Guskaroska, Agata, and Thomas Elliott (Iowa State University)
Language maintenance is an increasingly important issue as migration and intercultural contact put less privileged or less powerful languages at a risk of disappearance. Diaspora communities worldwide face challenges in passing on linguistic and cultural practices to their children due in part to the influence of technologies largely shaped by English speaking countries. What does that mean for minority languages? Is technology an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to minority languages?
The recent explosion in the quantity, quality, and accessibility of educational software has yet to be explored in the context of minority language learning and maintenance. In that context, this study provides an overview of the existing CALL tools for preserving the Macedonian language, identifying unexplored avenues for development, and suggesting possible solutions for minority language maintenance. With new developments in diversity and accessibility of educational applications and media, new opportunities are arising. In order to best make use of these affordances and establish best practices for further development of these tools, we conducted a study on language backgrounds, ideologies, and attitudes among the Macedonian diaspora community in several English-majority countries through surveys and interviews.
Findings show strong motivation toward language maintenance and efforts by parents, but a lack of available CALL resources despite interest in new technological resources to aid in this process. Based on these findings, we recommend further development of language maintenance technology and media for the diaspora community. Some suggestions for development include: mobile games/apps; an eBook for learning the Macedonian language and culture; a YouTube channel with songs and chants for alphabet/vocabulary learning; a website gathering all the resources in one publicly accessible place; a Facebook page/group for facilitating sharing, bringing communities together and introducing users to the resources.
This study is relevant not only to the Macedonian diaspora, but also to the broader field of language maintenance. Many immigrants, regardless of their origin, encounter similar problems in preserving their native language. The use of digital technology has increasingly expanded in the last few decades, and its growth could potentially help address these issues.