6.8 Language Shift in the Second Generation

In the second generation there is usually a more marked LS. In the 1976, the LS for Maltese was 53.7%. This is much higher shift than seen for other Mediterranean languages (e.g Italy 18.6%, Greece 10.1%.). Northern countries also had a marked second generation LS: e.g. Germany 62.3%, Netherlands 80.8%). (see Clyne 1982).

The highest IS was found in Queensland (64.96%). It is only natural to expect that a more marked LS is to be found in the second generation. This happens even in a high prestige language like German. It is more likely to happen in a language like Maltese where parents seem to actively discourage children from learning it. For instance, Zubrzycki (1964) in a study of Maltese in the La Trobe Valley in Victoria in the 1970s found that only 24% of Maltese wanted their children to learn the language, compared with 79% of Ukrainians, 40% of Italians and Greeks (and only 6% of Dutch speakers).

Mixed marriages between Maltese and English speaking partners seem to hasten LS in the second generation . Clyne found that if one parent was born in an English speaking country, then the LS was as high as 94.6%. It should be noted that this LS is still much higher in Maltese than in Greeks (68.4%) or Italians (78.5%), though similar to that found in persons from Northern European countries (German 96.2%, Dutch 99.1%). He also finds that it seems to make little difference which parent is non-Maltese whether it is the mother or the father that speaks the English language. Of interest, in Greeks, shift from mother's language is less than from father's language (48.4 % compared to 71.6%), indicating a more lasting maternal influence. In the latest census quoted above (Table 6.3) it would appear that children of Maltese-born fathers tend to retain the language more than children of Maltese-born mothers.

Other factors which could have a bearing on language shift in the second generation include age: LS was 54% in the 5 - 9 year olds and 65.6% in the 50 + year olds. There was no significant difference between the sexes: (males 55.7%, females 51.5%). The perceived importance of a language in obtaining a job or improving one's economic prospects also plays a significant role in maintaining or losing a language.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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