Heritage language use and proficiency: Acculturation, identities and psychological health

Virginia Lam, Alexandra Catto

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The intricate links between heritage/home language (HL) use and heritage identity of heritage-bilinguals are well established. Less is known about the degree to which their language proficiency and use or acculturation contributes to heritage and host identities and psychological health. The present study investigated this with a diverse sample of heritage-bilingual students (N=220; Mage=25.43 years) across first, ‘1.5’ (resettled as minors) and second generations in the United Kingdom. Participants completed self-report measures on their English and HL proficiency and that of family members, family language use, linguistic acculturation, biculturalism, cultural involvement and preference, host and heritage group identification, self-esteem and wellbeing. Data showed that different generations and language groups differed on HL proficiency and use, and that those with European HLs reported more bicultural orientations. Regression models showed that HL proficiency uniquely contributed to all acculturation outcomes and that family members’ language proficiency and use uniquely contributed to cultural involvement. Cultural involvement and preference, but not language use or proficiency, contributed to host and heritage group identification, while more HL-oriented family language use and cultural preference contributed to self-esteem. Findings are discussed in relation to the literature on generation differences, linguistic distance, and adaptive acculturation and identity patterns.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Home Language Research
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2023

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