A qualitative case study on first language loss and language maintenance of two Hispanic immigrant children

Richard Scott Mears, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the factors that influence the maintenance and loss of the first language of two children of Hispanic immigrants. The maintenance of the first language among immigrant children is a warranted concern in the field of education. Some immigrant children retain their first language but others do not maintain the native language. The complexities of native language maintenance and native language loss are difficult to capture through quantitative methods. To obtain a more precise idea of the language learning experiences of an immigrant child, who arrived to the United States where the child was immediately immersed into the English language, a case study of the two immigrant children located in a middle Tennessee county in the United States was conducted. It was concluded thru the use of triangulation of data from interviews, observations and artifacts that both the home and school environment play an important role in the development of both the first and second language. By using the constant comparative method, data was used to form categories that allowed the researcher to code and compare the data in order to find the emergence of common themes and form a strong understanding of the phenomenon. Two major findings of this study were that positive school environments are important in helping a child maintain self-confidence and self-esteem which are important in the maintenance of the first language as well as the development of the second language. Also encouragement from family to use the first language at home contributes to the maintenance of the first language and promotes the learning of the second language. The theory that emerged was that language maintenance is transactional between the school and home. Maintenance of the first and second language is successful when both the home and school environments provide positive support for both languages. Further research on this topic was recommended by the researcher. More qualitative research would benefit teachers and parents in helping them have a better understanding of how to support the maintenance of the first language.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Richard Scott Mears, "A qualitative case study on first language loss and language maintenance of two Hispanic immigrant children" (2013). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3599435.