Bad influence? – an investigation into the purported negative influence of foreign domestic helpers on children's second language English acquisition

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Abstract

This paper explores the purported negative influence of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) on child second language acquisition (SLA) by studying Hong Kong Cantonese children's listening ability in second language (L2) English. 31 kindergarten third graders aged 4;6 to 6, and 29 first year secondary students aged 11-14 who have had a Filipino domestic helper at home took part in the study. In addition, 34 youngsters (20 in kindergarten, 14 in secondary) who did not have a Filipino helper participated as controls. Results from two listening tasks (picture choosing task, sound discrimination task) suggest that informants do not differ from the control in their abilities to listen to American-, British-, and Hong Kong English, and that they are better at listening to Filipino-accented English than the control. These findings cast doubts on the anecdotal belief of the harmful effect FDHs have on children's language acquisition including an L2. Moreover, the additional effect of being familiar with another variety of English is arguably a desirable outcome given that English is used as a lingua franca among non-native speakers on a daily basis in this highly globalised world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-148
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2012

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