The environment at Cape Breton is unfamiliar for most international students especially the ones who are not from North America or Europe. There are differences in climate, food, culture, and languages among others. The language barrier that most international students face is particularly challenging. Before gaining admission to Cape Breton University (CBU), students are required to have a certain level of knowledge when it comes to the English language.
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However, for most international students, English is not their first language. The experiences of international students at CBU lead to a scenario where languages come into contact. Language contact is responsible for various sociolinguistic and linguistic developments. For students who are raising their children in Cape Breton, the effects of language contact affect both them and their children albeit in varying levels.
The international students experience language contact on various levels including historical, socioeconomic, morphological, and political. On the other hand, their children experience language contact levels mostly on a morphological level. This essay explores the language-contact experiences of international students bringing up their children in Cape Breton from an Arabic student’s perspective.
Language contact occurs when two or more languages are used in a similar place and time. In the case of most CBU students, the students come to Canada and they are required to communicate in both English and their native languages.
Throughout this essay, the example of an Arabic international student who has a five-year-old son, resides and goes to school in Cape Breton will be used. Most children who are being raised by international students have different lingual experiences. For instance, almost all of these children are bilingual and they use English when mingling with other Canadian children.
On the other hand, they use their native languages when communicating with their parents and siblings. Another scenario involves multilingual children who can speak English and at least two other languages. However, in most situations, the children have a prominent language that they use regularly.
The main difference in language contact between children and adults is that in most scenarios the children’s lingual capacity is not fully developed like that of their parents. For instance, a five-year-old kid of Arabic descent can still alter his pronunciations to suit those of the English language even if Arabic is his first dialect.
In such a case where a non-developed language is dominated by another prominent language, the weaker language might be typologically endangered. The exploration of this paper focuses on non-trivial language contact scenarios where active interaction takes place.
When two languages come into contact, a hierarchical typology set ensues. There are three common outcomes of language contact including language change, language death, and language mixture. In Cape Brent where English is the most common language, cases of language mixture are frequent. Cases of language death are quite rare especially for languages that do not share morphological qualities.
However, cases of contact-induced language alterations are quite common. In the case of an Arab parent who is raising a child in Cape Brent, he/she will mostly be on guard against language change because it is almost impossible for the English language to ‘kill’ the Arabic language. However, the pronunciation of most Arabic words can be influenced by the English language resulting in the use of creoles.
On the other hand, students who originally use French, Spanish, and other English-related languages have to contend with bilingually mixed languages. In some cases, children who are brought up speaking some of these languages can completely lose them and eventually replace them with English.
The English language contains 75% borrowed-words and for children whose language-capacities are not yet developed fully this might prove to be confusing. For example, a child who is used to speaking in French might slowly replace his/her initial language with English.
Nevertheless, the input of parents in language contact scenarios is crucial. Some international students will prefer communicating with their children in their native languages while others chose using English. The ones who use English mostly do so to help their children practice the English language. This form of language bias is a major contributor to the endangerment of minority languages.
The endangerment of a minority language depends on several factors including religious, political, lingual, geographical, technological, economic, and sociological among others. These factors are responsible for mapping the topology of any language. Children who are growing up in Cape Brent usually experience a concentrated impact of these influences as compared to their parents.
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In a typical scenario, an international student who is residing in Cape Brent experiences slight influences from social, religious, historical, technological, and lingual pressures as compared to his/her children. On the other hand, a seven-year-old child studying at a school in Cape Brent is more pressured to conform to the prevailing lingual, social, technological, and religious patterns.
Therefore, the influence of these factors on the children’s other languages apart from English is quite evident. For instance, children who are being raised by CBU’s international students are more eager to identify themselves with the English language than their guardians are.
Adults are more accommodating to the students who are not conversant with the English language than primary or secondary level children are. For example, it is common to witness Arabic international students being corrected by their children when they do not pronounce English words correctly.
A prominent feature of the minority-language situation facing CBU international students and their children is the lingual-literacy association. Poor use of the dominant language is often associated with lower literacy levels, especially in social situations. Most CBU students have enviable levels of literacy in-spite of their poor English language skills.
In addition, the students mostly interact with other students who are aware of that fact. However, their children often operate in social environments where poor language use is equated with low literacy levels. Therefore, to prevent the children from shunning their indigenous languages, international students should often clarify this issue.
Nevertheless, students should not magnify the issue of bilingualism through extravagant actions such as enrolling their children in speech schools. Additional English classes are acceptable, but concentrating on trivial language issues such as perfect pronunciations might contribute towards endangerment of minority students.
The students should also clarify to their children the issues that are often associated with negative-lingual stereotypes (such as the use of accents to portray Arabs as terrorists) when they are portrayed in digital media.
CBU international students have a responsibility to ensure that their minority languages are not endangered. Although the students have a role to play in their children’s bilingualism, they should also be vigilant against negative stereotypes and the discrimination that comes with them. When raising an Arabic child in Canada, several typological scenarios of language endangerment arise.