Home language maintenance among Vietnamese-Australian families

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Home language maintenance is of importance in culturally and linguistically diverse societies including Australia, where more than 300 languages are spoken and over one-fifth of the population speak a language other than English at home. While home language maintenance is associated with academic, social, cultural, and economic benefits for both individuals and societies, it can be a challenge for multilingual families due to child, parent, community, and society level factors.
Underpinned by Spolsky’s language policy theory, which comprises language practices, language ideologies, and language management, the purpose of this mixed methods research is to explore home language maintenance among Vietnamese-Australian families. To achieve this purpose, this thesis aims to explore how factors related to demographics, language practices, language ideologies, and language management are associated with: (1) Vietnamese-Australian children’s proficiency and use in Vietnamese and English, (2) Vietnamese-Australian parents’ language use with their child and in social situations and their attitudes towards home language maintenance, and (3) Vietnamese-Australian parents having language policies. Additionally, it aims to: (4) describe Vietnamese-Australian families’ language policies in relation to home language maintenance, and (5) explore successful experience of home language maintenance among Vietnamese-Australian families.
To achieve these aims, data were collected from a questionnaire completed by 151 Vietnamese-Australian families and a focus group discussion with seven parents from five families. All the families had children under 18 years of age. Survey data were analysed using Pearson’s correlation, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and multiple regression models. An inductive thematic analysis using NVivo was applied to the focus group discussion to explore successful home language maintenance.
The results from these analyses were presented in three published papers and one submitted paper. The first paper highlights that children’s home language maintenance does not negatively impact English proficiency and is significantly dependent on parents’ language use and attitudes towards home language maintenance. The second paper indicates that parents’ language use with their children is positively linked to their language use in social situations. This in turn is higher when parents are younger, have higher Vietnamese and lower English proficiency, and attend community events more frequently. Parents’ attitudes towards home language maintenance correlate with their perceptions of cultural identity, beliefs in the importance of English maintenance and in the benefits of home language maintenance, and their age. The third paper highlights that only a third of the families had a family language policy. Having a family language policy is associated with parents’ Vietnamese proficiency, parents’ language use with children, and their intention of future residence in Vietnam. The fourth paper concludes with an in-depth investigation of families’ successful experiences of home language maintenance. It presents parents’ motivations, challenges, practices and strategies, and recommendations for support in home language maintenance.
This PhD research found that home language maintenance is dependent on parents’ efforts including persistent language input, positive attitudes towards home language maintenance, and consistent reinforcement of a family language policy. The research also highlights parents’ desire for the inclusion of home language maintenance in formal education. This research is expected to raise public awareness of the importance of home language maintenance, promote multilingualism, and support multilingual families in Australia and around the world.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • McLeod, Sharynne, Principal Supervisor
  • Verdon, Sarah, Co-Supervisor
  • Wang, Audrey, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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