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Sabine Little, our guest blogger this week, works and researches at the University of Sheffield, UK. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @sabinelittle.
In my research, I work with multilingual families, exploring emotional and pragmatic attachments to heritage languages (Little, 2017), and heritage language maintenance, in general. My conversations with families are often tinged with exhaustion and guilt – parents worry that they are not doing enough to maintain the heritage language, that they don’t have access to the right resources, or that they are simply doing it “wrong”. I uncovered, like other researchers before me (Okita, 2002; Czubinska, 2017), the emotional load of multilingual parenting. What intrigued me was why some parents felt compelled – despite this emotional load, despite inter-marital arguments, and ongoing fights with their children – to insist on speaking the heritage language to their children, whereas others were happy to adopt a more laid-back approach. At times, I felt a disconnect – our own son, Toby, at age 4 (having just started Reception school in the UK), declared that he would like to ‘take a year out’ of speaking German, while he was learning to read and write in English – and I agreed. I agreed, even when, after that one year, he asked to take another year out, because he didn’t feel confident in reading and writing in English yet. For two years, German all but disappeared from our lives – and I thought it would be gone forever.Continue reading