The Value and Use of the Telugu Language in Young Adults of Telugu-Speaking Backgrounds in New Zealand
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The Indian diaspora is one of the most culturally diverse communities present in New Zealand. This study will investigate the Telugu community, which is a minority within the larger Indian diaspora in New Zealand. The proposed study uses a qualitative approach to explore the value of the Telugu language and its usage across public and private domains. Semi-structured interviews with ten Telugu immigrants were conducted in person or through the phone. All the participants of the study are adult immigrants above the age of 18, who were either born in New Zealand or moved before the age of thirteen. The focus of the study is placed on adult immigrants, as literature shows that this group is key in maintaining heritage language (Fishman, 1991). The study aims to understand whether there is a language shift in the younger generations of the Telugu community, and their perspective towards their language and cultural maintenance. The participants’ home language and first language will be referred to as L1 in this study. The findings of the study showed that the home domain and the language choice of the parents played an important role in language maintenance. While it was observed that the participants had a positive attitude towards their language and viewed their bilingualism as an asset, this did not reflect in the proficiency of their L1. Participants self-report repeated code-switching and inability to express themselves in Telugu. Although their identity is closely related to their culture and language, the participants’ experience and inevitable shift towards English and believe that there will be a total loss in language by the next generation. This research will fill the gap that exists in the study of the Indian diaspora and the Telugu diaspora within New Zealand society. It will help assess the condition of Telugu and provide information to overcome the challenges associated with the Telugu language attrition.