Yousef & Taylor-Leech

“It would be nice if someone took the load off you”: New Australian mothers of Arabic-speaking background on the challenges of maintaining their heritage language with their children

Areej Yousef and Kerry Taylor-Leech, Griffith University

ccCC BY 4.0

Cite as: Yousef, A. & Taylor-Leech, K. (2017, December). “It would be nice if someone took the load off you”: New Australian mothers of Arabic-speaking background on the challenges of maintaining their heritage language with their children. Paper presented at the Third UC Intergenerational Transmission of Minority Languages Symposium: Challenges and Benefits. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5620567

Despite a general expectation for immigrants to Australia to shift quickly to the use of English, many new-Australian families maintain strong affiliations with their heritage languages. However, there is little research that has explored how families of Arabic-speaking background preserve their heritage language while simultaneously becoming proficient in English. In this presentation we report on a study that explored the linguistic perceptions and practices of four new-Australian mothers of Arabic-speaking background in Queensland. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews revealed that the mothers considered it vitally important for their children to be proficient in both English and Arabic. However, they consistently referred to the difficulties of maintaining Arabic. In this presentation we report on these difficulties and how the mothers negotiated them. Based on our findings, we also briefly discuss some recommendations for how mothers and immigrant families more broadly can be supported in maintaining their heritage languages in Australia.