ERG SES C 06, Language and Education
Language attitude is one of the essential elements to maintaining a language (Bradley and Bradley, 2002). Alaskan languages are an example of how negative stigmas attached to these languages can lead to language loss (Dauenhauer and Dauenhauer, 1998; Galloway and Rose, 2015). Due to the reluctance to pass down Native languages to younger generations and the lack of desire from younger generations to learn and use these languages, 19 out of 20 languages are not being passed on and face extinction (Krauss, 2007). However, Welsh in Wales and Scottish Gaelic demonstrate a positive outcome in how the path of these threatened languages can be changed due to its speakers’ initiative movements and effort to promote positive attitude to the languages (O’Hanlon, 2015). These movements initiated the establishment of Celtic-medium education, regarding Welsh- and Scottish Gaelic-medium education, and such establishment made an impact on both parent’ and pupil’ decision in choosing Celtic-medium education. O’Hanlon (2015:251) listed four major rationales in choosing the Celtic-medium education, these are: heritage, the benefits of bilingualism, perceived quality of Celtic-medium education and employment. These qualities that the Celtic-medium education is attached to may promote positive attitudes to these languages, and in turn help the maintenance and development of them.
This research focuses on one of the indigenous languages in Taiwan, Daighi. Daighi may not have been in an as severe a linguistic condition as the Alaskan or Celtic languages at the outset of the maintenance effort, but Daighi speakers and learners do share similar negative attitudes. For instance, Daighi is a devalued language and is attached with negative characteristics such as ‘backwardness’ (Hubbs, 2013:83). In line with the implementation of the Ministry of Education’s Local-Language-in-Education policy in 2001, which dedicated to make indigenous languages one of the mandatory subjects in the first six years of the nine-year joint education, this research sets out to explore how Daighi Education is implemented in city centre primary schools. More specifically, the focus of this research draws on one of the objectives in the 2009 version of the National Curriculum: promoting positive attitudes to indigenous languages, which leads the study to centre on investigating how teacher leadership is in promoting positive attitudes to Daighi through classroom practices. To study these issues, the following research questions were formulated:
Key research question: How do teachers perceive their contribution to improving attitudes to Daighi through classroom practices?
- How important do teachers perceive promoting positive attitudes to Daighi to be?
- What are the methods Daighi teachers perceived to adopt and adapt in classes in order to promote positive language attitudes?
- How much do classroom practices match teachers’ perceptions?
This paper takes the Wertsch (1991)’s sociocultural theoretical framework. In his view, ‘human action typically employs ‘mediational means’ such as tools and language, and that these mediational means shape the action in essential ways’ (Wertsch, 1991:12). Taking this view point, in my study, Daighi teachers’ teaching is regarded as a mediated action, where the mediational means can be teachers’ understanding of their role, attitudes to Daighi, as well as the materials they use, schools’ syllabus and anything else that may shape their teaching methods.
This study aims to take Daighi as an example to explore the importance of language attitudes in language maintenance. As this study is carried out in Scotland, I make comparisons and connection between Daighi and other European languages that face similar challenges. The findings will not only help clarify practical strategies, it can also be applied to a wider context to benefit the maintenance of the threatened languages worldwide.
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