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Title: Plurilingual Experiences in Family and Education in Regional Australia: A Synthesis from Three Perspectives
Contributor(s): Dettwiler-Hanni, Tina Ursula (author); Dixon, Sally  (supervisor)orcid ; Feez, Susan  (supervisor)orcid ; Morgan, Anne-Marie  (supervisor)orcid ; Veliz, Leonardo  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2024-03-28
Copyright Date: 2022
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The changing nature of Australia’s population has resulted in increased linguistic intermarriage over the last few decades. This case study investigates heritage language (HL) maintenance within linguistic intermarriage families, where one parent is an immigrant with a heritage language (HL) as their first language, and the other is of Anglo Australian origin and/or a speaker of English as a first language. It reports on the use of HLs in regional Australia at home and in school, in particular in Languages classrooms. It also reports on how parents, children and teachers of Languages experience plurilingualism for themselves as well as within their families and in educational settings. In addition, it examines plurilingual children’s perspectives of their HL ability and use, as well as their perceived identities as plurilinguals. Collating parents’, children’s and Languages teachers’ perspectives on HL transmission and maintenance at home and in schools reveals multiple perspectives on plurilingualism in regional Australia.

An interpretivist approach was adopted for this study in recognition of multiple linguistic and cultural realities that the research participants are likely to represent. The interpretivist research paradigm assumes that reality is constructed through socially developed meanings and experiences, and that multiple realities exist. The methodological approach, in the form of a qualitative case study, is based on the principles of suitability in relation to the potential of the embedded single case study and the value of the method in educational research. The language acquisition and maintenance theories, discussed in the literature and the proposed research questions, produced themes to help understand HL use and maintenance, the ecologies of the plurilingual families and reasons for sharing and maintaining HLs. The key ideas from these theories, for example Fishman’s reversing language shift and Cummins’ BICS and CALP models, accommodate different views of plurilingualism, language learning and language maintenance. Four central themes emerged from the literature and data as organising principles for analysis: reasons and motivations for heritage language maintenance as perceived by the participants, family language practices, Languages in education and language repertoire. These themes, like the embedded units/groups, are permeable throughout the study to allow a holistic view on the plurilingual experiences of all participants and across different contexts and of all participants.

Online questionnaires and in-depth interviews were used with all participant groups to understand plurilingual experiences at home and in school. The findings identified that the maintenance of HLs in regional Australia is largely limited to the home domain. Parents perceive the development and maintenance of HLs as their responsibility but acknowledged that potential input from educational settings could be beneficial for HL maintenance. Parental, as well as child participants’ reasons for HL maintenance concentrate on communication between family members, identity building, academic and cognitive benefits, and various social and life choices. Children experience their plurilingualism as an advantage in different contexts and generally feel well supported despite the remote location and lack of large language communities. The findings further identified that there is tension between Languages teachers’ approaches towards plurilingual students in their classrooms and the plurilingual orientation recommended in the Australian Curriculum: Languages.

The application of the three perspectives on plurilingualism in regional Australia revealed a gap in relation to language development and maintenance between the two sets of participants, namely teachers of Languages and schools and members of multilingual families. The findings encourage the promotion of plurilingualism as part of the Languages teacher’s role; it is recommended that this is initiated in professional learning and development for teachers of Languages to support linguistic intermarriage families in regional Australia.

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390102 Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
390108 LOTE, ESL and TESOL curriculum and pedagogy
390401 Comparative and cross-cultural education
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 130202 Languages and linguistics
160199 Learner and learning not elsewhere classified
160302 Pedagogy
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Please contact if you require access to this thesis for the purpose of research or study.
Appears in Collections:School of Education
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Thesis Doctoral

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