Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Balancing native and new languages and cultures: A case study of a trilingual/literate elementary school student
by Tsarykovska, Olha, Ph.D., Purdue University, 2011, 296; 3506061
Abstract (Summary)

Children who come to a foreign country live through two sets of experiences on a daily basis. First, they have to acquire new language, literacy, and cultural skills to survive in the host country. Second, they are encouraged to maintain their native language, literacy, and culture to stay attached to their heritage roots. Balancing the two processes becomes a complex experience full of issues and challenges. The purpose of the present study was to explore the processes that a Russian-speaking elementary ENL student went through trying to succeed in a new linguistic and cultural environment, to systematize the issues she faced during the processes, to describe the strategies she developed to acquire new language and literacy and to maintain her linguistic and cultural heritage, and to analyze how the child balanced the processes of acquisition and maintenance in her everyday life.

The primary participant in this ethnographic case study was a trilingual/triliterate (English, Russian, and Ukrainian) elementary ENL student from Ukraine. Her mother, teachers, and peers became the secondary participants. Data triangulation was established through a series of observations, interviews, and artifacts collected from the student. Data analysis was conducted simultaneously with data collection and was inductive in nature.

The study findings demonstrated that the processes of new language acquisition and of L1 maintenance are not separate sets of experiences but are closely interconnected and mutually influencing proceedings, instead. Each process presents a number of issues for the study participant and her family in each language and literacy skill category (oral language, reading, and writing) as well as in her cultural adaptation and identity reconstruction practices. Some issues were found in all three languages (e.g., accuracy of reading, spelling problems, language transfer, etc.). Some issues were unique to the acquisition process (e.g., BICS and CALP development) or to the maintenance process (e.g., loss of ethnolinguistic vitality, lack of academic significance, reduced motivation, etc.). The study also highlighted the differences between American and Ukrainian academic cultures and revealed that the main areas of concern were in maintaining native nonacademic culture, though. The transformations in the student's social and cultural identities and the issues emerged during reconstruction and development of new aspects of her identity were illuminated. Finally, the study identified a variety of copying strategies the child developed to deal with the numerous issues.

The research has implications for educational practice and for future research regarding young Russian-speaking children's experiences during the acquisition and maintenance processes. The study provides school and classroom practitioners, administrators, and cultural communities with advice on how to make ENL children feel supported, valued, and respected in a new social, linguistic, and cultural environment. It also urges SLA researchers to conduct more sociocultural inquiries into the role of context in new language acquisition. Finally, topics and guiding questions for future research are suggested.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Elster, Charles, Phillion, JoAnn
Commitee: May, Jill, Rapoport, Anatoli
School: Purdue University
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 73/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, English as a Second Language
Keywords: Identity, Issues, Language acquisition, Language maintenance, Literacy, Strategies, Trilingual
Publication Number: 3506061
ISBN: 978-1-267-31143-6
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