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Struggling to Preserve Home Language: The Experiences of Latino Students and Families in the Canadian School System

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 17:39 by Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Judith K. Bernhard, Marlinda Freire
Latinos in Canada are receiving attention because of frequent poor performance in school. This phenomenon turns out to be connected to a number of basic problems that can only be understood through investigation of institutional processes with routine operations that may disadvantage certain minorities. This paper presents and discusses part of the data collected in a larger research project on Latino families and Canadian schools. Bilingual Latina researchers used participant observation and action research techniques to report on the home language practices of 45 Latino families and how the school’s routine processes influenced those practices. Findings include the following: (a) parents saw Spanish maintenance as a way to foster family unity, Latino identity, and professional advancement; (b) the strong assimilative pressures experienced by parents often resulted in their doubting the desirability of openly speaking Spanish at home; (c) because the children were losing their home language rapidly, the parents used a number of strategies; and (d) there are several things that parents would like to see happen that would enable them to maintain Spanish. Our findings indicate the necessity for schools to proactively recognize and build on the family’s cultural capital, including their home language.

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