Early Childhood Language Socialization among Tibetans in British Columbia by Shannon Ward

“In 2010, former Prime Minister Harper finalized an agreement with the 14th Dalai Lama to settle 1000 Tibetan refugees in Canada. Resettlement took place from 2013 to 2017 at sites across Canada including greater Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. The resettlement program provided pathways to citizenship for individuals and families who had been living in protracted exile since 1959, in remote settlements in
Arunachal Pradesh. After nearly 60 years in exile in the densely multilingual eastern Himalayas, Tibetans from Arunachal Pradesh have complex linguistic backgrounds. As these individuals build their lives in western Canada, they face challenges in supporting their young children’s continued connection to their heritage through language in a drastically new diasporic setting.

To better understand and ultimately address these challenges, this project examines the social and linguistic development of the first generation of Tibetan children born in Canada through this resettlement program. Using methods from ethnography and field linguistics, we are documenting and analyzing toddlers’ mother tongue language acquisition alongside cultural practices in their homes. We aim to understand the social, cultural, and linguistic facets of language shift as
manifested in individual children’s developing language repertoires.”

Research Partners
Shannon Ward, PI
Mark Turin, Collaborator
Nawang Seldon, Community Partner