Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal mothers’ views on language acquisition

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Bernacki Jonk, Luella
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Language development is central to how children learn and participate within their environment and specific cultural milieu. There is little information available on the process of language acquisition for Aboriginal children. The purpose of this study was to investigate caregiver-child interactions regarding language development from the perspectives of Aboriginal mothers. Thirty Aboriginal mothers from the remote northern community of Lac Brochet, Manitoba, and 30 non-Aboriginal mothers from an urban area of Winnipeg were administered a 36-item survey. Discriminant statistical analysis was carried out on the data. Results indicated there were few items within the survey that assisted in the identification of cultural groups. The differences in beliefs that were noted included Aboriginal mothers’ placing a higher value on grandparents’ roles in child rearing, the influence of spirituality, positive views on “baby talk”, and the use of instructions when teaching their children. Differences were also noted in the frequency with which the two groups used language facilitation techniques, with the Aboriginal mothers reporting more frequent use overall. . The results of the surveys suggested that one group of Aboriginal mothers in a northern Manitoba Dene community may have many of the same perspectives on language facilitation as urban non-Aboriginal mothers. Thus educators and speech-language pathologists may find they can recommend some of the same Western-based practices for language facilitation with some Aboriginal caregivers. However, each community and individual family is different, therefore and thus , it remains crucial for practitioners to determine the appropriateness of the Western-based assumptions for each community and individual family.. The findings also indicated that Aboriginal mothers valued native language preservation. Clinicians providing services within Aboriginal communities must be aware of each family’s use of native languages and the presence of dual language acquisition and exposure. Dual language acquisition beganin the caregivers’ homes and should be supported throughout the school years, so that a collaborative network of language facilitation can occur.
language, Aboriginal, culture, children
Jonk, L. (2008). How do young children learn language: Perspectives of Aboriginal and Western mothers. First Nations Perspectives: The Journal of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, 1, 74-97.
Jonk, L. & Enns, C. (Spring, 2009). Using culturally appropriate methodology to explore Dene mothers’ views on language facilitation. Canadian Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, 33(1), 34-44.