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Review of  Developing in Two Languages

Reviewer: Hyun-Sook Kang
Book Title: Developing in Two Languages
Book Author: Sarah J. Shin
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.1006

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Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 08:25:14 -0500
From: Hyun-Sook Kang
Subject: Developing in Two Languages: Korean Children in America

AUTHOR: Shin, Sarah J
TITLE: Developing in Two Languages
SUBTITLE: Korean Children in America
SERIES: Child Language & Child Development
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2004

Hyun-Sook Kang
Educational Linguistics, Graduate School of Education, The University
of Pennsylvania


This book is the first-ever attempt to examine early childhood
bilingualism in the Korean community in the United States. Beyond
serving as an empirical account of the language situation of Korean
immigrant children and their families, this book aims to argue, “the
bilingualism of linguistic minority children is a resource to be cultivated
and not a problem to be overcome” (pp. 2-3). As is the multifaceted
nature of bilingualism, the book covers a wide range of linguistic,
social, cultural and educational factors in the language development
of Korean-American children.

This volume comprises seven chapters, along with an Introduction in
which Shin provides an outline of the book, and situates her position
as a 1.5-generation Korean-American immigrant, a former ESL
learner, a teacher educator and a parent with young children. She
expresses her concern that her insider position might have drawn her
to become myopic about the significance of everyday acts surrounding
the language situation in the Korean-American community. Despite
her reservations, the detailed account of someone who has lived
through the language situation from multiple perspectives is very

Chapter 1 reviews various paradigms of bilingualism ranging from a
conversational analysis approach to the codeswitching phenomenon,
a psycholinguistic perspective on child language acquisition and a
sociolinguistic approach to maintenance and loss of a home language.
Grosjean’s (1985, 1989) sociolinguistic definition of a bilingual is
adopted: “the bilingual uses the two languages for different purposes
in different circumstances” (pp.17-8). To study Korean-American
children’s codeswitching behavior, Auer’s (1984, 1991, 1995)
conversational analysis approach is employed, and its rationale and
advantages are discussed. Drawing upon McLaughlin’s (1978)
distinction, the developmental processes underlying two types of
bilingual language acquisition (i.e., simultaneous and successive) are
discussed. Shin uses Cummins’ (1996) framework to discuss bilingual
education models (i.e., transitional vs. maintenance) and the effects of
the bilingual programs on student achievement. The review of the
various conceptual frameworks on bilingualism sets a stage for
investigating multiple dimensions of bilingualism in Korean-American

In Chapter 2, the historical, societal and linguistic details of the Korean
community in the US are provided. The review of the history of Korean
immigration to the US and description of the demographic and social
characteristics of Korean Americans help us understand the
background of first-generation Korean parents’ emphasis on their
children’s success in the U.S. formal education and English
acquisition. It is pointed out that the lack of accent-free English skills
hindered many Korean immigrants from obtaining jobs in the US
commensurate with their educational levels and gaining access to the
mainstream U.S. society. The social networking patterns centered
around the Korean Christian churches and the sociolinguistic
situations of Koreans in the US, including America-born and –
educated Koreans, reflect their limitations in participating in the
mainstream society beyond the Korean-American community. Given
the stark cross-linguistic differences between English and Korean, a
full mastery of English is a challenging task despite Korean parents’
intense desire and efforts. The enormous pressures Korean parents
experience in tandem with the importance of English as a means to
advance in the wider society attribute to language shift in the Korean-
American community.

Chapter 3 describes the sources and collection methods of data that
serve as a basis for the discussion in the following chapters: (1)
spontaneous speech data of 12 Korean American first-grade children
in the mainstream classroom in a New York City public school; (2)
experimental language data elicited from the 12 Korean American
children; (3) survey data from 251 Korean American parents with
school-age children; and (4) follow-up interviews with selected survey
respondents and their children. In the three ensuing chapters, Shin
discusses the major findings of three empirical studies: Chapter 4 on
Korean children’s codeswitching; Chapter 5 on the children’s
development of Korean morphemes; and Chapter 6 on the survey and
interview on parental attitudes towards language maintenance and

Chapter 4 analyzes the Korean-American children’s codeswitching in
the mainstream classroom with a sequential conversational analytic
framework (Auer, 1984, 1995). With respect to participant-related
codeswitching, it was revealed that when English was the preferred
language of one of the children in the conversation, it usually took
over the other participant’s preference for Korean. This was
interpreted as evidence of the Korean children’s socialization into the
language and culture of the mainstream American classroom, as well
as the status of English as the more powerful, socially recognized
language. More proficient bilinguals adapt to the linguistic needs of
limited English proficient peers by switching to Korean, suggesting that
bilingual children’s codeswitching serves the same communicative
purpose as gestural or prosodic cues by monolinguals. In regard to
discourse-related codeswitching, the Korean American bilingual
children switch the languages at their disposal to coordinate turn-
taking, preference organization and repairs and signal side
sequences during the completion of classroom activities. Overall, it
was argued that codeswitching is a valuable linguistic strategy used
by the bilingual children, not a communicative deficit.

By looking at the Korean-American children’s acquisition of English
grammatical morphemes, Chapter 5 addresses the differences
between first- and second-language learners of English in acquiring
the English grammatical features and language-specific influences on
L2 acquisition. First, the differences in rank order of acquisition of
English morphemes between Spanish- and Chinese-speaking children
on the one hand and Korean-speaking children on the other, and the
correlations between the Japanese and Korean children were
presented as supporting evidence for the influences of L1 structures
on the course of L2 acquisition (Korean is typologically closer to
Japanese than Spanish or Chinese.) In addition, it was noted that the
bilingual children’s acquisition of variant word order in Korean is
influenced by their knowledge of English word order, given that a child
L2 learner is still in the process of acquiring the L2 while learning the
L2. The observation that the bilingual children lag behind their
monolingual counterparts in terms of the grammatical development of
Korean (e.g., their persistent use of the most unmarked Korean
classifier) and English (e.g., their frequent errors in English plural
marking) was interpreted as a result of the divided use of a language
(e.g., Korean at home and English at school), and argued to be
temporary if only the appropriate psychological, cultural and
educational support is provided. Given the subtractive bilingual
context in which the Korean-American children are placed, it is readily
expected that these children would speak increasingly smaller
amounts of Korean and eventually only have a passive knowledge of
their native language while achieving a full competence in English.

On the basis of the questionnaire results that language shift within the
Korean American family is underway, Chapter 6 discusses the
personal, social and educational factors that contribute to the
language shift in the Korean American families and community. It was
revealed that the extent of language shift was highly related to the
degree of the respondents’ exposure to English, indicated by the
length of residence in the US and respondents’ age at immigration. On
a personal level, the Korean American parents, who see their lack of
English skills as constraining their participation in the wider American
society, are determined to see their kids develop strong English skills
at the expense of losing the home language while they recognize the
intrinsic linguistic and cultural value of maintaining Korean. On a social
level, immigrant parents’ perception that English is critical for
academic and social success in America and that the attainment of
unaccented, fluent English is often equated with prestige in the
Korean American community are suggested as reasons for language
shift. Finally, the consequences of advice given to immigrant parents
by well-meaning but ill-informed professionals (e.g., teachers, doctors
and speech therapists) to abandon the native language at home, as
well as the effects of English-only policies on the education of
language minority children were pointed out as social factors to speed
up the pace of language shift. Despite the enormous pressures for
language shift, Shin keeps an optimistic view on heritage language
maintenance, and goes on to make suggestions.

Chapter 7 provides suggestions for successful transfer and
maintenance of heritage languages in the family, community and
societal levels. Shin starts with a list of recommendations for
intergenerational transmission of home languages, and moves on to
the community level. After discussing the role and contributions of
heritage schools in minority language maintenance in America to date,
she offers suggestions for effective instruction and teacher
development in community-based heritage schools. She further
suggests integration of Korean as a foreign language subject and
even Korean-English dual language programs to enhance the positive
attitude to the ethnic culture and language and bilingual development.
On the societal level, she points out a need to achieve a diverse
teaching population, referring to the predominance of white teachers
in contrast to the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in the student
population in schools. She concludes the book, urging parents,
communities and educators “to be aware of the processes of bilingual
development and convinced of the tremendous resources that
linguistic minority children bring to our schools and society.”


Shin does an excellent job of accurately depicting the lived stories of
the language situation in the Korean American community and
disseminating academic research findings to a wider readership using
her personal experiences as a 1.5-generation Korean-American, a
teacher educator and a parent of school-aged children. I could not
agree more with her observations, interpretations and arguments,
drawing on the cultural, historical and linguistic backgrounds peculiar
to the Korean American community. This volume will be helpful in
courses on Asian American studies, sociolinguistics and teacher-
education courses among many others.

Despite the strengths, this book has some shortcomings. One of the
flaws concerns the organization: there seems to be little or no explicit
connections among the three empirical studies constituting the book.
As summarized earlier, the three studies address different dimensions
of bilingualism drawing on distinctive conceptual frameworks. Other
than looking at the participants from the same ethnic group in the US,
there is no common ground linking the codeswitching behavior,
morpheme development and language attitude issues, nor an explicit
rationale given for selecting the three topics. Additionally, there is no
direct connection between the empirical study findings (presented in
Chapters 4, 5 and 6) and the practical recommendations for parents,
educators and policy makers (given in Chapter 7). It might have been
nice if there was tighter coherence embracing the three respective
studies, and connecting the study findings and analyses with the
implications and practical suggestions made.

In light of the data collection method, three issues stand out. First,
there was little or no information about the Korean-American children’s
language input and use outside of the classroom, as well as the
baseline data about the children’s proficiency at the outset of the
study. The spontaneous speech data were collected in the early-exit
transitional bilingual education program in which the Korean children
were enrolled. It is not surprising that English is the preferred
language under the supervision of the teacher in the mainstream
classroom, as evidenced by the observation that some Korean
children chose to speak only English and that only a small portion of
the speech data constituted codeswitching. A question arises about
children’s codeswitching behavior among peers outside of the
classroom. To track the bilingual children’s development in the two
languages, as addressed in the experimental study, it might have
been necessary to provide baseline data, specifically about their stage
in terms of morpheme acquisition, beyond the school-administered
test scores and the teacher’s observations (p. 70). A second problem
is that there were no interview or questionnaire data on the
participating children’s parents’ attitudes and beliefs toward
bilingualism or language practices at home. Though the purpose of
the survey study was “to supplement the findings from the children’s
language data,” (p.79), there was no direct link between the studies
on children’s codeswitching behavior and bilingual development and
the parental attitudes toward bilingualism. On a related matter, a third
issue is the wide range of age among survey participants, i.e., 32-54
years old. Given the original purpose of the survey as an investigation
of school-age parents’ attitude toward language education, and the
length of U.S. residence and age at arrival in the US as the two major
factors that contribute to parental attitude, it is plausible that the 22-
year range among the survey participants came into play in the survey

Finally, despite the depth of the analyses and discussions focusing on
the Korean-American group, this book seems rather parochial in the
scope. At different points throughout the volume, the Korean-
American was referred to as “a significant ethnic group in the US,”
a “model minority,” and so on. It was stated that Korean Americans
constitute “the fifth largest population in the Asian and Pacific ethnic”
without information of how large the Asian and Pacific ethnic
population is in the US today. Previous research, in fact, revealed that
some young Korean-American students, overshadowed by a small
fraction of over-achieving fellow students from the same ethnic group,
suffer from the perceived high expectations (Lee, 1994, 1996).
Although the author’s effort was deeply understood to convince
readers of the importance of her research findings and arguments, it
might have been nicer to situate the current findings about the Korean-
American community in the wider landscape of bilingualism. It might
have been interesting to relate the current findings to the language
situations in other ethnic and linguistic minority groups in the US or
those in Korean communities in other countries outside of Korea.

Though the organizational, methodological and narrow-scope issues
remain, the book as a whole does a superb job in portraying the lived
facts of Korean immigrants in the US and their conflicts on the
transmission and maintenance of a heritage language, as well as
offering practical suggestions for parents, teachers and policy makers
in achieving bilingualism.


Auer, P. (1984). Bilingual Conversation. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Auer, P. (1991). Bilingualism in/as social action: A sequential
approach to code-switching. Paper read at the ESF Symposium on
Code-Switching in Bilingual Studies: Theory, Significance and
Perspectives, Barcelona, 21-23 March.

Auer, P. (1995). The pragmatics of code-switching: a sequential
approach. In L. Milroy and P. Muysken (Eds.). One Speaker, Two
Languages: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Code-switching.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiation Identities: Education for
Empowerment in a Diverse Society. Ontario, CA: California
Association for Bilingual Education.

Grosjean, F. (1985). The bilingual as a competent but specific
speaker-hearer. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
6, 467-77.

Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two
monolingual in one person. Brain and Language 36, 3-15.

Lee, S. (1994). Behind the model-minority stereotype: Voices of high-
and low-
achieving Asian American students. Anthropology and Education
Quarterly 25(4):
Lee, S. (1996). Unraveling the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of
High and Low Achieving Asian American Students. New York:
Teachers College Press.
McLaughlin, B. (1978). The monitor model: Some methodological
considerations. Language Learning 28, 309-332.


Hyun-Sook Kang is a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Linguistics in the
University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She is
currently working on her dissertation on the relative efficacy of
different types of corrective feedback as an instructional condition in
learning Korean as a foreign/heritage language at the university level.
Her research interests include childhood bilingualism, language and
culture and applications of technology to language learning and

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