Lithuanian speaking childrens' bilingualism. language situation and policy

Bachelor thesis Lithuanian OPEN
Paškauskaitė, Ieva (2017)
  • Publisher: Institutional Repository of Vilnius University

Lithuanian Speaking Childrens' Bilingualism. Language Situation and Policy The purpose of this study is to investigate the language situation of Lithuanian speaking children in Sweden and its causes. This study is specifically concerned with the subjects of bilingualism and family language policy: language strategies and methods. The concept of bilingualism is complex and can be defined in different ways, therefore this study is based on a table which was introduced by T. Skutnabb-Kangas in 1981 and is used to define different cases of bilingualism according to four criteria. Works by G. Ladberg, G. Håkansson and B. Spolsky were in great importance for this study. To achieve the objectives of this study both the quantitative and the qualitative approaches were used. A questionnaire was compiled for the quantitative research part. The questionnaire was shared online and answered by 122 respondents. For the qualitative research part 12 interviews were conducted, whereof 5 took place in Stockholm (face-to-face) and 7 were conducted online (Skype). Respondents were asked about the language situation in their families, family language policy, language strategies and models. Data was analyzed, compared and summarized. The results of this study showed that bilingualism is perceived positively. According to the respondents, bilinguals can adapt easier to the new environment, find a job and travel, therefore bilingualism is encouraged in different ways. To begin with, families use various language models. Family vs. work/school language or Home vs. outside language models are mostly used by families where both parents are Lithuanians, while families that one of the parents is Lithuanian use model one person – one language. Data shows that the choice of model and its use was often determined by the wish to communicate in the most natural way. Consequently, have most of the respondents chosen their mother tongue to communicate with their children and relatives. During the research, various attitudes to the Lithuanian language use in family were exposed. Some families follow a strict language policy and deviations are not tolerated and the children are encouraged to speak only Lithuanian with Lithuanian speakers. Meanwhile other families allow to insert words, phrases and even full sentences from other languages or to switch to another language if speaking Lithuanian becomes too difficult. Nevertheless, respondents acknowledged that Lithuanian language is a part of their and their children identity and a tool to communicate with relatives in Lithuania. Therefore, according to the respondents, a full rejection of the language would not be tolerated. On the basis of the results of this research, it can be concluded that Lithuanians who live in Sweden tend to speak Lithuanian among themselves and with their children. Lithuanian language is seen as a part of the identity and associated with roots, thus it plays an important role in family’s everyday life. However, situation in every family is unique and depends both on the parents’ attitude towards mother tongue and external factors.
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