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Beyond Yellow EnglishToward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America$
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Angela Reyes and Adrienne Lo

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195327359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195327359.001.0001

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Trading Tongues

Trading Tongues

Loss of Heritage Languages in the United States

(p.331) 20 Trading Tongues
Beyond Yellow English

Leanne Hinton

Oxford University Press

This chapter is an examination of the personal side of language maintenance and language shift in the United States, as told by Asian‐Americans from immigrant families. Pertinent selections were taken for over 250 “language autobiographies” submitted over several years in a course at the University of California at Berkeley. In these autobiographies, the students reveal their struggles with learning English and the concomitant decline of their heritage tongue. They describe from a personal point of view the processes of language attrition and the embarrassments, intergenerational isolation and ultimate regrets coming from their own illiteracy, incomplete learning and attrition of their family's native language. The conclusion points out the waste of heritage languages which, if supported better in the school system, could be important resources for the United States.

Keywords:   language shift, Asian‐Americans, Code‐switching, Bilingualism, language acquisition, language attrition, language autobiography, heritage languages, immigration

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