The following thesis investigates Russian mothers’ experience of motivating Russian language learning and bilingualism in their Russian-Norwegian children in Norway. The purpose of this study is to look at the motivating factors that influence parents to teach their children their own language, as well as support the bilingual situation. Although the study focuses on the minority language, as it is the language spoken by the mothers, the bilingual situation is used to further analysis on motivation. The research objectives around the topic are as follows:
• Which strategies are used by the mothers to maintain their children’s Russian language as well as bilingualism?
• What are their attitudes towards the social environment at the Russian School?
• What are the main motivating factors in promoting Russian language and bilingualism?
This investigation deals with bilingual children of at least one Russian parent who are growing up in Norway where the dominant language of the bilingual group is Norwegian. The parents investigated are mothers who enrolled their children in Russian classes at the Russian School of Sandvika. Through the use of qualitative methods, such as interviews and observations, I investigate their experience of motivating their child's minority language, including the social and individual implications this has for bilingualism.
The first part of the theoretical framework introduces various approaches to the phenomenon of bilingualism, including studies by Lambert (1977) that investigated into additive and subtractive bilingualism, later followed by Cummins’ (2000) CUP model and the Threshold Hypothesis. The study treats bilingualism as a social phenomenon, relating it to the socialization process. Socialization occurs through internalization, which is often described as a process during which the external factors (values and norms of a culture) are assimilated, therefore becoming a part of the self. The theoretical background further examines the internalization process by introducing the motivational theory of Self-Determination (Deci & Ryan, 1985), which introduces the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and further delves into the social influences of the environment on individual’s inner motives. The SDT also presents a framework for the support of intrinsic motivation, claiming that the more autonomy, competence and relatedness the individual obtains, the more self-determined he will become. Because of its focus on the integrative nature of motivation, it is used as a framework for understanding the nature of the mothers’ motivation . A motivation theory for the bilingual language learner is presented by Gardner, and presents as integrative/instrumental motivation as additional motivational constructs. Lastly, throughout the discussion of the findings, theoretical concepts by Foucault, Mead, and Douglas are presented in the analysis of the main motives, which are based on the social perspective of the motivation construct.
The results are divided into three parts: strategy use, attitudes and motives. First, the results concluded a variety of strategies used by the mothers, including the active use of verbalization, reading, cartoons, and homework, in addition to visiting family in Russia every year and creating a social network of bilingual children. Since all three cases are different, the main strategies used differ as well, depending on the mother. While Anna focused greatly on the development of sociolinguistic competence, using verbalization as the main strategy, Katya’s focus lies in homework activities. The main strategy that all three mothers actively share is the promotion of literacy. All three mothers read on a daily basis to the children, and exhibit a positive attitude towards literacy. Visiting family in Russia is another strategy they share, believing that the yearly trips benefit greatly the rapid increase in language acquisition.
Second, the results concluded that the mothers were generally positive towards the social milieu at the Russian school, and found the other mothers’ support positive and useful. Third, findings suggest that the main motive for the mothers, besides family ties and obtaining a well-rounded education, is identity. All three mothers identify strongly with being Russian, and although they support the promotion of both identities, the reason for focusing on the Russian language is their strong connection to who they are and where they come from. Their deep emotional attachment to their culture is what drives them intrinsically to teach their children language and literacy skills.