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Asian Americans in the United States have a difficult time passing on their heritage language to their children in some circumstances. While not for a lack of trying, one of the major problems is that of the availabilty of resources here in the US for Asian languages. For people who live in the US, learning the Spanish language is probably the easiest when talking about resources (this depends on the situation – read the linked post on for more). However, for Asian Americans, their struggle goes a bit further than simply not finding the right resources.
According to UCLA, 77% + percent of Korean Americans report speaking mostly if not exclusively to their parents in English from the age of five on up. While some view this as a lost opportunity, the reality exists that many people of Asian decent want their kids to fit in and don’t want to stigmatize them anymore than they already are. Additionally, as mentioned before, support systems to help with the linguistic upbringing of the child may be thin. Even if the parents speak the language, the children spend most of their time in school and with friends.
In larger cities, there are robust communities of speakers of whatever language you can imagine. In rural areas, this opportunity is increasingly more limited. It is possible that the children’s only linguistic input would be from their parents therefore extremely limiting their ability to communicate on a real level and by extension pushing the children more into the majority language. The many benefits of bilingualism are indisputable, in my opinion, from a scientific perspective. The practicality of putting this into place without the sociological backing of en entire culture lends itself to being slightly more challenging.
In a quote from ULCA:
Students of Korean experience a great deal of difficulty learning the honorific system, which is one of the most important sociolinguistic skills to master in Korean.
These subtle nuances normally learned in the confines of culture and interaction with other speakers of the language may be lost on non-native speakers or second-generation speakers of Asian-based languages. Many aspects of Asian culture involve reverence and respect; altering your speech as a public display of such things in conversation. Japanese is another language which places a high value on being respectful when speaking to someone who is older or in a higher position of authority thant he speaker.
While these roadblocks are not at all insurmountable, the difficulties are very real. Sites like Livingbilingual.com as well as other sites, like GrowingUpBilingual.com, SpanglishBaby.com, and many others have great tips and information on how to deal with some of these roadblocks; however few are strictly related to Asian-based languages. Asian Americans who dedicate themselves to the fulfillment of their goal to teach their heritage language to their children can definitely find success; not easy, but possible.