The Language Choice In Selected Domains Education Essay

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This chapter presents the methodology of the present study. The research framework will be presented followed by the profile of participants, data collection procedures and the instruments used. Finally, the data analysis that will be employed in this study will be presented.

The present study aims to investigate the language choice in selected domains by the participants of this study and their attitude towards their mother tongues. Based on the findings, the study hopes to investigate if there is maintenance or a shift away from either both or one of the parent's mother tongues by the children and possibly the parents as well.


The framework of this study is based on Fishman's (1972) model of 'domains of language use'. The domains refer to the selected domains such as home, friendship, school, religion and neighborhoods. According Fishman (1972) such domains are able to give insight into the language choice in two or more different language situations. It is notable that topic, role-relations and setting are important factors contributing to the concept of domain. This present study will explore language choice with the assumption that language use varies according to the relevance of situational variables of topic, interlocutor and setting.

The sample of this study comprise of children of Sino-Malay mixed marriage and both of their parents. The mother tongue of the fathers is Malay and that of the mothers is one of the Chinese dialects (Hokkien or Cantonese) or Mandarin. The second part of the study is to investigate the attitude of both children and parents towards these mother tongues. It hopes to document any measures taken by the parents in maintaining their mother tongue within the family or any tendency to shift to another language.

Profile of Participants

This section presents the profile of the three categories of participants in this study. The three categories consist of 16 children ("C" participants) and both their parents; mothers ("M" participants) and fathers ("F" participants).The sixteen Sino-Malay mixed marriage families in the sample live in Subang Jaya, a metropolitan area in Selangor which is generally considered to be a suburb of the city of Kuala Lumpur. The community or residents are well educated and of middle class income.

For the purpose of clarification to differentiate between the parents and the children, the participants will be coded into three groups. The fathers will be coded as "F" and the mothers will be coded as "M". On the other hand, the children will be coded as "C".

This category of participants comprises 6 males and 10 females. The participants are teens from upper forms, that is, Forms 3, 4 and 5. The students' age ranges are from 15 to 18 years. These teens volunteered to participate in the study and permission was sought from the school, teacher and parents. Although it would have been ideal to have equal number of male and female teens, these teens are all students available in the school with Sino-Malay background.

Father or ("F") Participants

This category of participants comprises 16 "F" participants. The following table 3.2 shows the details of education level and occupation of "F" participants.

Table 3.2: Profile of "F" Participants

All of the "F" participants are Malay. These "F" participants belong in the age range of 45 -56 years, with the mean age of 50.6. From the data obtained, a high proportion of "F" participants have higher level of education. The data show that eight (50%) of the "F" participants attained had qualifications at university level while eight (50%) at college level. The data also shows that most of them are professionals or had 'white collar' jobs as engineer, accountant, auditor, and manager while six "F" participants are involved in other disciplines such as in business, insurance and others.

Mother or ("M") participants

This category of participants comprises 16 "M" participants. The age of "M" participants range from 44 to 54 years. Table 3.3 shows the profile of these participants who are of Chinese descent:

Table 3.3 shows that among these sixteen "M" participants, 38 %( n=6) of the "M" participants have university level of education. The other nine "M" participants (56%) studied in the college. Only one of the participants had secondary level (SPM) of education.

In terms of employment, all but one are working. Out of those working (15), 70% of them are white collar workers (teachers, accountant, bank officer, manager and IT officer).


Two instruments are used in this study, namely, questionnaires and interviews. The first instrument is a set of questionnaires in English. The questionnaire is based on items from the Sociolinguistic Survey Report by Saba (1996) and Tokelauan Language Survey by Yuko Otsuka (2007). Items were adapted to fit the local study. (Which items and why? - list which items you changed)

3.4.1 Questionnaire

The questionnaire is divided into four sections:

i) Section A is to collect the biodata of the participants.

ii) Section B will be answered by the "C" participants.

iii) Section C will be answered by the 'F" participants and

iv) Section D will be answered by the "M" participants

A set of questionnaire which consist Section A and section B will be answered by the children in the school. Meanwhile, Section C and Section D is a set of questionnaire for parents. The set of questionnaire for parents will be given through the children and required the parents to answer the questionnaires. The parents were briefed by researcher via telephone.

Questionnaire: Children(C)

Two set of questionnaire was prepared for both parents and children respectively. The items that used in the questionnaire are slightly different for both parties. The children will be required to complete Section A and Section B which consist of three parts namely Part I, Part II and Part III. The discussion will be presented in the following sections thus Section A, Section B, Section C and Section D.

Section A

Section A consists of nine questions. These questions required the "C" participants to tick in appropriate boxes and write down the information needed in the spaces provided. The questions consist of demographic profiles such as age, gender, ethnic, mother tongue and first language, educational level and occupation of the participants (only parents). On the other hand, the "C" participants are required to rate their level of proficiency of languages such as English, Malay, Mandarin and Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Hokkein, Hakka).They were asked to rate themselves on the basic skills of comprehension, speaking, reading and writing abilities in the given languages. They are required to circle the appropriate rate by using five-point rating of Likert-scale (1= Not at all, 2=Very Little,3=Average, 4=Good, 5= Excellent). At this point, it should be noted that the present study aims to obtain a rough estimates of the number of children of mixed parentage who claimed proficiency in the languages that are mentioned above and which language do they claim as their first language and mother tongue. A copy of the questionnaire can be found in Appendice A.

Section B

In section B of the questionnaire, "C" participants were asked to indicate their language choice/use of domain analysis in a three- point of Likert scale with 3= Always 2=Sometimes and 1= Never. The "C" participants also were asked to circle NA (Not Applicable) if the questions were not applicable to them. Section B was divided into three parts and the first part (I) contains 29 items. The items in this part are to elicit the main language(s) used among participants in the home domain (16 items), school domain (7 items), friendship domain (4 items) and neighbours domain (2 items). Thus, the participants were requested to indicate the language(s) they speak to different interlocutors in the family domain such as parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and relatives. In neighbourhood domain, they were asked to indicate the language(s) they speak among Malay ethnic group and Chinese ethnic group because they are Sino-Malay children. In school domain it attempts to find the language(s) used by the "C" participants among the school community such as school principle, teachers and school workers and friends.

The second part (II) of section B contains 20 items which refer to the "C" participants' language choice in literary domain(4items),the entertainment domain(4items),electronic communication domain(4 items),some social interaction activities (8 items) and finally followed by religious domain(1 item). The present study hopes that, both part (I) and (II) will provide details with a more nuanced understanding of their language choice in these important domains.

Finally, the third part (III) of section B which contains 11 statements used to determine the "C" participants' attitude and perception towards their mother tongue(s) and seek information of any positive feeling towards their mother tongue or whether the "C" participants involved in a process of language shift. The scale that has been used to rate was a five-point of Likert scale with 5= Neutral (N), 4= Strongly Agree (SA), 3= Agree (A), 2= Disagree (DA) and 1= Strongly Disagree (SDA). A copy of the questionnaire can be found in Appendice B.

Questionnaire: Parents ("F" and "M")

A set of questionnaire was prepared for the parents. The demographic profile such as age, ethnic, mother tongue and their first language, educational level and occupation were included in the section A to get the background information of the parents. This section will be answered by the children. Section C is to be answered by the "F" participants (fathers) and section D is to be answered by the "M" participants (mothers).

Section C

Section C is a design of questionnaire used to gather the "F" participants' use of language(s). This questionnaire has been divided into three parts. The first part is a set of questions on "F" participants language use in the family domain (13 items) and friendship domain (4 items), and neighbourhood domain (2 items). The second part is designed upon the language choice in literary domain (4 items), entertainment domain (4 items), e-communication domain (4 items), language activities (3 items) and finally religious domain (1item). The third part of questionnaire contains four statements which will be used to evaluate the "F" participants' perception towards their mother tongue and spouse's mother tongue. The scale used was based of Likert scale. A copy of the questionnaire can be found in Appendices C.

Section D

Section D is a set of questionnaire used as a methodological tool to obtain present study information of "M" participants' perception of language(s).The question divided into three parts. The first part was a set of questions on language use in the family domain (13 items) and friendship domain (4 items) and also neighbours domain (2 items). The second part is designed upon the language choice in literary domain (4 items), e- communication domain (4 items), religious domain (1 item) and entertainment domain (4 items). Since the mixed parental varied linguistically, so this study also aimed to seek information about the perception (attitude) of the "M" participants towards their mother tongue and also their perception on their partner's mother tongue. Thus the third part of questionnaire contains four statements which will be used to evaluate the "M" participants' language attitudes and perception towards each of these statements. A copy of the questionnaire can be found in Appendices D.


Structured interviews contain a series of open-ended question. The interview questions are aimed to further probe the responses given in the questionnaire. The method will be described in this following discussion. It should be noted that the parents strictly not willing to participate in interviews due to time constrains and busy with their daily activities. However the parents have given their permission to interview the children as long as there is no disturbance in their study activity. The interview was conducted based on the open-ended questions. The open-ended questions are believed to generate information that could be used to answer the research questions. The interview was conducted in school. The interview averaged between 15 to 20 minutes. It should be noted in the present study that when conducting interviews, the use of tape recorder was impractical because the school surroundings was noisy and not conducive to obtain the data. The data was collected via field notes by the researcher. The "C" participants were asked questions that map out how they have been affected by the perception of the language(s) that they use in daily communication. A copy of these open-ended questions can be found in Appendices E. For ease of analyzing the data of interview the children will be numbered according the total number of participants, thus C1 until C16.


The framework of this study is based on Fishman's domains model (1972). the study aims to investigate the language choice of sixteen (16) Sino-Malay mixed-marriage families, that is, to analyze "the language, who uses what language with whom and for what purposes" (Fishman 1972:19) based on several selected domains such as home domain, friendship domain and school domain, religious domain, literary domain-communication domain and entertainment domain. The domains that selected for the study will be presented in the following discussion.

Family Domain

In this study, family domain will focus on both children and parents' frequency of language use with family members such as parents, sibling, grandparents and other relatives. The home is the first place where children have their first interaction with people such as parents, siblings and relatives. With their innate ability, they acquire the language of the home as their first language and they are expected to adapt to the language spoken in the home as they grow up. Ironically, the home is where most of the language learning, identity formation and the establishment of social bond take place among children early in life through interactions with members of the family.

3.5.2 Friendship Domain

Children spend their time not only in the family environment but also with their friends.

To grasp the children' overall linguistic environment in the present study, this section has included questions on the choice of language among their friends according their ethnic such as Chinese closed friends, Malay closed friends, Chinese schoolmates and Malay schoolmates.

3.5.3 School Domain

Children spend much of their time at school and this could influence when they make choices of languages and could eventually lead them towards language shift. In this section "C" participants were also asked about their language use among the school's staff members such as teachers, school clerks and others. According to Harrison and Piette (1980), who investigate language choices of Welsh bilingual young children, concludes that school plays an important role in influencing the children's degree of commitment towards their mother tongue, Welsh. This study would like to grasp the linguistic environment of children whether this domain may probe the similar findings as Harrison and Piete (1980).

Domain of Mass Media

Mass media as a domain refers to the choice of language for newspapers, magazines, comics, television, radio and other communication networks heavily dominated by the official languages such as Malay and English as a second language in Malaysia. This domain makes a pathway to survey the language choice and pattern of language use among the participants. In the entertainment domain, the participants are asked to indicate their language preference for the television programmes, radio programmes and songs. For reading domain, the participants are asked to indicate the language that they prefer in reading materials such as newspaper, magazine, books, novels, comics and others. The internet and the technology such as blogs, email and others make it significantly easier, more convenient and faster to communicate and share ideas and information. People are much more likely to prefer to dash off a quick email than writing a letter. Hence, language use in e-communication components also included in this domain such as email, blogs and chatting.

3.5.3 Religious Domain

Religious domain influences very much the social construct of a particular society. IIn Malaysia, a number of religions are embraced by Malaysian, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and others. Most of the predominant religions of the world are represented and embraced by Malaysians. In the case of Sino-Malay families, the F participants are Malays and Muslims. The M participants are Chinese, and those who have converted to Islam religion, either through marriages or personal interest, may adopt the Malay culture as well. Thus, the domain of religious is an important domain in the survey of the language choice of the participants.


Since the C participants are secondary school students, permission was sought from the Principal of the school. This is to ensure full cooperation from all parties involved in school, which was vital to fulfill the ethical aspect of conducting this study. The teen p-articipants were identified with the class teachers' help. The purpose and significance of the study was explained to the "C" participants.

In order to collect the data, a copy of permission letter in the form of a cover letter submitted to the parents via the C participants. Each participant was asked to sign the consent letter and retain a copy for their records. The participants were assured that their identity will be protected by either eliminating or changing their names in this study. Only the researcher has the name list for her reference.

3.6.1 Administration of Children's Questionnaire

Questionnaire was administered to "C" participants in a classroom by the researcher. The researcher briefed them on the purpose of the study and explained content of the questionnaire. The participants were allocated about 30 to 40 minutes to answer the questionnaire but were allowed to stay on to complete the questionnaire if they wished. The questionnaire was collected immediately by researcher.

3.6.2 Administration of Parent's Questionnaire

Questionnaires for the parents or F and M participants were submitted through the children. The parents were contacted via telephone and invited to participate in the survey. Once completed, their children returned the questionnaires to the researcher. All sets of questionnaire were distributed over a three week period and were personally collected by the researcher. The questionnaires were all completed and collected in October, 2008 for analysis. A total of 32 questionnaires were collected from all participants of parents.

3.6.3 Interviews

The interview was conducted with the "C" participants during their recess time. The "C" participants answered the open-ended questions in a friendly atmosphere since the researcher has good relations with most of the "C" participants. The open-ended questions served to probe as much detailed information as possible for items in questionnaire. The interview was conducted in English as this was requested by the "C" participants. The interviews were completed by the end of January, 2009. The interviews were then transcribed by researcher.


A pilot test to administer the questionnaires was carried out with two "C" participants: one male and one female. The questionnaire for the parents was given to these particular participants. The feedback on the parents' questionnaire was positive. The questionnaire for the "C" participants confirmed that most of the statements and questions were clearly presented except one minor correction on the self-rating of language proficiency provided in section A. This was rectified for the actual study.

Due to the lack of participants with the Sino-Malay background required for this study, it should be noted that the "C" participants involved in the pilot study were given the revised set of questionnaire and were included in the actual study.

3.8 Data Analysis

Upon the completion of the data collection, data obtained from the questionnaires were analyzed for the findings presented in the form of frequency distribution and percentages. The data were analyzed based on the selected domains.

3.9 Summary

In summary, this chapter has presented the background information on the participants, the methodology and the instruments used to gain the information for achieving the research objectives that were stated in Chapter One. The study hopes that the findings from the questionnaire and the field notes of interviews would reveal information regarding the language choice/use and language maintenance or shift among the members of Sino-Malay families.