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"Connecting to My Roots": Filipino American Students' Language Experiences in the U.S. and in the Heritage Language Class


Filipinos are one of the biggest minority populations in California, yet there are limited opportunities to learn the Filipino language in public schools. Further, schools are not able to nurture students’ heritage languages because of increased emphasis on English-only proficiency. The availability of heritage language classes at the university level – while scarce – therefore becomes an important space for Filipino American students to (re)learn and (re)discover their language and identity. Using the lenses of language shift and language maintenance, this study aimed to explore Filipino American students’ language experiences broadly in the U.S., and in the Filipino heritage language classroom. Through semi-structured interviews, I find that the family is their frame of reference for collective language experiences. While language shift occurred in families because of various societal pressures, they also described language maintenance practices that helped retain Filipino language learning in their families. At the university, the heritage language classroom was described as transformative space where students were able not only to (re)learn Filipino, but also find a curriculum that reflected their personal stories and allowed them to strengthen their ties to their families and to the Philippines.

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