IMRJ13-183: Language learning as culture keeping: Family language policies of transnational adoptive parents

Sarah J Shin


This study investigates how parents of international adoptees explain their decision to pursue birth language education for their children and how they go about achieving their goals. It focuses on the perspectives of 16 white U.S. parents who have at least one adopted school-aged child (ages 5 to 18) either currently or previously enrolled in a community language program. The interviews covered the language experiences of 22 children, all of whom were adopted before the age of 2 from either China or Korea. The parents were highly motivated to seek language instruction because: (1) the child looks Asian and will be expected to know the birth language and culture, (2) the child wants it, (3) adult adoptees recommend it, and (4) knowing another language is an asset. However, their language goals were undermined by structural problems at community schools, societal discourses that devalue minority languages, and pressures of middle-class parenting.