Heritage language maintenance and revitalization: Evidence from Finland, Sweden and Cyprus

By Olga Nenonen (Tampere University Finland), Sviatlana Karpava (University of Cyprus) & Natasha Ringblom (Stockholm University and Dalarna University)

Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 video or install Flash.Nenonen_Karpava_Ringblom_Heritage-language-maintenance-and-revitalization-Evidence-from-Finland,-Sweden-and-Cyprus-s3-tjx.jpg

Heritage language maintenance is a complex process that depends on language knowledge and use, attitudes, linguistic and cultural identities as well as speakers age, length of residence in the host country, size of the minority/immigrant community and settlement patterns (Tannenbaum and Berkovich 2005; Muñoz 2010; McGroarty 2012; McCabe 2016) but mainly on transnational families themselves, their well-being, emotional atmosphere, family language policy and language management strategies (Pavlenko 2004). The attitudes are formed by the wider society and NOT without school or institutional support; only strong efforts of the parents can prevent minority language loss (Kulyk 2015). Thus socio-cultural contexts and parental attitudes should be taken into consideration (Song 2016). If multilingualism and multiculturalism is promoted in school settings, this can support the HL of migrant children and at the same time help them to adapt to a new environment culture and language and have successful academic development (García 2003; Li 2006; Caldas 2008). Otherwise lack of sufficient input to HL can lead to incomplete acquisition partial or complete language attrition (Li 2006; Pavlenko 2010; Pavlenko and Malt 2011; Svizeva 2018). In our talk, we will address the problem of maintenance and revitalization of Russian as a HL in three countries: Finland, Sweden and Cyprus. This issue has been researched from a sociolinguistic perspective. We focus on the aspects of sociocultural context in analyzing the language situation and practices in the linguistic and education communities as well as in indigenous communities. In Finland, Russian-speaking population is the third largest community after the Finns and the Swedes. There are about 80000 Russian-speaking people in Finland, which is over one percent of the total population. Russian occupies the first place in the list of non-state languages of the country (Nenonen 2019: 207). There are 29000 Russian speaking people in Sweden (Parkval 2015: 276). This population includes people of different nationalities who use Russian as their language of communication on everyday basis. Russian community in Cyprus is the largest foreign group in Cyprus (Karpava 2015; Karpava et al. 2018). Russian has become a new lingua franca in Cyprus (Eracleous 2015) in addition to English which is widely spread and used for communication throughout the island (Terkourafi 2007; Schneider 2003 2007; Buschfeld 2013).The main need of heritage speakers/learners of Russian is the maintenance and revitalization of the language. By conducting semi-structured narrative interviews with 20 families in each country (60 in total) we provide an in-depth participant perspective and describe how the linguistic and education communities support heritage Russian speakers in different educational establishments: (1) early childhood education and care (2) pre-primary education (3) nine-year basic education (comprehensive school) (4) upper secondary education and (5) higher education provided by universities and universities of applied sciences. We will be able to discuss intermediary findings on similarity and differences in practices of three countries.

View slides here.

Published: Thursday, April 22, 2021