A case study of primary school Persian heritage language learners in Australia
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:11 authored by Mojgan Mokhatebi Ardakani
Following four decades of pure research on individual issues in heritage languages, there has emerged the need to develop an integrated theory of heritage language acquisition, similar to theories of second language acquisition (Van Deusen-Scholl, 2014). Moreover, the field of heritage language research has largely focused to date on the study of commonly taught languages in high school, college and university students. The number of studies focusing on primary school heritage language learners of less commonly taught languages such as Persian, is limited. This research, as the first study of Persian heritage language learners in Sydney, Australia, focuses on primary school Persian language learners attending four Persian community language schools on Saturdays. A pilot study (Mokhatebi Ardakani & Moloney, 2010) conducted by interviewing principals of the four Persian community language schools, indicated the challenges and issues encountered by the stakeholders such as students, parents and teachers. The issues included students' lack of motivation, students' high rate of attrition, lack of parental involvement, lack of standard curriculum resulting in ad hoc curriculum, and lack of appropriate Persian language learning resources. The pilot study findings initiated this doctoral research to fully understand what influences Persian language learning among Persian heritage language learners. Following a sociocultural perspective on heritage language learning (He, 2010), the thesis identifies the need to investigate both formal and informal settings of heritage language learning (Lo Bianco & Peyton, 2013). Layder (1993) suggests four components for a social research: context, setting, situated activity and self. While this study recognises its Australian context, it focuses on the other three components. Home and Persian school as Persian language learning settings, Persian language learning activities at home and Persian school, and students' motivation and identity are explored in this study. This qualitative case study research was conducted by interviewing 35 students, nine parents and seven teachers. Students were interviewed in focus groups and they were obnserved in their Persian language classes. Parents and teachers were interviewed individually. A grounded theory approach was used and participant data were triangulated. The study findings highlight that both language input and interaction at home and Persian school as cornerstones of sociocultural theory of language learning, affect students' Persian language learning. The findings also suggest the influence of students' identity and motivation on their Persian language learning. Consequently, the association between the sociocultural aspects such as access to language through input and interaction, identity and motivation establishes a theory of better Persian heritage language acquisition that can be applied to heritage learners of other languages. The theory can be implemented to develop a pedagogy with explicit statements of principles and choices resulting in coordinated language development.