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Auteur: Malka MUCHNIK

Co-Auteur(s): Anat STAVANS, Beit Berl College, Israel

Hebrew-Spanish Bilingualism at Kibbutzim and Urban Centers in Israel

Abstract/Résumé: Bilingual’s competency in each language consists of the mastery of discrete features that may be interrelated, but have some degree of independence. In the process of language acquisition vis-à-vis maintenance, some features are lost and others are retained. The uniqueness of bilingual language processing is the result of the interaction between these linguistic worlds. The objective of this study is to gain insight into language maintenance and cultural preservation in Latin-American immigrants in Israel, mainly characterized as an ideologically driven immigration. As such, it is a bilingual speech community that stands out as unique across the generations for its language use and for the attitude towards the two languages, Spanish and Hebrew. Spanish-Hebrew bilingualism studies are scarce (Berk-Seligson, 1986; Spector-Bitan, 2011; Stavans & Muchnik, 2008), and the present study is meant to fill the gap. This study concerns variables that characterize a successful case of immigrant integration in light of ideologies, and the way this integration permeates across the generations in terms of language use, attitudes and purpose, and their perceptions of the language and culture into which they immigrated and the ones they left behind. We hypothesized that those who live(d) on a kibbutz prefer the use of Hebrew, while those who live in urban centers prefer Spanish. We further hypothesized that the generation specific cultural and linguistic identity will be affected by differences in gender, age and educational background. The research method consisted of a personal questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. The results show that both proficiency and a positive attitude towards Hebrew among second generation are higher than among first generation, and the opposite trend regarding Spanish. However, the first generation attributes greater importance to Hebrew, while the second generation finds Spanish more important and prestigious. Although there is a high level of bilingualism preserved by all participants, those living in urban centers prefer to use Spanish compared to their cohorts who live on the kibbutz. Moreover, a higher educational background correlates with a more balanced bilingual who feel equally comfortable using both languages. As regards to the differences across gender, the findings show that women have a more positive attitude toward the use of both languages compared to men. Berk-Seligson, S. 1986. Linguistic constraints on intrasentential code switching: A study of Spanish-Hebrew bilingualism, Language in Society 15, 313-348. Spector-Bitan, G. 2011. Changes in Spanish proficiency in early adulthood among second generation of Latin-Americans in Israel. Israel Studies in Language and Society 4(1), 73-97. Stavans, A. & M. Muchnik. 2008. Language production in trilingual children: Insights on code switching and code mixing. Sociolinguistic Studies 1(3), 483-515.