Trevor DeWaard

Identity, Language Practices and Language Ideologies Among Nepali-Bhutanese in West Michigan

This project investigates how immigrants in the U.S. learn American English language and culture, and how this new language affects previously established linguistic identities. Unique and diverse cultural identities and language practices may be absorbed into the larger American one and forgotten. This research is an ongoing ethnographic collaboration between me and Dr. Remlinger, in which we are studying one small community of ethnic Nepali-Bhutanese who were revoked citizenship in Bhutan, expelled into refugee camps in Nepal for nearly twenty years, and now reside in Grand Haven, Michigan. The efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have assisted these displaced people in resettling in several countries throughout the world. The community we are studying has members that have lived in America anywhere from two weeks to two years, and from our research we hope to gain an understanding of how Nepali-Bhutanese adults, children and immigrants in general acculturate to an English speaking society while simultaneously retaining their Nepali-Bhutanese linguistic and cultural identities. Data include participant observation, written texts such as (email, Yahoo chat, and Facebook wall posts, school essays), and recorded ethnographic interviews. Through this study we hope to raise awareness of the unique language ideologies and practices of this specific population, and in so doing aid ESL tutors, social workers and the wider community of West Michigan in better serving and welcoming this growing population. We hope to help these people assimilate smoothly into American culture yet not ignore their own. By understanding the distinct language practices of this small immigrant community we hope to better understand the immigrant experience in general, and as a result what it means to be a member of our diverse yet united country and culture.

Faculty Mentor: Kathryn Remlinger, English

Page last modified July 22, 2010