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Academic Paper


Title: New York City English and second generation Chinese Americans
Author: Amy Wing-mei Wong
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
English
Abstract: Although Chinese Americans set up Chinese heritage language schools as early as 1848 to preserve the heritage language and to promote a sense of ethnic identity among their American-born children (Chao, 1997), there is strong evidence that language shift to English is taking place rather rapidly within the Chinese communities across the U.S. Data from the 2006 ACS show that while only 34.1 percent of first generation (i.e. foreign-born) Chinese Americans reported speaking ‘English very well’, the percentages rise dramatically for those who are American-born (i.e. second generation and beyond) or born overseas but arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 (i.e. the 1.5 generation). 70.4 percent of the 1.5 generation and 93.8 percent of the American-born Chinese Americans reported speaking ‘English very well’. Additionally, only about 27.6 percent of the ABCs were estimated to speak their heritage language at home. Taken together, these estimates suggest that the rate of shift from Chinese to English is accelerating. Jia (2008) finds that even for first generation Chinese Americans, their Chinese language skills continue to decline with increasing English immersion. Rapid language shift to English means that many ABCs speak English as one of their native languages, if not the only one. This raises interesting sociolinguistic questions concerning the characteristics of the English spoken by ABCs and how ABCs utilize varieties of English to construct and negotiate differences with respect to each other and vis-à-vis the larger social structure.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in English Today Vol. 26, Issue 3, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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