosen to switch to English, they have not been able to forget their
mother tongue even if they have tried to. The third generation of
immigrants is in a completely different situation. Since they were born
in the United States and in most cases did not have any official
language instruction in Russian, the research defines them as ―the
heritage learners of the Russian language.‖ Polinsky (2008) has
provided an explanation that “an incomplete learner or heritage
speaker of language A is an individual who grew up speaking (or only
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hearing) A as his/her first language but for whom A was then replaced
by another language as dominant and primary‖ (p. 41). She has further
elaborated that heritage speakers are a heterogeneous group that
ranges from those who have only a basic understanding of the
language to very advanced heritage speakers.
Valdes (2000, in Kagan, 2001) defined heritage language learners
as ―individuals raised in homes where a language other than English is
spoken and who are to some degree bilingual in English and the
heritage language‖ (p. 508). Kagan and Dillon (2006) has emphasized
the order of language acquisition, drawing the conclusion that heritage
language is acquired first although this acquisition is not deep because
of the switch to another dominant language. The UCLA Research
Priorities Conference Report (2000, in Kagan & Dillon, 2006)
―offered a definition that emphasizes the dichotomy between foreign
language acquisition that 'is usually begun in a classroom setting' and
heritage language acquisition that 'begins in the home'‖ (p.86). These
definitions suggest that heritage language is an acquisition of a mother
tongue which begins in the home and is not completely acquired in the
majority of situations. However, it is important to know how linguists
define heritage speakers of the Russian language.
Kagan and Dillon (2006) suggested that differences between the
waves of immigration have to be taken into account. She emphasized
that the first two waves have long been fully assimilated, and although
they may be interested in learning Russian, they have no functional
skills to do so. Life in a monolingual community discourages the use
of the native language, ―leading to a lack of textual competence and
the absence of higher level reading and writing skills in the mother
tongue‖ (Meskill & Anthony, 2008).
Sometimes heritage learners of the Russian language have been
described as speakers of American-Russian (Isurin & IvanovaSullivan, 2008). The authors have not differentiated between the two
concepts and explain that either concept refers to the following: that
heritage speakers of Russian are ―either immigrants from the former
USSR who came to the U.S. before the critical age of 10, or people
born in the U.S. to Russian-speaking parents.‖
Kagan and Dillon (2006) have brought the aforementioned
characteristics of the Russian heritage speakers together, proposing a
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language-specific definition: ―At the beginning of the twenty-first
century in the United States, Russian heritage learners are the children
of the third, fourth and later waves of immigration whose level of
competency in Russian is directly tied to the amount of education they
received in the former Soviet Union" (p.87).
The above definitions of Russian heritage learners have several
common characteristics: (1) they emphasize the importance of a wave
of immigration, in other words the period when a particular family
entered the United States; (2) they specify the age when children have
entered the United States or (3) they stress the parental education
received before immigration to the United States.
These definitions imply that children become less proficient in the
Russian language as compared to their parents/grandparents, who
were born in Russia and are the native speakers of the language. These
changes in level of language proficiency across several generations
may be addressed through the concept of language shift.
Language Shift
Studies emphasizing language maintenance and the importance of
intergenerational connections correspond with studies proving the
tendency of language shift within three generations. Nesteruk (2007)
stated that despite the many pressures ―to master and use American
English, language is the least robust element of the generational
legacies to survive in the process of adaptation to the United States‖
(p. 30). Her summary of the route of the language shift across three
generations is to some degree radical and offers an extreme
representation of the problem. She has stated that the first generation
uses English as an instrument (i.e., only for practical purposes); the
second generation speaks English in school and with friends and
increasingly answers parents in English at home, thus becoming
limited bilinguals whose language of choice in adulthood becomes
English; the third generation loses the remains of the first generation‘s
native language due to lack of support for it both at home and in the
outside environment.
In his research with different nationalities, Alba (2004) found that
bilingualism is common among second-generation children growing
up in immigrant households. He introduces the following percentages
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illustrating English and immigrant language proficiency in Hispanics
and Asians. Among Hispanics, 92 percent speak English well or very
well, even though 85 percent speak at least some Spanish at home.
Among Asian groups 96 percent are proficient in English and 61
percent speak an Asian mother tongue. Nesteruk (2007) as well as
Alba (2004) agreed that the predominant pattern of the third
generation is English monolingualism, making it highly unlikely that
children will become bilingual as adults, though they may have
learned fragments of the mother tongue from their parents and/or
grandparents.
Table 2.2
Language Shift
Head of Spouse Child Parent Grandchild
Household
Language Spoken
Year
of
data
collection
Russian
1990
2000
2005/2007
Ukranian/Ruthenian/ 1990
Little Russian
2000
2005/2007
Yiddish
1990
Armenian
68.217
111.805
128.744
17.937
506
846
No
Yiddish
2000
1.928
2005/2007 712
1990
8.468
2000
1.026
2005/2007 No
43.907
76.157
83.575
9.549
32.907
52.758
52.829
1.672
4.534
5.756
9.634
1.201
480
1.232
594
0
538
608
N/A
416
97
N/A
103
N/A
0
82
N/A
219
283
6.017
386
79
124
10.645
124
47
0
63
0
1.101 939
150
Mesch (2003) cited Kouzmin‘s study in 1998 to illustrate that
when three waves of Russian immigrants were investigated, the first
wave maintained Russian as the dominant language in all domains. In
the second wave, the corresponding figures were much lower for all
domains. About 33 percent used English as the dominant language
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among friends and 20 percent used English when conversing with
family, whereas in the third wave about 7 percent spoke English predominantly among both friends and family, and in the other domains
almost none reported English dominance. The domains of the church,
social clubs, and community leaders were found to promote predominantly Russian usage across the three generations (Mesch, 2003).
The aforementioned observations suggest that language shift
happens similarly in different groups of immigrants. For the purpose
of my work, I decided to look at the data showing the language spoken
by the immigrant groups from the former Soviet Union. Data from the
IPUMS are used to track reported language use of individuals within
three generations. Using the 5% samples of 1990, 2000, and 20052007 files, I examined the home languages of immigrants.
The above data demonstrates that half of the second generation of
the sample shifts towards English and no longer speaks their heritage
language. The third generation of grandchildren either stop speaking
their home language (this tendency is obvious with Yiddish and
Ukranian/Ruthenian), or the number of speakers declines drastically,
especially if we compare the numbers with the first generation of
grandparents. Obviously, in some cases we can not only talk about
language shift but also about language death in certain communities.
Language Choice and Levels of Decision-Making
Process
Language choice and language acquisition are inevitable
dilemmas of the adaptation process that immigrant families face in
new cultures. These families are required to engage in new social
patterns of behavior; to either speak unfamiliar tongues or at least be
willing to live in the presence of unfamiliar tongues; and to reassess
their priorities in relation to education, career, spirituality, and
political leanings. Very often, however, decisions about language
choice and acquisition are determined by political agendas, such as
English-only educational programs. Political decisions and policy
making are top-down in structure (in contrast to bottom-up, personal,
grassroots decisions and policies) (Ager, 2001). Governments and
political leaders design and implement top-down policies, which
become macro-policies in the form of laws, directives, and
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instructions; or micro-policies in the form of influence on particular
individuals by state representatives such as teachers and bureaucrats.
Top-down policy making is driven by political motives aimed at
influencing the way a society behaves; in this model language policy
decisions are taken deliberately. Language minority communities and
human rights groups try to change the language behaviors of others,
but they do not construct policy in the formal sense. Minorities try to
change the prestige of the language.
Language socialization occurs on macro-levels through policy
decisions and public discourse and on micro-levels through family and
community practices.
Perhaps the best way of looking at this problem is to consider that
language policy seems to be dichotomized into overt (explicit,
formalized, de jure, codified) policies and covert (implicit, informal,
unstated, de facto, grass roots) aspects of these policies; what usually
gets ignored, of course, are the covert aspects of a policy. That is,
many researchers (and policy-makers) seem to believe, or at least have
taken at face value, the overt and explicit formulations of and
statements about the status of linguistic varieties, and ignore what
actually happens down on the ground, in the field, at the grass-roots
level (Schiffman, 1992).
To bring together the multi-faceted and deeply dichotomized
structure of language planning in the immigrant community, it is
essential to connect several perspectives that have never been
combined.
I will start my discussion by introducing three theoretical
conceptualizations of language choice from three different
perspectives: cross-cultural psychology, language planning, and
psychology of language acquisition (theory of motivation). My choice
of the theories was driven by the presence of macro- and micro-levels,
multi-agent layers, and orientation to immigrant populations as well as
second language learners.
John Berry
One of the most influential scholars in the field of cross-cultural
psychology is John Berry. Berry‘s publications highlight the issues of
psychological adaptation and
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acculturation. His work does not directly involve the discussion of
language choice; however, his acculturation model offers an indirect
way to look at categorizing macro- and micro-levels of acculturation
and adaptation. Relying on the Searle and Ward studies, Ataca and
Berry
(2002)
differentiated
between
psychological
(emotional/affective) and socio-cultural (behavioral) adaptation.
Psychological adaptation refers to psychological well-being and
satisfaction in a new cultural context (Sabatier & Berry, 2008). Sociocultural adaptation, based on a social learning perspective, refers to
acquiring culturally appropriate knowledge and skills. Individuals
experiencing a culture change are socially unskilled in the new
cultural setting; some cultural learning (the learning of some
behaviors from the new culture), as well as cultural shedding (the
unlearning of aspects of one‘s previous repertoire that are no longer
appropriate) (Berry, 1992) are required. ―Socio-cultural adaptation
refers to how well an individual is able to function in their daily lives
in school or at work, and in the community in general‖ (Sabatier &
Berry, 2008, p. 162). Berry et al. (2002) further distinguished between
group-level acculturation and psychological acculturation. At the
population level, changes in social structure, economic base, and
political organization are declared to be of primary importance, while
at the individual level, the changes are in such phenomena as identity,
values, and attitudes. (See Figure 2.2 below.)
Sabatier and Berry (2008) determined that among the protective
factors that affect perceptions of well-being are intercultural variables
such as ethnic pride, attitudes of acculturation, and ethnic density in
the social network, as well as social variables such as parents' and
friends‘ support, family pride, and attachment to parents.
According to Berry et al. (2002), of importance in the society of
settlement are the general orientations of society toward pluralism and
attitudes toward specific groups. Languages have always been used to
establish a sphere of influence; therefore, language attitudes and
choice of language, or right to choose a language, are among the most
vital issues immigrants have to face. Language choice plays a crucial
role with immigrants in the formation of a cultural identity that has
two important aspects: identity with one‘s heritage group, ethnic
identity, and identity within the larger society in which a person now
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lives, national identity (Sabatier & Berry, 2008). Berry, Phinney, Sam,
and Vedder (2006) explored four acculturation profiles: (a) ethnic, (b)
national, (c) integration, and (d) diffuse. Language proficiency and
language use are among the variables of importance in the discussion
of these profiles. However, other factors, such as ethnic and national
peer contact, family relationship values, psychological adaptation
(with subscales of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and psychological
problems), and socio-cultural adaptation indirectly influence the
choice of language immigrants make at different levels and
communicating with various groups.
Group level variables
Society of origin
Political context
Economic situation
Demographic factors
Acculturation experience
Contact
Participation
Problems
Society of settlement
Social support
Larger society
Ethnic society
Attitudes
Ideologies
Ethnic attitudes
Individual level variables
Moderating factors prior
to acculturation
Age, gender, education, religion
Health, language, status, pre-acculturation
Migration motivation, expectations
Cultural distance
Stressors and Stress
Adaptation
Psychological
Socio-cultural
Moderating factors during acculturation
Contact discrepancy
Social support: appraisal and use
Societal attitudes: appraisal and reaction
Coping: strategies and resources
Acculturation strategies: attitudes and behaviors
Figure 2.2. Influence of group-level and individual-level variables on adaptation
of immigrants. Adapted from Berry, Poortinga, Segall, and Dasen, 2002.
A. S. L. Lam
Lam (2007) discusses the phenomenon of language choice
ranging from language planning made by the state to individual
language choices made by language learners or users. The author
synthesizes several dimensions of language choice and proposes the
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multi-agent model involving agents such as (a) policy-makers in the
government, (b) educators, (c) parents (and other family members),
and (d) learners and other language users. From the individual
learner's perspective, the agents involved are parents and children. In
this model Lam (2007) relies on three types of language planning: (a)
corpus planning (language form and structure); (b) status planning
(uses to which language is put in various domains, and the prestige
attached to the relevant languages); and (c) acquisition planning (the
arrangements made, generally by a Ministry of Education, for the
learning of languages).The table below summarizes Lam's model
(2007).
Table 2.3
The Multi-Agent Model of Language Choice
Agents
Policy
Makers in the
Government
Educators
(principles,
teachers)
Learners
Competent
language
users
Language Choices
What language or dialect to promote in
government, education, and the public
media.
What language or dialect to use as the
medium/media of instruction or
interaction in and outside the
classroom, in what proportion and
under what circumstances.
What language or dialect to use with
others or invest learning energy/time in
while growing up and also in study
plans in adulthood.
What language or dialect to use in
everyday interaction (for example, the
workplace) and cultural or literacy
expression.
Phenomena
Language
Planning. Linguistic
imperialism.
Models of bilingual
and multilingual
education.
Language acquisition
and learning. Adult
language learning.
Code switching/codemixing. Workplace
interaction. Interculturality and
negotiation of cultural
identity.
Note: Adapted from Lam, 2007.
The status of the language may be overtly imposed or covertly
perceived in a society. For instance, immigrant children can draw
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conclusions about the status of their language in the classroom on a
daily basis. Usually, teachers are the speakers of the ―dominant‖
language, whereas teacher aides are the speakers of the ―minority‖
language. In general, the speakers of most minority languages are
discriminated against on the grounds of language. In fact, some groups
are not allowed to identify with their mother tongues. SkutnabbKangas and Phillipson (1995) underscored the claim that ―speakers of
more than 6000 languages are not entitled to education, nor to the
administration of justice or public services through the medium of
their mother tongue‖ (p. 71) and ―it is extremely common, in virtually
all parts of the world, for people to be deprived of such basic linguistic
human rights‖ (p.71).
Robert Gardner
The choice of language to speak at home, at work, and with friends
depends on the motivation an individual might have. Thus, motivation
is a central element in determining success in learning or using a
language in various settings. In his research, Robert Gardner focuses on
motivation because he believes that many variables are dependent upon
motivation for their effects to be realized. Thus, for example, language
learning strategies probably will not be used if the individual is not
motivated to learn the language, and/or there is little or no reason to
take risks using the language if there is little intention to learn it.
According to Gardner (2006), the socio-educational model of
language acquisition is based on five assumptions: (a) that research on
differences in language learning should be conducted on individuals at
the same general level of training and with comparable backgrounds;
(b) that two individual characteristics, ability and motivation, are
largely responsible for levels of achievement, and achievement is a
variable that develops during the process of language learning and
influences further learning; (c) that individual differences in motivation
are influenced by factors originating in environmental characteristics
(i.e., cultural, personal, social, educational); (d) that language
acquisition takes place in both formal (where there is specific training
in the language) and informal (e.g., social settings, language clubs,
television, the internet) contexts; and (e) that formal and informal
contexts result in both linguistic (e.g., all aspects of language
development including oral production, aural comprehension, reading,
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writing, and general knowledge about the language) and non-linguistic
(e.g., individual difference variables such as attitudes, motivation, and
anxiety concerning language) outcomes.
The model in Figure 2.3 explains how contextual variables,
individual differences, and language experiences influence one
another in the learning sequence.
EXTERNAL
INFLUENCES/
HISTORY
INDIVIDUAL
DIFFERENCES
LANGUGEACQUISITION
CONTEXTS
OUTCOMES
Ability
Educational
setting
Formal
contexts
Linguistic
outcomes
Motivation
Cultural
context
Informal
contexts
Non-linguistic
outcomes
Figure 2.3. The fundamental model (adapted from Gardner, 2001, 2006).
In practice, it is hard to separate formal and informal contexts of
language acquisition as, for example, within the context of formal
language learning, non-formal events like internet use, text messaging,
or chatting with friends may occur. For the purpose of the current
project, however, it is important to differentiate between the two,
(formal and informal language learning). Formal acquisition of the
Russian language in the United States happens infrequently in schools.
Formal training may be arranged by parents at home; still, informal
training may interfere in the process. Formal training is usually
arranged by somebody, like educators and (for my purpose) parents. It
involves the use of pre-prepared educational materials, whereas
informal context training occurs spontaneously and does not involve
official materials.
According to Gardner (2006), ability and motivation are the most
important variables involved in language learning..Both variables are
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intrinsic to formal and informal language-learning contexts although
ability plays less of a role in informal contexts. Gardner's model also
suggests that educational setting and cultural context strongly influence
motivation. By cultural context Gardner understands preconditions
such as beliefs about language learning, family variables, language
history, gender, and resulting personality characteristics that, in sum,
influence motivation. The nature of the educational setting (i.e., quality
of instruction) is influenced by the policy-making institutions
established in a particular society, whereas cultural contexts align more
with bottom-up and grass-roots approaches.
Overall, Gardner's model is comprised of four sections: (a)
external influences, (b) individual differences, (c) language
acquisition contexts, and (d) outcomes. By external influences,
Gardner (2006) means any factors that might influence language
learning. There are two classes of such influences indicated: history
and motivators. By history, Gardner (2006) means a complex of social
and personal variables that the individual brings with him or her
which can influence second-language acquisition. Examples include
the socio-cultural milieu in which the individual lives as well as the
personal family background. School children learning English in
Russia have a different cultural background from English-speaking
students learning English in Arizona. Within any socio-cultural
milieu, there will be differences in individuals‘ personal backgrounds
and histories that are very important for a language acquisition. The
student from a bilingual home has a different history associated with
language learning than the student from a mono-lingual, English- or
Russian-speaking home.
This aspect of external influence is generally not considered by
other models of second-language acquisition, with the exception of
Clément‘s (1980) social context model or of models of academic
motivation. In the socio-educational model, past experiences and
family and cultural background are considered as important as
individual motivation.
Discussion of the Models
All three of these different approaches address the issue of
language choice and language acquisition in different ways. Berry
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identifies two major levels: (a) the population level, with changes in
social structure, economic base, and political organization, and (b) the
individual level, with identity, values, and attitudes as key variables.
Lam‘s multi-agent model works clarify the structure of a society
in terms of language status. Gardner‘s typology becomes useful when
analyzing the individual or psychological level of language choice
within a broad socio-educational context.
The three perspectives discussed above help increase
understanding of the multifaceted and multi-structured representation
of language acquisition and language choice, clarifying the range of
factors influencing it from different fields of knowledge. The pictures
in Figure 2.4 introduce the hierarchy of language planning at different
levels: (a) law-making institutions, (b) rule-making institutions, (c)
schools, and (d) families. Arrows show the relationships existing
between different levels. Language planning occurs at different levels,
and top-down/de jure/overt planning is obvious. However, covert/de
facto aspects play their role and impact the decision-making process
as well. Taking the global approach suggested by Lam in his
discussion of language planning, we can see how institutions at
different levels coexist and resolve the issues of language choice,
starting from the family level. However, it is crucial not to overlook
the fact that the same relationships (de jure and de facto) exist within
each level. Focusing on the family level, it is possible to see how a
community tries to establish its own regulations and how every
individual has an opportunity to undermine the policy by trying to
impose de facto regulations. Thus, for example, parents may try to
establish a language policy but later on have to give it up because their
children are not willing to follow the rules that their parents have
imposed. In other words parents try to establish ―de jure‖ policy but
have to change it because individuals at the ―grass roots‖ level
introduce their own ―de facto‖ rules.
In Figure 2.4 I introduce the de jure and de facto relationships
occurring at the global and family levels. Both graphics illustrate
language choice as a multilevel process that is influenced by the
external efforts of, for example, authority figures at the societal or
family level on the one hand and grassroots attempts on the other hand
to change or impact the situation.
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The Global Hierarchy
De jure
(explicit)
Family Level of the Global Hierarchy:
Focusing In
De facto
(implicit)
De jure
(explicit)
De facto
(implicit)
Figure 2.4. Language choice model of de jure and de facto forces
(developed with the assistance of Spear-Ellinwood, 2007).
Berry‘s model of immigrant adaptation and acculturation insists
on the importance of the psychological well-being of an individual
and the socio-cultural adaptation of the group in relation to the
challenges that a host society offers. Gardner has taken a similar
approach to examining individual language acquisition, paying close
attention to external influences (or cultural contexts). The
aforementioned theories (as well as Lam‘s model) highlight the
importance of external-to-individual sources influencing an
individual‘s choice of language. However, internal factors and
personal characteristics should not be underestimated. Obviously, the
top-down perspective plays a crucial role in the lives of the immigrant
populations, especially if top-down decisions directly or indirectly
touch the interests of immigrants.
In the following part of my book, I am going to discuss the sociopolitical milieu (or external factors) influencing the language
acquisition of immigrants in the United States and the internal factors
(or motivators) that are of special importance in determining the
choice of language.
Oppositions and Controversies at the Societal Level
Arguments about what is happening within a language are often
extreme, changing and developing together with a society. These
changes reflect every minor turn in the policy of a single state as well
as in an entire country. Language development is a never-ending
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process that may move in opposing directions, both progressive and
regressive. The truth of the matter is that it is almost impossible to
reach a balance, and one extreme always outweighs the other. A
language changes together with a society, both transforming the
society and being transformed by the society. The occurring
modifications create new waves of development that result in new
oppositions. Fishman (2006) has suggested that some of these
oppositions (e.g., purity versus vernacularity, uniqueness versus
westernization) exist in any language.
―Language conflict‖ in the United States can be discussed through
the concept of dialectic, which is a series of oppositions and changes:
multilingualism versus monolingualism, additive versus subtractive,
problem versus right and resource, and ―ours‖ versus ―theirs‖
pronominal oppositions.
Multilingualism versus Monolingualism
The United States is a country of immigrants, and logically
enough it has never been monolingual. The number of English
language learners is increasing rapidly, especially in Arizona (Wright,
2005). However, despite this multilingual culture and multicultural
heritage, languages other than English have been viewed as problems
or threats (Cashman, 2006). This tendency leads to ―language panics,‖
which represent populations speaking languages other than English as
a problem (Hill, 2001). This outrageous fear prevents policy makers
from producing meaningful policy initiatives and leads to inadequate
forms of education about language (Hill, 2001). The aforementioned
facts form a vicious circle—the multilingual country of immigrants is
scared of multilingualism, trying to suppress all languages other than a
dominant one (in our case it is English). This so-called fight between
multilingualism and monolingualism forces governmental structures
to take actions which they consider appropriate for the current
situation and that fit their goals. This opposition leads to the second
one, based on the additive versus subtractive perspectives on teaching
minority students.
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Additive versus Subtractive Perspectives
Garcia (2005) offered an additive and subtractive perspective for
minority language students. These two perspectives have to do with
relationships between language and identity and represent another
dialectical opposition. Lambert (1974), as cited in Goldberg and Noels
(2006), hypothesized that each side of the opposition is determined by
the socio-cultural dominance of the language groups in question. An
additive perspective emphasizes that language, culture, and their
accompanying values are constructed in the home and community
environments (Garcia, 2005). Within the subtractive framework,
―members of an ethnolinguistic minority learn the language of the
socially-dominant linguistic group, resulting in replacement of their
identity with the language and culture of the dominant group‖ (Goldberg
& Noels, 2006, p.427). A number of factors that determine if a learning
environment is additive or subtractive stand out from the analysis made
by Stritikus and Garcia (2005). Americanization, treatment of diversity
as a problem in classrooms, and a low level of integration of home
cultures into the so-called norm culture characterize the subtractive
framework. High levels of expectation from students with diverse
cultural backgrounds, connection of school to a surrounding community,
treatment of diversity as an asset to the classroom, high level of
integration of home cultures into the so-called norm culture, and focus
on language development through meaningful interactions and
communications each illustrate the additive perspective.
In an additive framework, the new language and culture do not
replace the original language and culture, and the individual has two
languages and ethnic groups as cultural reference groups (Goldberg
and Noels, 2006). However, schools and governmental structures
ignore the child‘s world outside the classroom (Moll et al., 2005).
In the United States, the presence of a subtractive framework is
currently predominant and can be witnessed in a wide range of
initiatives and regulations. In fact, a chain of anti-bilingual initiatives
and dominance of the subtractive perspective led to the ratification of
Proposition 203, which passed on November 7, 2000, and which
severely restricted bilingual education in Arizona. The Proposition
states:
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All public school instruction [should] be conducted in English.
Children not fluent in English shall normally be placed in an intensive
one-year English immersion program to teach them the language as
quickly as possible while also learning academic subjects. Parents may
request a waiver of these requirements for children who already know
English, are ten years or older, or have special needs best suited to a
different educational approach. Normal foreign language programs are
completely unaffected. Enforcement lawsuits by parents and guardians
are permitted. (Initiative & Referendum Institute, 2000, p. 9)
Additive dimensions described above can be attributed to
language-as-right and language-as-resource orientations, whereas
subtractive dimensions could be described from the language-asproblem perspective.
Ours versus Theirs Pronominal Oppositions
Language-as-problem orientation causes a pronominal
opposition—―us‖ or ―ours‖ versus "theirs" or ―others.‖ Xenophobia, a
fear of the ―other‖ and the ―other‘s‖ linguistic, ethnic, and cultural
differences is caused, according to Harmon and Wilson (2006), by a
number of factors: (a) linguistic—the fear that ―we‖ will not
understand or will not be understood by ―others‖ and that ―other‖
languages/dialects/cultures are deficient; (b) social—a fear that ―our‖
world and community will be changed by ―others,‖ those who are
invading our territory; (c) cultural—the fear that one‘s own culture
will be contaminated by other cultures with different attitudes, habits,
and belief systems; (d) economic—the fear of immigration policies
that increase competition for jobs and the fear that increased
immigration will result in an increase in state‘s welfare expenditure;
(e) educational—the fear that money for educational programs will be
absorbed by non-native speakers in special programs; and (f)
political—the fear of a loss of power, both personal and public. These
negative attitudes advertise the language-as-problem orientation and
the fight for the purity of English-only in America.
Pronominal oppositions emphasize differences in the perceptions
of identity by different generations. Adults talk about their culture,
implying the culture of origin, whereas younger generations of ―our‖
culture mean the cultural heritage of the host society. At the present
moment, the external factors that influence the choice of language in
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the United States are guided by the subtractive framework. Top-down
(de jure) language planning treats language as a problem instead of a
right or resource for a multicultural community living in this country.
At the community/family level, the same contradictions as at the
societal level can be observed. Some family/community members can
try to maintain multilingualism, supporting the idea that language is a
resource, and proclaim the additive perspective; on the other hand,
others choose the completely opposite ideology.
Motivators
Oppositions/Controversies at the Individual Level
Language planning may start with individuals. They have to make
decisions regarding what language to speak at home, at work, with
friends. Languages live in the communities and in the world ―that is
not only imperfect, but submerged in political and economic stresses
and strains‖ (Fishman, 2006, p.17). These events affect the decisions
made by individuals. Very often people have to cope with immediate
situations and make language decisions at a personal level. The
choices a person makes are determined by the needs of an individual.
Wright (2005) offered the framework of students‘ language needs,
which are supposed to be recognized by suitable educational practices:
(a) students' lack of English; (b) students‘ need for English, also
linked to family status; (c) students‘ need for English linked to
disparities in esteem between their group‘s culture and the majority
culture; (d) students' inhibited transition to English caused by
premature loss of native language; (e) students' languages are
threatened with extinction if they are not supported; and (f) students'
minority and majority languages have equal rights in society, with
special support available for the less viable languages.
Language Acquisition as a Need
(Deficiency versus Growth Needs)
Language needs are vital for every person and can be analyzed
from the standpoint of Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs, falling into two
groups: deficiency and growth needs (Maslow, Frager, & Fadiman,
1987). They perfectly fit into Maslow‘s hierarchy in the sense that
deficiency needs should be met first before growth needs. Figure 2.5
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represents this order (from a lower level of basic needs to the highest
level of self- realization).
Figure 2.5. Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs.
Adapted from the website of the Mental Health Library).
Clearly, if students lack the language of the country they live in
and are not allowed to speak their native language, they will not feel
safe and secure. Very often parents who recently emigrated from their
home countries are expected to help their children to learn the
language of the mainstream society or to maintain the mother tongue.
These opposing expectations are voiced by educators and researchers.
However, it is hard to talk about higher order needs until basic needs
are met. First, the safety and belonging need has to be met, and only
then when people feel safe and perceive themselves as part of the
community can they think about language. Otherwise, their major
need is to create a safe and protected environment where they will not
think about basic needs. To meet their basic needs, immigrants are
ready to agree to every job to earn money and put food on the table,
and they have no time left to even think about language and higherorder needs. Very often immigrants do not have assistance in
adjusting to their new lives. Support from aides, tutors, psychologists,
and so forth could help students and their families cope more
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effectively with the frustrations of the new world. After safety needs
are fulfilled, the next step is to satisfy social needs based on
emotionally based relationships grounded in feelings of belonging,
acceptance, and closeness.
The next level is esteem needs—needs for respect, self-esteem,
self-respect, and respect for others. Minority groups are often isolated
from the majority, which leads to disparities in esteem between their
cultures and the majority culture. People need to engage themselves to
gain recognition and participate in activities that give them a sense of
contribution, of feeling accepted and valued in both the majority and
minority cultures. The highest level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is
self-actualization—the need for humans to make the most of their
abilities and to strive to be the best they can be, in this case so that
their majority and minority languages have equal standing in their
social networks: ―Self realization means that the concepts of personal
and group identity become important‖ (Ager, 2001, p.9). If any of
these basic needs are threatened or denied, the individual group will
revert to a lower level of this needs hierarchy, and the process begins
again. All needs have motivational consequences on the actions of
individuals as well as groups. Communication through language has a
role in the satisfaction of most of these needs and goals (Ager, 2001).
Instrumental versus Integrative Orientations
Ager (2001) examined goal- and need-driven behaviors in relation
to language. He distinguished between language-as-instrument (a
device used by human beings to communicate) and language-as-object
(something about which people, communities, and states have
opinions, attitudes, and feelings). Attitudes toward different types of
language behaviors help to understand community language policies.
These attitudes represent the emotions behind the specification of
ideals, objectives, and goals, and they explain why specific languagerelated actions are undertaken. Ager (2001) claimed that the
instrumental motivation for language acquisition should apply to two
separate groups: (a) immigrants who need English in order to manage
a large part of their daily activities, and (b) the host community who
finds it necessary to acquire sufficient knowledge of the immigrants to
shop, contact local authorities, and so forth.
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Researchers studying the motivation of language acquisition
make a distinction between instrumental and integrative motivation,
and their findings are related to Ager‘s language as object/language as
instrument dichotomy: ―Instrumentality refers to conditions where
language is being studied for practical or utilitarian purposes‖
(Gardner, 2006, p. 249). Ager (2001) stated that instrumental
motivation is important when individuals have the intent to ― . . .
adjusting the organism‘s own linguistic capacity or ability . . . wishing
to acquire a new language or to add to their repertoire for commercial
or cultural reasons or for social advancement‖ (p.138).
Instrumental orientation always accompanies its opposition—
integrative orientation. Gardner based his construct of
―integrativeness‖ on Mowrer‘s concept of ―identification,‖ which
Gardner used to explain a child‘s motivation to learn the language of
the parents. A child learns that verbal behavior is a big part of parental
language behavior by making sounds similar to the parents. Thus,
identification serves as the motivation to learn the first language
(Gardner, 2006). In 1972, Gardner and Lambert proposed that a
similar process was important for second-language acquisition and
called it ―integrative motivation.‖ Masgoret and Gardner (2003),
analyzing the concept of ―integrativeness,‖ stated that it refers to an
openness to identify, at least in part, with another language
community. This concept requires the adoption of word sounds,
pronunciations, word order, and other cognitive features that are part
of another culture. The individuals who are willing to identify with the
other culture will be more motivated to learn the language than the
individuals who do not. Thus, integrativeness emphasizes the notion
of identification with the community. Noels et al. (1999) argued that
integrative orientation appears only in multicultural contexts among
members of a clearly dominant group. The host communities are
usually opposed to any desire to integrate with migrant groups,
making sure that the language of this community remains
marginalized (Ager, 2001).
Three scales measure integration. The first scale measures
attitudes towards language groups. The second scale measures
integrative orientation. The third scale measures interest in foreign
languages. Positive attitudes towards a language group encourage
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individuals to express interest in learning a language in order to
interact, meet, socialize, and become friends with members of the
other community, all of which are important for integrative
motivation. A general interest in foreign languages automatically
inspires individuals to improve the linguistic tools they use and to add
a new communicative mechanisms for use in a variety of situations
(Ager, 2001).
Intrinsic-Extrinsic Dichotomy
An alternative to the integrative-instrumental motivational model
is the intrinsic-extrinsic model developed within the framework of
self-determination theory as conceptualized by Ryan and Deci (2000).
According to self-determination theory, there are two general types of
motivation, one based on intrinsic interest in the activity and the other
based on rewards extrinsic to the activity itself. Intrinsic motivation
refers to the desire to perform an activity because it is enjoyable and
personally satisfying to do so. These feelings are derived from the
sense that one has freely chosen to perform an activity in which one is
developing a skill. Conversely, people may be extrinsically motivated
when a reason external to the activity itself serves as the goal for
performing the activity (Goldberg & Noels, 2006).
Vallerand and his colleagues, as cited in Noels, Pelletier,
Clement, and Vallerand (1999), proposed a three-part taxonomy of
Intrinsic Motivation (IM). The first type of Intrinsic Motivation, IMknowledge, is the motivation for doing an activity because of feelings
associated with exploring new ideas and developing new knowledge.
A second type, IM-Accomplishment, refers to the sensations related to
attempting to master a task or to achieve a goal. The third type, IMstimulation, relates to motivation based simply on the sensations
stimulated by performing the task, such as aesthetic appreciation or
fun and excitement (Masgoret and Gardner, 2003). Deci and Ryan
(2000), as cited in Goldberg and Noels (2006), argued that there is an
innate tendency for humans to perform activities they enjoy and to
integrate these activities into their self-concepts. Thus, students who
are learning the language for intrinsic and/or more self-determined
extrinsic reasons will invest more effort and be more persistent in
language learning than students who are learning the language for less
self-determined reasons. However, for a person from a high vitality
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(majority) group, learning another language may be more of a
personal choice than for a person from a low vitality (minority) group,
who must communicate with people from the dominant language
group on a regular basis (Noels, Clement, & Pelletier, 2001) .
Intrinsic Motivation, as discussed in Noels et al. (2001), has
utility as a predictor of : (a) affective variables including decreased
anxiety, positive attitudes towards language learning, and increased
feelings of self-efficacy in language learning; (b) behavioral variables
such as language use, language-learning strategy preferences,
persistence, and motivational intensity; and (c) cognitive variables
such as grammatical sensitivity, speaking and reading proficiency, and
teacher ratings of competence.
In contrast to intrinsically motivated behaviors, extrinsically
motivated behaviors are actions carried out to achieve some
instrumental end. Deci and Ryan, in Noels et al. (1999), distinguished
among three levels of Extrinsic Motivation: (a) external regulation, (b)
introjected regulation, and (c) identified regulation. External
regulation is defined as those activities that are determined by sources
external to the person. If the reason for learning a language is taken
away, there is no incentive to remain engaged in the process. If
parents stop nagging a child for not speaking a heritage language at
home, the child is most likely to completely shift to the language of a
host country. A second type of extrinsic motivation, which is more
internalized into self concept, is introjected regulation. It refers to
reasons that pertain to performing an activity due to some type of
pressure that individuals have internalized. Although the source of the
pressure is internal, it is not self-determined because the individual is
reacting to an external pressure, not acting on the basis of personal
choice. Guilt and self-aggrandizement exemplify internal pressures
from which individuals perform activities (Goldberg & Noels, 2006).
The most self-determined form of extrinsic motivation is
identified regulation. Individuals invest energy in an activity because
they have chosen to do so for personally relevant reasons. In this
situation, students would carry out the activity because of its
importance for achieving a valued goal.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are contrasted with
amotivation, which refers to a situation in which people see no
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relationship between their actions and the consequences of those
actions. The consequences are seen as arising as a result of factors
beyond their control. In such situations people have no reason,
intrinsic or extrinsic, for performing an activity and would be
expected to quit the activity as soon as possible (Masgoret & Gardner,
2003). Goldberg and Noels (2006) argued that the two paradigms
described above are complementary and inter-correlated. The intrinsic
and more self-determined orientation is a better predictor of learningspecific outcomes, such as effort and persistence, while the integrative
orientation is a better predictor of intergroup variables, such as contact
with members of the language community and feelings of ethnic
identity: ―Once language learning has been well integrated into a
person‘s self-concept, it would seem reasonable to believe that he or
she will also come to identify with that language community‖
(Goldberg & Noels, 2006, p. 426). ―To learn another group‘s language
may influence one‘s perception of oneself or of other groups, insofar
as one is acquiring a salient and distinctive characteristic of another
group‖ (Genesee, 1987, in Goldberg & Noels, 2006, p. 426).
Status versus Solidarity
The choice people make about whether to maintain the mother
tongue or shift to the language of the mainstream society is influenced
by the status this language occupies in the specific society. Kaplan and
Baldauf (1997) defined the term "status planning" as those aspects of
language planning that reflect primarily social issues and concerns and
hence are external to the language(s) being planned. Kale (as cited in
Kaplan and Baldauf, 1997) proposed that criteria for selecting a
language include such qualities as political neutrality, dominance,
prestige, a great tradition, and a real affinity. The two status issues that
make up this model are language selection and language
implementation. Ager (2001) referred to status as a motive and found
an opposition to that term: solidarity, creating the opposing pair
"status-solidarity." He posited that identity and status lay in effect in
the recognition and maintenance of one‘s own social identity in
relation to that of others. ―A strategy for the individual of maintaining
one‘s own language implies that one prizes one‘s identity and seeks to
at least maintain its status and the prestige associated with it‖ (Ager,
2001, p.148). The ―status‖ motivation may be explained from the
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standpoint of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations when the individual is
influenced by external factors, so once the external support is taken
away, the motivation is gone.
Discussion
Language choices of immigrants from the former Soviet Union
are a complex issue that undergoes a number of transformations due to
its constantly changing nature. The language learner does not just
learn grammar but also individually constructs and predicates
language use on historical, social, and political contexts (Gonzalez,
2005). These contexts, in their turn, cause personal choices and force
decisions related to language use. This review of the literature shows
that the issue of language choice that immigrants have to face on the
daily basis is very complex, and I need to address this problem, taking
into account several research domains: cross-cultural psychology,
language acquisition, and language planning. Three groups of
variables become visible when the issue of language choice of Russian
immigrants in the United States is being addressed.
The first group of variables has to do with a particular family's
history of immigration. This population has not come to the country
like a ―blank slate.‖ They have brought linguistic and cultural reality,
socio-cultural status, and connection (or lack of connection) from their
homeland. Russian-speaking immigrants came in several waves, and
each wave differed tremendously from the previous one. Different
motives forced people to immigrate. The reasoning behind the idea of
leaving their home country might give an explanation why some
immigrants try to give up speaking their native language or insist on
their children speaking ―English only.‖ Cultural heritage might be
perceived as a burden if there is an understanding that problems in the
new life are being caused by the mismatch between cultural realities
of the two countries. Different socialization practices, collectivist in
the Russian case, and conflicting religious experiences, when ―church
meetings‖ all of a sudden become an essential part of these families'
lives, can create tensions within a group of immigrants from the same
country and provoke contradictory opinions regarding the issue of
language choice.
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The second group of variables incorporates the socio-political
milieu influencing the language acquisition of immigrants in the
Unites States. Attitudes, practices, controversies, and perspectives on
language acquisition established in the host society undoubtedly
influence the choice of language. The pervasive atmosphere of
subtractive and monolingual frameworks are reflected in attitudes
towards a heritage language without an understanding that by failing
to expose children to multiple languages is ―to truncate their eventual
development and derail their limitless possibilities‖ (Gonzalez, 2005,
p. xx).
Individual/personal motives form the basis for the third group of
variables. The choice of an acculturation profile, an ethnic profile, a
national profile, an integration profile, and a diffuse profile leads to
the formation of cultural identity. Motivation of language choice
becomes a crucial factor either supporting or undermining the
maintenance of an individual's heritage language. Positive attitudes
towards language learning, increased feelings of self-efficacy in
language learning, persistence, motivational intensity, sensitivity,
openness to identifying with another speaking community, and goaldirected behavior are only a few characteristic features of a motivated
person striving to acquire the language of an accepting society as well
as his or her heritage language.
Conclusions
In this chapter, I described the discrepancies in the literature
regarding Russian immigrants, reasons for immigration, waves of
immigration, and the underlying meanings of the concept ―Russian.‖ I
further addressed the problems and acculturation strategies these
immigrants have to face. I also highlighted cross-cultural psychology,
language planning, and motivation of language acquisition as three
strands of theory that lay the groundwork for finding the way to
analyze the issue of language choice. This research posits further that
language choice accounts for both external (socio-cultural) and
internal (motivational) factors and explains how they are implicated in
the field of immigration. I went on to argue that the concept of
dialectic, which is a series of oppositions, occurs at all levels of the
language-planning hierarchy. Consequently, it is suggested that four
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pairs of dichotomous oppositions provide the underlying foundation
for external factors, such as multilingualism versus monolingualism,
additive versus subtractive perspectives, language as problem versus
language as right and resource, and ―us‖ versus ―them‖ pronominal
oppositions. The following pairs of opposition occur at the internal
level: deficiency versus growth, instrumental versus integrative, and
intrinsic versus extrinsic. Clear understanding of the variables
influencing the language choice of Russian immigrants will be the key
to understanding how language decisions are being made at the family
level.
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CHAPTER 2
METHODOLOGY
In this chapter I will introduce the methods used in my book.
First, I will identify the research methods used and explain the
relevance of each. In particular, quantitative and qualitative research
methodology as supplementing one another is clarified. Afterwards,
the general research principles that I utilized while conducting the
quantitative part are stated. Next, I address every research question by
explaining the use of various questionnaires and interviews. Finally, I
describe the participants of my study.
This book seeks to identify patterns of language choice within
generations and across generations and to describe the relationship of
these patterns to immigration, history, human capital, and the network
of Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The
present research is the object of study of more than a single research
field. The fields of linguistics, sociolinguistics, cross-cultural
psychology, and sociology are often associated with it. The
multiplicity of domains offers a wide range of research methods
utilized by scientists. A combination of approaches to scientific
inquiry can ―provide insights that can not be gained from methods
used singly, and thus may offer a chance of arriving at a more
complete answer to the research questions‖ (Rasi Gregorutti, 2002).
The synthesis of data from multiple sources helps us to triangulate
the data and to make the results more reliable and valid. Denzin
(1978) identifies four basic types of triangulation: (a) data
triangulation involving time, space, and persons; (b) theory
triangulation using more than one theoretical scheme in the
interpretation of the phenomenon; and (c) methodological
triangulation applying to more than one method of data collection. To
triangulate data for the current project I met with the participants at
different times, days, and in different circumstances. I wanted to
observe what people say and give special attention to what they
actually do in various circumstances. Sometimes the participants
declared an ―only Russian‖ rule at home; however, in reality they
constantly broke it themselves. To approach theory from different
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perspectives, I relied on different areas of expertise. Cross-cultural
psychology, language planning, and motivation of language
acquisition became the major theoretical strands that helped me to
look at the issue of language choice from several perspectives. In the
process of data collection, I relied on qualitative as well as
quantitative methodologies.
Research in the area of language maintenance and shift often
relies on the statistical analysis of national census data and local case
studies. As Suarez (1998) states, it is essentially important to look at
the longitudinal data about language patterns of language minorities in
the United States: ―Included in this research agenda is the imperative
to utilize both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies‖
(1998).
My review of the literature proved the necessity to obtain a
broader overview of the population studied (immigrants from the
former Soviet Union in the United States), including its history and
status, language practice, demographic composition, and crossgenerational language transmission. In order to accomplish this goal
and to fill in the gaps in the literature regarding this population, I
referred to the IPUMS data set, which contains a stratified sample of
the population that revised long-form census questionnaires eliciting,
in part, language-use information (Mora, Villa, & Davila, 2006).
The following results use the 1980, 1990, and 2000 census data as
well as the 2008 ACS samples, which were collected through the
IPUMS data base. Different variables were analyzed based on specific
questions and assumptions being considered. Among those variables
several were created based on information in the original sample to
better address several of the issues and relationships in which I was
interested.
The sample selected for the study represents Russian-speaking
immigrants from the former Soviet Union who reported their place of
birth as ―other USSR/Russia‖ or ―46500‖; ―Byelorussia‖ or ―46510‖;
―Ukraine‖ or ―46530‖; and ―USSR, ns‖ or ―46590.‖ Two new
variables ―selected‖ and ―else‖ that combined all the responses listed
above were created. Afterwards, the ―else‖ selection was dropped, as I
was interested exclusively in the immigrants born in the former Soviet
Union. To establish the heads of households and link them with their
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family members, the heads of households were sorted by ―serial‖ to
include all people with the same serial number.
I decided not to use the weighted sample design for the current
project, as, for my purpose, the reported disadvantages outweighed the
advantages. The advantage of the weighted sample design is that it
provides maximum precision for persons residing in small localities;
however, it also makes the sample more cumbersome to use and
actually reduces precision in relation to the general population
(Ruggles et al, 2009).
Before making an attempt to respond to the research questions, I
needed to document the retention or loss of Russian among foreignborn and U.S.-born children with immigrant parents. I relied on Mora,
Villa, and Dávila‘s (2006) work to develop the synthetic cohorts,
based on data drawn from the 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2008 Censuses
from the IPUMS database. Following the path suggested by Mora,
Villa, and Dávila (2006), I identified the U.S.-born children with
foreign-born parents on the basis of the IPUMS-provided momloc
(mother‘s birth location) and poploc (father‘s birth location) variables
available in the database. The cohorts will be presented in the
following way: (1) the first cohort (the 1980s Cohort) includes
children 5-7 years old in the 1980 IPUMS, and 15-17 in the 1990
IPUMS; (2) the second cohort (the 1990s Cohort), includes children 57 years old in 1990 and 15-17 in 2000; and (3) the third cohort (the
2000s Cohort), includes children 5-7 years old in 2000 and 15-17 in
2008.
In order to distinguish those who were born in the U.S. from those
who immigrated at some point, I created two variables: ―bp‖ = born in
the United States and ―other‖ = everybody else. These two groups are
associated with emigration from the former Soviet Union. The group
associated with the ―bp‖ variable is more closely limited than the
―other‖ group because I allowed that the ―other‖ group emigrated at
some point in contrast to being exposed to the American culture since
birth ("bp" group).
To preserve the synthetic cohorts, foreign-born children included
were only those who had migrated to the U.S. by the initial Census
year. For example, in the 1980s Cohort, foreign-born children who
migrated to the U.S. after 1980 are excluded from the 1990 sample.
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A broad study on a big sample does not allow us to look at
particular families and observe language practices or cross-generational
perspectives. Kulick and Schieffelin (2004) in Weldeyesus (2009) have
argued that any study of language socialization should fulfill three
criteria: (1) the design should be ethnographic; (2) the perspective
should be
longitudinal; and(3) the study should demonstrate specific
linguistic and cultural practices over time and across contexts (p. 350).
My study takes the above three conditions into account, as I have been
involved in the Russian-speaking immigrant community since 2004. I
had an opportunity to closely observe the life and language practices
of Russian-speaking immigrants to the U.S. from the former Soviet
Union and to interact with the children of these families at different
ages (Weldeyesus, 2009).
This research focuses on three Russian-speaking immigrant
families from the former Soviet Union. I chose these families using a
purposeful sampling strategy. These families are able to provide me
with the information I need to answer my research questions and to
link local discourse to global analysis (Agar, 2005) through literature
available on the issue of language choice at the family level. This
particular approach was selected, as it allowed me to deliberately
select ―settings, persons, or activities in order to provide information
that can‘t be gotten as well from other choices‖ (Maxwell, 2005,
p.88). I chose to study these families based on the following
characteristics. The families include three generations (grandparents,
parents, and their children) living in the United States; they
immigrated thirteen-fifteen years ago; the grandparents (first
generation) are in their sixties, the parents (second generation) are in
their thirties and the children (third generation) are teenagers and preteenagers born in the Unites States or brought here when they were
younger than three years old; there is more than one child in each
family.
My initial design included three families, however, I realized that
I had to find another family maintaining the Russian language at home
and following Spolsky‘s suggestions involving strict language rules
established at home in relation to preserving oral and written
language. I purposefully began looking for such a family through the
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Russian-speaking network. Luckily, I was introduced to such a family
living in Chicago. They come to Tucson for the holidays to visit their
grandmother. Other than that, the family met all the requirements I set
above.
There being more than one child in each family allowed me to
look at the relations between the siblings. The expansion of the project
to several nuclear families (when it was possible) gave me an
opportunity to see relationships among the family members, compare
language policies, and discover unexpected sides of each family's
linguistic heritage. These families live in the areas where the Russianspeaking population is not geographically bound, unlike in some big
cities like Los Angeles and New York, where immigrants from the
former Soviet Union form enclaves. There is no tight community
network in Tucson or a place for the families to meet and speak
Russian only. I purposefully chose families who are not involved in
the churches and do not attend weekly services (for example, the
Orthodox Ukrainian Church) where the Ukranian/Russian/English
languages are used equally during religious ceremonies.
I took field notes while in the home of a family unless I was
involved in conversations. Taking field notes turned out to be a
challenging task, as family members tried to engage me in family
conversations and routines during my visits.―Tea-drinking‖ stays the
most popular cultural tradition that is well supported by all
generations. I could not remain an outside observer and sit in
separation taking field notes while family members were involved in
this important routine. Russian hospitality and warmth toward guests
is well known all over the world. Often I had to leave my pen and
notebook in my purse and use my memory and recorder to recall after
the meeting what had been spoken.
The semi-structured interviews were conducted in Russian (as I
am a native speaker of the Russian language myself). However, if the
participants asked clarification questions or preferred answering in
English, I was always willing to switch to English to accommodate the
needs of my participants. This happened sometimes with the
generation of children when they did not know how to express
themselves in English. The language that family members chose
during interviews became an important variable for my study, as
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sometimes participants tried to speak Russian with me and later
switched to English; others in turn were used Russian or English
consistently and exclusively. As an ethnographer during the
interviews, I was trying to hold the space as wide as possible (Agar,
2005) for reflections, thoughts, and discussions of the mutually
interesting issue of language choice. Keeping the reference vague
(Agar, 2005) allowed me and interviewees to share our experiences
and try to find answers to sometimes poignant questions that family
members tried to avoid in their everyday lives. ―The interviews were
conducted with various degrees of success‖ (Eamer, 2008, p240).
Some participants were more than willing to share their experiences
and thoughts. Others preferred to stay silent and insert occasional brief
comments into the monologues of their relatives. As Labov states:
‖some people will talk a blue streak no matter what you say, and
others will give you one-word answers no matter what you do‖ (as
cited in Eamer, 2008, p.240).
Initially I did not plan to conduct narrative interviews; however,
in the process of data collection, the focus shifted towards
participants‘ personal stories. The topics that came up had to do with
immigration history, children‘s upbringing, politics, and comparisons
of life in the United States to life in the former Soviet Union. The
narratives included accounts of participants‘ personal experiences and
their perceptions of language maintenance and shifts within the
family. I coded themes relevant to the research aims, identified
patterns in the themes, and interpreted them afterwards. In addition,
various artifacts (drawings, postcards, notes, etc.) that illustrate the
use of Russian and English languages were collected as data.
Audio-taping produces a rich source of data. It helped me to pay
attention to small details to which I could not pay attention otherwise.
Audio-taping made it easier to conduct a member check, as it allowed
me to do a word-by-word transcription of the pieces I needed
afterwards. Finally, audio-taped interviews with family members gave
me an opportunity to get back to individuals later for interpretation
and clarification.
Analysis of collected data was ongoing. My purpose was to
construct the theory from the data itself and to collect solid and rich
data. In the present research, I relied on the principles of ―the
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Grounded Theory Method,‖ which states that: (a) data collection and
analysis have to proceed simultaneously; (b) the processes and
products of research are shaped from the data rather than from a
preconceived theoretical framework; (c) the ideas have to be checked
with specific observations and, in addition, comparisons have to be
made between and within new and old observations; and (d) a
theoretical sense of social life needs to be created (Glasser & Strauss
in Charmaz, 1983). This method helps a researcher to become a
thorough observer and analyst while facing constant intellectual
challenges. Until the very last minute of writing and working on this
research, I could not stop thinking about the data and purposefully
stopped by to meet with my research participants repeatedly in an
attempt to find some keys to my research puzzles. It is hard and
sometimes almost impossible to explain the large number of
ambiguities in which human beings find themselves (Berliner, 2002).
Being a researcher I was trying to decipher those complications and
agree with the statement Berliner (2002) made that research in the
field of education is the hardest science of all.
I conducted and transcribed interviews and observations. As I
moved between the data and interpretations within and across
transcripts, relevant themes emerged. These themes helped to address
the research questions posed, directly or indirectly. Literacy practices
and policies established at home illustrate a direct way to look at the
issue of ―family language planning and policy‖; however, code
switching and identity crises are ways to indirectly look at the results
of the family history and ―linguistic‖ rules established at home. I was
looking for ―rich points,‖ which Agar (2006) describes as certain
moments of incomprehension and unmet expectations by a researcher
that are the fuel that drives ethnographic research (Agar, 2006). One
of the ways to explain these points is discourse analysis. It helped me
to uncover meanings that were hidden beneath the obvious words to
answer my research questions. A family conversation is a rich
resource for discourse analysis. These conversations enabled me to
reveal the hidden motivations behind a text, to understand the
conditions within a specific speech event, and to view the "problem"
from a more removed stance. Specifically, I became interested in the
use of pronouns employed in family conversations. Very often their
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usage revealed the gap between generations and rejection of the values
shared by the representatives of one generation by another.
Validation of Data
Collection of data like that described above forms diverse
perspectives, and use of a variety of methods will help to resolve
validity issues. Well-constructed interviews, field notes, analysis of
narratives, observations, and member checks will provide data rich in
content. Triangulation through a specific method (Maxwell, 2005)
reduces the risk of biases. Intensive and long-term involvement with
families and comparisons of individual answers from one nuclear
family to those of another provide reliable sources for analysis. To
make family members comfortable and honest with me, I also assured
them anonymity. In addition, collaboration with family members by
discussing my observations and conclusions with them helped
increase mutual trust and understanding. The quantitative component
(administration of revised motivational instrument) to a statistically
significant sample provided an opportunity to look at data from a
different angle and support or disapprove the conclusions. Returning
to tape recordings, readings, and research articles and constantly
reconsidering and analyzing my own perspective were also crucial for
reliability and credibility in my research.
In the following part of the chapter, I will provide concrete
methods used to answer the following research questions:
1. How do parents and children in immigrant families from the
former Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting language orientations
and practices?
2. In what ways do multilevel decision-making processes
influence the language practices of immigrant families in the United
States?
3. What factors affect the choice of language immigrant families
speak within different domains?
4. What specific motives trigger changes in children‘s English
language acquisition and Russian language and culture maintenance?
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Question 1. How do parents and children in immigrant families
from the former Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting
language orientations and practices?
In order to look at conflicting orientations and practices, I
examined the following themes emerging from the data analysis:
literacy practices, ethno-linguistic identity patterns, instances of codeswitching, and conflicting language orientations and practices. Some
of the questions raised in the questionnaires described in Appendixes
B and C served as a good start for the conversation. I offered a closedquestion questionnaire containing very limited choices, as for
example, ―How much do you speak Russian at home (at work, with
family members, etc)?‖ followed by the following responses: very
much, much, somewhat, a little, not at all. Nonetheless, I did not ask
my participants to check the answer that sounded most relevant to
them as suggested in the research using the same methodology, nor
did I do any statistical analysis on the data obtained. These questions
primarily served as prompts and starting points for conversations
about the amount of time family members spent speaking the
language. Unexpectedly, however, some of the questions initiated
interesting conversations in which family members conducted crossgenerational comparisons and talked about poignant differences
between older and younger generations.
Within the frame of our conversation, I had a chance to look at
discourse analysis, which helped me reveal some patterns of a gap
between generations. Specifically, I noticed that the use of the
pronouns our, their, we, and them proved that the conflict between
generations was present. When asked directly about such conflict,
research participants refused to admit it occurred; however, in the
discourse analysis of the conversations afterwards, I had an
opportunity to prove my initial hypothesis that intergenerational
conflict would be present.
The questionnaire (in Appendix C) served as a guide for
discussions with each generational representative. It was intended that
these questions would lead the conversation to cover such topics as
the participants‘ language use and choices, cultural identity, and
generational differences. Three sets of questions were adapted from
Eamer (2008). All the questions are formulated similarly for each of
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the three generations. For example, a question to grandparents states:
―Do you think it is important for your child/grandchild to become
bilingual?‖; a question to the second (parental) generation: ―Do you
think it is important for you/for your child to become bilingual‖; and a
question to the third generation of children: ―Do you think it is
important for you to become bilingual?‖
Some questions, however, while the same for the two older
generations were different for the children's generation. An example
of this is the following question to the parents/grandparents: ―Do all
family members always understand when your child/grandchild
speaks English?‖ A similar but not identical version of the question
was posed to the children: ―Do family members get upset when you
speak English at home?‖ By making these slight changes, I was trying
to see if different generations perceived similar questions similarly or
differently.
Another reason for the gap between generations was the
difference in identity perceptions among generations. To address this
issue, I relied on the Situated Ethnolinguistic Identity Questionnaire
developed by Clement & Noels (1992). The purpose of this
questionnaire is to examine ethnic identity by asking opinions
regarding different types of interaction. For example, in some
situations participants could identify themselves as Russian, in other
situations as American, and in others with neither group. The
participants had to evaluate their level of identification to each of the
two groups (Appendix E). The initial version of the questionnaire,
however, caused a lot of questions and misunderstandings from the
participants. The first two questions are provided below:
1. When I read the newspaper, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
2. When I listen to music, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____
_____ Very American
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The major problem was that the family members perceived their
answers as differing depending on which newspaper (American or
Russian) they read and what music they listened to. In order to resolve
this issue, I used this questionnaire as a prompt for further discussion.
If questions from participants came up, I asked them to specify which
newspaper they had in mind and how they felt while doing this.
Consequently, from the ―quantitative‖ application and analysis of this
questionnaire, I shifted to a solely ―qualitative‖ one.
Conflict resolution in these families was a rather complex issue
requiring multilayered analysis and discussion. Family members were
not always willing to openly agree that they had language problems in
the first place or that they were ready to resolve issues among
themselves.
Question 2. In what ways do multilevel decision-making
processes influence the language practices of immigrant
families
in the United States?
In the review of the literature, I show that decisions about
language are made and negotiated differently at different levels of the
society. By no means do all these decisions inevitably influence
immigrant language practices and choices, however. Nonetheless, the
family domain is proclaimed to be an important space for language
maintenance (Fishman, 1986 in Mesch, 2003). The hierarchy of
decision-making processes in the three study families has been
addressed by the following interview questions here and in Appendix
C:
G1 (First Generation)—Grandparents.
1. Did you make a conscious decision with respect to what
language/languages your child/grandchild would speak in which
context? If yes, who was involved in that decision-making process?
2. Were there any external factors that interfered with your
decision?
3. Have you ever tried to establish language rules at home?
G2 (Second Generation)—Parents.
1. Did you make a conscious decision with respect to what
language/languages your child would speak in which context? If yes,
who was involved in that decision-making process?
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2. Were there any external factors that interfered with your
decision?
3. Have you ever tried to establish language rules at home?
G3 (Third Generation)--Children.
1. How do you decide what language/languages to speak in
which context?
2. Have your parents/grandparents ever tried to establish
language rules at home? What do you think about these rules? Do/Did
they work?
These examples help illustrate some of the questions that have
guided me to the following research question. As I have already
discussed, some questions are similar for all generations, and others
are relevant to only one. After conducting interviews with all three
generations, I compared the responses to discover the similarities and
discrepancies in those responses.
Question 3. What factors affect the choice of language
immigrant families speak within different domains?
General information questions (see Appendix A) became a
valuable resource to answer this research question. Age; year of
immigration; immigration history; number of years in the United
States; reasons for immigration; level of education in the host country
as well as in the country the interviewees immigrated from;
occupation in the former Soviet Union; and languages spoken by
family members, coworkers, peers, friends, and neighbors are good
predictors of language maintenance or shift.
To see which factors had played an important role in the choice of
language, I conducted a multivariate analysis that involved logistic
regression modeling of the outcome of speaking Russian at home. The
dependent variable contrasts the individual‘s speaking only English
(0) with speaking another language, Russian (1).
The model included parental, household, and locational variables.
In regard to parental education, the EDUC (education) variable
was selected. It indicates respondents' educational attainment as
measured by the highest year of school or most advanced degree
completed. Following the IPUMS coding, education variables were
recoded in the following way: 1= through high school and 2 = through
the first year of college and above.
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The second variable of interest was ―lingisol‖ or linguistic
isolation area. LINGISOL identifies "linguistically isolated
households" and comes from IPUMS. These are households in which
either no person age 14+ speaks only English at home, or no person
age 14+ who speaks a language other than English at home speaks
English "Very well."
Number of children in the household was another variable of
interest. ―NCHILD‖ counts the number of children (of any age or
marital status). Persons with no children present are coded "0." I
coded this variable as follows: ―0‖ = no children, ―1‖ = 1 child, and
―2‖ = two or more children.
Multigenerational household was selected to be the next variable.
MULTGEN identifies the number of distinct generations contained in
each household. The coding I used for this variable was
straightforward, and it incorporated all the details assigned to each
generation: ―1‖ = one generation in the household; ―2‖ = two
generations in the household; and ―3‖ = three (or more) generations in
the same household.
Total family income was the next variable considered. FTOTINC
reports the total pre-tax money income earned by one's family (as
defined by FAMUNIT) from all sources for the previous year. For the
census samples, the reference period is the previous calendar year; for
the ACS/PRCS, it is the previous 12 months.
House value, VALUEH reports the value of housing units in
contemporary dollars.
YEAR reports the four-digit year when the household was
enumerated or included in the census, the ACS, and the PRCS.
The Ordinal Regression Model was used in the Discussion
category, with SPEAKENG or ―English language proficiency‖ as a
dependent variable that indicated whether the respondent spoke only
English at home, and also reported how well the respondent who
spoke a language other than English at home spoke English. All the
other variables from the Logistic Regression Model remained
unchanged.
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Question 4. What specific motives trigger changes in children’s
English language acquisition and Russian language and
culture?
The materials used in this part consisted of a questionnaire with
two sections: the first section consisted of the items from the MiniAMBT Attitude/Motivation Test Battery and the second section was
adopted from the ―Language Learning Orientations Scale-Intrinsic
Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, and Amotivation Subscales.‖ A
description of the scales and items follows. Two scales were chosen
because they represented a combination of motivational orientations
and motivations of learning Russian language.
The questionnaire on ―Motivational Orientations‖ was used to
answer this research question. The purpose of this questionnaire was
to determine feelings and attitudes towards the Russian and English
languages and towards learning languages overall in addition to
interest in foreign languages. The participants rated these items in
terms of how they felt about them. Each item was followed by a scale
with a label on the left and another on the right with the numbers
1(=weak) to 7(=strong) between them. For each item, each participant
was asked to circle any one of the numbers from 1 to 7 that best
described him or her.
The first section consisted of the items from the Mini-AMBT
Attitude/Motivation Test Battery originally developed by Gardner (in
Noels, Pelletier, Clement, & Vallerand, 1999). I adjusted the scale to
my research interest. A high score referred to the strongest agreement
with the statement offered in the item. Thus, the first item represented
integrative motivation (e.g. ―My motivation to learn Russian in order
to communicate with Russian speaking people is…‖); the second item
represented attitude towards Russian-speaking people (―My attitude
toward Russian-speaking people is…‖); the third and fourth items
revealed an attitude towards foreign languages (―My interest in
foreign languages is…) and desire to learn Russian; and the following
items represented instrumental orientation to learn Russian: (―My
motivation to learn Russian for practical purposes [e.g. to get a job]
is…), anxiety about using Russian (―I worry about speaking Russian
outside my family‖), motivational intensity to learn Russian (―My
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motivation to learn Russian is‖), and parental encouragement (―My
parents encourage me to learn Russian‖).
The second section contained scales to assess amotivation; external,
introjected, and identified regulations; and intrinsic motivation. This part
of the questionnaire was adopted from the ―Language Learning
Orientations Scale-Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, and
Amotivation Subscales‖ published in Noels, Pelletier, Clement, and
Vallerand (1999). The participants rated to what extent the proposed
reasons for language learning agreed with their own reasons. The first
and the second items represented amotivation (e.g. ―I don‘t understand
why I have to speak Russian‖); the next items represented external
regulation (―My parents expect me to speak Russian,‖ and ―I learn
Russian to get a more prestigious job and salary later on,‖); and the next
item introduced introjected regulation (―I want to know Russian because
I would feel guilty if I didn‘t know a second language‖ and ―I want to
learn Russian because I would feel ashamed if I couldn‘t speak to my
friends from the Russian speaking community in their native tongue‖),
identified regulation (―I want to know Russian because I choose to be
the person who speaks more than one language‖ and ―Learning Russian
is good for my personal development‖), intrinsic motivation-knowledge
(―I want to learn Russian because I enjoy the feeling of acquiring
knowledge about the Russian speaking community and their way of
life), and intrinsic motivation-accomplishment (―I want to know Russian
because I experience a satisfied feeling I get in finding out new things‖).
Since the number of participants was very small, I did not run statistical
tests on the results but instead described this questionnaire in the manner
of the qualitative tradition.
For the analysis of the data collected to address my research
questions, the MAXQDA processing program for qualitative data
analysis was used. Specifically, I used the program to assign ―codes‖ to
interviews and narratives. A code is defined as "a string of up to 64
characters, which is assigned to selected segments of text,‖ or in the
language of empirical sociological research, ―a contextual category,
which serves as an analytical tool for the systematic analysis of data.‖
After creating the codes, I organized them into a hierarchical structure. I
assigned codes to extracts and specified their length. Coding was
possible in different ways; however, I mostly utilized Free Coding as an
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initial coding where a new code was attached to each text passage. I also
referred to In-vivo Coding when I wanted to use remarkable words or
phrases used by the interviewees to name the codes. Finally, I used
Classical coding where I selected a text passage and attached an existing
code (a code that I had already created earlier) from the Code System.
Table 3.1 summarizes the research questions, data collection, and
data analysis methods. In the following part of this chapter, I will
introduce the participants and try to help readers to visualize the
families and their living conditions.
Table 3.1
Research Questions, Data-Collection Strategies, and Analysis
Research Question
1. How do parents and children in
immigrant families from the former
Soviet Union negotiate their
conflicting language orientations and
practices?
2. In what ways do multilevel
decision-making processes influence
the language practices of immigrant
families in the United States?
3. What factors affect the choice of
language immigrant families speak
within different domains?
Data Collection
Interviews
Questionnaires
Observations
Personal narratives
Previously published academic articles
Interviews with academics as well as
family members
Observations
Interviews
Questionnaires
The Logistic regression model
Observations
Previous publications
Discourse analysis
Situated ethnic identity questionnaire
(revised version)
4. What specific motives trigger
Interviews
changes in children‘s English language Questionnaires
acquisition and Russian language and
Observations
culture maintenance?
Previous publications
Motivational orientations instrument
Discussion
Previously published academic articles
Analysis of the responses to the
research questions answered above
The Ordinal Regression Model
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The Families
The Holod family
The Holod family consists of the grandparents (Boris and Nina),
their forty-year-old son, Gera, and his wife, Sofia. Gera and Sofia
have two school-aged boys: sixteen-year-old Maxim and twelve-yearold Vova. The entire family lives in one household.
I approached the house by walking through a big yard with a
couple of grapefruit trees and a large swimming pool. A tall fence
surrounding the yard contrasted with other houses, which were open
and visible. I entered the house through a garage door. I was
pleasantly surprised to see a gigantic kitchen table (just like my
grandparents used to have in their kitchen). Later on, I learned that
this is the family‘s favorite place, as everyone enjoys ―kitchen
conversations‖ when family members discuss daily events and life in
general over dinner, and a big bar with a collection of alcohol from all
over the world. If you want to surprise them with a gift, bring a good
bottle of wine or vodka from abroad. We walked around the house,
and Gera showed me their three-and-a-half bedroom home. Half-abedroom stands for a little room Gera built himself as an extension of
a house. The family uses it as a little gym and ―an office‖ for the
parents.
Gera and Sofia appeared to be very proud of their place,
especially its location. They talked about the central area of Tucson
and the children‘s school being only two kilometers (about 1.5 miles)
away from their house. We walked into a living room with a huge,
widescreen TV and cozy furniture. Obviously, the family spends a lot
of time in front of it watching Russian programs and movies on DVD.
The TV was broadcasting in Russian. I asked about Russian channels,
and Gera stated that the family likes to watch news and movies in
Russian; however, Maxim and Vova really enjoy movies in English.
Sofia indicated that Maxim was watching The Sopranos and The
Office and likes them a lot.
Maxim and Vova overheard the conversation and wanted my
attention. They decided to show me their rooms. Vova's (the younger
brother's) room was hand-painted by his mother. Various hand-drawn
cartoons and movie (American) characters decorated the walls.
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Warrior and Superman posters hung everywhere. Then Maxim
showed me his collection of new movies, stating that he was really
enjoying his new flat-screen TV (with a bunch of video games). Both
rooms were technologically well-equipped with big TVs, computers,
and many devices that accompany computers. The boys and their
parents were proud that they could afford these modern products.
The parents and grandparents were definitely willing to speak
Russian to me as this is the language they speak at home. When the
boys found out that we were going to speak about language choice
they wanted to chat in Russian, however, we reached an agreement
that if they had hard time expressing their ideas they were more than
welcome to switch to English. Maxim spoke Russian with me almost
all the time, sometimes making pauses to find an appropriate word.
Vova had hard time expressing himself in Russian, and overall he did
not show much enthusiasm in our conversations. When asked he
preferred to enter some short phrases or one-word expressions in both
Russian and English.
We then walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I asked
Gera and Sofia about their life in the United States. Both reported that
they came to this country in 1995 as political refugees from Minsk
Belarus. Gera is a very direct person; he tells you what he thinks
without any hesitation. Even after many years in the United States, he
is the only one in the family who does not have an American passport
because he has failed his citizenship language examination several
times. The first time he failed the exam, he became so upset that he
returned to Byelorussia; however, an hour after he arrived there, he
changed his mind. The former motherland did not show any
enthusiasm about his returning home. Nobody smiled at him, either in
the airport or in the grocery stores. He had already adjusted to ―the
American smile,‖ which he began missing shortly after arrival in his
old country.
Sofia is a stay-at-home mother who takes care of her children as
well as her parents-in-law. She takes her mother-in-law to different
medical appointments, and the women spend a lot of time together.
Vova spends all day in school, and when he comes home, he
watches movies in English; then he goes outside to play with his
brother, who speaks English as well. As we adults discussed the boys'
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schedules and routines, it became evident that Vova and Maxim were
getting bored with our conversation in Russian. The boys did not show
any interest to talk about school.
Academics were never a priority for the Holod family. Gera‘s
parents, Boris and Nina, did not finish high school because of World
War II. After World War II, Boris went to vocational evening school
and became an aircraft mechanic. He worked for thirty-five years in a
Russian plant, building airplanes. Nina stayed home. When it came
time to retire, Boris went to his local social security benefits office
and came home crying. The government of Belarus had given him a
paltry three-thousand ruble pension (which is impossible to live on,
equaling US$100). Even during our present conversation (twenty
some years later), Boris became tearful as he recalled this painful
experience.
Gera and Sofia finished eighth grade in a Belarus high school.
After they were married, Gera had been doing all sort of odd jobs and
was making good money in Minsk. Sofia stayed home and enjoyed
cooking. Interestingly, the Holod continued this lifestyle in the United
States.
The Rhapiro family
The Rhapiro family consists of Nemya (seventy-five years old)
and Rosa (seventy-four years old), their son, Alex (forty); Alex‘s wife,
Galina (thirty-seven); and three children: Sergey (eighteen), Masha
(five), and Nickolas (two and a half). Masha and Nicholas were born
in Tucson. Both were delivered at St. Joseph Hospital. Galina‘s son
Sergey was born in Russia, and Galina laughs now when she recalls
the delivery room in Novosibirsk, Russia, full of pregnant women
screaming bloody murder.
When Sergey came to Tucson, he did not know a word of
English. Now he is a freshman at the University of Arizona, planning
to be a doctor.
Alex came to the U.S. with his parents in 1993 and met Galina in
1998 on a Russian dating web site, and after six months of a longdistance relationship, Alex decided to go to Russia and meet his future
wife. Initially, he had some hesitation and fear about going back to the
―old country.‖ For whatever reason, he thought that he was going to
be arrested and thrown into a Russian jail. However, he was pleasantly
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surprised to find a totally different country. In fact, the country he had
left in 1993 had disappeared forever. He related that after his arrival in
the new Russia, tears came to his eyes when he visited the local
bakery. He recalled times when he was a little boy (seven or eight
years old) and he would stand for hours and hours in line just to get
bread. Alex was glad that he could overcome his anxiety. He spent
two weeks with Galina and invited her to the United States.
The Rhapiro family lives in midtown in a two-story house. I
entered the house through the back door and in the backyard noticed a
sandbox, a swing, and a little dollhouse for the kids. Alex added a
patio to his house recently, and the whole family enjoys spending time
there. On Saturdays everybody sits outside, drinks tea, and has
―kitchen conversations‖; the patio is their favorite area of the house
now. Galina (Alex‘s wife) was a music teacher in Russia, so they have
a piano on the first floor. She now tries to teach her five-year-old
daughter how to play. She also finds it interesting to see how her twoyear-old dances ―Kalinka‖ when she plays. The Rhapiro family does
not have any Russian books or Russian satellite TV at home; however,
they have a few Russian video cassettes with very popular movies. In
addition, they keep Russian traditions by celebrating Russian holidays
and speaking Russian.
On the second floor, the Rhapiros have two bedrooms and an
office. I was shocked to see thousands of old records and a record
player from the 1940s. This is Alex‘s hobby, and he buys them at
different yard sales for a penny, but to him they priceless. Alex was an
engineer, and after serving in the Soviet Army, he worked in a
shipyard building ships. His father decided to emigrate because
everybody was leaving and he had nobody to call to because his
address book was getting thinner and thinner. He commented that the
whole situation resembled an epidemic.
Now Alex works for the State of Arizona and is happy to have a
job with the Department of Transportation. Galina decided to quit her
music career and not to pursue a music degree in the United States,
instead deciding to go to school to become a massage therapist. To
pursue this program, she took out a loan, studied for a year, and now
works for a prestigious spa salon. Alex works from 7:00 am to 3:30
pm and comes home around 4:00 when Galina goes to work. Thus,
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weekends are very valuable to both of them because the whole family
can enjoy time together after a busy week.
The Gorodec family
The Gorodec family immigrated to the United States from Kiev,
Ukraine, in 1991. The family consists of Olga (fifty years old) and her
husband Alik (fifty-five), and Alik‘s parents, Semen (eighty) and his
wife, Motya (eighty-one). Olga and Alik have two beautiful
daughters: Masha and Natasha.
In 1987, the Gorodecs decided to emigrate. It was not an easy
decision, especially as Masha was five years old and her parents were
worried about her not speaking English, having to adjust to daycare in
the United States, and being separated from family members with
whom she was very close. The family was doing very well financially
(thanks to connections, a solid education, and Olga‘s prestigious job
as a travel Manager for INTURIST). Olga had chances to travel
abroad (it was a privilege for a Soviet citizen at that time). Alik was
also making good money. He worked as a designer for a joint-venture
company and had good clients. His parents (Semen and Motya) were
receiving a government pension. Semen and Motya had a nice dacha
outside of Kiev, and Olga and Alik enjoyed a huge, three-bedroom
apartment in the center of Kiev.
Chernobyl changed everything. Olga had just found out that she
was pregnant with her second child (Natasha) and did not know how
to react. The doctors were fearful of Chernobyl‘s effects, especially
the effects of radiation on the human body. Natasha‘s first teeth were
all black, and she had some other health issues. Olga‘s pediatrician
suggested that they move somewhere else to a ―clean‖ climate. People
were dying from ―strange‖ diseases. No one really talked or knew
about Chernobyl‘s catastrophic consequences. The Soviet government
(under Gorbachev) did not know how to react and was hiding the
truth. The Gorodec family would learn the news from ―Radio
Freedom‖ and ―The Voice of America‖ and realized that it was time to
run. It took the Gorodecs several years to get official permission from
local authorities to leave the Soviet Union. Finally, in February 1991,
the Gorodecs bought tickets to Vienna. The family boarded a train and
headed for Austria. They had two 24kg. suitcases (all that was allowed
by the Soviet administration and Border Patrol) and just 300 rubles.
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They spent a week in Vienna, then three months in Italy, waiting for
permission to enter the U.S.
Eventually, the Gorodecs landed in Tucson, Arizona, with the
help from the Jewish Family Center. Olga, Alik, and their daughter
got a two-bedroom apartment, and the grandparents got a onebedroom apartment in a Russian/Jewish assisted-living community.
Olga and Alik ended up getting jobs fairly quickly; however, nobody
around them spoke Russian, and it was exhausting. In fact, both
started to notice a sense of fatigue. Olga and Alik had to play things
the ―American way,‖ and it was still questionable to them if they
really wanted to do that. But for Masha everything was easy; she was
having a blast. She fell in love with Hollywood, Mickey Mouse,
Handy Manny, Dora, Princesses, and all Cinderella stories; and she
picked up English very quickly.
Semen and Motya have been receiving a government subsidy and
still reside in a one-bedroom apartment. Their English is very limited.
Both families watch Russian TV, read Russian newspapers, buy
Russian books and magazines, and enjoy the company of Russianspeaking friends. Every Saturday, all the Gorodecs get together. This
is a family ritual, and Masha and Natasha (who have their own lives
now) have to follow this family tradition.
Masha was born in Ukraine. She has a beaming smile ―of Russian
gold.‖ She does not remember much of her old life, but she would not
mind going to visit Kiev one of these days (she has already been there
a few times). Natasha is a Russian princess who was born in Tucson.
She speaks Russian (thanks to her mother‘s countless hours of reading
Russian stories to her) and, surprisingly enough, can recite Russian
children‘s poems by heart. Semen and Motya are proud ―pensioners‖
who are still puzzled and surprised when they hear the English
language around them.
Olga and Alik live in a new three-bedroom house on the south
side of Tucson. It is a two-story house with a big yard and a very large
kitchen overlooking the mountains. What catches one's attention on
first entering is a fish tank that separates the living room and kitchen.
Olga is very proud of her new refrigerator, and Alik proudly talks
about his fish. On my first visit, I was surprised to see Russian
souvenirs, a samovar, dolls (matreshkas), and spoons decorating the
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kitchen. On the second floor, there are three large bedrooms, one for
Olga and Alik, and separate rooms for the girls. I did not expect to see
drums in Natasha‘s room; drumming is one of the activities she is
enthusiastically engaged in now. There were a lot of books (mainly
English) on the shelves. The parents‘ room was full of Russian books,
DVDs, and journals. The atmosphere of a Russian home was
pervasive: the smell and setting reminded me of a home in the old
country except with modern technology and appliances. The
grandparents live separately in an apartment complex where there are
many elderly people who speak Russian.
The Horoshun family
I met the Horoshun family by chance. I was looking for a family
that in addition to maintaining their Russian identity would be
implementing a strong language policy in their home. I began looking
for such a family in Tucson but was not able to find one that met my
requirements and would agree to participate in my study. By chance,
however, I became acquainted with a woman in her eighties who, after
meeting my children and listening to my concerns about keeping the
mother tongue alive in the family, began sharing her story about her
own great-grandchildren living in Chicago, who not only spoke
Russian but also read and wrote Russian. I asked her to introduce me
to this family. Luckily, they were willing to meet with me when they
came to Tucson to visit their grandmother and great-grandmother.
Sveta and Bogdan Horoshun (the generation of parents) are in
their mid-forties. They met when they were studying at the Computer
Science Department in Minsk, Ukraine. While working on his Masters
Degree, Bogdan was also working part-time for a Danish computer
firm. After he graduated, he was invited to sign a contract and go to
Denmark for an indefinite period of time. This offer sounded very
attractive to him, but he found out that he would not be able to get
citizenship there, and consequently he decided to decline this
attractive offer. Their second choice was the United States, where
Lena‘s mother had already immigrated as a refugee. They decided to
join her and try to establish themselves in this country. Several years
after arrival, Lena decided to become a radiology nurse; she
successfully graduated and now does ultrasounds in a local Chicago
hospital. They both complain that that they are very busy and do not
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have time for anything. Despite this busy life, however, their two
children—Andrey (a 13 year-old boy) and Sonya (an 11 year-old
girl)—are their priority. Andrey was born in Ukraine and came to the
United States when he was only 12 months. Sonya was born in the
United States.
In their home they have hundreds of Russian and English movies,
cartoons, books, and textbooks. In addition to going to Englishspeaking schools, the children go to the swimming pool, aikido
(Andrey), and music classes. On a daily basis, though, they read and
write in Russian. Very often their parents do not have time to sit with
them and explain everything to them, so they give their children
assignments and systematically correct them. Both children can easily
switch from English to Russian and back again, but their normal
practice is to speak only Russian at home. Moreover, when Lena (the
mother) code switches, Andrey corrects her. One example has to be
noted here. While I was observing them, Lena used the word
―garbage‖ in English, and her son took an English-Russian dictionary
to find the Russian word for it which turned out to be ―утиль.‖ Now
he consistently corrects his mother when she uses that English word.
Another example worth noting was when Sonya was talking to a
Russian-born girl in English and Andrey got very upset and asked
them to shift back to Russian.
This family purposefully lives in an ―American‖ not ―Russian‖
neighborhood. First, they do not appreciate the values that the Russian
enclave in Chicago maintains, and second, it is much less expensive
for them to live in a comparable American community. Of even more
interest, they do not have Russian-speaking friends or neighbors, a
social situation that appears to contradict their determination to
maintain their heritage language at home.
Each family, although sharing common cultural, psychological,
and linguistic challenges, represents a unique linguistic profile based
on their perceptions and experiences, all of which will be discussed in
the following chapter.
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CHAPTER 3
DATA ANALYSIS
In this chapter I will be responding to the research questions
posed earlier, relying on my personal observations, interviews with
the families, and analysis of the census data.
First, I will examine the use of the Russian language in three
immigrant families who have settled in the United States from the
former Soviet Union. Then I will discuss the timeframe during which
each family left their home country in addition to their motives for
emigrating. Finally, I will address the research questions posed above.
In this chapter I will be relying on the responses given by the
participants. Almost all of these responses were given in Russian and I
will be translating their words in English. However, sometimes it was
difficult to give a direct translation. In these situations I will translate
their words as best as I can and then repeat the same words in Russian.
A lot has been said about language maintenance and language
shift in the immigrant communities in the United States. However,
there is a need to document the retention or loss of Russian among
foreign-born and U.S.-born children with immigrant parents. To do
this I used the synthetic cohort method, based on data drawn from the
1980, 1990, 2000, and 2008 Censuses.
I relied on Mora, Villa, and Dávila‘s (2006) work to develop the
cohorts. They claim that this method is ―an important tool for
estimating the transmission of non-English languages from a migrant
generation to its children, an analytic approach that aims to create a
temporal representation of a population, over ten year intervals in this
case.‖ (p.242). The goal was both to study Russian-speaking
populations and compare them with other immigrant populations
using the available data. In this case available data on Hispanics and
non-Hispanics comprised two synthetic cohorts: the first cohort (the
1980s Cohort) were children 5-7 years old in the 1980 IPUMS and 1517 in the 1990 IPUMS; the second cohort (the 1990s Cohort) included
children 5-7 years old in 1990 and 15-17 in 2000. In addition to
replicating the study by Mora, Villa, and Dávila (2006) with the two
cohorts of Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet
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Union, I created a third cohort (the 2000s Cohort), which includes
children 5-7 years old in 2000 and 15-17 in 2008. To preserve the
synthetic cohorts, the only foreign-born children included were those
who had migrated to the U.S. by the initial Census year. For example,
in the 1980s Cohort, foreign-born children who migrated to the U.S.
after 1980 were excluded from the sample in 1990. Mora, Villa, and
Dávila (2006) selected the 5-to-7-year age range for the initial samples
because the children would have been old enough to speak but still
young enough to reside with their parents a decade later.
The Census contains information on birthplace, which allows for
direct identification of foreign-born children. The authors identified
the U.S.-born children with foreign-born parents on the basis of the
IPUMS-provided momloc (mother‘s birth location) and poploc
(father‘s birth location), variables. I used the data from the article by
Mora, Villa, and Dávila (2006) for Hispanics and Non-Hispanics and
compared them to ―Russians.‖ This term (―Russian‖) describes people
from a variety of countries and racial backgrounds. Then I followed
the analysis described by the aforementioned researchers and hope
that the results I obtained are comparable.
Table 4.1 provides the percent of children in the synthetic cohorts
who spoke a non-English language in each Census year for Hispanics,
Non-Hispanics, and Russian for the third group. Groups are separated
on the condition of whether children were foreign-born or U.S.-born.
Mora, Villa, and Dávila (2006) drew several conclusions analyzing
Hispanic and non-Hispanic children: (1) Hispanic children were more
likely than children from other racial/ethnic backgrounds to speak a
non-English language at home; (2) a greater proportion of nonHispanic children in the 1990s Cohort spoke a non-English language
at home than in the 1980s Cohort; (3) the 1980s and 1990s Cohorts
exhibited different patterns with respect to language maintenance.
Foreign-born Hispanics in the 1980s Cohort, for example, did not
experience a significant language loss or gain during the 1980s, where
approximately 91 percent of this sample reported speaking Spanish at
home in both 1980 and 1990. In the 1990s Cohort, however, the share
of foreign-born Hispanics who spoke Spanish at home increased from
nearly 89 percent to over 92 percent between 1990 and 2000; (4) nonHispanic children born outside of the U.S. experienced loss of their
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original traditional language in both the 1980s and 1990s, although
this loss was not as severe in the 1990s. These findings provide
evidence that non-English languages have been recently retained in
U.S. households beyond the first generation; the beginning of this
maintenance appears to have been as early as the 1980s.
Table 4.1
Percentages of the Synthetic Cohorts who Spoke a Non-English
Language at Home: Foreign-Born Children and U.S.-Born Children
of Foreign-Born Parents
Hispanics
(Data from the
article by Mora,
Villa, and Dávila
(2006))
ForeignU.S.Year
Born
Born
1980s Synthetic Cohort
1980 (ages 5-7)
90.7
85.6
1990 (ages 15-17) 91.1
88.1
1990s Synthetic Cohort
1990 (ages 5-7)
88.7
85.5
2000 (ages 15-17) 92.3
87.1
2000s Synthetic Cohort
2000 (ages 5-7)
2008 (ages 15-17)
Non-Hispanics
(Data from the
article by Mora,
Villa, and Dávila
(2006))
Foreign- U.S.Born
Born
Foreign- US
Born Born
44.4
37.3
28.2
30
8.8
5.5
2.5
1.9
49.5
45
36.2
38.3
11.3
17.8
4.4
6
29.5
14
18.6
5.1
―Russians‖
My research documented a severe Russian language loss
compared to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic groups. The proportion
of the U.S.-born population who speak Russian at home is forty times
smaller than in the same group of Hispanics and on the average ten
times smaller when compared to non-Hispanics. If we compare
foreign-born groups, then the number of Russian speakers is
dramatically small as well. U.S.-born children in households where
somebody speaks Russian have experienced larger language loss than
foreign-born children. Looking at some patterns across the years, the
1990s Synthetic Cohort has exhibited a tendency towards home
language maintenance; moreover, the proportion of children speaking
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Russian has increased from 11.3% to 17.8% for those born outside the
U.S and from 4.4% to 6% for the U.S.-born group.
My special interest is rooted in the cross-generational issues and
problems immigrants from the former Soviet Union face. One of the
causes of these problems arises from the fact that different generations
speak different languages. It is commonly understood that the
generation of grandparents does not speak English, whereas the
generation of children does not speak their heritage language. To see
if this actually is the case, I decided to investigate the populations of
Russian-speaking immigrants maintaining their mother tongue at
home by generations. The first generation was born in the former
Soviet Union; the second generation are those whose parents (or at
least one parent) was born in the former Soviet Union; and the third
generation was born in the U.S., while somebody in their family (for
example, grandparents) was born in the former Soviet Union.
Figure 4.1. Percentage of first and later generations who speak Russian at home.
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The results show that the effect of the year of migration turned
out to be inconsistent. The proportion of those who speak Russian
varies slightly across years but not significantly. I expected that the
pattern of linguistic assimilation would be different for the two age
groups (above 17 and 0-17), as children are reported to shift to the
language of a host society much faster than adults. However, I found
instead that there was not any statistically significant difference
between these age groups. Another finding worth noting is that the 017 second-generation group showed a reversed language-shift pattern
in the year 2008. The proportion of those speaking Russian at home
increased from 55.3% in 2000 to 57.8% in 2008. One possible
explanation for this phenomenon may be the influx of Russianspeaking immigrants that occurred between 1993 and 2000, thus
increasing the overall size of the Russian language-use community
and perhaps expanding the opportunities to speak Russian. This
occurrence may be compared to a generation of baby boomers in the
United States in 1940s and 1950s. The effects of this trend could be
observed over several decades.
The analysis of the IPUMS database with reference to Russianspeaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union revealed the
following findings: (a) the loss of the Russian language within three
generations is more severe compared to Hispanic and non-Hispanic
populations in both U.S.-born and foreign-born study groups; (b) the
1990s Synthetic Cohort of the children of immigrants from the former
Soviet Union, compared to the 1980s and 2000s cohort groups,
showed a larger degree of home-language maintenance; (c)
generational analysis aiming to reveal the proportion of Russianspeaking immigrants who maintained the mother tongue at home
demonstrated a language shift and language loss within three
generations and showed the increase in use of the mother tongue in the
0-17-year-old, second-generation group in 2008; and (d) weak
tendencies of language revitalization noted above could be explained
by the influx of Russian-speaking immigrants between 1990 and 2000
when the opportunities to communicate in the native language sharply
increased. However, in the big picture this occurrence did not reverse
the language shift.
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Statistical analysis helped me to identify some general tendencies
in language shift. However, the analysis did not shed light on the
language choice of particular families or on the conflicting issues they
run into on a daily basis. In addition, focusing on the families I had
been working with helped me to see another side of the issue.
The Family Level
It is obvious that emigration from the former Soviet Union is a
major factor that influences the lives of millions of people. What made
them leave their countries of origin and move to an uncertain and
unpredictable life? To find an answer to this question, I needed to take
into account the year of immigration and how that influenced to the
experiences of these families. The families I have been observing, for
instance, emigrated from the former Soviet Union between 1990 and
1995. During this period the number of immigrants from the former
Soviet Union grew rapidly. These were the years when people finally
were allowed to choose where to live and, to some extent, where to
go. During the decade of 1993-2003, half a million Russian-speaking
people came to the United States, and more than half of these Soviet
immigrants were Jewish (Epshteyn, 2003). An understanding that this
was the period when the largest number of people emigrated from
Russia, and consequently when many came to the United States, helps
to explain certain fluctuations that occurred as a consequence of this
massive wave of immigration.
The histogram below (Figure 4.2) illustrates the reported years of
emigration in the twentieth century and makes a point of how the
emigration from the former Soviet Union took place and made
―Russians‖ unique as compared to other populations. The histogram
illustrates the waves of emigration that occurred after the Second
World War, during the Soviet era, and beginning in 1987. The last
wave is the ―thickest‖ on the histogram and the largest compared to
the rest. It is clear that the phenomenon of intense emigration is
relatively recent and is a result of increased political freedom and
open borders between the countries. This massive ten-year wave helps
explain the nature of Russian-speaking emigration and how it changed
the patterns of language use observed during the decades before and
after. I will further pursue this discussion by addressing this most
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recent timeframe, because it is when the multigenerational households
I have been investigating moved to the United States from the former
Soviet Union.
Figure 4.2. Histogram of number of Russian immigrants coming
to the United States.
Before moving into the discussion of language choice by the
family members and their motives regarding Russian-language
maintenance, we have to think about the reasons these people departed
a country where some of them had been residing for up to half a
century. Why did those who spent more than half of their lives in a
country they considered to be their motherland abandon it and move
into uncertainty? More than that, in the majority of cases people had
to leave behind their friends, family members, and a familiar lifestyle.
Some had to give away furniture, jewelry, and other valuable
possessions they had accumulated over the decades. The element that
made this decade (1990-2000) different from the previous waves of
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emigration was that people had an opportunity to sell their apartments
and dachas (summer cottages) and often found ways to bring the
money to the United States. On the other hand, even though there
were some ways to sell their property, often they could not get full
price for it but were grateful to get whatever money they could to
invest in their houses in the United States. Families prefer to keep this
side of the story to themselves, as obviously it is still painful to return
to those times and recollect the details of abandoning their
motherland. In the following part of this chapter, I will first address
the issue of emigration motives and then reflect on the research
question:
What specific motives trigger changes in children’s
English-language acquisition and Russian language
and culture maintenance?
Some family members preferred to avoid answering the question
about their motives for emigration, especially when this question was
posed in a straightforward way. However, some of their responses
coincided with the reasons suggested in the literature. The most
frequent response stands out. In every family, at least one or two
family members had a hard time explaining WHY they actually left.
There did not seem to be an explanation or reason supported by all the
family members. Nemya Rhapiro gave a very general answer: ―A lot
of people around us left, so we decided to leave too.‖ This explanation
is a direct consequence of the massive emigration happening in 19801990. People told stories that their friends left or were planning to
emigrate shortly. This overall atmosphere of living in a dissolving
community seemed to be a very strong force, impacting the mood of
many individuals. Olga Gorodec related her experience this way: ―My
husband did not want to go anywhere; he was happy with the lives we
had. We kept cash in garbage bags and could afford to buy anything.‖
(This was the time when people began buying goods and then
reselling them for a higher price.) "But our friends left, our relatives
left, and I began pushing my husband. He did not want to listen to me,
but finally he gave up under my pressure.‖
For some there was an opportunity to prepare for emigration and
nobody forced them to leave the country, but for others it was a
relatively quick decision, and they did not have time to learn English
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before leaving. Nemya Rhapiro said, ―I didn‘t think about leaving;
everything happened very quickly, and I didn‘t even think about
learning English prior to emigration.‖ Another statement made by
Gera Holod is even more extreme: ―I tell my kids, ‗You have to learn
a language (Russian) because nobody knows what will happen to you
in ten, fifteen, twenty years. When I was young, I never thought that I
would leave Byelorussia and go somewhere. If somebody had told me
that, I might have spat on this person.‖ One of the participants stated
that he did not have any deliberately practical or economic motives
and that he did not ―emigrate consciously.‖ This ―unconscious
emigration‖ seems to be a prevailing theme in the stories of the family
members I interviewed. It was difficult for them to provide a
straightforward response that could have explained their emigration
motives. Some family members offered extremely vague responses,
stating that they came to the United States as refugees and what
preceded this had been a long story. ―Everything was getting there‖
was another response. Other family members talked about the political
situation in the country, which had been a concern, but answered the
next question by recollecting the same time with nostalgia and
sadness.
Some responses explaining the decision to emigrate have to do
with the medical emergency situation and poor ecological situation in
Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power
Plant in 1986:
―Why did you immigrate?‖ I asked Olga Gorodesc.
―Because of Chernobyl,‖ she answered. ―My first child began
coughing all the time; my second child‘s first teeth were black, and
doctors recommended to us to get out of the place as quickly as
possible…so we did.‖
The final, obvious explanation of emigration that family members
gave was to provide a better future for their children. All these
families emigrated as political refugees or as ―instant relatives‖
(related closely on paper) of the emigrants who had already left as
political refugees.
Interestingly enough, my interviewees tried to avoid such words
as emigrate, immigrant, and refugee. Instead, they used verbs like go,
move, and leave [уехать, переехать, покинуть]. This choice of
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vocabulary shows that although their status might have been as
―political refugees,‖ their perception of their status was different. The
only opportunity for these families to leave the former Soviet Union
was to emphasize their Jewish heritage; they did, however, leave the
country voluntarily. None of the participants talked about being
discriminated against on the basis of their nationality or religious
views. Moreover, several times, when talking about choosing a
childcare facility for their children in the United States, the
interviewees emphasized that they consciously preferred not to enter
their children in Jewish schools as, for example, with the Holod
family: ―We do not practice Jewish religion, do not celebrate Jewish
holidays, and do not know or want our children to know the Jewish
language.‖ These families had positive expectations and were coming
to, as one of my interviewees (Alex Rhapiro) put it, a ―fictional world
that was created by the immigration stories on the phone with
relatives.‖
Conclusion: Perception and Emigration
Thus, the main motives for leaving the home country were the
perception that everybody was leaving (as indicated, a massive
migration was happening during 1990-2000), creating an
―unconscious immigration‖; hope for a better future for the children;
and expectation of economic stability. These motives for emigration
from the home country can help us to uncover some attitudes to the
language of the host country and see if people had an opportunity to
study English prior to their arrival in the United States.
Although the study families immigrated to the U.S. more than 10
years ago, they still are connected to the former motherland and show
a sincere interest in it. They talk about the economy, the well-being of
the people, and crisis back home. Any conversation turns into a
discussion of political figures. These discussions are suffused with a
genuine desire to find out what has been happening in the country they
left behind. I have a feeling that the family members to some extent
compare their current lives in the United States to their former lives,
as if trying to persuade themselves that they made a correct choice
when leaving. This is especially true of the grandparents, who often
refer to their past lives and try to describe them in detail. These
families still keep connections with their friends, relatives, and
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coworkers from the former Soviet Union. Every family has traveled
there a few times for short summer visits. The grandparents regret that
they cannot go there more often because of health conditions that do
not allow them to undertake long flights as often as they would like to.
The parent generation seems to be less emotional about this
matter. They seem to be well adapted to the United States and are not
really willing to go back. Their parents, friends, and children are in the
Unites States, so they feel settled down here. One of the
representatives of this generation (Alic Gorodesc) states that he
stopped dreaming in America. The few dreams he has are about his
summer cottage and the bees he and his grandfather took care of: ―I
wish I could drop everything and go there, but my children will not be
able to live there. They are complete Americans. They won‘t adjust to
that life.‖ It is obvious that sometimes even this generation feels
nostalgia and wants to return to the times when they were young,
joyful, and worry free. When he was not in a nostalgic mood, Alex
Rhapiro explained that ―you are nostalgic when you have nothing to
do and do not have an interesting job which takes your entire mind.‖
This is also how he explains the nostalgia expressed by his parents.
The children (especially in the Holod and Rhapiro families) do
not care about the country where some of them were born or where
parents and grandparents were born. Russia is just one of many
countries that is only interesting to visit during vacations. They are not
interested in the language, culture, or history of the country. For them
everything linked to Russia is foreign and unknown. Even though they
have visited once or twice, it has been hard for them to interpret what
they have seen. They have not remembered any problems adjusting to
a different lifestyle during their visits to their country of origin; they
say that they have not experienced any difficulties with understanding
Russian and getting to know people; on the other hand, they have not
really gotten much long-term exposure to the Russian culture. Their
understanding of present-day Russia is vague at best. Sofia Holod
explains the gaps in her children's knowledge:
They know about the Mausoleum, but they don‘t understand who
is in there. They were taught about the history of the Second World
War and they know Hitler [but] nothing about Stalin. They know
about the Holocaust. In school they learn only about Americans. And
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as far as world history [goes], they know nothing, and school doesn‘t
teach anything.
"School does not teach anything"—this is an excuse used
frequently by the parents. They seem to like the idea, as it shifts
responsibility from themselves to the school system. In the Rhapiro
family, Sergey (the eighteen-year-old) admits the following: ―History,
culture? No, I don‘t like history and to learn history. Interest in
Byelorussia? I am not interested and know nothing.‖ The Gorodec
family is different in terms of their general attitude to Ukraine. Their
children are exposed to family conversations when parents and
children sit and talk in Russian for an hour or so. The younger
daughter, Natasha, has a very ―fairy tale‖ representation of what has
been happening in Ukraine. She states that she would like to go back
there one day and try to live there because ―my family is there, my
home is there, and I loved the place,‖ despite the fact that she is the
only one in the family who was born in the U.S. and has visited
Ukraine only once seven years ago when she was six years old. Her
elder sister, Masha, explained that Natasha's idealized world will not
last long if she spends any time in Ukraine. Furthermore, she will not
be able to get adjusted because, as Masha says, ―she does not know
the real life; she has a one-sided representation which is wrong.‖
As is clear from the discussion above, attitudes to the motherland
become another issue that deepens the gap between generations. The
former motherland is what the elder generations talk about all the
time, whereas the youngest generation does not talk at all about it. The
generation of grandparents is informed about all that is happening in
Russia; in contrast, the youngest generation does not know the
answers to even basic questions about Russian current events.
Conclusion: Reasons for Emigrating
Overall, the reasons for emigrating were not really stated by the
Holod and Rhapiro family members. I got the impression that they
undertook a spontaneous and ―unconscious‖ emigration. They did not
specify any particular reasons or threatening circumstances that had
forced them to undertake this step. Only the Gorodesc family clearly
explained their immigration motive: their daughter‘s health condition
and fear of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. However, all
these families arrived as political refugees.
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To gain a broader view and understanding of the families and
their language choices, it is important to look at the attitude that the
parents have towards learning languages in general. My expectation
was that their stance would be reflected in the opinions of their
children. However, I received very different responses from each of
the three families to the question, Do you think it is important to learn
languages? Since it is crucial to discuss their responses to this
question in detail, I will further discuss each family.
The Holod Family
In this family, Gera and Sofia do not see the need to push their
children to learn a language other than English. They describe their
experience in their home country; when they were the same ages as
their children now, they had to take Byelorussian and English as
foreign languages. They did not have any interest in learning those
languages, and even more than that, they resisted the idea. Here is
how Gera explained his unwillingness to learn languages:
Byelorussian: ―I am not a Byelorussian; I am a Jew, so teach me
Jewish language. Then I‘ll be learning something, and I am 100% sure
that I won‘t need Byelorussian in my life.‖
Jewish: ―I have a friend here; they support Jewish religion, they
have Shabbat on Fridays, and their kids went to Jewish childcare,
elder son--Jewish school. They support this Jewish religion in the
family. We were thinking about Jewish school for our kids, but I was
against it. . . . I said 'you‘ll do this over my dead body only. . . . To
send our kids to Jewish daycare means to stuff their heads with
unnecessary information [забивать голову ерундой]. . . . They might
have mixed together English and Russian and Jewish. . . . Now we
know it does not make any sense.‖
This is what Sofia states about her experience with language
learning: ―After I failed reading (English) in college, I decided to take
English one more time. . . . I could make it only through the first
semester. I don‘t like to learn, and now at work I have to take tests-kids do them instead of me. I can‘t study; I don‘t like to study.‖
Quite clearly, the overall attitude to learning foreign languages
displayed here is negative. Knowledge of these languages is
considered to be unnecessary. The parents in this family make the
concession that one day, if the children want to learn another
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language, they might go to college, take a course, and learn it
―because nobody knows what you may need in the future.‖ The elder
child in the Holod family can speak Russian but has some difficulties
in expressing more complex ideas. The younger one prefers speaking
English at all times. When I asked the siblings about their attitude
toward languages, they admitted that they do not see themselves
needing any languages in the future.
The Rhapiro Family
In the second family, the parents admit that it is good when
children know more than one language: ―I told my son to take Spanish
at school, so he did. He might need it here.‖ However, they do not
support the idea of learning Russian at home or taking it as a foreign
language at school. The father, Alex, says:
I do not think that in our situation it is necessary for my children
to know Russian. This is their decision. If they think they need it, I‘ll
try to help and to get them interested. But, on the other hand, I do not
think it is worthwhile. If the person doesn‘t care about the country,
culture, why to learn a language? I don‘t care if he speaks Russian or
not.‖
Not surprisingly, the children‘s attitude to learning Russian and
Spanish mirrors that of their parents.
―It is good to know more than one language; that is why I took
Spanish in school. I heard that Russian is a very difficult language to
study, so it is good I know it naturally.‖
In this family, the attitude of the parents towards learning
language is reflected in what their child is doing. Sergey takes Spanish
in school and is planning to take it in college because it is useful.
However, he thinks that his knowledge of Russian is sufficient for his
needs, namely to talk to his grandfather and sometimes his parents.
The Gorodec Family
In the third family, the parents have a different attitude towards
learning languages: ―The more languages children know the better for
them‖ is the general attitude in the family. The mother, Olga,
expresses this attitude as follows: ―Everything depends on parents. If
you keep speaking Russian to a child, he will be speaking both
languages, but if parents are stupid and begin speaking THEIR
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English, they will spoil two languages in a child because they will
never speak English correctly, and the children will forget Russian.
The parental English will remain Turkish anyways. Why to do this to
your children?‖
This is how their youngest daughter Natasha responded to the
same question:
―I never resisted [learning Russian] because I always liked to
speak Russian, and it was not a problem for me to speak Russian here
and English there. I just liked to speak Russian. I speak Russian a lot
and my mom wants me to speak English more. She speaks English
with me, and I answer her in Russian.‖
Conclusion: Parental Attitudes and Children's
Language Acquisition
All the families show that the parental attitude is directly reflected
in the children‘s perception of the importance of language, which in
turn leads to speaking or not speaking the language in the family.
As is evident the attitude towards foreign languages in general
and Russian in particular varies tremendously across the families. This
general trend could not but find its reflections in the motives that
impact the maintenance or loss of the Russian language. The above
descriptions illustrate how parental positions have directly influenced
family language choices. I will discuss the relationship between
language learning and motives by examining each family and
stressing the main tendencies dominant in each.
The Holod Family
External regulation (see, for example, Goldberg & Noels, 2006)
becomes the main incentive for the Holod family. The children spoke
Russian infrequently and only because their grandparents and father
forced them to. They had no voluntary intentions to speak Russian
with family members. During my visit, once the grandparents left the
room and their father stopped nagging them, the boys immediately
switched to English.
This is how the father of the family describes how he makes his
family members speak Russian: ―She [Sofia] tries to speak English
with the kids till I scream. Only then do they begin speaking Russian.‖
The children also experience pressure from their grandparents, which
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encourages them to speak Russian once in a while. To some extent
they, the children, experience guilt, which motivates them to either
shift to Russian or remain silent. This phenomenon can be described
as introjected regulation and is revealed in the following exchange
among the author, Sofia (the mother), and Maxim (the elder son):
Author: What happens when grandparents don‘t understand you
[when you speak English]?
Sofia: This happens all the time, especially in the car when we
begin speaking English [and] grandma begins screaming, ―Speak
Russian; I don‘t understand you,‖ and sometimes begins cursing.
A: And what do you do?
Maxim: We shut up
A: You don‘t shift to Russian?
M: It depends. Sometimes Mom translates for us. Parents think
we are lazy, and I feel guilty about it sometimes.
Obviously, in this family two levels of extrinsic motivation guide
the use of the Russian language: external and introjected regulations.
Parental ideology initially supported and allowed this motivation, and
more than that, the children‘s motivation is rooted in the overall
parental attitude to languages in general and Russian in particular.
Instrumental motivation is present in the extended family, particularly
in the adults. They say that ―Russian is the second bread‖ (in this
expression, bread means an additional income for the family), which
might come in handy in the future but since their comments about the
use of Russian remain vague and uncertain, and the children do not
consider it as a possible future income source.
The Rhapiro Family
In this family the children have internalized both external
regulation (as in Noels et al., 1999; Goldberg & Noels, 2006) and
instrumental motivations (Ager, 2001; Gardner, 2006, and others).
The parents remind their children to speak Russian, and the children
mainly do this in the presence of grandparents who do not know
English. However, language as an instrumental orientation dominates
in the family. They consider foreign languages in general as a resource
for future success in life. Questioned as to whether he intended to take
a Russian class in college, the oldest son, Sergey, replied:
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Russian? I am not going to take Russian. . . . I can speak Russian,
and this is enough for me. I can understand people. I might take some
Spanish classes. It is very useful, and I began forgetting it. If I have
time, I‘ll take it in college.
In our conversation, the word useful was a frequent component: "I
want to maintain Russian in future generations. I want them to know
more than one language because this is useful."
The parental voice in this discussion is clearly evident as Alex
and Galina state that ―bilingualism is good but, nowadays it is more
practical to be bilingual in English and Spanish or English and
Chinese, but not Russian.‖ The usefulness of language and its possible
practicality in the future are dominant themes in this family. The
parental perception of language as a tool guides all decisions made
about what languages to study.
The Gorodec Family
Identified Regulation and Intrinsic Motivation, as in Noels, et al.
(1999), are the major support for the Russian language choice in this
family. As in the Rhapiro family, Natasha and Masha also speak
Russian to their grandparents, who do not know English. They speak
Russian to their parents without their parents needing to remind them
to do so. There is no need to remind them because the children clearly
identify themselves as Russian speakers and speak the language
without external reinforcement from their parents and grandparents.
This is a case of a dominating intrinsic motivation. The children are
excited to speak the language without any outside pressure. The
activity itself becomes a rewarding and pleasurable motivation. The
choice of verbs clearly illustrates this. Like and love [нравится,
люблю] are the verbs used to characterize their speaking Russian. This
is what Natasha says:
I have never resisted to speak Russian because I like to speak
Russian, and it was not a problem for me to speak Russian here and
English there [in school]. I just liked to speak Russian. I speak
Russian a lot and my mom wants me to speak English more. She
speaks English with me, and I answer her in Russian.
The girls actually differentiate between instrumentality of
language use and internal willingness to do so. In response to the
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question, ―Is it important to be bilingual?‖ Natasha replied,
―Everybody says that it is important. . . . People come and say that one
day Russian may help, for example, work for a company. Other
languages may help as well. . . . Everybody is saying that you need to
know Spanish, but I don‘t want to. I wanted to learn French, but we‘ll
see. . . . I love to speak Russian.‖ This example clearly shows her
intrinsic motivation, which has been supported by her parents
throughout her life. This is what her mother said in response to the
question, ―Why do parents speak English with their children?‖
We were with some friends on Saturday, and there were two kids.
. . . I asked, "What language do you speak with your children?" She
answered, "English." I told, "You are stupid!" You have to implant the
language [привить язык]. It will never be an obstacle. I am happy-the child reads, writes, and speaks. I have never had to push her. We
go shopping and begin speaking Russian and have some secret
conversations--nobody understands us. This is great!‖
Conclusion: Motivation and Language Behavior
Children of the three families thus show that very different
motivations guide their language behavior. External and introjected
regulation influence the first family, instrumental motivation
overweighs everything in the second family, and intrinsic motivation
seems to be the leading motivational force in the third family. Parental
attitudes to the acquisition of foreign languages, as well as their
language practices at home resulting from those attitudes, seem to be
the building blocks for the children‘s language use.
How do parents and children in immigrant families from
the former Soviet Union negotiate their conflicting language
orientations and practices?
Taking into account the notion that language is an integral part of
identity construction, it is worth noticing how children perceive their
identity, and how their parents and grandparents perceive their own
identities as well as those of their children and grandchildren.
In these families language practice between generations is a rather
painful topic for discussion, especially with the grandparents. They
were the ones who came to the United States when they were in their
sixties and have had problems adjusting to a new lifestyle and
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language after spending almost all their lives in the former Soviet
Union. The younger (parent) generation, although seemingly satisfied
with their lives in most situations, still express some indirect concerns
about the upbringing of their children. Being in the United States, they
have had to make a lot of choices about how to better educate and
socialize their children. These decisions have been driven by parental
beliefs in what they thought would be in the best interests of their
children. Prior to emigration none of the respondents thought that they
would have to encounter issues of choice: choice of language, choice
of identity, choice of literacy practices--all these choices were
invisible in the future, or the ―least of their worries,‖ as one father
said. Thus, I will start my discussion of conflicting orientations and
practices at the family level by addressing the question of identity
perception by different family members. I will further explore the
issue of literacy practices, and finally I will illustrate how language
shift between generations occurs within a thirty-year time frame.
To begin my discussion, I want to refer to Irwin (2009), who,
summarizing the research done in the field, states that language plays an
important (if not central) role in identity negotiation within society. The
following arguments he makes are crucial for the discussion coming
below: (1) linguistic behavior is a major tool in identity construction; (2)
identities are created in opposition, which means that ―people categorize
the social world into groups that are similar to them or differ from them
in some significant aspects, thus stressing that understanding someone's
identity directly depends on contrasting it with someone else's‖ (Irwin,
2009, p. 94); (3) identity construction is a dynamic and ongoing process;
and (4), perhaps the most central point, identity is locally constructed,
and these constructions cannot to be understood outside of a particular
context (Irwin, 2009). Taking these considerations into account, I am
interested in looking at how perception of identity has changed (and if it
did change) with immigration, how those changes have affected family
members and their relationships, and in what way the family members
contrast (if they do) themselves with others both outside and within the
family circle.
The grandparental generation of each family in my research
escaped a regime they did not like; they came to the United States
looking for freedom and for a better life for their children. They do,
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however, deeply value their native language and culture, and they try
to stay in touch with their friends, relatives, and teachers from the
country they emigrated from. They try to visit there as much as they
can. They are elderly now, so they often regret that their health does
not allow them to travel as much as they could before. Finally, they
are well aware of what is going on in their former motherland as they
watch the news on Russian TV, and they express opinions about the
present government and the current political situation, sometimes
critically, stating for instance that, ―Lukashenko is just a real fool who
does not know what he is doing and created a superficial order in the
capital of the country.‖ They are worried about the poverty of people
in the former Soviet Union and are especially concerned that there is
no middle class; it seems that there are only the rich and the poor.
The grandparents have no doubts about their identity. Their
immigration process did not seem to have any influence on their selfperception. Motya, from the Gorodesc family, said:
―I am Jewish. I believe in God, but definitely I am Russian. . . .
Russian language, Russian school, Russian culture. Russia is a great
nation; Russian culture is great culture. . . . I love Russia. Some people
[immigrants] do not care; they left Russia, and that was it . . . but my
heart hurts for Russia [душа болит за Россию]. I feel this all the time.‖
This perception of being simultaneously Russian and Jewish, no
matter what part of the former Soviet Union these people came from
(Ukraine, Byelorussia, or Russia), unites them in the sense that they
were brought up in one country, which fell apart when they were in
their fifties or sixties, not long before they emigrated. This sense of
panethnic identity (Portes, & Rumbaut, 2001), when self-sustained
ethnicities are grouped into one, is based on sharing a common
country that no longer exists and a common language that used to be
the main language of that country.
Below is another illustration of Russian-Jewish identity from
Nemya Rhapiro:
―I personally feel both Russian and Jewish, but I don‘t go to
synagogue, so understand this as you want. I am a Jew by passport.
When I talk to others, I speak Russian, and it doesn‘t matter for me if I
am Jewish or Russian. I don‘t know Hebrew. We didn‘t have schools
where Hebrew was taught; we didn‘t have synagogues. . . . Maybe
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there were synagogues, but only elderly people went there. So we are
all nationalities [общенациональные]. When I moved to the U.S. . . . I
don‘t go to the Synagogue, I don‘t speak Jewish language. If I go to
school to learn it, it will take me 5 to 10 years, and I‘ll be 75-80 years
old, so by the time I learn it, I‘ll have no one to speak it.‖
With the phrase ―Jew by passport,‖ Nemya refers to the wellknown "fifth line" on Soviet passports that stated the bearer's ethnic
identity. That is why when I asked a question about identity and
perception of identity, I ran into a question of ―What do you mean?‖
because almost all of my interviewees had this ―line‖ in their
passports, which is what made it possible for them to emigrate as
political refugees.
In the grandparental generation, their Russian identity is very
strong. They refuse to identify themselves with American food and
habits or with the English language. They consider Russian an
obligatory part of their identity that was formed in the former Soviet
Union. The statement, ―I am still a Soviet person with a 5th line in my
passport,‖ illustrates the sense of belonging to a country that no longer
exists. Living in the United States and being unable to speak and be
understood everywhere in Russian creates a feeling of being handicapped. Even more poignant is the question of communication with
grandchildren whose interests, values, and culture are so far removed
from that of their grandparents. The most difficult part is that these two
generations often do not share a common language, which separates
them even further. The older immigrants try to accept the fact that their
heritage language might soon disappear, searching for a reasonable
explanation for why this will happen and trying to accept it as an
inevitable fact of the near future.
The parental generation has a different perspective on their
identity. When challenged with the questions, ―What is your
nationality?" and "When you are in Byelorussia, how do you feel?‖
they responded that they find themselves in a very difficult situation
because, ―People over there notice that we have an accent and think
that we only pretend to have it. I just live . . . I feel neither American
nor Byelorussian or Russian. I am just a person, and I live.‖
The big difference between the two generations (grandparents and
parents) is that the first one stated who they are without any further
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elaborations on American values. They never declared a desire to be
American. However, the situation is quite different if we start
analyzing the parental generation. They began talking about food,
adjustment to different situations, and friendship. Ideologies and
stereotypes became an important part of the conversation. The
following statements illustrate, for example, how stereotypes,
adjustment issues, and symbolic arguments were a part of the identity
talk: ―Scale of values is a created term. Friendship in Russia--for all
your life, in America there are no deep relations. You make friends to
go to parties. Family is the main value‖; ―It doesn‘t matter I can adjust
to any culture. I can communicate with Americans and Russians. I
myself have neither Russian nor American roots. I was born in
Ukraine‖; and ―I do not think I am American because I would never
hang a flag outside. . . . It doesn‘t make sense to me. I don‘t have this
link with the country.‖ This is an intermediate and transitional
generation that emigrated in their thirties and who had absorbed their
heritage culture and language while simultaneously trying to adopt
their host culture.
The children's generation is a different story. They either were
born in the United Stated or were brought here at an early age. In one
of my conversations, I was challenged with a question from a parent:
―What do the children know about the country they emigrated from?
They know what we tell them.‖ Is parental representation of the
country of origin enough to actually KNOW about it? This
uncertainty, lack of knowledge, and insufficient information about the
country of origin is clearly expressed by fourteen-year-old Natasha
Gorodec, ―I never feel American. . . . I want to think like a Russian,
but I don‘t know how Russians think.‖ She does not know enough to
draw her own conclusions, so she uses the stories she hears from her
parents and grandparents as points of reference in her interpretation of
life events.
Parental perceptions of their children‘s identity become an
inevitable part of children‘s sense of self. I compared what children
and their parents were saying about the children‘s identities and found
that the responses were identical, even mirroring one another. Here is
a mother (Olga Gorodec) whose attitudes are reflected by her
daughter:
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Olga: My daughter likes to feel that she is of a different culture
[not American]. Because there is no American culture. What is
American culture? This is Indians. All of us are immigrants here in
different generations--third, fourth. Everybody came from somewhere,
and everybody has different roots . . . so who are here Americans?
They are Indians who live on their reservations and that‘s it. This is
the truth. If she was born here, hundreds of thousands were born here.
. . . Their roots are from somewhere else.
Natasha: If people ask I say that I was born in Ukraine and I don‘t
want to be called American. I don‘t like Americans. I don‘t want . . .I
am Russian, and I tell that I was born in Ukraine. People in school
believe because I have a very long last name, and they know that I
speak Russian. I don‘t like Americans. They have no culture [они
такие некультуральные]. I compare with Russians.
Another example shows how one of the siblings in the Holod
family (Maxim), without any hesitation identified himself and his
brother: ―I am Russian and my brother [Vova] is American.‖ Their
parents in a different conversation agreed that their older son is
Russian because he was born in Byelorussia, and the younger one is
American. The father, Gera, said ―You know, if you were born here,
you can become a President, and we cannot become anybody. Our
older son was not born here, so he will not become a President, and
the younger one might.‖
The younger children (in the Holod and Rhapiro families, all of
whom were born in the United States) unfailingly stated that they are
―Americans.‖ The adults seemed to be proud that their younger children
were American by birth and used every possibility to emphasize this
fact. That is what Sofia states about her son: ―He is a genuine American
and cheers for a Russian team. . . . Isn‘t that interesting?‖ Vova‘s older
sister-in-law admitted the following somewhat different and ambivalent
attitude: ―I often change my mind. One day I am American, one day I
am Russian. It just depends on my mood.‖ Their parents link their
identity with the country where these children were born. Obviously
enough, for the immigrants coming to the country as political refugees,
obtaining U.S. citizenship was a very long task. That is why they put so
much emphasis on their ―first generation true American‖ children who
have the right to be citizens by birth.
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The identity of children in the family is not only created in the
family; it is contested from the outside as well (Irwin, 2009). Maxim
said, ―In school they call me Russian mafia because I drive a Volvo
and wear black glasses, or they call me 'Chernobyl.' He scared a
couple of people there, grabbed and shook them by the collar, so they
are afraid of him.‖ Adolescents in the families have had the luxury to
choose between the two worlds and can take the best from each in
terms of what they want to be identified with.
Attitudes toward life in the host country separated the three
generations on the question of identification. The misunderstandings
between different world views and the bitterness that is created by
these differences can be seen through pairs of pronominal oppositions.
These oppositions help illuminate statements that show the differences
in perceptions of identity between generations. This is what Gera and
Sofia have said: ―They do not watch Russian television, it is not
interesting for them. . . . They‘ve already got used to those their
American programs. . . . ‖ The phrase ―those their‖ is a translation of
the Russian expression, [к этим своим] The choice of pronouns is
intentional. It shows that in the household, Russian and American
realities are separated by family members. This separation is
generational; the coexistence of ―our‖ culture and ―their‖ culture takes
place. On the one hand, the childrens‘ identification is strongly
influenced by their parental identifications of them. If parents have
identified their children as American and explained the reason for that
identification, then the children have tended to mirror this naming and
reproduce the same reasons their parents have given; on the other
hand, in two of the families (Holod and Rhapiro), the parents still felt
the differences in cultural values that caused obvious sorrow when
they compared their childhood experiences with their children‘s
current experiences, with which they have almost nothing in common.
Conclusion: Generational Perceptions of Cultural Identity
The grandparents have no doubts about their identity; their
immigration process did not seem to influence their self-perception.
They all have panethnic identities (Portes, & Rumbaut, 2001), as they
share a common country they left (Soviet Union) and which no longer
exists and a common Russian language. The statement, ―I am still a
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Soviet person with a 5th line in my passport,‖ characterizes their selfidentification.
The parental generation is an intermediate and transitional
generation who emigrated in their thirties and have absorbed their
heritage culture and language while simultaneously trying to adopt
their host culture. However, they do not feel as comfortable in the
United States as in their country of former residence. This bifurcation
is reflected in their language use, as their accents are noticeable in
both countries.
Children in these families know about their parents‘ (or their)
country of origin from the words of their parents. Consequently,
parental representation of the country of origin becomes a reference
point for children‘s interpretation of life events, which they translate
into their cultural identities.
Tensions across generations on the matter of spoken language
have become normal and, as the family members admit, happen rather
regularly. The most frequent discussion in the Holod family, for
instance, is based on the fact that the parents‘ English fluency is
different than that of the children, and the mother supports her
children in their desire to speak only English at home. Sofia is very
straightforward about how she needs to practice her English or
otherwise might forget it. She is a stay-at-home mother and declares
her right to speak English, at least with her children. Gera‘s English
fluency is not that good, so he wants his wife and children to speak
Russian. The tension between the husband and wife is rooted in their
different attitudes to the use of language at home. Gera said, ―What
drives me crazy is that my wife supports the kids. She tries to speak
English with the kids till I scream at them, and only then they begin
speaking Russian.‖ The mother is totally at ease with her children
speaking English, and the father insists on Russian only. In the same
family, similar issues always arise with the grandparents, who do not
know the English language. ―We will not be able to understand our
grandchildren very soon,‖ says Nina (the grandmother in the Holod
family). It is hard for the children of this family, although sharing the
same household with their grandparents, to shift to Russian. It is much
easier for them to discuss topics in English. The family conversations
often stop when interrupted by a request to speak Russian. The
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grandparents feel ―out of the loop‖ of conversations happening at
family gatherings. Sometimes the women from the parental generation
begin translating dialogue for their parents, but they get bored easily
by having to translate instead of being able to participate in family
conversations.
In turn, the grandchildren get upset when their conversations are
interrupted and they are asked to switch to a language that has become
their second language. It takes an extra effort to speak Russian; the
language does not flow. They have to pause, to think before they
speak. One of them was reported to get quite nervous when she is
forced to speak Russian: ―Maxim and Vova speak Russian to their
grandparents, and Lena [their cousin] gets nervous, so she has to be in
good mood to be able to speak Russian.‖ Her nervousness was
emphasized by several family members. Both parents and
grandparents agreed that they did not understand her English. ―She
does not speak English; she texts. . . . You know how they text
messages over the phone? They eat half of the phrase and use only
first letters, which mean the whole word. That is how she speaks?!‖ In
this family, the linkage between generations has disappeared, as they
have not been able to speak a common language. This family is an
illustration of ―extreme language wars‖ when painful language
situations occur over and over again and are perceived as an
inevitability of life that everybody has to put up with.
In the two other families (Rhapiro and Gorodec), I did not
observe any obvious battles. The grandparents live in different
households. Nemya and Rosa chose to move to a Russian-speaking
enclave to feel more comfortable and ―not to be exposed to too much
English, which makes us feel upset.‖ Once in a while, the neighbors of
Semen and Motya Gorodec make an attempt to reproach them when
their grandchildren speak Russian with an accent, but they are happy
that the grandchildren speak Russian at all. In the Gorodec family, the
children were brought up by their grandparents, who made an attempt
to teach them to read and to write in Russian. Although they can read
only children‘s books, they are capable of understanding a written
text, which seems to bring the generations closer, as they spend some
time reading together and talking about what they have read. The
grandparents in both families (Holod and Gorodec) have adjusted to
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the idea that the Russian their grandchildren speak will never be
perfect. They are well aware that the grandchildren‘s Russian will get
worse but try to be happy with the existing achievements of their
grandchildren. They have chosen their way of life in a self-created
Russian-speaking world where they can meet their ―language needs.‖
Their life helps them accept that their grandchildren are Americans
who have to speak a different language better than Russian. For the
generation of grandparents, language is an obvious marker of identity,
which seems to help them understand the younger generation, who, as
Rosa states, ―by definition are different than we are.‖
Conclusion: Language—War or Peace?
Tensions across generations in the Holod family on the matter of
spoken language have become normal and, as the family members
admit, happen rather regularly. This based on the fact that the parents‘
and grandparents‘ English fluency is different from that of the
children. In this family the linkage between generations has
disappeared, as family members are not able to speak a common
language. This family is an illustration of ―extreme language wars,‖
when painful language situations occur over and over again and are
perceived as an inevitability of life that everybody has to put up with.
In the two other families (Rhapiro and Gorodec), I did not
observe any obvious battles. The grandparents live in different
households resembling a mini Russian-speaking enclave, where they
feel comfortable and safe.
The above discussion brings us to the next issue of conflicting
language practices across generations.
When do parents, grandparents, and their children speak
Russian and English?
―I don‘t have sufficient vocabulary in English, I have to ask them
‗what is this, what is that‘ . . . the same with kids.‖ Several statements
addressing the issue of insufficient vocabulary were brought up by
members of all three families. Parents and grandparents emphasized
their own lack of knowledge of English and the children‘s lack of
proficiency in Russian. All three generations are well aware of this
lack and have made comments about it. Here is what the parents in the
Holod family said about the grandparents:
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―Grandfather understands what his grandchildren say, and
grandmother doesn‘t understand anything. She knows ‗Hi, Hello, byebye, how much, too much [laugh], buenos noches.‘‖
Another family member continues: [about grandmother] “She
probably forgot what it is. They understand that with every year they
[their grandchildren] will be forgetting Russian more and more. They
speak as they can.‖
As far as literacy practices at home, at school, and between the
family members, the parents and grandparents in the Holod and
Rhapiro families did not mention explicit instruction for their children.
On the contrary, they declared that they did not have time to teach
their children Russian on a regular basis. The main explanation for
this was that when the families came to this country, the mothers had
to work at two jobs and had no time. This experience coincides with
the explanation by Maslow, Frager, and Fadiman (1987) of deficiency
and growth needs. Until the immigrant family feels safe, they cannot
think about satisfaction of higher order needs. When the situation
settled down, the parents found an excuse not teach their children. As
one of them (Alex Rhapiro) said, ―I am not a teacher, I am an
engineer.‖ One more statement made regarding the issue was that the
children were too busy with their schoolwork, and hiring a Russian
tutor would be ―too much‖ for the children. The parents in the Holod
family wanted their children to have a ―normal childhood‖ and not to
be overwhelmed with too much information. They did not want their
children to be gifted, exceptional, or overloaded with schoolwork.
Only in the Gorodec family did the children watch some Russian TV
programs. They used Russian as a resource to find programs and films
that were accessible in English. One of the girls wants to become an
actress, and she watches Russian movies to learn the art. Another
sister enjoys a home remodeling and decoration program.
Russian and English books are a necessary part of the Gorodec
household. However, the children read Russian authors in English
translation. The family members like to read and are interested in the
history and culture of Russia, and the parents regularly share the news
from Russia with everybody else. Sometimes, the mother, Olga, asks
her children to write something down in Russian when she is busy
with something else, for example, talking over the phone. The
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children in the other two families (Holod and Rhapiro) do not know
how to read or write in Russian and do not think that it may help them
in any way. Surprisingly enough, in two of the families (Holod and
Gorodec), the children listen to some Russian music and know some
singers. However, they tend to focus on the music of Russian songs,
not the lyrics. They cannot understand what the songs are about, as
their Russian language skills are insufficient. This is how one of the
mothers (Sofia Holod) described the way her son listens to music:
―My son listens to Russian music: Shafutinsky, Mr. Cardio, chansons .
. . but he doesn‘t understand what the songs are about. He listens to
music. We have thousands of Russian movies in the computer. He
finds the button by memory and then calls me to help him. I translate
for him the titles of the movies.‖
Nowadays, the computer can very often substitute for the real
world. Children can spend hours not playing computer games, listening
to music, and communicating with different countries without ever
leaving their rooms, and this is also true of the children in these families.
PS3 and Wii playstations keep children occupied so they do not interfere
in their parents' daily routines. This is what the parents from the Holod
family said: ―They [our children] don‘t touch us, and we do not touch
them.‖ This was a family motto. The Gorodec family approaches the
upbringing of their children very seriously. The kids are involved in a
variety of afterschool activities, among the most favorite of which are
dance, music, and theatre. Television substitutes a lot in the Rhapiro
family. None of the children are involved in Russian-language activities,
nor do they have Russian-speaking friends. They do know that Russian
cartoons and movies exist, but do not show any interest in them, as the
language barrier prevents any understanding of the nuances of the
language. ―My father brought one Russian movie and I liked it. . . . I
remember several movies from the times when I was little.‖ This is a
very typical response one can hear when talking to the adolescents. The
Rhapiro family does have one cassette and one book on the shelf in
Russian. When the children run into pages in Russian online, they ignore
them because they are not interested in the language. The Holod parents
admit that a while ago, they attempted to introduce Russian cartoons to
their children, but no one found the cartoons funny, and moreover, the
parents thought they were stupid.
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The children (except those in the Gorodec family) are not
interested in anything Russian. However, the reverse is true of the
generations of grandparents, who are devoted to everything Russian
and try not to see English around them. Furthermore, living in an
enclave, they are afraid to leave it because, as Nemya Rhapiro said, ―I
read only Russian newspapers . . . everything. I even don‘t feel that I
am in the United States. I don‘t want [to]; it is difficult when I am in
the situation when everybody speaks English. It brings some bad
associations, but I have to put up with this because of my age. It
doesn‘t make any sense to change anything now.‖ Another
grandparent, Rosa, states that ―I am subscribed to Kurjer, Panorama,
Jarik [magazines in the Russian language]. I read all the time and
know everything. I love Bush and worried about Muslim. . . . Horrible
times!‖ Their English vocabulary is minimal, which further
encourages them to avoid situations where they might have to use
English. If they need to see a doctor, they ask a social worker or a
family member to join them. In several instances they have contrasted
their English language acquisition with that of their grandchildren,
who have acquired language so easily and quickly without making any
effort. Nemya said, ―I don‘t need to speak English. All my neighbors
are Russians. . . . If all of a sudden I decide to speak English, which I
don‘t know, they‘ll be more than surprised and ask me why I break
and spoil the language [English]. They will ask me: ‗Can‘t you speak
Russian?‘‖ The grandparents do not want to move in with their
children and abandon a living situation in which there are a lot of
Russian speakers. As Rosa has said, ―I don‘t want to move to son and
live in the same household. There is no communication in Russian;
everybody speaks English there. During the whole day you won‘t
meet a person speaking Russian.‖
The in-between generation of parents has to balance between the
other two generations. Almost all of them have acquired English and
are fluent in both languages. They use English to communicate with
the younger generation, who do not feel the need to acquire their
heritage language, and Russian to speak to the older generation, who
do not feel the need to learn English. The mothers help their children
with school assignments and talk to teachers. Moreover, two of the
families made a decision to transfer their children from one school to
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another, as the first did not provide sufficient education. While
helping with homework, the mothers speak English and refer to the
knowledge they gained in the former Soviet Union. They feel
confident both in their family circle and in the ―outside‖ world. One of
the mothers, Sofia Holod, who stays at home, said that she needs
English to argue with everybody for hours on the phone. ―Today, for
example, I argued with Sam Levitz furniture store over the phone half
of a day. I usually have conflicts with doctors, pharmacies, shops. . . .‖
These women realize that their knowledge of English is not perfect
and that they need to practice their English language skills. One of
them, Olga Gorodec, giving advice to another parent, stated that by
speaking English to your child you are doing a disfavor twice: ―First,
you are breaking the child‘s language, as no matter how you know it,
you are speaking a broken language, and second, you prevent your
child from picking up Russian.‖
Overall, children of the three families shift to English. In the
Gorodec family, however, the children have maintained a certain
degree of literacy in both languages. Undoubtedly, they can read,
write, and speak English much better than Russian. One of the
children admitted that he hardly tried to speak Russian when his
mother‘s friends came to the house once: "I wanted, tried, I wanted to
say something, and English comes up.‖
The parents (except those in the Gorodec family) are fine with
their children speaking English only. As Alex Rhapiro said, ―Well,
they speak a little bit of Russian, and it is okay. If they decide to learn
more, they can take it in college.‖ This seems to be a common
approach of the parental generation. Assuming that their children will
learn the language if they need it one day seems to be a convenient
rationalization for not trying to actively help their children improve
their Russian fluency. The grandparents seem to accept the situation
and agree that there is nothing they can do to improve their
grandchildren‘s language skills. The elder grandchildren understand
some Russian, but when conversations turn complex, they stumble
over the words and prefer to shift to English.
Conclusion: Literacy Practices or “Language Enclaves”
The literacy practices of the generations of grandparents and
grandchildren are dichotomously different. The first live in the world
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of Russian language and the latter in the English-speaking world,
which do not appear to have much in common. The grandparents are
definitely concerned about this situation but feel that they have no
influence on their grandchildren. These two generations represent two
different ―language enclaves‖ leading to a poignant communication
gap between the generations.
In what ways do multilevel decision-making processes influence
language practices of immigrant families in the United States?
Language Policy Established at Home
Parents often control the language of their children and take for
granted their authority to manage it (Spolsky, 2009). The choices
parents make are directly impacted by their beliefs and by the
sociolinguistic ecologies inside and outside the home (Spolsky, 2009).
If we develop a claim of Spolsky's further, the parental beliefs are
rooted in a range of factors. First, the immigration history and motives
of each family become an important variable influencing the attitude
toward the target language as well as the heritage language. Second,
the overall attitude to language learning in general and foreign
languages in particular explains the motivations parents transfer to
their children. Very often these attitudes have a deep history in the
parents' school experience. Language learning experience ―in the old
country‖ may be another important factor that might either empower
or diminish the understanding that learning a language is a good thing
even if it does not seen to be important or beneficial during a
particular moment. Desire to join the mainstream society and try to
help children adjust to a new situation as quickly as possible may
explain attempts to give up the heritage language and culture and
allow their children to choose the language of the host society. It is
obvious that ―no man is an island, nor is a family a closed
sociolinguistic unit‖ (Spolsky, 2009, p.30); however, languagepreservation attempts start with the family unit and its desire to put
efforts into language maintenance. These efforts begin first with the
choice of language and second with particular rules established at
home. Often, if the question of how language usage rules have been
established is posed in a straightforward way, the family members
have denied that they have established any particular rules or
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guidelines, but on further enquiry it becomes clear that every family
has its own requirements guided by the family‘s own ideological
framework.
Initially, when the Holod family migrated to the United States,
their children were forced by their parents to play ―in the street‖ to
learn the language. They lived in an apartment complex next to
immigrants from Mexico. Their first exposure to English was thus
really Spanish English. Their parents admitted that their children
easily and painlessly acquired a new language and started using it in
their daily lives. Moreover, they were ready to give up their first
language and stop using it for any purpose. To confront the matter, the
older parental generation ―promoted Russian,‖ established some
regulations and rules, and came up with restrictions and punishments.
―Otherwise,‖ said Gera Holod, ―the children might have completely
switched to English and totally forgotten Russian.‖
Initially, the parents tried to forbid using English at home. This is
still a rule; however, nobody is punished for breaking it. The parents
speak to the children in Russian, but the children might answer them
in English. Said Sofia Holod of her children, ―They are like dogs; they
understand everything but cannot say it.‖ This is how parents identify
their children‘s language fluency. In the presence of grandparents, the
children must use Russian, as their grandparents do not know English.
The grandfather, Boris Holod, is concerned that ―in two to three years,
I will not be able to talk to my grandchildren, and I will not be able to
understand them.‖ He is very emotional about the matter and screams
at his grandchildren because he wants to understand what they are
talking about in his presence. Sometimes the boys have difficulty
expressing their ideas in Russian, and their mother has to act as an
interpreter between her sons and their grandparents. The mother plays
the role of the language broker in the family, and very often has to
negotiate the problems between the family members and reassure
them that everybody cares about each other, especially grandchildren
about grandparents.
The boys do not have Russian-speaking friends; therefore, the
only place where they are exposed to their native language is at home.
None of the children in the Holod family reads Russian books. There
are no English or Russian books in the household. The family has
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three Russian cable TV channels; however, in spite of the fact that the
television is on all the time, the ―younger‖ generation does not watch
the Russian channels, as they prefer American movies and cartoons.
The parents state that their children ―do not understand Russian TV
programs. They have their own preferences, likes and dislikes. They
understand when you discuss everyday topics with them, but if you go
further, they miss the meaning.‖ The father of the family, Gera, tried
to establish a ―four o‘clock rule‖ when all the family members were
supposed to speak ―Russian only‖ after he came home from work.
This regulation did not work because the mother refused to obey the
rule and began breaking it herself. As she explained it, she needed
language practice, and she used her children as an opportunity to
improve her English language skills.
Another rule which does not have to do with languages directly is,
―You don‘t touch us; we don‘t touch you.‖ By this rule the family
members mean that every child has his own well-equipped room
stuffed with computers and play stations, and the children are free to
do whatever they want and stay busy when they are at home. The
children are not involved in any after school activities. They spend a
lot of time at home and are not really exposed to English elsewhere
than in school.
The Rhapiro and Gorodec families have never voiced any strict
language rules, nor have they set restrictions on what language to
speak. As the grandparents do not speak any English, the only option
to communicate with them is by using Russian. Both families watch
Russian television and have access to various Russian computer
games and programs. Natasha Gorodec said that she was probably
forced to speak Russian in the beginning when she was two, but she
likes it now. Her mother agrees that they have never pushed her; they
spoke Russian with her all the time. She went to daycare when she
was two and began switching to English, and her family consistently
responded her in Russian and finally were able ―to re-persuade her‖ to
use both languages. The adult family members said that they ―never
did anything special; we just talked to our kids. We spoke two or three
hours [each day] about everything—culture, language, books, movies.
A little one was [always] sitting and listening . . . nothing special, just
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talked. . . . A child always listens to what you tell [him/her]. A child is
a sponge who absorbs everything.‖
This unspoken rule of speaking in Russian for several hours on a
daily basis seems to have worked very well. All the members of the
family have consistently spoken in Russian about books, movies, and
various experiences. However, the children have been exposed to
various after-school activities in English. Dance, music, and theatre
have become an important aspect of family life. Finally, in these
families Russian is spoken exclusively at home.
The parents are the ones who have stated that they do not mix
languages and speak only Russian at home: ―We speak to them in
Russian and they [the children] answer us in English. We speak
Russian at home.‖ A thorough review of the transcripts showed that
the family members did use English words in their speech,
incorporating them unintentionally while talking about language
practices in the family. The following examples of English words
were built into the ―Russian‖ narratives: business class, movie class,
major, minor, and counselor. These words illustrate concepts that did
not exist in the Russian language at the time the family left the
country. One of the fathers (Gera Holod) seldom used English words
in his speech; however, his infrequent use of English requires special
attention. When incorporating English words into Russian, he added
Russian endings and suffixes, thus combining the two languages, for
example, in statements like the following: ―When we lived in
apartmente.” The elder generation also unconsciously inserted
occasional English words into their Russian speech. This code
switching did not seem to be an active process that speakers were
conscious of or had control over (Angermeyer, 2005). They code
switched when they described phenomena they had never witnessed in
Belorussia/Russia, subconsciously entering English words into their
Russian speech in order to explain these ideas.
Spolsky (2009) suggested the following strategies that have to be
maintained at home in order to maintain the heritage language: (1)
control the home language environment; (2) bring a speaker of the
target language into the household; (3) arrange for your children to
play with other children selected for their language knowledge; (4)
take control of radio and television, permitting or banning its use in
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the home depending on its language; (5) restrict access to computers
for language management reasons; and (6) seek outside support by
establishing language-motivated groups.
Conclusion: Language Policies at Home
None of these families seemed to use Spolsky‘s strategies
consistently, although they tried to implement some of them at
different times and without much success. As a result, the children in
the Holod family refuse to speak Russian and cannot read or write it,
and while the children of the other two families are more fluent in
Russian, they still have limited reading and writing skills and are not
likely to maintain the language in future conversations with their own
children.
What factors affect the choice of language immigrant families
speak within different domains?
To answer this question, I will first rely on the nationally
representative sample and only then refer to the families in my study.
My multivariate analysis involved logistic regression modeling of
the outcome of speaking only English versus speaking Russian at
home. The purpose of this logistic regression model is an attempt to
see which variables predict Russian language maintenance in the
household. The selected variables were based on the literature
available (some of it was introduced in the Literature Review section
of this book) as well as availability and credibility of this variable in
the IPUMS database. The model included parental, household, and
location variables.
In regard to parental education, Portes, Fernández-Kelly, and
Haller (2008) have considered the human capital that immigrant
parents possess to be one of the principal resources that helps them
confront the challenges they face in the course of adjusting to a new
life. Education is an essential part of the human capital that predicts
how successful family members will be in the labor market (Portes,
Fernández-Kelly, & Haller, 2008).
The Russian-speaking families that emigrated to the U.S. in the
1990s are likely to have gotten their education in the former Soviet
Union. Parental higher education has been considered a variable
having a high influence on the willingness of parents to maintain their
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heritage language at home. Kogan (2008) has specified that
competency in Russian is interrelated with the amount of education
the immigrants received in the former Soviet Union. The IPUMS
database delineates two variables (higher education and higher
education of the head of the household) which are subdivided into
various levels of educational training. For the purposes of the current
project, I was mostly interested in whether the immigrants attempted
or received higher education. To study these educational variables, I
recoded them: 1= through high school, and 2 = through the first year
of college and above.
The second variable of interest was ―lingisol‖ or the linguistic
isolation area. LINGISOL identifies "linguistically isolated
households" in which either no person over the age of 14 speaks just
English at home, or no person over the age of 14 and who speaks a
language other than English at home speaks English "Very well." The
graph illustrated below, Figure 4.3, shows that linguistically isolated
households positively relate to the city population variable. The bigger
the city in the U.S., the more it is likely that a Russian-speaking
enclave will be located there. Among locations where there are large
Russian-speaking enclaves are New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
Chicago, and Denver. Tucson also has a Russian-speaking enclave for
elderly people, although it is a small one.
The number of children in the household was another variable of
interest. ―NCHILD‖ counts the number of children (of any age or
marital status) residing with each adult individual and includes stepchildren and adopted children as well as biological children. Persons
with no children present in their homes are coded "0." I coded this
variable as follows: ―0‖ = no children, ―1‖ = 1 child, and ―2‖ = two or
more children. The research (see for example, Stevens and Ishizawa,
2007) suggests that the probability of children speaking a non–English
language is influenced by their siblings and by the length of their
residence in the U.S. Consequently, if there is more than one child in
the household who has lived in the host country since a very young
age or who was born there, it is more likely that the family will be
inclined to shift to English as a language spoken at home. This
happens because after one child begins to go to daycare or school,
he/she brings the dominant language home. Siblings shift to the
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language of the dominant society easily, as it is the language spoken
everywhere.
Figure 4.3. Relationship of linguistically isolated households to city populations.
The multigenerational household was selected to be the next
variable. MULTGEN identifies the number of distinct generations
contained in each household. I chose the detailed version of the
IPUMS for this purpose, as it provides more nuance within each
general category. The family interrelationship pointer variables
provide additional information on "other relatives" and nonrelatives of
the householder.
The presence of one of the following relationship combinations
caused the household to be coded as multigenerational: (1)
householder, householder's child, and householder's grandchild; (2)
householder's parent, householder, and householder's child; or (3)
householder's parent-in-law, householder, and householder's child.
The coding for this variable was straightforward and incorporated all
the details assigned to each generation by the IPUMS database: ―1‖ =
one generation in the household; ―2‖ = two generations in the
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household; and ―3‖ = three (or more) generations in the same
household.
Three more variables included in the model were total family
income, house value, and year of immigration. Table 4.2 (see below)
presents the estimated coefficients from a logistic regression model
for immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The dependent variable
contrasts individuals speaking only English (0) with those speaking
another language, Russian in my case (1).
Table 4.2
Logistic Regression Model Predicting
Speaking Russian Language at Home
Variables
Variable codings
in the equation
Highered (1)
Higher education
Higher education of the head of
Higheredhead (1)
household
Lingisol 2
n/a
Lingisol 2 (1)
Non-linguistically isolated
Lingisol 2 (2)
Linguistically isolated
Numchild
No children
Numchild (1)
1 child
Numchild (2)
2 or more children
Multigen
1 generation
Multigen (1)
2 generations
Multigen (2)
3+ generations
Constant
B
Wald
.322
444.625
.501
1198.048
6896.753
- 6.429 6590.877
- 6.543 6876.884
1073.178
.088
23.158
.542
860.243
778.152
- .659 767.616
- .473 541.666
4.879 3551.211
The strongest effects relate to linguistic isolation, which is
associated with being multilingual. When we compare the n/a variable
against multilingualism or speaking Russian at home, there is a large
negative coefficient because being in an n/a group is negatively
related to being multilingual. At the same time, being in a nonlinguistically isolated group is negatively related to being
multilingual; consequently, being in a linguistically isolated group
tends to be positively associated with being multilingual.
Another significant influence on multilingualism (in this case
speaking Russian at home) is the number of generations living within
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the same household. The more generations who live under the same
roof, the greater the probability that the mother tongue will be
maintained at home: ―The presence of aunts and grandparents reduces
the odds that the child will be monolingual, especially when
grandparents or aunts and uncles who speak a mother tongue live in
the home, the frequency of conversation in the mother tongue
increases, and, depending on the English proficiency of these adults,
the child may be encouraged or required to speak to them in the
mother tongue (Alba, Logan, & Stults, 2002, p.477).‖ Table 4.3
illustrates how the number of generations in the same household
influences the language spoken at home. Having two generations at
home reduces the possibility of Russian language maintenance across
the years, whereas with three generations under the same roof, the
probability increases.
Table 4.3
The Impact of the Number of Generations Living in the Same
Household on the Frequency of the Language Spoken at Home
Number of
generations
1980
1990
2000
2008
Speak Russian at home
Speak only English
1
2
3
1
2
3
20.1%
15.4%
35.7%
21.1%
13.4%
14.7%
38.6%
22.8%
21.3%
25.1%
48.2%
29.4%
79.9%
84.6%
64.3%
78.9%
86.6%
85.3%
61.4%
77.2%
78.7%
74.9%
51.8%
70.6%
It is worth noting that the year 2000 stands out as showing an
increase in three-generational households and therefore the number of
Russian languages spoken at home (from 25.1% in 1980 and 21.3% in
1990 to 48.2% in 2000). I have already addressed this issue and shown
that the peak of immigration occurred from about 1993, which had a
big impact on language maintenance. However, in the year 2008, the
percentage of three-generation households returned to what it had
been before the influx of a Russian-speaking population.
Absence of children creates a small positive relationship with
being multilingual as compared to households with two or more
children. In a single-child family, that child is more likely to be
multilingual than in a multi-child family. Thus, the presence of two or
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more children in the household has tended to lead to English
monolingualism in the families of immigrants from the former Soviet
Union.
The effects of socioeconomic status and year of immigration seem
to be inconsistent and have not made any difference in the model.
Conclusion: Factors Affecting Language Choice
My multivariate analysis involved logistic regression modeling of
the outcomes of speaking only English versus speaking Russian at
home. It turned out that the strongest effects relate to linguistic
isolation, which is associated with being multilingual. Another
significant influence on multilingualism is the number of generations
living within the same household. The more generations who live
under the same roof, the greater the probability that the mother tongue
will be maintained at home. The effects of socioeconomic status and
year of immigration seem to be inconsistent and have not made any
difference in the model.
The choice to use Russian has been limited generally to the home
and has sometimes narrowed even further to speaking the heritage
language solely with particular family members. In the Holod family,
for instance, where the grandparents do not speak or understand any
English and the father‘s English is very limited, the children have to
speak Russian to the grandparents and the father. However, quite often
the children do not know how to express themselves in Russian, so
when they have wanted to communicate a difficult concept, they
reported that they began thinking in English insisting to their father
and grandparents that they do not know how to say it in Russian. The
elder sibling can express himself better, but the younger one has real
problems. In these situations their mother tells them, ―Say it in
English, and I‘ll translate.‖ The elder sibling seldom uses Russian
with his peers who know some Russian; however, they do use it when
they do not want to be understood by others at school. Other than that
they speak English. In addition, the brothers speak only English to
each other.
In the second family, the Rhapiros, the elder sibling speaks
Russian to his two younger siblings. They had always been stay-athome children and did not know English before they began attending
an English-speaking school and watching an unlimited number of
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cartoons in English. Since they did not speak English when they were
born, it was natural for their elder brother to speak Russian to them.
Their father, however, introduced another explanation for this
phenomenon: ―Sergey‘s Russian is at the same level as the Russian of
his younger siblings.‖ They speak Russian to their grandfather, as he
does not know any Russian. The elder sibling tries to speak English
with his parents consistently, but sometimes when his mother does not
understand what he is saying and ignores him, he has to switch to
Russian. He has a few Russian-born friends who were brought to the
United States when they were very young, but the only language they
speak to each other is English.
In the Gorodec family, the children consistently speak Russian to
their parents and grandparents at home. However, the siblings prefer
to speak English when their elders are not around. The only situation
during which the sisters choose to speak Russian on their own is when
they are out shopping and do not want anyone to understand them.
Their mother has emphasized that it is great to speak Russian to her
girls in the public places because nobody else knows what the
conversation is about.
To the question, ―When you have dreams, in what language do
they occur?‖ the answers I received were related to the discussion
above. In the Holod and Rhapiro families, the children dream in
English only, but in the Gorodec family, the language they dream in
depends on who is in the dream. If it is their father, then they speak
Russian; if siblings or peers, English is the language of the dream
conversation.
Each of the three families illustrates a unique use of Russian at
home with the amount of language use fluctuating across the families.
In the Holod family, the children prefer to speak only English and
require translation from English into Russian to be understood by the
two elder generations. The Rhapiro family does use Russian as the
main language of communication at home; however, all family
members admit to a limited understanding of the language. In the
Gorodec family, the siblings speak English to each other in the
majority of the situations but not to their parents or grandparents. Only
one child in the Holod family uses Russian as a language of secret
communication with peers and siblings, and he never speaks Russian
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in public, whereas in the Gorodec family, the siblings switch to
Russian in order not to be understood if they need to have a private
conversation in public.
In the following discussion I will review the major findings and
discuss the discrepancies between the qualitative and quantitative
parts of my research. To resolve the mismatches between the two, I
will introduce a fourth family into the context. Then using these four
families, I will suggest four language-choice profiles, each represented
by a different family.
Discussion
Two families (Rhapiro and Gorodec) are identical in their
attitudes to the Russian language and culture as well as to their
established language practices at home. They support their children in
their desire to ―Americanize‖ and enter the mainstream. Their attitude
to language comes from the general mindset of these families. They
admit that Russian culture and language are interwoven, and if their
children are not interested in the culture they consequently do not care
about learning the language (Rhapiros). They do realize, however, that
at some point the knowledge of Russian might help them in their
future careers, but if it comes to the point that they might use it as a
tool, they plan to study Russian in college. The Rhapiro parents do not
show any visible support or offer active involvement in the process of
their children's language attainment. Instrumental orientation becomes
a domineering theme in the discussion of Russian language use in the
Rhapiro family. On the other hand, the Gorodec family reflects a very
different attitude to foreign language acquisition in general and to
Russian maintenance in particular. Parental encouragement and a
positive attitude towards the Russian-speaking community are strong
within the family. This direct support from the grandparents and
parents appears to be an essential resource in the children's formation
of a positive attitude towards Russian identity and the Russian
language. The children identify themselves with the Russian culture
and language although they are not sure how Russians might act in
specific social situations. This uncertainty, however, does not preclude
them from directly stating their identities as Russian.
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My observations showed that parental attitudes towards Russian
language maintenance and interest in heritage culture and language
have become major building blocks in their children's selfperceptions. In all three families, when addressing the same questions,
the children did not just give similar responses; they also used the
same wording and reasoning to support their views as their parents.
Parental motivations and attitudes were reflected in their children‘s
way of thinking.
The three families do not have well-established Russian language
rules that might have supported the maintenance of the language. The
Holod family tried to establish and implement certain language rules
without success. I did not measure Russian language proficiency in these
families, but the use of Russian in the Holod family was the most limited
as compared with that of the other two families (Rhapiro and Gorodec),
where the parents seemed to be less emotional about their children‘s
knowledge of Russian. In all three families, the children do speak with
different degrees of accent and have difficulty when they need to express
complex ideas in Russian. Their spoken language fluency fluctuates
strongly across the three families; however, the children in all three
families do not voluntarily read or write in Russian. The children in the
Rhapiro and Gorodec families can read elementary children‘s books, but
even in the Gorodec family, where interest in Russian culture is well
maintained, the children prefer to read Russian authors in English
translation.
The observations and interviews in the course of my research
project created more questions than answers. It was troubling to note
that in the Holod family, where three generations live in the same
household and two generations are not fluent in English, the children
refused to speak or write in Russian, unlike the other two households,
in which the children were more accepting of Russian language use,
and, especially in the Gorodec family, even liked to speak Russian.
This finding related to the Holods differs significantly from the
findings of both my quantitative analysis and the quantitative analyses
of other researchers, which have shown a tendency to maintain the
heritage language in the three-generational household. Another
interesting observation that contrasts the Holod family with the
Rhapiros and Gorodecs was that children in the Holod family are not
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involved in after-school activities and do not spend much time
socializing in English outside their home, whereas the children in the
other families are encouraged to spend a lot of time outside their
homes and are involved in a variety of programs, using English much
more frequently than the Holods.
The Rhapiro and Gorodec families are similar in many other
ways, as well. For instance, they immigrated at the same time, the
parents in both families received higher educations in the former
Soviet Union, their grandparents live separately from the parents and
their children, both households have two children, their household
income is approximately the same, the children and parents do not live
and work in a Russian-speaking enclave, and they have visited their
country of origin fewer times than have the Holod family. Yet despite
their similarities, their attitudes and motivations regarding the Russian
language are crucially different. My reflections on Russian language
maintenance have led me to hypothesize that the variables that are
customarily considered to be essential for heritage language
maintenance are not as important as they are proclaimed to be.
Socio-economic status, parental education, number of generations
living in the same household, and linguistic isolation are well-known
predictors of heritage language maintenance. However, in my
observations the three families varied immensely in these variables, yet
their knowledge of the Russian language remained similar, and the
prognosis is that a language shift to English in the next generation is
almost inevitable. This made me think that the factors mentioned above
are not really accurate predictors of Russian language maintenance. The
same set of variables might predict English language fluency as well. I
decided to check this idea by using an Ordinal Regression Model. I took
English language proficiency as a dependent variable (instead of using
the ―Speak Russian at home" variable) and left unchanged all other
variables from the Logistic Regression Model presented earlier in this
chapter.
After I ran the statistical test, it became very clear that the model
predicts English language proficiency even better than Russian
language maintenance at home. The difference in the prediction level
between the two models is not large (84.2% for the logistic regression
and 88% for the ordinal logistic regression), but the high prediction
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percent suggests that the variables in the model are good predictors of
both Russian language use at home and English proficiency.
Table 4.4
English Proficiency Group Prediction from Ordinal Logistic
Regression
Predicted Response Category
Does not
speak English
34
.0%
94
.0%
88
.0%
0
.0%
0
.0%
216
.1%
Yes, but not
well
2165
.9%
6249
2.5%
6570
2.6%
839
.3%
95
.0%
15918
6.4%
Yes, speaks
well
494
.2%
1614
.6%
1825
.7%
158
.1%
69
.0%
4160
1.7%
Yes, speaks
only English
1314
.5%
4757
1.9%
9830
4.0%
23248
9.4%
188911
76.1%
228060
91.8%
Total
1.6%
12714
5.1%
18313
7.4%
24245
9.8%
189075
76.1%
248354
100.0%
As we can see from Table 4.4, we can predict English language
proficiency with 88% accuracy based on these variables. The same
variables used in the regression model described in this chapter predict
with 84.2% accuracy whether multilingualism is maintained in the
families. Only if somebody in the family emigrated from the former
Soviet Union was the family included in my sample.
After completing the research—observations and interviews of
the three case study families as well as the statistical analysis of a
huge Russian speaking sample—I did not find support for the
hypothesis that the above-stated variables effectively influence
heritage language maintenance or that the language will survive
against a language shift within three generations. The question I still
had was this: How do children become literate not only in speaking a
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language, but in writing and reading it as well, so that they will be
able to maintain a native Russian oral fluency and accent as well as
Russian reading and writing skills and possibly transfer their
knowledge to future generations?
In the course of my research, it also became evident that the
attitude to foreign languages in general and Russian in particular, in
addition to an interest in and enthusiastic acceptance of Russian
culture and identity, are the building blocks that might help maintain
the language. However to ACQUIRE the language, something else is
needed.
I realized that I had to find a family that would support Spolsky‘s
suggestions involving strict language rules established at home in
relation to preserving the language. I was aware that such a family
(according to the statistics suggested in the previous chapters) would
be an exception, and although my evidence might appear to be
anecdotal, I began looking for such a family.
Completely by accident, I met a family which helped me explain
this paradox. They do not live in a Russian-language enclave or a
multigenerational household; the parents work a lot, and their two
children do not go to a Russian-speaking school or study the language
outside their home; finally, the children are involved in several
English-speaking clubs and do go to a regular American middle
school. Despite these factors that should suppress Russian usage and
fluency, however, the children not only speak Russian at home, but
they also excel in writing and reading Russian. What made them
different?
Rather than falling under the theories of language management,
planning, and heritage language management, this family applied all
the strategies of language preservation management suggested by
Spolsky (2009). They established strict control over the language
environment at home, controlling both Russian and English use. When
it was time for the children to go to daycare, they had a hard time
adjusting to English-only at school and Russian-only at home. To
resolve this dilemma, their parents established a ―4 o‘clock‖ rule,
meaning that when the father came home from work, everybody
began speaking English. This helped the children acquire English
more easily and in a less stressful atmosphere. After a while when the
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children stopped needing this support, they shifted back to an only
Russian-at-home policy.
As I have already mentioned, their grandparents live separately
from the rest of the family, but once in a while, they come to help out
and speak Russian. Thus, the parents do bring speakers of the target
language to the home. Moreover, they control radio and television: the
children are allowed to watch American cartoons only for fifteen
minutes daily. This English-language exposure, a loosening of the
general only-Russian principle, is used to reinforce good behavior.
The children do not know about the existence of the Disney channel.
(Yet!) Their parents show them only DVDs that will teach them
something positive. The same happens with computer use. The parents
also strictly control the amount of time their children can spend
playing computer games. The only game that they allow is
―Civilization,‖ as it enhances historical knowledge and helps the
children to learn a lot. They have hundreds of DVDs in the Russian
language, which are popular Russian cartoons and children‘s movies
what they are allowed to watch. Cartoons, concerts, and other
programs are all in the Russian-language repertoire of the family.
They also arrange play dates with another Russian-speaking family.
In addition, the family has a library of Russian books that the
children enjoy reading. In fact, is almost impossible to find each of
them without a book. At the age of three, they began reading in
Russian. However, their parents did not teach them to read in English
as they believed ―once you know the concept, you can do it in any
language.‖ The parents order Russian textbooks so that their children
have gone over the academic program of a Russian school. History,
literature, Russian, mathematics, and other textbooks are all in the
repertoire of this family's knowledge base. The children can read and
write in the Russian language as well as their peers in Ukraine.
In the beginning when the mother was babysitting the children,
they set an official time for Russian lessons on a daily basis. Now,
since the parents are extremely busy, the mother gives them
assignments in the morning, and the father checks them in the
evening, making sure that they have read, written, and done all their
work. The parents do not worry about the schoolwork the children do.
They claim that the children's ―official‖ classes at school do not take
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much preparation simply because they are ahead of their classmates
because of the content they have learned in Russian. The walls in the
children‘s room are decorated with a multiplication table and a map of
the world; another room is full of the children's drawings, which are
pretty good.
The parents are saying that they need to give their children as
much training as they can for them to become highly-educated. They
support the idea that the more languages you know the better, so their
attitude toward language learning is highly positive. They believe that
―rich culture allows you to go forward‖ and although ―[we,] the
parents chose to live in this country [the US] [we] do not want [our]
children to be like simple American children.‖ The children are
having the same experiences with reading, movies, and many other
enriching activities as their parents had when they were children.
Among the three families I was observing, there was one child
who was born in the former Soviet Union and brought to the country
before the age of five, and a second child who was born in the United
States, which provided an opportunity to see if there was any
difference in language acquisition, specifically English and Russian,
between the younger and older siblings. It became clear that only in
the Holod family, Russian language fluency differed immensely
between the two siblings: the elder brother is much more fluent in
spoken Russian than the younger brother, who does not speak any
Russian. In the Holod family, parental expectations about the
language proficiency of these two siblings were as different as their
perceptions of each child‘s identity. In the rest of the families, I did
not observe a big variation in the language proficiency of the younger
and older siblings. In the big picture, the difference about identity
perception was voiced by the children only if their parents clearly
differentiated the identities of the children and imposed their opinions
on the children. In fact, even if the elder child was born in the former
Soviet Union, he/she had spent most of their life in the United States
and now has only very vague remembrances about a childhood in a
different country. In the families I observed, it was up to the parents
whether to maintain ethnic identity or to exaggerate their children's
(Russian) national identity. The more certain the parents were about
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their children‘s Russian nationality, the more confident their children
appeared to be in self-identification.
The situation involving language choice in each family was
strongly influenced by the parents as well. Their ideologies about
language learning in general, and English and Russian in particular,
essentially defined how the children spoke the language at home.
Four ―language choice‖ profiles have arisen out of the discussion
in Chapter 3 (Results Chapter). I adopted the names for the language
choice profiles from Goldberg and Noels (2006) and Noels, Pelletier,
Clement, and Vallerand (1999).
Profile 1. ―Amotivational,‖ describing the (Holod) parents, whose
attitude towards language learning is negative. They were not
interested in languages in school and did not want to study the
language after their immigration. Their attitude led to certain language
rules and language behaviors they established at home. However, their
requirements were controversial and sounded confusing to their
children. On the one hand, the parents wanted their children to speak
―Russian only‖ after a certain time of day; on the other they used their
children as resources to solve their own problems with English. As a
result, the designated rules stopped working, and children now protest
when they have to speak Russian. This profile leads to the largest
number of language-rooted conflicts between generations.
Profile 2. ―Instrumental,‖ describing the Rhapiro family. Both
parents and children see language as an instrument to achieving their
goals—an attitude based on practicality. Overall, their attitude to
language learning is positive, but it is driven by the usefulness of the
language in the current situation. There are no serious ―language‖
conflicts in the family because the children do not loudly protest
against speaking Russian, and when necessary switch to Russian that
is adequate enough to communicate with those who do not understand
English. If their vocabulary is insufficient, they do not hesitate to ask
what this or that word means and how to say something correctly.
They think that their level of Russian is sufficient to get by and are
ready to acquire other languages that might help them in future career
advancement.
Profile 3. ―Intrinsic,‖ describing the Gorodec family. Their
general attitudes toward languages and "Russianness" are positive.
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The parents want to transmit their knowledge about Russian culture
and their country of origin to their children. They have a generous
collection of Russian movies, cartoons, books, and music.
Furthermore, they want their children to more highly trained and
better educated than mainstream society children in the United States.
The parents take a critical stance on what other families are doing in
terms of establishing language rules at home. They negatively
evaluate those who allow their children to speak English only at home
and even more that, view very negatively parents who speak ―broken
English‖ to help their children socialize easier. This family does not
limit their children‘s watching of American TV programs, nor does it
control their computer use. However, the children are busy enough
with after-school activities that they do not spend a lot of time in front
of the computer or playing video games. The main method these
parents use is talking to their children about the history and culture of
their country of origin. The children read Russian authors in English
translation, but this helps them to identify themselves with Russians.
Profile 4. ―Intrinsic +,‖ Describing the Horoshun family, who
were not included in my original sample but enabled me to discover
some answers to the questions that arose from my research. In terms
of attitudes to languages and identity, they are very similar to the
Gorodec family. However, what makes them different is that the
parents have established and maintained very strict language rules at
home. They intentionally control their children's language use as well
as the information sources that this language comes from. They
control the television, the computer, and all literacy activities-everything that has ―language‖ attached to it. These limitations extend
only to the domain of ―home,‖ but they seem to sufficiently maintain
Russian language use in the family.
Both profiles 3 and 4 put the largest emphases on several
qualities: (1) the country of origin and the importance placed on
knowing its culture; (2) the desire to bring up children who are
different from Americans, and the parents' emphasis on this
distinction; and (3) the emphasis by the parents on the children's
―Russianness‖ and on the formation of that ethnic identity.
The profiles described above are generalized in the following
table, a compilation of the families' varying characteristics. The
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characteristics are formulated as questions that require a positive or
negative answer. The two outcome questions refer to the children in
each family. I included ―not really‖ as a possible outcome response
because I did not investigate Russian language proficiency in the
course of my research. Thus, if the family mentioned that their
children could write something in Russian at a primitive level, I
categorized it as ―not really.‖
Table 4.5
Language Choice Profiles
Profile
Amotivational
to no
Positive overall attitude
language learning?
Maintaining Russian culture at
home?
Strict language policy at home?
Differ from Americans?
Outcomes
Speak Russian
Read and write in Russian?
Instrumental
yes
Intrinsic
yes
Intrinsi
c Plus
yes
no
no
yes
yes
yes
no
no
no
no
yes
yes
yes
not really
no
yes
not really
yes
not really
yes
yes
In the full version, the questions are as follows:
1. Does the family in general maintain and develop a positive
attitude to language learning?
2. Is the Russian culture maintained at home?
3. Are strict language policy/language rules established at home?
(If the family tried to establish strict rules but for whatever reason had
to drop them, the answer to this dimension is ―yes.‖)
4. Do parents emphasize a desire to raise their children to be
different from American children? Do they reinforce the ethnic
identity in their children?
The outcome variables refer to the children in these families and
their degree of balanced bilingualism or biliteracy in speaking,
listening comprehension, reading, and writing. As I have already
identified above, each profile is linked to one family in the study. To
become proficient in English and Russian and to be able to maintain
the heritage language and pass it on to future generations, it is
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necessary to be proficient in all language skills. Therefore, only the
family identified as ―intrinsic +‖ is likely to transfer all these skills. It
is clear from the figure presented above that an inclination to
acknowledgment of ethnic identity and identification with ―Russians‖
or ―Ukrainians‖ is not enough. Strong emphasis is laid on the
language policy established at home in addition to how consistently
this policy is followed at home. As parents who do this admit, it
requires a lot of time, effort, and enthusiasm, but they hope that their
hard work will pay off in the future.
Key Findings
Documenting Language Loss across Three Generations
My research, using the IPUMS database, documented a severe
Russian-language loss compared to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic
groups. The proportion of the United States-born population who
speak Russian at home is forty times smaller than in the same group of
Hispanics and on the average ten times smaller when compared to
non-Hispanics. Furthermore, despite the general tendency to language
shift to English within three generations, Villa and Dávila (2006),
analyzing Hispanic and non-Hispanic children, have provided
evidence that non-English languages have been retained in United
States households beyond the first generation; the beginning of this
maintenance appears to have been as early as the 1980s. In contrast, I
have not documented this tendency with the Russian language. The
1990s Synthetic Cohort exhibited a tendency towards Russian
language maintenance at home; moreover, the proportion of children
speaking Russian increased from the 1980s to the 1990s from 11.3%
to 17.8% respectively for those born outside the U.S and from 4.4% to
6% respectively for the U.S.-born group. However, these numbers are
very low, and this language-maintenance pattern disappeared in later
years.
Russian emigration occurred in several distinct waves. The last
wave, between 1993 and 2000, is the ―thickest‖ on the histogram and
the largest compared to the rest. I am mostly interested in this
timeframe because it is when the multigenerational households I have
been investigating moved to the United States from the former Soviet
Union. It is clear that the phenomenon of intense emigration is a result
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of increased political freedom and open borders between the countries.
This massive ten-year wave helps explain the nature of Russianspeaking emigration and how it changed the patterns of language use
observed during the decades before and after.
To approach the cross-generational issues and problems
immigrants from the former Soviet Union face, I investigated whether
the populations of Russian-speaking immigrants maintained their
mother tongue at home by generations. The assumption that different
generations speak different languages was supported by statistical
analysis of the IPUMS database. This is how the generations were
defined: (a) the first generation are those who were born in the former
Soviet Union; (b) the second generation are those whose parents (or at
least one parent) were born in the former Soviet Union; and (c) the
third generation are those who were born in the U.S., while somebody
in their family (for example, at least one grandparent) was born in the
former Soviet Union. Generational analysis aiming to reveal the
proportion of Russian-speaking immigrants who maintained the
mother tongue at home demonstrated a language shift and language
loss within three generations and showed an increase in use of the
mother tongue in the 0-17-year-old, second-generation group in 2008.
Weak tendencies toward the language revitalization noted above
could be explained by the influx of Russian-speaking immigrants
between 1990 and 2000 when the opportunities to communicate in the
native language sharply increased. However, in the big picture, this
occurrence did not reverse the continuing shift from Russian to
English.
“Unconscious Immigration” and “Jew by Passport”
The primary motives for leaving the home country were the
perception that everybody was leaving (as indicated, a massive
migration was happening during 1990-2000), creating an
―unconscious immigration,‖ hope for a better future for the children,
and expectation of economic stability.
The participants stated that prior to emigration they perceived an
overall atmosphere of living in a dissolving community, which felt
like a very strong force and impacted the mood of many individuals.
A few participants stated that they did not have any deliberately
practical or economic motives and that they did not ―emigrate
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consciously.‖ This ―unconscious emigration‖ seemed to be a
prevailing theme in the stories of the family members I interviewed. It
was difficult for them to provide a straightforward response that could
have explained their emigration motives.
All these families emigrated as political refugees or as ―instant
relatives‖ (related closely on paper) of emigrants who had already left
as political refugees. The only opportunity for these families to leave
the former Soviet Union was to emphasize their Jewish heritage; they
did, however, leave the country voluntarily. Some participants
identified themselves as ―Jews by passport,‖ emphasizing that they
had never practiced Judaism or learned Yiddish. The well-known
"fifth line" on Soviet passports stated the bearer's ethnic identity, and
this ―line‖ made it possible for them and their close and instant
relatives to emigrate as political refugees.
Moreover, several times when talking about choosing a childcare
facility for their children in the United States, the interviewees
stressed that they consciously preferred not to enter their children in
Jewish schools, as they did not practice Judaism, did not celebrate
Jewish holidays, and did not know or want their children to know the
Jewish language.
Perception of Identity in the Three-Generational Household
To address the issue of identity construction by three different
generations, I relied on Irwin (2009), who makes four crucial points:
(1) linguistic behavior is a major tool in identity construction; (2)
identities are created in opposition; (3) identity construction is a
dynamic and ongoing process; and (4) identity is locally constructed.
The grandparents had no doubts about their identity, and their
immigration process did not seem to have any influence on their selfperceptions. They perceived themselves as being simultaneously
Russian or Soviet and Jewish (by passport), no matter what part of the
former Soviet Union they came from (Ukraine, Byelorussia, or
Russia). This sense of panethnic identity (Portes, & Rumbaut, 2001),
when self-sustained ethnicities are grouped into one, is based on
sharing a common country that no longer exists and a common
language that had for a time been the main language of that country.
For this generation their Russian identity was very strong. They
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refused to identify themselves with American foods and habits or with
the English language.
The parental generation had a different perspective on their
identity. When the identity question came up, they began comparing
Russian and American food, culture, friendship, medicine, schooling,
and other differences. Parents were discussing the ways they adjusted
to these differences and were able to cope with different challenging
situations. Ideologies and stereotypes became an important part of the
conversation. This is an intermediate and transitional generation that
had emigrated in their thirties and had absorbed their heritage culture
and language but were also trying to adopt their host culture.
The children's generation relied on the stories they heard from
their parents and grandparents as points of reference in their
interpretations of life events. Parental perceptions of their children‘s
identity became an inevitable part of the children‘s sense of self. I
compared what children and their parents were saying about the
children‘s identities and found that the responses were identical, even
mirroring one another.
Enclave: American or Russian
The children of two of the families in my study were not
interested in anything Russian. However, the reverse was true of the
generation of grandparents, who were devoted to everything Russian
and tried not to acknowledge the presence of English around them.
The literacy practices of this generation and most of the children were
dichotomously different. The first lived in the world of Russian
language and the latter in the English-speaking world, neither of
which appear to have much in common. The grandparents were
definitely concerned about the situation but felt that they had no
influence over their grandchildren's behaviors or worldviews.
Furthermore, living in an enclave where they did not need to
speak English, these grandparents were afraid to leave their enclave
because the realization that they were in the United States caused
frustration. In several instances the grandparents contrasted their
English language acquisition with that of their grandchildren, who had
acquired English so easily and quickly without apparently making any
effort. At the same time, the grandparents in two of the three study
families perceived their grandchildren as Americans who either did
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not speak Russian or spoke poor Russian with an accent; these
grandchildren thought of their grandparents as Russians who did not
know any English. Thus, language became an important marker of the
ways in which these grandparents perceived their grandchildren's
identities—and vice versa.
The parents were the ones who were fluent and literate in both
languages (although there were exceptions to this rule). They declared
that they did not mix languages and spoke only Russian at home. A
thorough review of the transcripts, however, showed that the family
members did use English words in their speech, incorporating them
unintentionally while talking about language practices in the family.
The following examples of English words were built into the
―Russian‖ narratives: business class, movie class, major, minor, and
counselor. These words illustrate concepts that did not exist in the
Russian language at the time the family emigrated.
Logistic Regression—What Predicts Russian Language
Maintenance?
The multivariate analysis involved logistic regression modeling of
the outcome of speaking only English versus speaking Russian at
home. The purpose of this logistic regression model was to identify
which variables predicted Russian language maintenance in the
household. The strongest effects related to linguistic isolation, which
is associated with being multilingual; being in a linguistically isolated
group tends to be positively associated with being multilingual.
Another significant influence on multilingualism (in this case
speaking Russian at home) was the number of generations living
within the same household. The more generations who lived under the
same roof, the greater the probability that the mother tongue would be
maintained at home. Having two generations at home reduced the
possibility of Russian language maintenance across the years, whereas
with three generations under the same roof, the probability increased.
My interviews and observations did not fully support my findings
from the quantitative analysis of the IPUMS data set. It was troubling
to note that in the family where three generations lived in the same
household and where two generations (grandparents and parents) were
not fluent in English, the children refused to speak or write in Russian,
whereas in the other two households, where the grandparents lived
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separately, the children were more accepting of Russian language use
and did not show direct resistance to it. Other variables (year of
immigration, parental higher education, income, and number of
children) were equal as well. This indicated that the factors mentioned
above (SES, education of the parents, number of generations living in
the same household, and number of siblings) are not really accurate
predictors of Russian language maintenance. The same set of variables
might predict English language fluency. I decided to check this idea
by using an Ordinal Regression Model, with English language
proficiency as a dependent variable (instead of using the ―Speak
Russian at home" variable), and left unchanged all other variables
from the Logistic Regression Model. After I ran the statistical test, it
became very clear that the model predicts English language
proficiency even more accurately than Russian language maintenance
at home. We can predict English language proficiency with 88%
accuracy and Russian language maintenance at home with 84.2%
accuracy.
Language Choice Profiles
After completing the research—observations and interviews of
the three case study families as well as the statistical analysis of a
huge Russian-speaking sample—I did not find support for the
hypothesis that the above-stated variables would effectively influence
heritage language maintenance or that the language of origin would
survive against a language shift within three generations. What did
turn out to be important in establishing the heritage language in the
children was the parental role in the maintenance of their children‘s
ethnic identity through well-established formal teaching of Russian at
home together with language rules supported by all family members.
The issue of language choice and preference in each family was
strongly influenced by the parents as well. Their ideologies about
language learning in general, and English and Russian in particular,
essentially defined how the children spoke Russian at home.
Four
―language
choice‖
profiles—―Amotivational,‖
―Instrumental,‖ ―Intrinsic,‖ and ―Intrinsic +‖ (these names were
adopted from Goldberg and Noels (2006) and Noels, Pelletier,
Clement, and Vallerand (1999))—have arisen out of the theoretical
and research findings. The outcome variables refer to the children in
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these families and their degree of balanced bilingualism or biliteracy
in speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. The
finding here is that several conditions have to be observed in order to
create biliterate children: (1) the country of origin and the importance
placed on knowing its culture has to be stressed; (2) the desire to bring
up children who are DIFFERENT from Americans, and the parents'
emphasis on this distinction, needs to be declared; (3) the emphasis by
the parents on the children's ―Russianness‖ and on the formation of
that ethnic identity is essential; and (4) the a strong emphasis on the
language policy at home in addition to how consistently this policy is
followed are necessary.
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CHAPTER 4
CONCLUSION
In this chapter I will discuss the results obtained during my
research together with the theoretical underpinnings addressed in the
literature review.
Russian-speaking immigrants are a very peculiar group of people
who left the former Soviet Union during different periods of time. The
term ―Russian‖ describes people from a variety of countries and racial
backgrounds, and that these people frequently label themselves as
―Russians‖ does not mean they have a common history, cultural
background, or even language. Knowing Russian, however, becomes
the most vivid characteristic of the group, and even if some
immigrants I worked with were unsure how to identify themselves,
their choice was guided by their proficiency in Russian over other
languages spoken in the household (Malko, 2005).
Analysis of the IPUMS database helped reveal that the largest
wave of immigration occurred from approximately 1993 to 2000 when
about 377,200 people per year emigrated, about 28% to the United
States (Epshteyn, 2003), and the majority of all emigrants were of
Jewish descent. The influx during these years possibly expanded the
opportunities to speak Russian and had its greatest impact on the
Russian-immigrant community in both 2000 and 2008 when the
number of U.S. immigrants speaking Russian at home increased.
However, this trend has not changed the overall severe heritage
language loss within three generations compared to that of Hispanic
and non-Hispanic populations in both U.S.-born and foreign-born
studies by Mora, Villa, and Dávila (2006).
The choices that immigrant families have to make after arrival to
a new land are complex. This complexity arises from many unknown
and difficult issues these families have to handle on a daily basis. One
of the choices that families make has to do with what language(s) to
use on a daily basis, both inside and outside the home. This issue
becomes a very difficult dilemma, but not a single family has been
able to avoid it. The resolution of the language question—whether to
maintain the mother tongue, shift to the mainstream language, or try to
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maintain two or more languages in the family—creates a lot of
psychological complications and linguistic reflections. Thus, this
study examined immigration situated at the intersection of three
distinct strands of research: immigration theories, language
acquisition, and cross-cultural psychology. The combination of
quantitative and qualitative research methodologies enables this study
to make a contribution to the field of knowledge about Russianspeaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In particular, I
aimed to explore how external variables and internal controversies
affected the choice of language by an individual family member as
well as the family as a whole unit; and how this choice, in its turn,
impacted the relationships within the family. Building on the
fundamental position that development happens as the result of the
resolution of controversies, I suggested that there are four levels of
controversy located in the language-choice model.
Level 1: Controversies at the Societal Level
The first level has to do with what external factors affect an
individual‘s acculturation to a new society. Drawing from the
theoretical work of Berry et al. (2002), Gardner (2006) and Portes,
and Rumbaut (2001), this study approaches the issue of language
choice at the societal level when differences in social structure,
economic base, and political organization of the host society are of
primary importance. This socio-cultural milieu in which the individual
lives has a strong affect on language acquisition (Gardner, 2006).
I distinguished the following controversies at the societal level
that shape the decision making process of a particular family:
multilingualism versus monolingualism, additive versus subtractive
perspectives, language as problem versus language as right and
resource, and ―us‖ versus ―theirs‖ pronominal oppositions. A society
supports the subtractive and monolingual framework when the
language of the socially dominant linguistic group dominates,
resulting in replacement of the immigrants‘ original languagegrounded identity with the language and culture of the dominant group
(Goldberg & Noels, 2006), especially when in the U.S., languages
other than English are considered problematic. At the society level in
the U.S, when monolingualism is pitted against multilingualism,
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monolingualism is always favored. These external (to a family) factors
create baggage for all immigrant families which is repeated at the
family level.
Level 2: Controversies at the Family Level
Relying on the consideration that the human capital (education,
job experience) of immigrant family members and family composition
are the crucial factors that predetermine the successful incorporation
into a new society (Portes, & Rumbaut, 2001), the family domain
plays a crucial role in predicting whether a language will be
maintained across generations (Fishman, 1991). This domain has its
own policy, with some features managed internally and others under
the influence of forces external to the domain (Spolsky, 2009).
Ideologies about language maintenance and shift are very different
between different family members in a particular family. These
differences are particularly obvious between three generations:
children, parents, and grandparents. Although parents may have some
general arguments and conflicts among themselves about what is best
for their children, they support each other and follow a unitary route in
directing the language choice behavior of their children. Some
families prefer to join the mainstream society as quickly as possible,
and to do so they choose to pursue a subtractive framework, resulting
in the replacement of their national identity with the language and
culture of the dominant group. On the other hand, a home
environment that is supportive of language-of-origin maintenance is a
characteristic of an additive perspective. This conflict of perspectives
(Additive versus Subtractive) may be observed between the generation
of parents and grandparents and creates some tensions across
generations.
Language as Problem versus Language as Right and Resource
Language as Problem versus Language as Right and Resource
(Ruiz, 1984) is another possible contradiction that happens at the
societal as well as family levels. The attitude to language as a problem
is buried in the history of parental attitudes to language learning in
general. In some cases, learning a foreign language is considered
excessive and unimportant, an activity that ―stuffs the head‖ with
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unnecessary information. The Russian language as a problem is a
consequence of a generally negative attitude to learning languages.
Whereas the opposite of language-as-problem is a language-asresource attitude in the family, when a heritage language (Russian in
my case) becomes a mental tool that gives access to information that
is not available in other languages other than the heritage one. Using a
language as a crucial resource allows people not just to retain the oral
performance of the heritage language as a living language but also to
maintain literacy in the heritage language. Family perceptions of this
controversy can be indirectly drawn from the language practices that
dominate in the homes of immigrants.
Ours versus Theirs Pronominal Oppositions
At the family level, the battle between opposites is very severe.
Parents and grandparents separate the culture they belong to from that
of their grandchildren and children. Pronouns are used to contrast the
Russian and American cultures to each other. Parents and
grandparents refer to the youngest generation as ―their culture,‖ ―their
language,‖ and ―their school‖ and contrast the pronoun references to
their own experiences using ―our.‖ The use of this personal pronoun
illustrates an internal conflict that might at first be invisible or at least
well hidden by family members. Two families emphasized that they
did not want their children to be like the majority of American
children, whom they considered to be culturally inept, lacking in
ability because of a lack of knowledge. The use of prepositions in this
case mainly emphasized the desire of the parents to bring up their
children to follow educational and cultural-awareness paths that would
make the children stand out from the mainstream population.
Level 3: Controversies at the Personal Level
The contradictions at the second (family) level lead to a third
level of conflicts: those at a personal level. The choice of identity is a
choice between national and ethnic identities when the children decide
are influenced by their parents in which path to follow: whether to
shift to the dominant society‘s outlook and language, stick to what the
former motherland offered both in language and culture, or find an inbetween variant. If ethnic identity is chosen, then it is more likely that
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the family will support the idea of heritage-language maintenance, and
if another opposition comes into play that ultimately favors the host
society's values and language, then the language of the host society
becomes the more likely choice to speak at home.
Another opposition at the personal level has to do with
motivation. The instrumentality of language use versus the integrative
perspective is the strongest theoretical pairing that illustrates contrary
views. Some research participants (both parents and children)
emphasized that they may use the Russian language only as a tool in
their future careers. Some were willing to integrate into the host
society, whereas others identified with the society they came from.
This opposition of motives plays a crucial role in the willingness to
maintain a mother tongue. Masgoret and Gardner (2003), analyzing
the concept of ―integrativeness,‖ state that integrativeness refers to an
openness to identify, at least in part, with another language
community.
Another pair of opposites is the intrinsic-extrinsic motivations
developed within the framework of self-determination theory (Ryan &
Deci, 2000). Intrinsic motivation refers to the desire to perform an
activity because it is enjoyable and personally satisfying to do so;
therefore, if the reason for learning the language is taken away and
there is no incentive to continue engagement in the process, then
extrinsic motivation plays its role. If parents stop nagging their
children for not speaking Russian at home, children quit speaking the
language. This extrinsic support was frequently observed in the
families of immigrants. The intrinsic motivation (speaking the
language because it is an enjoyable and rewarding activity) was also
observed in the families, but it was far less frequent.
The role of the parents in the formation of their children's
attitudes to their heritage language has to be emphasized here. It was
up to the parents to create an attitude to the language and to either
force their children to maintain it or allow them to choose a path
deemed easier and more rewarding by the host society.
Level 4: Outcomes of the Three Levels of Controversy
The fourth level is an abstract category that is built upon the three
levels discussed above. This abstract construct is the choice of
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language-acquisition model by the family, specifically by the parents
in a particular family: a choice that leads to either linguistic or nonlinguistic outcomes for every child in the family. Gardner (2006)
suggests that motivation (together with ability) is involved in formal
and informal language learning contexts. For the purposes of the
current work, I generally agreed with Gardner but see the formal and
informal contexts as not always autonomous and dichotomous. Both
contexts lead to linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes. If language
learning happens in a solely informal context (i.e., if family members
speak Russian at home and no effort is undertaken to establish a more
formal linguistic context through ―home schooling‖), this approach
will likely lead to non-linguistic outcomes. However, if a formal
learning context is established, language acquisition will lead to
linguistic outcomes and possible bi-literacy, which gives some hope
that the language of origin will be maintained in the next generation.
The above four language-choice profiles allowed me to attempt to
predict a family that is likely to maintain their heritage language in the
future. This ―intrinsic +‖ profile required all positive ―Yes‖ responses
to these questions:
1. Does the family in general maintain and develop a positive
attitude to language learning?
2. Is the Russian culture maintained at home?
3. Are strict language policies/ rules established at home?
4. Do parents emphasize a desire to raise their children to be
different from American children? Do they reinforce the ethnic
identity in their children?
The outcome variables refer to whether children speak,
comprehend, read, and write in the Russian language at home.
The current research project found that there is a way to maintain
the heritage language in families containing three generations of
immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This required enormous
effort on the part of the parents, however, who had to establish and
maintain positive attitudes to Russian language learning, Russian
identity, and a Russian aura in their home. Language rules that were
well-formulated and performed on a daily basis helped achieve this
goal and prompted the children to keep their mother tongue. While
these parents were sure that their job would be difficult, they also
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maintained that it would pay off for their children with significant
rewards in terms of career, education, and cultural identity later on.
Implications for Further Research
Language choice in the families of immigrants turned out to be a
rather sensitive topic that led to a lot of discussion. The choice of
language within every family occurred at different levels and with
different family members. I paid special attention to the generation of
children, who turned out to be the objects of any language-related
decisions their parents and sometimes grandparents made. Every
family faced the issue of choice once their children began an active
interaction with the outside, English-speaking world. What happened
outside the domain of ―home‖ had a high impact on the families who
came to the United States more than ten years ago.
The two concepts ―unconscious immigration‖ and ―Jew by
passport‖ have some potential to modify theories of immigration. The
term ―unconscious immigration‖ arose from in-vivo coding. I coined
this term based on the descriptions of migration experience offered by
the families. This term is not completely consistent with the theories
of assimilation and needs further research. It might be useful to
expand it into a study of more immigrant families from both the
former Soviet Union and other countries.
The other concept, one that is specific to immigrants from the
former Soviet Union, is ―Jew by passport.‖ The four families in my
study were able to leave their country because of this line in their
passports, which identified them or an immediate family member as
Jewish. Further research elaborating on the meaning of this concept
may be useful for shedding light on immigration issues in general.
I generated four profiles based on the families I have been
working for my research, and I am completely aware that using a onefamily profile scheme is not sufficient to generalize to other families.
However, it will be interesting to interview and observe a larger
sample and expand this work on the ―language choice profiles‖ of
immigrant families.
The children I observed in the course of my study will become
independent adults very soon. Thus, it may be fascinating to replicate
the study in several years to see how this generation (who by the time
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of the next study might have become parents) will deal with the issue
of language choice when they are in the parent role.
The analysis of the database, and specifically, the discrepancies
between the qualitative and quantitative parts of my work, brought
some exciting results and led me to several unexpected conclusions.
Doing further research and analyzing larger available databases will
provide an opportunity to establish a broad body of knowledge on the
population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the United
States.
Epilogue
My research was strongly motivated by my desire to answer the
following troubling question: How does one maintain her mother
tongue in a host country that does not support multilingualism in
general or immigrants in particular? Knowing the statistics and
frequently running into the second-generation (not even the third!)
immigrant children from the former Soviet Union who do not speak
their native language, I have witnessed the complete disappearance of
the mother tongue within three generations. My hope was to find
exceptions to this ―language death‖ rule—specifically conditions that
help to maintain biliteracy—and to learn how to bring up my own
children as biliterate in Russian and English. Four language-choice
profiles representing the four families in my study provided me with
some insights to my self-search question. However, only time can
show if my conclusions were right or wrong.
We will live and see. . . .
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APPENDIX A
GENERAL INFORMATION
(Adapted from Smadar Donitsa-Schmidt, 1999)
1. Age_____
2. Gender______
3. Where were you born? (Country, city)__________
4. How old were you when you came to the US? _________
5. Year of immigration _______
6. Main reason for immigration: 1. Economic 2. Political 3.
Other________
7. How would you define yourself as: 1. A voluntary immigrant 2. An
involuntary immigrant.
8. Current city of residence: ____________
9. Highest level of education: ______________
10. Was part of your schooling in the US? Yes/No If Yes, which part?
_________
11. Occupation in the former USSR:________ Occupation in the
US:______
12. What is your mother tongue?
13. What language do you speak more often?
14. Main languages spoken by your: Spouse________ Parents_________
Grandparents ____________ Children
15. At what age did you begin to learn English?______
16. Which languages, including your own, do you find important to know
1 = most important 1. __________2. __________3.___________
16. Check what applies to you:
Only
Mostly
Half
Mostly
Only
Russians Russians Russians Americans Americans
Half
1
2
Americans
4
5
3
My neighbors are
My close friends
are
My coworkers/peers are
My acquaintances
are
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APPENDIX B
WHEN DO YOU SPEAK RUSSIAN?
Adapted from Tsai, Ying, and Lee (2000)
Please, use the following scale to answer the following questions.
Circle your response. Respond to the items relevant to you.
HOW MUCH DO YOU…
1
2
3
4
Very Much SomeA
much
what little
#
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Speak Russian at home?
Speak Russian at school?
Speak Russian at work?
Speak Russian with friends?
Speak Russian your spouse?
Speak Russian with your father?
Speak Russian with your mother?
Speak Russian with your siblings
who are below high school age?
Speak Russian with your siblings
who are high school age or older?
Speak
Russian
with
your
grandparents
How much do you watch Russian
TV?
How much do you listen to Russian
music?
How much do you watch Russian
movies?
How much do you read Russian
books?
How much do you read Russian
magazines?
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APPENDIX C
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
(adapted from Eamer, 2008)
The following questions will serve as a guide for discussions with
each generational representative. It is intended that these questions
will lead the conversation to cover such topics as the participants‘
language use and choices, cultural identity, as well as generational
differences.
G1 (First Generation) – Grandparents.
1. What language do you use primarily in conversations with
your child? Grandchild?
2. How important was it to you that your child/grandchild speaks
L1?
3. Do you think it is important for your grandchild/child to
become bilingual? Why?
4. With whom do you routinely speak in L1? L2?
5. Did/do you have L1 books at home?
6. Do you read and write in L1?
7. Did/Do you listen to L1 music or radio? Watch L1 TV/video?
What programs do you prefer?
8. Did you make a conscious decision with respect to what
language/languages your child/grandchild would speak in which
context? If yes, who was involved in that decision-making process?
9. Were there any external factors that interfered with your
decision?
10. Did your child/grandchild receive any formal language
instruction in L1?
11. What is the history of your child‘s grandchild‘s language
development? How have your grandchild developed literacy skills in
two languages?
12. Have you ever tried to establish language rules at home?
13. Do you and other family members get upset when your
child/grandchild speaks English at home?
14. How do you resolve ―language issues‖?
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15. Do all family members always understand when you
child/grandchild speak English?
16. Do you consider yourself Russian/American/Belorussian…?
17. What between Russian and American, does your
grandchild/child think of him/herself?
18. Do you have friends who speak Russian? English?
19. How strong is your sense of connectedness to the L1 culture
and language?
G2 (Second Generation) – parents.
1. What language do you use primarily in conversations with
your child? Parents?
2. How important was it to you that your child speaks L1?
3. Do you think it is important for your child to become
bilingual? Why?
4. With whom do you routinely speak in L1? L2?
5. Did/do you have L1 books at home?
6. Do you read and write in L1?
7. Did/Do you listen to L1 music or radio? Watch L1 TV/video?
What programs do you prefer?
8. Did you make a conscious decision with respect to what
language/languages your child would speak in which context? If yes,
who was involved in that decision-making process?
9. Were there any external factors that interfered with your
decision?
10. Did your child receive any formal language instruction in L1?
11. What is the history of your child‘s grandchild‘s language
development? How have your grandchild developed literacy skills in
two languages?
12. Have you ever tried to establish language rules at home?
13. Do you and other family members get upset when your child
speaks English at home?
14. How do you resolve ―language issues‖?
15. Do all family members always understand when you child
speaks English?
16. Do you consider yourself Russian/American/Belorussian…?
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17. What between Russian and American, does your child think
of him/herself?
18. Do you have friends who speak Russian? English?
19. How strong is your sense of connectedness to the L1 culture
and language?
G3 (Third Generation) – children.
1. What languages do use primarily in conversations with your
parents? grandparents?
2. Do you know how to speak your grandmother‘s language?
3. With whom do you routinely speak in L1? L2?
4. Do you think it is important to become bilingual? Why?
5. Do you have L1 books at home?
6. Do you read and write in L1?
7. What country do you come from? Are you American or
Russian/Belorussian?
8. What country do your parents and grandparents come from?
What is their nationality?
9. Do you listen to L1 music or radio? Watch L1 TV/video?
What programs do you prefer?
10. How do you decide what language/languages to speak in
which context?
11. Do your parents/grandparents want you to speak L1? What
do you think about it?
12. Do you want to learn L1 in school?
13. Have your parents/grandparents ever tried to establish
language rules at home? What do you think about these rules? Do/Did
they work?
14. Do family members get upset when you speak English at
home?
15. If they do get upset, how do you feel about it?
16. Do all family members always understand when you speak
English?
17. Do you regularly hear people speak in L1?
18. Do you have friends who speak Russian? English?
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Some general questions about history of immigration
to G1 and G2:
1. Why did you choose to come to the US?
2. What motivated you to come to the US?
3. Did you consider studying English prior to immigration?
4. Which members of the family are currently here?
5. What are the main problems that you encountered since you
arrived?
6. Have you had any problems with the new language?
7. Are there any times that you feel uncomfortable using L1 and
L2? Give examples.
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APPENDIX D
MOTIVATIONAL ORIENTATIONS
Motivational Orientations (children)
Questions 1-9:
Mini-AMBT Attitude/Motivation Test Battery originally developed
by Gardner (in Noels, Pelletier, Clement, & Vallerand, 1999)
Questions 10-19:
“Language Learning Orientations Scale-Intrinsic Motivation,
Extrinsic Motivation, and Amotivation Subscales” published in Noels,
Pelletier, Clement, and Vallerand (1999).
The purpose of this part of the questionnaire is to determine your
feelings about a number of things. We want you to rate each of the
following items in terms of how you feel about it. Each item is
followed by a scale that has a label on the left and another on the right,
and the numbers 1 to 7 between the two ends. For each item, please
circle any one of the numbers from 1 to 7 that best describes you.
1.
My motivation to learn Russian in order to communicate
with Russian speaking people is:
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
2.
My attitude toward Russian speaking people is :
UNFAVOURABLE___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___F
AVOURABLE
3.
My interest in foreign languages is:
VERY LOW ___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___ VERY
HIGH
4.
My desire to learn Russian is
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
5.
My attitude toward learning Russian is
UNFAVOURABLE___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___F
AVOURABLE
6.
My motivation to learn Russian for practical purposes (e.g.
to get a job) is
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
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7.
I worry about speaking Russian outside my family
VERY
LITTLE
___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___VERY MUCH
8.
My motivation to learn Russian is
VERY LOW ___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___ VERY
HIGH
9.
My parents encourage me to learn Russian
VERY
LITTLE
___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___VERY MUCH
10. I don‘t understand why I have to speak Russian
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
11. Honestly, I don‘t know, I truly have the impression of
wasting my time in studying Russian
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
12. My parents expect me to speak Russian
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
13. I learn Russian to get a more prestigious job and salary
later on
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
14. I want to know Russian because I would feel guilty if I
didn‘t know a second language
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
15. I want to learn Russian because I would feel ashamed if I
couldn‘t speak to my friends from the Russian speaking community in
their native tongue.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
16. I want to know Russian because I choose to be the person
who speak more than one language.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
17. Learning Russian is good for my personal development.
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STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
18. I want to learn Russian because I enjoy the feeling of
acquiring knowledge about the Russian speaking community and their
way of life.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
19. I want to know Russian because I experience a satisfied
feeling I get in finding out new things.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
Motivational Orientations (Parents)
The purpose of this part of the questionnaire is to determine your
feelings about a number of things. We want you to rate each of the
following items in terms of how you feel about it. Each item is
followed by a scale that has a label on the left and another on the right,
and the numbers 1 to 7 between the two ends. For each item, please
circle any one of the numbers from 1 to 7 that best describes you.
1.
My child‘s motivation to learn Russian in order to
communicate with Russian speaking people is:
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
2.
My child‘s attitude toward Russian speaking people is :
UNFAVOURABLE___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___F
AVOURABLE
3.
My child interest in foreign languages is:
VERY LOW ___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___ VERY
HIGH
4.
My child‘s desire to learn Russian is
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
5.
My child‘s attitude toward learning Russian is
UNFAVOURABLE___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___F
AVOURABLE
6.
My child‘s motivation to learn Russian for practical
purposes (e.g. to get a job) is
WEAK___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___STRONG
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7.
My child worries about speaking Russian outside the
family
VERY
LITTLE
___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___VERY MUCH
8.
My child‘s motivation to learn Russian is
VERY LOW ___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___ VERY
HIGH
9.
I as a parent encourage my child to learn Russian
VERY
LITTLE
___1:___2:___3:___4:___5:___6:___7:___VERY MUCH
10. I don‘t understand why my child has to speak Russian
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
11. Honestly, I don‘t know, I truly have the impression of
wasting my time in teaching my child Russian.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
12. As a parent I expect my child to speak Russian
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
13. My child needs to learn Russian to get a more prestigious
job and salary later on
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
14. My child has to know Russian because he/she would feel
guilty if he/she didn‘t know a second language
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
15. My child has to learn Russian to be able to speak to his/her
friends from the Russian speaking community.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
16. My child needs to know Russian because he/she chooses to
be the person who speaks more than one language.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
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17. Learning Russian is good for my child‘s personal
development.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
18. My child has to learn Russian because he/she will enjoy
the feeling of acquiring knowledge about the Russian speaking
community and their way of life.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
19. It is important for my child to know Russian because
he/she will experience a satisfied feeling I get in finding out new
things.
STRONGLY AGREE
__1:__2:__3:__4:__5:__6:__7:__
STRONGLY DISAGREE
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APPENDIX E
SITUATED ETHNOLINGUISTIC IDENTITY
(Clement & Noels, 1992)
The purpose of this questionnaire is to examine ethnic identity by
asking your opinions regarding different types of interactions. Several
researchers agree that an individual‘s identity may change depending
upon the situation that he/she is in. For example in some situations
you could identify yourself as Russian, in other situations as
American, whereas in others you may not identify with either of these
two groups.
On the pages which follow, you will find several situations. In
each case, evaluate your level of identification to each of the two
groups.
1. When I read the newspaper, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
Very American
2. When I listen to music, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
Very American
3. When dealing with colleagues at work, I feel
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
Very American
4. When shopping, I feel
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
Very American
166
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
_____ _____
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5. When thinking about relations between Americans and
Russians, I feel
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
6. When I am with my friends, I feel
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
7. When I write for myself (not including work), I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
8. When I read for pleasure, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
9. When I think about my life‘s goals, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very America]
10. When I participate in cultural activities, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
11. When I listen to the radio, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
12. When I prepare food, I feel…
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Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
13. When I eat at restaurants, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
14. When I think about my future or present spouse, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
15. When I think about my future or present children‘s names, I feel
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
16. When I think about politics, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
17. When I am with friends, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
18. When I am at home, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very American
19. When I am at work, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
Very Russian
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Not at all American _____
Very American
20. When I travel, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
Very American
21. Overall, I feel…
Not at all Russian _____
Very Russian
Not at all American _____
Very American
_____
_____
_____ _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
_____
_____
_____ _____
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APPENDIX F
HSPP CORRESPONDENCE FORM
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APPENDIX G
MINOR'S ASSENT FORM
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APPENDIX H
PARENT/GUARDIAN PERMISSION/INFORMED CONSENT
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APPENDIX I
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR RESPONSIBILITIES
INFORMATION SHEET
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Copyright ОАО «ЦКБ «БИБКОМ» & ООО «Aгентство Kнига-Cервис»
Научное издание
Natalia Kasatkina
LANGUAGE CHOICE:
ENGLISH OR RUSSIAN?
Монография
Верстка И. Н. Иванова
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