linguoboy wrote:If it was a situation where, say, their parents always spoke English and they replied in English by their servants or other caregivers (such as relatives) always or mostly spoke Tamil and they replied in Tamil, then I think you could class them as having two L1s.
Yeah, I guess they would have two L1s then. I'm not 100% sure about always
, but yeah they both grew up in an English speaking household, although their parents and siblings could speak Tamil fully. Even to this day, at extended family gatherings (on either side), English is used by default essentially among my parents and aunts/uncles. They all fluently know Tamil and could easily switch into it. Growing up in Sri Lanka, they would have all used it not just at school, but also with any shopkeeper, government official, etc. (Well, in truth, for those who lived or grew up in Colombo, chances are they would've used mostly Sinhalese, especially with government officials, etc. and some Tamil if the other recipient was clearly Tamil. However, I know my parents consider their Sinhalese to be conversational at best. I think this is the case with the majority of my aunts and uncles, although I know some who probably could be called fluently trilingual.)
Here's a recording of a native speaker of Mayo Irish reading phrases in a Connemara dialect, which should give you an idea of how different L1 Irish acquired natively can sound from L2 Irish acquired through the educational system:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qutRdkEjcX0&t=27s
Yeah, I definitely hear a difference. I suspected as much; yes, those two Youtubers speak English with Irish accents, but listening to their Irish made me really think of someone who first became fluent in English and then later learned Irish, such that they have more of an 'English mouth' trying to pronounce Irish sounds.
vijayjohn wrote:But for a lot of us, this is an inadequate definition because it's not how language acquisition works. There is no language that I learned continuously from birth (I'm forgetting whether this is the case for dEhiN as well or not). Every single language I know, to any degree, is a language that I had to learn from a book at some time in my life. I learned Malayalam from books. I learned English from books.
I think in my case, I could say I learned English continuously from birth. As I've already shared, my family being anglicized meant my parents spoke English at home, even back in Sri Lanka. We also had a servant, and I would imagine my parents spoke to her in Tamil. I also imagine when I attended Montessori school in Lanka, it was either all in Tamil or I at least was taught Tamil. (The Montessori was run by Catholic nuns, so I'm really not sure which would've been the case). In either case, if we had stayed in Lanka, I'm fairly certain I would've become fluently bilingual. In fact, the reason my siblings and I didn't keep any Tamil once we came to Canada was because my parents decided to only
use English with us to help make it easier for us. They would frequently though speak to each other in Tamil when they didn't want us to understand what they were saying.
But, come to think of it, I'm not sure how it would've been easier for us! I should ask them about that, because as I said, even in Lanka they would've mostly spoken English at home.
vijayjohn wrote:I didn't stop speaking Malayalam because I knew my parents spoke English. I stopped speaking it because everyone stopped speaking it to me! I had to cry (sometimes very publicly) and scream and call my parents out and fight tooth and nail to get them to just talk to me in my own goddamn language again. It was just a few years ago that I finally won. I still have to fight tooth and nail and call my parents out to get at least my dad to also stop using English with me (my dad can do this. I'm pretty sure my mom can't).
I found the same difficulty. In my case though, I didn't push that hard, and took the easy way out of reverting back to English with my parents. I think it's hard for someone who's used to interacting with another in a particular language to change that. I don't know what the linguistic evidence is for or against this, but I recall back when I used to frequent language exchange Meetups, several multilingual speakers would tell me how they felt like they almost had a different 'personality' for each language they spoke. If that's a documented thing, then I could understand how, for example, my parents would find it a little strange to interact with me using their 'Tamil selves'.
Linguaphile wrote:The first time I heard it it really threw me for a loop: "How can you not speak your native language?? If you never spoke it even as a child, doesn't that mean it can't be your native language?" But it's common in immigrant communities to say it this way.
I never consciously thought about it until now, but growing up, usages like what you described were common for me. However, once I started actively learning linguistics, I recall thinking the same thing: "How can you not speak your native language?" I think for me, if I didn't know linguistics at all, I would probably naturally revert to using mother tongue to mean my heritage language, so Tamil, and native language to mean my L1 language, so English. I consider myself a native English speaker, but not a native Tamil speaker, since I don't speak Tamil (apart from some words and phrases). However, Tamil is the language of my "race" - the background and people group I was born into, so it's my mother tongue.