Vietnamese language use, proficiency, and intergenerational transmission in Australia

  • Sharynne McLeod
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Sarah Verdon
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Cen (Audrey) Wang
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Van Tran
    Charles Sturt University, Australia

Vietnamese is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, and in the top 5 languages spoken in Australia. To understand Vietnamese intergenerational transmission, 271 adults completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire (in Vietnamese or English). Vietnamese was the first language of 94% of participants and the most proficient language of 78%. Most (87%) were born in Vietnam and 9.4% in Australia. Most (>83%) rated their ability to speak Vietnamese as well or very well across four domains (speaking, understanding, reading, writing); while English proficiency was lower (68%-74%).

Three clusters were identified: Proficient in Vietnamese only (31%), Proficient in both Vietnamese and English (52%), and Proficient in English only (17%). There was no gender difference across the clusters; however, participants proficient in Vietnamese only were older than those in the other clusters. Participants only proficient in English were more likely to have a bachelor's degree, to have the highest income, and to have lived longer in English-speaking countries. Overall, participants mostly used Vietnamese at home and with family, and English at work and education. Strategies to maintain Vietnamese included choosing to read, watch, and listen to Vietnamese media and only using Vietnamese with friends and family.

Acknowledgment: This research is a part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP180102848) titled VietSpeech: Vietnamese-Australian children's speech and language competence.