Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Effects of Japanese Heritage Language Maintenance on Scholastic Verbal and Academic Achievement in English

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Effects of Japanese Heritage Language Maintenance on Scholastic Verbal and Academic Achievement in English

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This article investigates the effects of the maintenance of Japanese as a heritage language on English and overall academic achievement. The interrelationships among Japanese oral and writing proficiency, SAT I Verbal, SAT I, and high school grade point average (GPA) were examined. The participants were 31 second generation Japanese-American college students in Southern California, and the data was obtained from the subjects' self reports. No significant relationships were found between Japanese proficiency and English proficiency or between Japanese proficiency and overall academic achievement. The study suggests that the maintenance of a heritage language does not produce any negative effects on English development and on academic achievement.

Introduction

The number of children whose parents speak a language other than English and the number of immigrants to the United States have grown dramatically in the pasl two decades. According to an annual survey, it is estimated that over 4.4 million Limited English Proficient (EEP) students were enrolled in U.S. public schools (K-12) for the 1999-2000 school year (California Department of Education, 2002). This number represents approximately 9.3% of total U.S. public school student enrollment, and a 27.3% increase over the reported 1997-1998 public school EEP enrollment (California Department of Education, 2002). Among the stales, California enrolled the largest number of public school EEP students with 1,480,527, which was 24.9% of total enrollment (California Department of Education, 2002). Many immigrant parents who speak a language other than English struggle with English, and have a great concern for their children's academic success in school and their future success in the United States. Immigrant parents often need to adapt themselves to their new country, and they want their children to be members of the new society as quickly as possible without the language difficulty that they have experienced. It is also natural that they wish their children to inherit their home language. In recent years, there has been increased understanding of various advantages of bilingualismrecognition that many skills are transferable between languages, and maintenance of a heritage language does not necessarily exist at the expense of another language. Nevertheless, there are many parents, educators and policymakers in the United States who still blame their children's underachievement in school and in their development of English on the maintenance their heritage language (Krashen, 1998; Valdés, 2000). A recent survey of immigrant parents revealed that one of the major reasons that they do not to push their children to learn Japanese is they believe that concentrating on a primary language (English) is better for obtaining a higher grade in school (Shibata, 200Ia)1. It is also reported that many educators signal the wide typological differences between Japanese and English, and Japanese parents have expressed many fears and concerns about their children's Japanese development and what they perceive as a slow rate of development of English (Aizawa, 1998). A number of studies have investigated the relationship between Japanese and English proficiency among Japanese heritage speakers (Cummins & Nakajima, 1987; Minami, Fukuda & Fujiyama, 2002; Nakajima, 1998; Oketani, 1997), but these studies targeted only the subjects who attended Japanese language school (i.e., those who acquired Japanese language proficiency which was enough to enroll in Japanese language school)2. The study reported here investigated the relationship between Japanese language proficiency as a heritage language, including oral language and literacy, and scholastic English proficiency and overall academic success including the subjects who did not receive any Japanese language education outside of the home.

Literature Review

Many studies conducted from the early 1920s through 1960s concluded that bilinguals were linguistically deficient when compared with their monolingual counterparts, and it was believed that learning two languages brought only disadvantages (i. …

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