Children's language exposure and parental language attitudes in Russian-as-a-heritage-language acquisition by bilingual and multilingual children in Canada

Veronika Makarova, , Natalia Terekhova, , Amin Mousavi
International Journal of Bilingualism
Resource Type
Acquisition Number
Published Date
01-03-2018 2:53 PM
Published Year
Subscription Only
Aims and Objectives/Purpose/Research Questions: The research study presented in this paper aims to describe some aspects of the maintenance of Russian as a heritage language among bilingual/multilingual children in Saskatchewan, Canada. The study focuses on the relationship between parents' language attitudes and children's language exposure on the one hand and child language proficiency on the other hand. The research questions are as follows. C/ What are the language attitudes of Russian-speaking parents in minority settings? C/ Is there a connection between parents' language attitudes and children's language proficiency? C/ What is the scope of Russian language exposure of bilingual/multilingual children within and outside of the family? C/ Is there a connection between this exposure and children's language proficiency? Design/Methodology/Approach: The study was conducted within a Variationist Sociolinguistics framework. The following methods were employed in the study: C/ a questionnaire study of parents' language attitudes and of language use within and outside the family; C/ an assessment of children's speech production based on narratives elicited from children with the help of pictures (language proficiency parameters). Data and Analysis: Thirty parents (aged 31-43) and children (aged 5-7) participated in the study. The questionnaire addressed to parents included 52 demographic and research questions. A statistical analysis of parents' language attitudes and language use by parents and their children as measured against language proficiency parameters was conducted with the help of correlation analysis. Findings/Conclusions: Study results indicate that Russian-speaking parents in Saskatchewan are interested in passing Russian to their children. The study also suggests that language exposure parameters, as well as language attitudes held by parents, correlate with children's heritage language fluency. Originality: The study indicates that even in environments unfavorable for heritage language maintenance, a child can still successfully acquire Russian as a heritage language. Significance/Implications: children. It also suggests the importance of bilingualism/multilingualism for some groups of the immigrant population in Canada.
Family and Community Involvement