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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Lao language—“Our own world to fall back on”: Lao American students' critical reflections on heritage language maintenance and loss
by Liemthongsamout, Khonepheth Lily, Ed.D., University of San Francisco, 2010, 174; 3395104
Abstract (Summary)

Prior to this study, no research on heritage language maintenance and loss has been conducted in the Lao American community. To fill the gap in the research literature, this study explored second generation Lao American high school and college students' critical perspectives on the role of their heritage language in relation to their self-concept, academic performance and communication in the home, school, and community.

This participatory research study utilized photovoice data collection strategy along with engaging the participants, called co-researchers, in group dialogues. The dialogic and collective nature of participatory research process allowed the co-researchers to take ownership of the research project and worked diligently to capture in photographs and reflective group dialogues the role of their heritage language. They also identified ways that their families, schools, and communities could help them maintain their heritage language.

The findings included the co-researchers' perceived benefits of heritage language maintenance and consequences of heritage language loss. They identified the following as benefits for Lao American students to maintain their heritage language: (a) having a positive self-concept; (b) succeeding in learning a foreign language; (c) receiving socio-emotional support from parents and elders; (d) communicating with limited English proficient and non-English speaking individuals; (e) learning the Lao language, culture, and history from parents, elders, and community leaders; (f) staying connected and feeling a sense of belonging with people of the same ethnicity; and (g) serving as language and cultural brokers for their family as well as ethnic and mainstream communities. The consequences of heritage language loss they observed and experienced on a daily basis included: (a) negative self-concept; (b) language barrier; (c) identity crisis and gang involvement; (d) communication breakdowns; (e) generational gap; and (f) linguistic isolation.

In conclusion, the researcher and co-researchers identified several strategies that they felt their families, schools, and communities could implement in order to help them maintain their heritage language. A common thread among identified strategies was the need to increase the frequency and relevancy of the Lao language usage in multiple contexts among second generation Lao American students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Katz, Susan Roberta
School: University of San Francisco
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, Asian American Studies, Multicultural Education, Pedagogy
Keywords: Culture, Heritage language, Language maintenance, Lao-American, Primary language
Publication Number: 3395104
ISBN: 978-1-109-62880-7
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