Race and ethnicity are important factors which contribute to one’s identity and sense of self. For young children and adolescents who are in the process of developing a sense of self and forging an identity, learning about and coming to terms with their ethnicity and cultural background are an essential part of that process. This can be particularly challenging for bicultural children, or children who are raised in a different culture than their parents’. Research has shown that adolescents with a bicultural identity can benefit from being able to come to terms with and adopt different elements and aspects from their cultural heritage. They can show better interpersonal skills, and have higher
Language is one of the more significant ways through which culture is expressed. The use of a language helps contribute to developing a sense of attachment and connection to a particular culture. So by speaking a second language, bicultural individuals take a step towards identifying with the different aspects of their culture. In addition to being an identifier of culture, language has also been found to affect personality. Previous research has shown that bilinguals exhibited differences in their behaviours depending on the languages in which they were expressing themselves. The mechanisms responsible for this effect were investigated by Chen and Bond in a two part study on bilingual university students in Hong Kong (Chen and Bond, 2011). The first part of the study sought to understand the perceptions that bilingual Hong Kong students had of native English speakers and native Chinese speakers. The participants were all compound bilinguals, meaning that they acquired both of their languages in the same cultural context. They were instructed to complete sets of questionnaires, available in both English and Chinese, to measure perception of self, of typical native Chinese speakers, and of native English speakers. Language ability, usage, and media exposure was also measured. The results found that native English Speakers were perceived to be higher on extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to new experience. Native Chinese speakers were perceived to be higher on neuroticism and conscientiousness. No significant difference in proficiency was detected among the participants who completed the questionnaires in English or Chinese.
The second part of the study assessed
Chen and Bond’s study suggests that the effects of language on behaviour are related to culture. Bilinguals show changes in their personality depending on the language they are using in order to adopt culturally appropriate traits. Their observations are indicators of the strong connection between the expression of cultural identity and language. This connection has been further investigated by researchers of the University of Sydney, in a study looking at how students from different cultural and language backgrounds who attended a bilingual French/English school in New South Wales, Australia, developed a bilingual and bicultural identity (Fielding and Harbon, 2013). Due to the differing background of the students, there were some participating in the language immersion program to learn French or English as a foreign language, while others were in it to preserve and reinforce a language they already spoke. Students completed questionnaires and participated in interviews conducted in English. The researchers found that the students made a distinction between bicultural identity and their bilingual identity. They explained their bicultural identity as the extent to which they felt they belonged to a culture, while they tended to associate bilingualism with their level of proficiency. Based on the results obtained from the questionnaires and the interviews, the researchers observed that some students’ perception of bilingualism was closely related to the idea of equal proficiency and frequent interactions in both languages. As a result students were more hesitant to label themselves as bilingual even though they all indicated that they viewed themselves as bicultural regardless of their perceived proficiency. The results gave some insight into the way cultural identity and bilingual identity is constructed in children. This further reinforces the point that language plays an important role in the feeling belongingness to a culture. It also shows that bilingual individuals hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to considering themselves bilingual.
A study on communication and identity conducted in Western Canada sought to further investigate the relationship between language and identity in a
The participants consisted of 218 students from a French background who were recruited from seven Francophone schools in the Saskatchewan province. They were given which contained items assessing demographic information, ethnic identity, their psychological adjustment, language confidence, social support, communication networks, Anglophone contact, francophone involvement, and exposure to English media. Given that the participants lived in a context where English was the dominant and default language, the results obtained suggest that their efforts to maintain Francophone networks and their ties with the French language were found to be the significant contributors in the development of their identity. They found that language was a significant difference maker in the network formation between Fancophones and Anglophones. Francophones tended to form networks which were more based on common language than Anglophones. This further underlines the important role that language in the sense of identity and belonging to a cultural group. The results also suggest that the home environment plays an important role in the formation of communication, as it is the primary influence that will determine the types of networks formed outside of the home.
The investigation of the interaction between the home environment and cultural identity brings to the attention the phenomenon of language brokering. Language brokering refers to the role of language and cultural interpreting and translating that adolescents from immigrant families sometimes have to perform between their families and the outside environment. So far, investigations on the effects of language brokering on psychological health and
In their study, Hua and Costigan hypothesised that for adolescents with a greater sense of family obligation language brokering would be associated with positive psychological health and
Participating in this study were 182 adolescents of immigrant Chinese families. Approximately half of them moved to Canada at age six or later, while the other half was born or moved there earlier. The investigators gathered demographic information, language brokering frequency and attitudes towards family obligations. Perceived parental psychological control,
The findings indicated that higher frequency of language brokering was associated poorer psychological health with adolescents who had stronger family obligation values or who perceived their parents to be more psychologically controlling. It was also found that higher frequency of language brokering was strongly associated with greater frequency of conflict between parent and child. However there was no significant association between the frequency of language brokering and
In a study on Mexican American adolescents, Love and Buriel (2007) investigated the relationship between the duties of language brokers, their perceived autonomy,
The participants in this study were 246 seventh and
The findings of the study showed that strong
The fact that language brokering in more places was correlated with lower levels of depression in girls suggests that there is a relation between the psychological effects of language brokering and the context in which it takes place. Martinez and colleagues (2009) investigated this relationship by looking at whether family environments differed in families that had high brokering demands versus those that had low ones; if the adolescents in those families differed in terms of substance use, academic performance, emotional and behavioural adjustment; and lastly if the parents differed in terms of parenting behaviour and adjustment.
The participants in the study consisted of 73 families from the Oregon metropolitan area. All the participating parents but one father were born outside of the United States. The assessments were conducted through
The findings indicated that there was little positive relationship between high demand contexts and healthy adjustment among parents and adolescents. The adolescents in high demand contexts showed more negative adjustments, poorer school performances, more internalising behaviour and a greater likelihood for future substance use. The findings also showed that fathers in high demanding language brokering areas showed higher levels of depression and lower positive involvement with their adolescents. The researchers suggested that this could be due to the gender role expectations that fathers have of being protectors and providers for their families, thus having to give that role to their children could result in more negative emotional and behavioural adjustments.
In another study looking at language brokering in context, Roche and colleagues (2014) sought to find out how language brokering in different settings, such as the school, the home, or the larger community, impacted
The study was conducted with the participation of 118 children of Latino origin from suburban Atlanta. Computer based surveys were administered to the participants during class time. In addition to demographic information, the surveys gathered information on language brokering activities at school, at home, and in other places such as stores, the hospital, or government offices. They also measured parent
Looking at the results of a study by Weisskirch (2012) can help give further insight into just how complex the interaction between language brokering and parent child relations and put the findings of Roche’s study in context. Weisskirch found that parental support was a strong predictor of whether or not participants felt burdened by language brokering. In cases when they didn’t, language brokers showed high levels of
In continuing to examine language brokering in context, Dorner and colleagues (2008) looked at how the responsibilities of adolescent language brokers changed over time, how they viewed those responsibilities, and the impact those changes had on their development. A two year case study was conducted with 18 children from a Chicago public elementary school. The researchers documented every day activities and translating experiences of the participants by observing them in and out of school, with their families, and also by interviewing the participants themselves as well as their parents and teachers. The participants’ translating experiences were recorded when the opportunity presented itself.
Two years later,
To investigate the way in which additional factors affected language brokering Kam and Lazarevic (2013) looked at how positive feelings about language brokering impacted depression and substance use in language brokers. They hypothesised that when adolescents took part in language brokering activities more frequently they would be more likely to develop depressive symptoms and substance use. However those who had positive feelings and norms towards language brokering would be less likely to develop depression or substance use. The study was conducted using surveys administered to 6th to 8th grade students in three public schools in rural Illinois. This study also found that adolescence who had a negative perception of language brokering were more likely to experience stress related to acculturation, and more likely to turn to substance use. These findings further reinforced the idea that the perception on language brokering might be a bigger factor in determining the effects of the act of language brokering.
Buriel and colleagues (1998) also found that the attitude towards language brokering was related to social
Looking at these studies, one recurring theme that can be discerned is that of the importance of context when looking at the effects of biculturalism. Being bicultural in a
Buriel, R., Perez, W., De Ment, T. L., Chavez, D. V., Moran, V. R. (1998). The elationship of language brokering to academic performance, biculturalism, and
Chen, S. X., Bond, H. M. (2010). Two languages, two personalities? Examining language effects on the expression of personality in a bilingual context. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(11), 1514–1528.
Dorner, L. M., Orellana, M. F., Jiménez, R. (2008). Language brokering and the development of immigrant adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23(5), 515–543.
Fielding, R., Harbon, L. (2013). Examining bilingual and bicultural identity in young students Foreign Language Annals, 46(4), 527–544.
Gaudet, S., Clement, R. (2008). Forging an identity as a linguistic minority: Intra- and intergroup aspects of language, communication and identity in Western Canada. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33(2008), 213–227.
Hua, J. A., Costigan. C. L. (2011). The familial context of adolescent language brokering within immigrant chinese families in Canada. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 894–906.
Kam, J. A., Lazarevic, V. (2013). The stressful (and not so stressful) nature of language brokering: identifying when brokering functions as a cultural stressor for latino immigrant children in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43, 1994–2011.
Love, J. A., Buriel, R. (2007). Language brokering, autonomy,
Martinez, C.R. Jr., McClure, H. H., Eddy, M. J. (2009). Language brokering contexts and behavioral and emotional adjustment among latino parents and adolescents. Journal of Early Adolescence, 29(1), 71–98.
Niehaus, K., Kumpiene, G. (2014). Language brokering and
Roche, K. M., Ghazarian, S. R., Lambert, S. F., Little, T. D. (2014). Adolescent language brokering in diverse contexts: associations with parenting and parent–youth relationships in a new immigrant destination area. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(77–89).
Weisskirch, R. S. (2012). Family relationships,