"Always thinking about their schooling once we return home": sojourning families' language struggle

Australia is a popular destination for many migrants and sojourners of whom many arrive with their children. Sojourning families - who intend to live in Australia for only a few years - often struggle to balance their needs and desires to develop their English skills while living in Australia, with concerns around the children maintaining age appropriate skills in their home language in preparation for the return home. Such families have been widely studied for Japanese sojourners, but there is little literature on the Saudi community abroad and their language practices.

In this study, I examine this growing group overseas regarding their concern to maintain their children’s Arabic language. Ten sojourning families living in Melbourne, Australia participated in this study. In each family, the mother completed a questionnaire while the father was interviewed by the researcher. The results were similar to Japanese sojourning research in which the families felt the pressure to maintain their home language for easier reintegration to Saudi school upon their return. Consequently, the children were highly fluent in their oral skills and slightly less in their literacy skills. However, unlike Japanese sojourners, the religion was one of the highest motivations to maintain Arabic amongst this group.