Exploring Family Language Policies: A study of Australian Families of Arabic-Speaking Background

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Taylor-Leech, Kerry

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Monk, Susan

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Despite a general expectation for immigrants to Australia to shift quickly to the use of English, new Australians families of Arabic-speaking backgrounds demonstrate strong affiliations with Arabic as their heritage language. However, there is little research which has explored how such families preserve their heritage language while simultaneously becoming proficient in the use of English. More specifically, few studies have examined family language policy and bilingualism among Arabic-English families in Australia. The study aimed to fill this gap by exploring the linguistic perceptions and practices of four recently arrived immigrant mothers of Arabic-speaking background as they negotiate their new language reality. The study aimed to discover whether they chose to raise their children bilingually, and, if so, how they accomplished this challenge. The study found that the participating mothers perceived bilingualism as a source of pride and a means of improving their families’ future prospects; however, they also acknowledged that raising children bilingually could be challenging and stressful. The mothers employed a range of strategies for developing their children’s bilingualism. These strategies included using the minority language at home, travelling back to the family’s country of origin, using the mixed language strategy to allow children the free alteration between Arabic and English, reading stories in Arabic and English, and using television shows as an educational tool. However, several mothers used these strategies primarily to facilitate the use of Arabic in an effort to counteract the dominance of English in the family environment. A key finding was that the mothers’ limited proficiency in English restricted their ability to communicate effectively in the wider Australian society and thus had adverse effects on their integration. The study concludes by recommending a set of strategies that may assist the mothers in raising their children bilingually with a view to assisting their integration and successful settlement in their adopted country.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Master of Education and Professional Studies Research (MEdProfStRes)


School of Education and Professional Stuidies

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English as a second language (ESL)

Arabic language and identification

Language and identity

Arabic language and culture

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