Wong-Fillmore, L. (1991). When Learning a Second Language ...

Wong-Fillmore, L. (1991). When Learning a Second Language ...

Wong-Fillmore, L. (1991). When Learning a Second Language Means Losing
the First. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6, 323-46. [Judy Hicks, Abstract #2]
Study
Rationale: Language loss requires explanation
Research Questions:

Under what conditions and how do children lose their L1? Comparison Sample Group

How does EO or Bilingual education contribute to language
loss?
Methods: Interviews of 1,100 families (conducted by volunteers)
with 43 forced-choice and 2 open-ended questions. Approx
1/3 of the families (the comparison group) had children in
Spanish-only preschools the other families (main sample
group) were representative of the other L1s in CA. 98% of
families had an L1 other than English.

Main Sample Group

Strengths:
Large N, exhaustive interviews, representative sample of
families; main sample group and comparison group included

Findings/Theories developed from the data
The younger children are when they learn
English, the more dramatic the effect on language
use in their homes.
Powerful forces for assimilation speed language
loss.
Parents lose the ability to socialize their children.
Children should not be required to learn English
until they have a firm grasp on their L1.

Detailed analyses on a number of dimensions (type of
preschool, birth order of child, length of residence, primary
caregiver, etc.)
Weaknesses:
It is impossible, from this data, to draw causal conclusions
between language use in preschool programs and shifts in
language use at home.
The comparison sample is all Spanish-speaking, while the main
sample is all other L1s. This seems problematic re: cultural
differences.
The study is descriptive, but it lacks an exploration of the hows
of language loss and language learning.

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