Feeling weird using your home language?

By October 5, 2017Migration

Fliers for Persian community events (Persian Library Parramatta, Nov 2010)

Editor’s note: In the second instalment in our series “Explorations in Language Shaming”, Dr Shiva Motaghi-Tabari examines children’s attitudes towards the perception of home languages other than English in Australia highlighting that home-language use may often be associated with a sense of embarrassment.


Home-language (HL) maintenance as a concern for many migrant families has recently gained prominence. Much of the research has focused mainly on the role of parents and HL educators in child HL learning processes, while the role of children in this effect remained almost invisible. In my doctoral research on “Bidirectional Language Learning in Migrant Families”, I demonstrated that children’s language attitudes, which in turn are influenced by language ideologies and wider social structures, can have significant impacts on their HL maintenance.

In fact, the broad impetus for my research germinated from my own observation of my child’s language learning and use, and my engagements with other parents in a similar situation since we came to Australia in 2008. Like many migrant parents coming from a non-English-speaking background, maintaining my child’s HL has been a concern in our new home in Australia. When we first came, my daughter was around seven years old. At the time, she knew some English, as we had sent her to language schools since she was four years old back in Iran. After arrival, I observed how quickly her English language, particularly her conversational skills, were progressing. As her English language progressed, I began to wonder if it might not be a good idea to use some English at home. After all, her father and I also needed to improve our English communication skills …

At the same time, we did not wish to put our daughter’s Persian at risk. Her Persian maintenance was not only important to us, but it was also a promise to her grandparents who relentlessly reminded us of the importance of preserving their grandchild’s Persian language. For this very reason, we also sent her to a Persian Saturday School in Sydney so that she would become literate in the language.

In our search for effective ways of managing the two languages, Persian and English, we heard many parents’ stories of success or failure related to their HL maintenance. For some of the parents, despite their investments of time and money, they found it challenging to get their children to learn and use their HL. Some of them blamed the Community Language School teachers for not being able to teach the HL properly, and some of them blamed themselves for not spending enough time to practice the language with their children. Some of them also seemed confused as they had been advised by their children’s mainstream teachers to speak English with their children.

Eventually, these observations shaped my interest in doing further research in the area, and that’s how my PhD research ‘Bidirectional Language Learning in Migrant Families’ came into existence. That my research struck a chord is obvious from the fact that it won the 2017 Michael Clyne Prize. The Michael Clyne Prize is awarded annually by the Australian Linguistics Society for the best postgraduate research thesis in immigrant bilingualism and language contact.

‘Bidirectionality’ in parent-child interactions is a notion that I have borrowed from family studies and extended to the field of second language learning. In a bidirectional model, the process of socialisation of a child into a set of language and cultural rules involves not only a parent-to-child direction of influence but also a child-to-parent direction. Central to the bidirectional model is the concept of agency. Agency in this framework means “considering individuals as actors with the ability to make sense of the environment, initiate change, and make choices” (Kuczynski, 2003, p. 9). The core assumption in this framework is that both parents and children as active agents interpret and thereby reconstruct social messages (Kuczynski, Parkin, & Pitman, 2014, p. 138). This means that, in the field of language learning, children, like adults, adopt a certain way of thinking about languages based on the language ideologies they encounter in their daily lives. Based on these social perceptions, they make choices about what languages to learn and use. Therefore, to find more effective ways of HL maintenance, it is essential to bring children’s language attitudes and practices to the forefront alongside parents’ language attitudes and investments, and HL teachers and their teaching methods.

Despite parents’ wishes and efforts, children often show a disinclination to learn and use the home language, the language of their family, relatives and loved ones. Instead, they often tend to prefer English, as one of my child participants said: ‘I mostly speak Iranian, but I prefer English’. Reasons for this preference that the children gave to me included the following: ‘Because Persian is so hard’ or ‘it is Australia!’

Persian LibraryIt is true that for many children, their limited HL skills could make it difficult for them to communicate in that language. However, the same child who felt that Persian was too hard also made the comment ‘it is Australia!’ This adds another dimension to children’s choice of English as their preferred language. In effect, in a process of linguistic and cultural mainstreaming through the educational system and social practices, the dominant language and culture are inscribed as legitimate while other languages are devalued. In circumstances where communicative norms are constituted into a homogenised form, it comes as no surprise that children who do care about belonging and acceptance, internalise and reproduce the underlying message that ‘to be an Australian, one must speak English’. For them, using their HL may be perceived as a marker of lack of belonging or difference, and ultimately, making them feel a sense of shame and embarrassment over different forms of language other than what is seen as ‘normal’, as in this example:

Child participant: I get embarrassed [laughs] to speak Persian.
Shiva: Why is that?
Child participant: Because I don’t want anybody to think I’m weird.

Under circumstances where children  feel that they may be viewed as ‘weird’ if they use their home language, it is obvious that they may not show much interest in practising that language; and so, they exert their agency in different ways to use their preferred language despite their parents’ wishes, as is evident from the following conversation I had with two children:

Shiva: Then you are asked at home to speak in Persian?
Child participant 1: Yeah.
Child participant 2: A lot.
Child participant 1: Yeah.
Child participant 2: A lot.
[Both laugh] Shiva: And then you don’t?
Both [giggling] No! [more laughter] Shiva: No?
Child participant 1: maybe for one second, but then after that [laughs]

In sum, raising a child bilingually can be a difficult task when the onus is only on the family, particularly in a context where the value of the HL is not tangible for the children and is not acknowledged by the wider society. So, before any language instructions can be successful, children need to truly feel and understand the importance of preserving their home language alongside learning the English language. To achieve this, it is essential that families, community languages schools and mainstream schools come together around the same positive message: English is not the only language of Australia and bilingualism is cool and worth encouraging.


Kuczynski, L. (2003). Beyond Bidirectionality: Bilateral Conceptual Frameworks for Understanding Dynamics in Parent-Child Relations. In L. Kuczynski (Ed.), Handbook of dynamics in parent-child relations (pp. 3-24). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Kuczynski, L., Parkin, C. M., & Pitman, R. (2014). Socialization as Dynamic Process: A Dialectical, Transactional Perspective. In J. E. Grusec & P. D. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 135-157). New York; London: The Guilford Press.

Motaghi-Tabari, S. (2016). Bidirectional Language Learning in Migrant Families. (PhD), Macquarie University. Available from http://www.languageonthemove.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Thesis_Shiva_Motaghi-Tabari_BidirectionalLanguageLearning.pdf

Author Shiva Motaghi Tabari

Dr. Shiva Motaghi-Tabari received her PhD in Linguistics from Macquarie University, where she is now an Honorary Postdoctoral Associate. Her PhD research focused on the intersection of parental and child language learning in migration contexts. She also holds an MA in Crosscultural Communication from the University of Sydney. Her research interests include intercultural communication, family and bilingual education and migration studies.

More posts by Shiva Motaghi Tabari
  • Tricia

    Congratulations Dr. Shiva on your award-winning study! It brings to the fore very relevant insights about how much value migrant children ascribe to their HL. Again, the challenge is on what concrete action can be done to address this issue.

  • GlobalMikeW

    Thank you for sharing this very interesting perspective on bilingualism. Looking back over my own parenting experience of a bilingual child, I recognise there were many instances of disregarding her as an agent of her own learning, and instead placing the emphasis on either myself or her school. As the author notes, a lot of that had to do with projecting my own feelings about my family, my culture and my values onto her. It was presented as a language issue, when what it really was was an identity issue. Yet it is so true that a child, migrant or otherwise, has their own identity issues to navigate. They have a deep need to be accepted and to be included by peers that far outweighs their parental desire to remain connected to a culture that is no longer visible. I think that whilst in theory, emphasising the importance of using their HL is a good idea for migrant children, I have doubts that it will override their need to use English as often as possible in order to belong.

  • LauraSK

    Thanks for this great summary of your wonderful thesis, Dr Shiva! Children’s agency is such an important thing to acknowledge.

    I think a crucial point is about how HLs or minority languages are valued in our societies. The higher the value, the more likely that all those different contributing factors would be addressed – funding for educational resources, support from mainstream educators, parental emphasis/encouragement etc… But also, kids would maybe be more likely to value the language too – as long as that language value was present within THEIR social groups too 🙂

  • Thi Lam Tra DINH

    It’s interesting to consider both children and parents as agencies in bilingual contexts. Children may need to know the potential benefits of being bilinguals. However, HL may become a second language to those migrant children who leave their native country at the early age. In Dr. Shiva’ family case, HL may serve as a cultural preservation tool rather than intimate functional purposes because they even mainly communicated in English at home. Bilingualism may be cool, but its benefits may disappear when family members have effective communication in English (Mouw & Xie, 1999). I totally agree with the author that bilingual education is a complicated problem in migrant family who would probably confront subtractive acculturation. Therefore, bilingualism and HL could be fostered through ethnic community solidarity and dynamic individuals’ involvement in their community (Zhou & Bankston III, 1994).

    Mouw, T., & Xie, Y. (1999). Bilingualism and the academic achievement of first-and second-generation Asian Americans- accommodation with or without assimilation?. American sociological review, 232-252.
    Zhou, M., & Bankston III, C. L. (1994). Social capital and the adaptation of the second generation- The case of Vietnamese youth in New Orleans. International migration review, 821-845.

  • Long leg

    Recently I have read another article about the home language maintenance which I supported the idea that parents and teachers should help children perceive and maintain that language alongside English. It was a bit surprising that the children in this article feel weird about their home language which differs from English in Australia. As my experience, I have met many Vietnamese people who were born here, but they could speak both English and Vietnamese despite their very low Vietnamese proficiency. I, personally, think that the reason of home language shaming in children is because they haven’t perceived the value and benefits of bilingualism. Recognising that English is not the only language in Australia, and their home language could bring them many incredible opportunities could build up in those children a strong motivation of home language maintenance.

  • Flora Launay

    Thank you Shiva!
    As you mentioned towards the end of your article, it is not always easy for children to understand the importance to learn both languages and the difference it can make in their life to be bilingual., just like it is not easy ot understand why working hard at school is important for their future.
    Sometimes, I do feel like too much pressure is put on the child’s shoulders. It is absolutely normal that they do not understand the significance of all this, just like we do, as adults. It is true that schools, the wider community, and other institutions can help encourage them. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important to let them understand the significance of bilingualism when they are ready to. If they want to speak both languages when they are older, then it is great. But why should we push them to do so when they are so young? Being bilingual is not always easy to assume. It can create certain difficulties in terms of identity development. It is therefore essential that we listen to the needs and the whishes of the child.


    Home language maintenance is a crucial challenge in PNG especially for parents and children who live in urban cities. Unlike the population in the very remote areas of PNG, (who interact in the L1) those living in urban cities, have difficulties maintaining HL because most use the Lingua Franca Tok Pisin and the official language English. Tok Pisin, is commonly used both at homes and in everyday interactions everywhere in urban cities. Children may have felt the same as expressed in the article. They do not feel a sense of belonging. However, the notion of maintaining HL has been seen to be very important and the reality of experiencing language death has been the impetus to have a language policy in PNG that calls for the teaching of L1 in the first 5 grades of the students’ learning. However, that is only possible in the remote areas. The urban cities have the choice of using Tok Pisin.

  • JZzzz

    Thanks for such an inspiring article. Home language maintenance is really a much-discussed issue in multi-cultural countries such as Australia. Two months ago, I have visited a Sunday Chinese school regularly held in a primary school, which is organized by the parents and aiming to teaching children Chinese, especially writing Chinese characters. Chinese character is the hardest part of learning this language. Even children in China spend about 6 years learning just most of the common characters. Although it was a bit “chao” in the classroom (since the children have already adapted the Aussie style classroom), the learning outcome seems quite positive. The children actively volunteered themselves to write on the blackboard frequently and most of them can write correctly. I agree with the point that it is necessary to let children realized the importance, the beauty and the interestingness of their HL and HL’s culture, so that they can learn it with a less-reluctant or even passionate attitude other than just merely learning the language.

  • Shiva Motaghi-Tabari

    Thanks, Tricia. I agree that concrete actions need to be taken. The first step is to diagnose the problem at the source, that is, to become aware of the ways in which children’s (negative) attitudes to their ethnic language and culture are shaped, and then, to come up with practical ways to counteract negative forces. In this process, I believe that one important step is that families, community languages schools and mainstream schools come to closer relationships.


    Thank you for such a fascinating study, Shiva. I think because identities are embedded in our languages, it is understandable that children want to blend in instead of ‘stand out’, especially for migrants. It would be fantastic if there is a longitudinal study to observe if the children’s attitudes towards using their HL would change over time as they become mature. I constantly reflect on myself while reading this, and I find the HL shaming that I used to have when travelling abroad as a child has been replaced by the pride of being bilingual as I acquire more knowledge and life experience.

  • Dhanisa Kamila

    Congratulations on your award-winning research! I really enjoyed reading your article. Having to be seen as “weird” must be a challenge itself for the children to use their HL This lack of encouragement from a wider society does constrains them in doing it and caused them to prefer English instead. However, as Dr. Shiva has pointed out, English is not Australia’s only language. As a country lived by mostly foreign-born citizens, it’s normal for most Australians to be bilingual and have non-English language as their first language. I believe that language shaming for using HL is not wise.

  • Dwitiya Nugrahaeni

    Such an interesting article, Dr. Shiva. Maintaining HL is indeed not as easy as it is said, especially for children who only spent little or no time interacting with their HL culture before coming to countries with different dominant languages. It is true that we cannot rely solely from the society to provide a supportive environment for the children to use their HL confidently. I do agree with Tra’s comment in this comment section that it is also important for the families to be able to create effective communication using the HL at home. That way, the children can get the sense of the situation where they need their English or HL, since both languages provide them the opportunities to effectively deliver the meaning they want to convey in different kinds of communication. Therefore, the positive message of being bilingual that we want the children to adopt can be effectively internalised.

  • Nhung Nguyen

    I think I can understand the children’s feeling of “being weird” and the fear of being embarrassed that lead to their resistance to use their home language. At their age, integrating into the new community, interacting with local children are probably the top priorities. Admittedly there have been lots of evidences of discrimination in the school resulting from the differences (the story of Anne, a young girl with freckled face and red hair in “Anne of Green Gables” _ Montgomery, M. L., is an interesting, typical example). Obviously, the migrant children, who are already “different” in the physical characteristics, don’t want to inscribe that difference by the way they use language. In addition, the most popular sources of motivation to maintain the HL such the awareness of bilingualism’s advantages or national pride seem to be too remote, abstract to those immature minds.

  • Phoebe N

    From my own experience, I think I can partly understand why these bilingual children refuse to keep and use their own home language, even some feel self-conscious or uncomfortable about using their first language, especially outside the home. The main reason may lie on the fact that they do not want to be considered as “different”, “weird” and even “isolated” by using another language rather than English, the language widely used in their daily lives. Also, using English can be able to bring them the feeling of belonging; in other word, the feeling that they are accepted by their friends at school. Thus, they may have negative attitude towards maintaining their HL as they do not find any necessity in using it in their current life, especially when they are living in such an English-speaking country.
    Thus, it is truly important for both parents and school to help these children realise the importance of being bilingual, especially help them to feel proud of their language and culture.


    Hi Nhung,

    I share the same opinion with you. Maintaining a home language can be much more difficult than teaching a brand new language to a child. One of the reasons, I believe is that children are susceptible to peer pressure to a high degree. If one activity is considered a “cool” thing to do, you will see it spread effortlessly with phenomenal speed across student communities. Such is human nature and cannot be changed easily. However, articles like this are what will help change the mindset of the people: Being bilingual is a cool thing to do!

  • Kaniz Rahman

    This article is really fascinating one for me as I have a nephew at home and we keep trying to teach him HL and can see how hard it is to make him interested in learning our language. He even finds it embarrassing when we try to speak in HL in front of his friends!! To be honest he actually struggle with the HL specially with the sound that is not ij English. It’s easy for him to pick up the sounds which are similar to English sounds. Also, he gets the sentence structure wrong most of the time. It’s understandable as he is learning it as his second language.

  • X_C_X

    I’ve ever come across a case that a passer-by came to us and said: “Hey, this is Australia, please speak English.” when I was talking with my friends in Chinese (HL). Then moment I heard that I felt like the person’s statement was extremely aggressive and offensive. Why should I speak English with my Chinese friends which was weird and the was we spoke was also to maintain our cultural identity and HL language. When, however, looking at why migrant children feel ashamed using their HL in any contexts, we may be aware of the parameter of the power of the dominant language (English) in Australia. It is used by a majority of people everywhere and not only migrant children but everyone are expected to use the language (or even required to use it, as in the example). Otherwise, you will be viewed as “weird”and “unacceptable”.

  • S. J. L.

    It seems that the topic is familiar to those of immigrant background. Lots of 1.5 generation prefer to speak English not their home language (HL). I remember that one of my friends who lives in Australia told his children’s attitude toward their HL. They are expected to use their HL in home but they prefer English because HL is not necessary out of their house. On top of that, speaking English is more comfortable for them than using HL. Fortunately, my friend knows well about benefits of HL, so he won’t stop teaching HL. Anyway, considering the role of parents in their children’s life, parents are required to pay attention to their children’s HL.

  • Brendan Kavanagh

    This is an interesting article, and I can relate to it as my 4-year-old daughter is Chinese-Australian. I really think that functionality plays a strong role here. Language is a social tool that flows naturally through personal interaction. If the home language is something that needs to be studied and doesn’t serve a social function, then it will feel artificial and pointless. This is a big challenge if the child is in an environment where their teacher and friends communicate in English throughout most of the week.

    In our family, it is useful to have a grandparent from China who does not speak English. It would also be valuable to turn the tables be going back to live in China for a period of time.

  • Yeji LEE

    Thank you for the crucial insight on children’s perspective on being a bilingual. I was thinking very simply that being a natural bilingual is beneficial for children, in that speaking foreign languages fluently, especially English, is one of the important and competitive competence for those who are living in a English as a Foreign Language setting. That’s the reason why so many children begin their study abroad so early. However, in this view point, children’s confusion on their identity related to the first and second language can be overlooked, which can cause negative impression on their home language, just like the example of Persian children. With regard to the main point of this article, we should carefully consider children’s awareness and attitudes toward their home language, as well as teaching and learning environment and skills.

  • Nadiah Aziz

    Hi Dr. Shiva, was great to see you in APPL 941 last week. My nieces aged 7 and 4 would have given the same comments as the participants in your research that you’ve carried out. But I have never asked them why they feel reluctant to speak their own mother tongue; Malay and prefer to interact with their friends and their mother using English. Even when they are playing with Legos or Barbies, they would naturally have very thick American accent when they speak to each other. Well mainly because of the Disney cartoons that they have been watching on TV or Youtube videos that they are allowed to watch on weekends only. They even insisted to go to English medium school and the 7 year-old doesn’t even want to go and eat in Malay restaurants. One time I was driving them around and purposely let them listen to Malay songs on the radio, they even strongly requested that I switched to English songs so they can sing along. I have always wondered why do they have this negative idea or mentality towards their own L1. In fact, amongst us adults in Malaysia, we tend to code- mix English and Malay a lot during social interactions. Some might be laughed at when they use certain words in Malay that have been unwrittenly ‘officially replaced’ with English and will be perceived as “too formal”. Some friends might even joke around and ask if a person is sick or need to see a doctor if a person speaks in Malay completely. As a result we are very slowly losing our own language to English, I guess through the social perceptions that we ourselves as speakers have in our own mind, mainly due to the prestige that English language holds in our social worlds.

    Nadiah AZIZ

  • Kris Nguyen

    After reading this article, I have a few opinions in mind that might be useful or interesting for every to think about. I have two cousins whose parents are Vietnamese and were born in Japan. Their parents were “boat people” who came to Japan with very limited Japanese, or I can say zero Japanese. Although the two girls were born in Japan, from one to two year old, their first words were some simple Vietnamese such as “ba” (dad), “mẹ” (mom), and “ăn” (eat). However, they started to pick up Japanese very rapidly since they had been surrounded by Japanese people, in school, in the neighbourhood and in their daily life. What I want to point out here is that the way the two girls develop their Vietnamese is vastly different from each other. Kanna – the older sister, is very fluent in her HL – Vietnamese, but Suzu – the younger one is not quite good. The similarity here is that their parents use 100% Vietnamese at home, but somehow Suzu prefers to speak Japanese to her sister. The reason why Suzu does such thing is that to her, Vietnamese is really hard to learn, and she cannot get the tones and intonation correctly. On the contrary, her older sister Kanna is tremendously interested in Vietnamese as she is willing to speak to their parents in Vietnamese, watch Vietnamese shows, make Vietnamese jokes (sometimes bad jokes) and she feels that being able to speak Vietnamese as a second language is a blessing. She sometimes jokes about talking bad about people in Vietnamese in front of Japanese is really convenient and fun. From this, my point is that each child has their different views on speaking their HL and that we should encourage them and inspire them to speak HL. It might be imperfect HL, but through the HL, they are able to keep their heritage and the culture from where they are born.

  • Nancy

    Thank you so much for sharing us such an interesting study. My friend moved to Australia with his family when he was around 5 years old. We communicate in our HL despite the fact that he barely speaks and understands HL. Once I told him that “I can speak English and it is easier for us to talk in English. Why you insist on using our HL to communicate”. He said he loved our HL and wanted to find someone to practice HL since he does not have any friends who speak the same HL as him and more importantly, his parents neither sent him to HL school nor spoke and taught him HL. In this case, lack of exposure to HL and lack of parents’ language attitudes and investment attribute mostly to my friend’s low level of HL proficiency. Needless to say, both parents and children play a vital in maintaining and preserving HL in bilingual context.

  • Katherine Douglas

    I enjoyed reading this article about Home Language maintenance. I think the example of children feeling embarrassed about using their HL in public is interesting. “Because I don’t want anyone to think I’m weird,” shows that a child feels he/she must conform to the Australian standard of using English. Non-conformity is a vital part of everyone growing up – if everyone was the same, how boring that would be?! I think parents can help their children embrace their uniqueness as they grow older – by using both their HL and English, and emphasising that their child’s HL and culture is a unique and precious gift to offer other people – now and in future.

  • Hayu Austina

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. It is very interesting when you mention that both parents and children are active agents in perceiving the importance of maintaining HL especially because there is often a gap between parents’ value and children’s value about HL. I think parents need to build active communication with the children to know how they feel about speaking HL and parents need to create positive atmosphere to use HL with their children. This can be done through several activities such as introducing home country’s food, songs, and places. Parents can also set up activities in which children can interact in their HL to their community such as picnics or calling families who speak the HL.

  • Khalid

    I agree with your ideas. Preserving the HL of migrants’ children is an important issue, and it should be considered by not only the family but all social structures around it such as schools, teachers and even local people. However, explaining the importance of protecting HL for children is quite difficult as they need to learn English in order to engage themselves in the new society where they will create their friends and their lives. Children could understand this importance of bilingualism effectively when it comes from various parts, as you mentioned, and they will have the reason of speaking and using their HL in some situations.

  • Ulfath Sadia

    Thank you for sharing this interesting topic. It is very true that in Australia or any other native English speaking countries the bilingual parents struggle to maintain their native language legacy with their children. It is because the kids are surrounded by an English speaking environment and use of the home language sometimes makes them uncomfortable. I often see the parents asking their kids to speak in the native language buy the children do not listen as they feel uncomfortable. I feel that parents should actively participate in communication in HL with the children as HL is equally important as English is.

  • V.ca

    This happens quite often for many of my cousins in different parts of the world! I have cousins in Thailand, the USA, and here in Australia who no longer use their home language. At a young age, they were indeed taught about them but because they rarely use it outside of their house, they forget it easily. Especially the younger ones among us, they can’t even understand the language anymore. This is quite sad because I can still see Chinese children usig their home language outside but Filipino kids? “English is the most important.”

  • TDV

    Thank you for your interesting post. I totally agree that it is very difficult to teach children both English and their home language. And I also agree to the point that we need to concern about children’s attitude of learning their home language. I am living with an Indian family. They have two daughters, one is 7 and one is 8. While the younger one can speak Indian, the other can not. I asked their mom why the younger can not speak Indian, she said that because she did not want to learn. According to this story, I can conclude that children’s attitude is one of agents impacting on learning their home language.

  • Sara

    Those children in the dialogue sounds similar to my reaction, attitude and motivation when l was 8-13 years old. I remember three factors influenced the lack of interest, my father was the teacher, a few of my siblings were placed in a class level above me and could not use the language outside of the home environment. Especially at that age where social factors and identity is so important to migrant families influenced by the ‘’monolingualism’ of English in schools and children not so much part of an ethnic community at school or extracurricular activities. Keep up this great work.

  • Xi Yang

    I share the same opinion with you. I think it is necessary to speak English in certain occasions, we should speak English when we are in the classroom as we are learning English, also we should use English to communicate with people from other countries since we are in Australia and English is recognized as a second or global language for the foreigners. However, when we are with our friends who come from the same country in a causal or daily conversation (for example, a Chinese speaks Chinese to his/her Chinese friends in the street), I believe that we have the right to speak our mother tongue.

  • Meera Panthee

    I have actually seen my nephew in Australia who is third grade student. His upbringing and nurturing in Australia has helped him build his strong accent in Australian English and his academic strides are excellent as well but the way he communicates with his grandparents is a bit weird as he says, ‘I’m Australian, I speak in English.’ The feeling of hatred is somehow mixed in his voice. I believe, he has to learn to respect Nepali though English language is used for communication.

  • lokendra khadka

    reminds me an incident often happens to my Uncle’s son who was born in Australia but his parents are from Nepal. He, 9 years, speaks Nepali language rarely but mostly prefers to speak in English as he was nurtured in an English speaking country. His parents try to teach him Nepali language but he does not pay attention to learning Nepali. his parents are worried about his ability to learn national language. When he speaks Nepali, he gets confused and uses wrong words and then other people around him laughs. It creates a sense of comic but its really a serious issue as bilingual skills embrace greater significance in the life.

  • nawaraj bhandari

    I do have the experience of this situation. When the community of the group of my friends talk and enjoy in our language, other people look at us differently. They make us feel wired. It is essential that we should speak English when we are in our workplace, school or college but when we are with our group of friends of our same country we too should speak our own language. Australia is a country where people of different language are living which should be preserved.

  • nawaraj bhandari

    I do have the experience of this situation. When the community of the group of my friends talk and enjoy in our language, other people look at us differently. They make us feel wired. It is essential that we should speak English when we are in our workplace, school or college but when we are with our group of friends of our same country we too should speak our own language. Australia is a country where people of different language are living which should be preserved.

  • MB24

    Shiva, thank you for a great post. My son attends, and next year my two daughters will attend, a public primary school in South Australia where 61 nationalities are represented. From my observations, the school talks the talk about being inclusive of the experiencies and different languages spoken among its students, yet on the whole, as you state, practice linguistic and cultural mainstreaming. There is simply no structures in place within the school for the maintenance of a home language.

  • MeganLouise

    Reading this article makes me immediately think of the upbringing of my mum. She was born in Spain and moved to Australia when she was 4 years old, so her first words and communication was all in Spanish. Upon moving to Australia she then was immersed in Aussie society and was exposed to English, which she learnt at a fairly quick rate due to the critical period still being strong at her age. However she never spoke Spanish at school infront of any of her friends and only spoke it at home. She has explained to me that this was because of the fact that she felt “weird” being the only bilingual in her class and didn’t want others to judge her. She now (as an adult haha) has no issues with speaking Spanish in public or near friends because as she grew up she realised the importance of keeping her L1 strong.