June 4, 2016

Fiji school children’s multilingual language choices when talking with friends

The following book chapter has been accepted for publication and forms part of Suzanne Hopf's PhD.
Hopf, S. C., McLeod, S., & McDonagh, S. H. (2016, in press). Fiji school children’s multilingual language choices when talking with friends. In M. Theobald (Ed.). Friendship and peer culture in multilingual settings. Sociological studies of children and youth (Vol. 22). Emerald. ISSN: 1537-4661. Here is the abstract

Purpose. Fiji is a multicultural and linguistically multi-competent country. Historical ethnic divisions have socialised students into language friendships based around common languages. Recent changes to educational policy, specifically the mandating of students learning all three of the main languages in Fiji (Standard Fijian, Fiji Hindi, and English), have been introduced in the hope that cross-linguistic understanding will encourage a greater sense of national identity amongst all Fijians regardless of ethnicity. This study explores one multilingual school environment considering students’ language use, attitudes, and friendships in light of these policy changes.

Methodology. A convergent mixed-methods research design using surveying, artefact collection, student's drawing, and observation was employed.

Findings. The majority of students reported some proficiency in the language of their inter-ethnic peers; however, students’ inter-ethnic friendships predominantly relied on English language use. It was observed that most friendships amongst these Fijian primary school students were still established according to main language use at home; however, inter-ethnic peer interaction in English was observed to be friendly and respectful.  These language use patterns and friendship behaviours were potentially reinforced by individual and societal multilingualism, in addition to the school environment.

Originality. The paper presents the first research linking Fijian primary school students’ language choices and friendship development.