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Little Bangladesh: A

Language Landscape

Subi Subhan
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Locale

(Source: http://www.infoplease.com/atlas/country/india.html)

Foreign-born as a percent of metropolitan


population, 2000/01
Percent of Metropolitan Population

50
45
40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
To ro nto

M iami

Vanco uver

Sydney

Lo s A ngeles

New Yo rk

M o ntreal

Foreign-born population in several major metropolitan cities


Sources: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001; U.S., Census
Bureau, 2000 (Ryerson University, 2004)
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Top Spoken Languages of the World: Number of Native Speakers


Rank Order
Language
Number of speakers
1
Mandarin Chinese
885,000,000
2
Spanish
332,000,000
3
English
322,000,000
4
Bengali (Bangla)
189,000,000
5
Hindi
182,000,000
6
Portuguese
170,000,000
6
Russian
170,000,000
8
Japanese
125,000,000
______________________________________________________________________

Demographics of Bangla Speakers


Area

Number of
Bangla
___ Speakers

Speaks Only Speaks


Bangla
Bangla
at home at home

Toronto 18,470 15,785


Canada 34,650 29,705

6,050
12,840

Mostly Speaks
Bangla
at home

5,640
9,615

Equally Speaks Regularly Speaks


Bangla and English
Bangla
at home
at home

1,500
2,780

2,595
4,470

Purpose of the Study

To surface the emic story of the Bangladeshi


immigrants in Toronto as they transmit their
language and the values that accompany
language, to the next generation.
To surface the issues of language
maintenance/attrition particular to this group.
To describe the emerging pattern of practices
and manifest attitudes regarding first language
maintenance/attrition in the daily lives of these
families living in the Toronto area.

_______________________________________________________________

Flowchart of the Research Design


_________________________________
Naturalistic Exploratory Inquiry

Data Collection:
Ethnographic
Fieldwork
Fieldwork
Observation

Analysis and
reporting:
Portraiture

Data collection:
Historical
interviews and
sources

Conversational
interviews

Research questions:
1. To what extent is language maintenance noticeable within the
families of Bangladeshi immigrants in Toronto?
2. To what extent and in what ways is the heritage language present
and used in the context of the families?
3. What are the ranges of relationships that Bangladeshi immigrant
families in Toronto have with outside contexts and resources with
regards to their heritage language?
4a. In what ways do parents or adults in the family convey values and
attitudes about heritage language to their children?
4b. How much importance do parents attach to the transmission of
heritage language?
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Participants
Researcher
Three Families based on convenience and availability
Resource people knowledgeable members of the population under
study or associated people
________________________________________________________

Instrumentation

Researcher
Ethnographic Fieldwork

Observation notes
Conversational interviews

Historical research methods

Documents reviews
Historical interviews

Method
Ethnographic methods

Historical methods
______________________________________________________________

Data Collection

Three years of rapport building - contributing to background information


One full cycle of observation supplemented by a few rapid assessment
tools
Three families observed for three to four days each
Note writing in between
Informal conversations
Reviewing documents
Mostly private spaces - home
Families followed outside to public spaces streets, stores, and religious,
cultural and social congregations
Resource people interviewed privately face-to-face and over the phone

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Analysis

Qualitative methods coding and seeking the pattern


Using N-6 and manually
Bracketing interview
Triangulation

Source
Data
Theory

Member checking

Guest analyst
_______________________________________________________________

Reporting

Potraiture

A thick description of the background and of the lives of the subjects observed
[I]ntends to address wider, more eclectic audiences beyond academys inner
circle, [and] to speak in a language that is not coded or exclusive (Lawrence-Lightfoot &
Davis, 1997, p.10)

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Findings

The Emergent Pattern


Three important aspects of the emergent
pattern:

Childrens role and preferences


Parents priorities
Parents lack of awareness about or negligence of
language education.

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Childrens Role and Preferences

Seen but rarely heard


Functional interaction only
Language use habits and communication
Childrens role in language use and communication

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Parents Priorities

Adults Role and Attitude Regarding Children

Health
Companionship and entertainment
Childrens choice

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Parents Priorities

Other Priorities

Survival and adjustment


Lack of life-skills
Information sharing
Networking
Socialization and preoccupation with life and
family left behind
Fitting in and identity crisis
Importance of food
Time spent on food
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Non-prioritized Status of Heritage


Language Education and Maintenance

Religious education
English education or learning English
Tutoring and other elements
Lack of awareness and negligence of
heritage language

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Relationships with outside contexts

Negative
Religious observance
Cultural shows
Public libraries
Bookstores
Media stores
TDSB language programs
University of Toronto

Positive
Private institutions for cultural instruction
Social visits
Ethnic enclaves (although not exclusively ethnic)

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Confusing Cultural Values


The girls holding the letters to
spell Happy New Year in the top
picture are wearing cotton
handloom saris in traditional style
and flowers.

The girl in the bottom picture is


wearing Bollywood influenced
shelwar kameez currently
popular among upper class
urban Bangladeshis.

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Parents views towards transmission of


language

Very little effort noticed among the parents


The general assumption automatic transmission
Most parents do not seem to notice the lack of use by children
Acceptance - Oh well, after all this is Canada, what should we
expect?
Assumption - only English is needed to be successful
Giving excuses and avoiding or postponing the issue of heritage
literacy education
Parents find it challenging to find time, means, & context to
transmit
Children immigrated older also slack use and practice parents
lack awareness and knowledge
Efforts of a few parents - not strong enough for whole group to
maintain heritage language
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Follow up

Less visibility of children


Blending outfits and Westernization
More cultural groups and performances but only
adults are involved
Complete loss of language habits in the cohort of
children
Disappearance of the audiovisual outlets
Reduction of number of newspapers
Conversion of bookstores
Rise of the internet
Change in language program enrollment a positive
trend?
Continued lack of funding in needed areas
Increased number of businesses
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Conclusion

Families with children generally show definite signs of language


attrition
Only a handful of such families show evidence making attempts
to maintain heritage language
Few families take Bangla school seriously
Some others are known of trying to teach their children Bangla
literacy at home
A few others consciously enforce speaking Bangla at home,
reportedly
Encouraging children to perform in cultural activities - negligible
portion of the population
Language transmission generally neglected at younger age or is
assumed to be automatic process
Primary and junior age children more susceptible to attrition

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Thank you!

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