Multilingual Matriarchs I

Preface: Christia Spears Brown et al., 2020

In some low-income countries in which compulsory education is not required of all children, parents often send only their sons to school (UNESCO, 2010). Girls remain out of school more than boys do, with 15 million girls worldwide never attending school at all (UNESCO, 2016). Around the world, women account for two-thirds of the 750 million adults worldwide without basic literacy skills. In Southern Asia, in 1990, girls could be expected to receive only 6 years of education; they now receive about 12 years of education.

Bilingual first language (BLF)

— The simultaneous acquisition of two languages from birth (De Houwer, 2009) (e.g., acquisition of heritage language & secondary strong language of one or both parents).

Clyne (1991)

Women tend to maintain ethnic language more than men in some cultures due to their role in maintaining family values and cultural practices in the home rather than pursuing employment.

Okita’s (2002)

Notable work on Japanese-English intermarried couples in the UK gives an authentic insight into the difficult and ‘invisible work’ of mothers trying to raise their children bilingually.

Mejía (2016)

Demonstrated that Spanish-speaking mothers were determined to make their children bilingual in spite of living with English-speaking husbands in an English-speaking country.

Sonia Wilson (2021)

Mothers carry responsibility of transmitting the minority language, with little or no support from the wider society (Okita, 2002; Smith-Christmas, 2016; Takeuchi, 2008; Yates & Terraschke, 2013).

One-Parent One-Language (OPAL; Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, 2004).

Daughters more likely than sons (regardless of birth order or age differences) to interpret for their parents, but daughters were also far more likely to be bilingual; fluent in both spoken English and American Sign Language” (Preston, 1996).

Malik (2009)

Women have to maintain their cultural traditions, norms and beliefs in their families, while men are supposed to maintain intercultural contact.

RacioLinguistics — Ramjattan, 2018

In the realm of retail, Walters (2018) and Williams and Connell (2010) note that in addition to being female and middle class, employers tend to view White employees as the best workers for customer interactions. Similarly for fashion modelling, Wissinger (2012) describes how Black female models need to ‘whiten’ themselves through such things as hair straightening in an industry that associates beauty with White women.

Racial Malleability

Racial malleability is the everyday adoption of so-called White linguistic/ cultural practices to lessen the stigma of one’s racialized position in particular situations. [Which differs from trying to pass as White]

Birth Order

Only children appear better linguistically (a non-significant trend), with less passive bilinguals.

The Data On Women’s Prowess (Brains > Brawn)

Margriet van Hek et al., 2019

Girls’ reading ability is superior to boys in every OECD country/society (Margriet van Hek et al., 2019; Stoet and Geary, 2013; OECD 2015)
…a trend known for decades (Stroud & Lindquist, 1942).

David Reilly et al., 2019

“By the time students reach Grade 12 there are over 2.54 times as many girls than boys that attain the advanced standard of writing proficiency.”
(Additional Data via: PiSA 2018 — OECD — Andreas Schleicher, 2018)

Frans W. P. van der Slik et al., 2015

“Female language learners turned out to profit more from higher educational training than male learners do in adult second language acquisition.”

Women Benefit More From Education Then Men (Frans et al., 2015)

The gap between females and males widens with more years of education, signifying that females, ceteris paribus, profit more from more education. We found this increasing effect size for speaking, writing, reading, and listening proficiency.

Multilingual Households

In parent-child relationships in multilingual settings, change is often inflicted on children as well as initiated by children (Pavlenko, 2011). First-generation immigrants often find themselves positioned between tradition and change, particularly when children are born into the target culture. The cultural transition may have negative effects, such as the decline of parental authority and status (2011). Alternatively, immigrants may come to reject a particular ethnic, cultural or gendered identity from their source culture, which may lead to emotional and cultural tension between children and parents. Cameron (1998) points to the paradoxical situation in which many immigrants find themselves with regard to cultural assimilation: while beneficial socially and economically, it may also undermine their way of life, their values, their beliefs, and ultimately their ethnic and cultural identity. It is exactly these cultural values that many immigrant parents wish to pass on to their children, while they simultaneously try to facilitate their children’s entry into the majority language and culture (Piller & Pavlenko, 2006).

Digital Gender Divide — OECD, Gruen et al., 2018

Across 26 countries (all countries where data exists for 15-year old students), girls outperform boys in reading, both on paper & via computers (OECD, 2018).

Workplace — Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund et al., 2021

Women’s and men’s working lives have changed considerably since the mid-20th century (Goldin, 2014). In nearly all OECD countries, women now have higher educational attainment than men (OECD, 2015). In many countries, women comprise more than 40% of the labour force (Pew Research Center, 2017)


Parents spend more time reading and teaching the alphabet to girls at very young ages (Baker & Milligan, 2016).

Translingual Literature — Aneta Pavlenko (2001)

Pavlenko, 2001: What does it mean “to be American” and is the meaning negotiable? Could one, for instance, “be American” and bilingual at the same time? Could one “become American”? Is one forever stuck in particular identity molds?

Multilingualism and Imagination

In what follows, I would like to summarize answers to my four research questions and reflect on what can be gained by the field of bilingualism from a close reading of bilingual writers’ memoirs. To begin with, the present study suggests that language learning memoirs of bilingual writers provide unique evidence of ways in which ideologies of language and identity in specific contexts impact language learning and use by particular individuals.

Multiple-Heritage Marriage (V. Karandashev, 2021)

Bias via @CambridgeWords:

— “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment”

Linguistic Exclusion

— “In a work environment with increasing linguistic diversity, contact with employees who speak a language that the focal employee does not understand could activate cognitive processes by which ingroups & outgroups could be formed” (Fiset & Bhave, 2021)


Sounds Good.

“The period in the example ‘Sounds good.’ could indicate the opposite of what the words literally mean, because one’s voice typically goes down when reading a sentence that ends in a period” (Mallenbaum, 2020). The ideas behind language are constantly evolving and changing, and the use of a period is thought to imply tones of seriousness and finality, and when these specific tones are combined with what would otherwise be considered positive text messages, then this can come across to the recipient as passive-aggressive in nature

Perils of Erasure

Communities that don’t get fully counted in the Census will miss out for the next 10 years. And that undercount would have a domino effect on political representation… on jobs… on healthcare centers… on funding for children’s classrooms… and so many other crucial resources.

Brown, 2020 (Continued from the preface)

“Latinx families are typically more traditional in socializing gender roles than European American families (Azmitia & Brown, 2002; Baca Zinn & Wells, 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo, 1994; Valenzuela, 1999), with women being more likely to maintain relational ties with families and preserve the ethnic traditions and integrity of the culture than men (Gil & Vazquez, 1996; Phinney, 1990). As such, girls are often trained to carry on that tradition and are often expected to remain close to the home and family. Boys are expected to gain independence and autonomy (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004; Suárez-Orozco & Qin, 2006) and thus are given more freedom, mobility, and privileges than are girls (Domenech Rodríguez, Donovick, & Crowley, 2009; Love & Buriel, 2007; Suárez-Orozco & Qin, 2006); girls, however, often have more restrictions and are more closely monitored than are their brothers (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004; Suárez-Orozco & Qin, 2006). Furthermore, girls, on average, are assigned more chores and responsibilities than their brothers (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004).”




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Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.