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Patterns of language use: Polish migrants from the 1980s and their children in Melbourne.


This paper investigates the retention of Polish language and culture by first generation Polish migrants from the 1980s and their second generation offspring (aged 15-24) from endogamous and exogamous marriages. We examine various domains such as the home, social networks, visits to Poland, institutions of learning, the Polish media, the Polish Catholic Church, and other spheres of Polish activity such as reading Polish books and viewing Polish films, visiting Polish shops, involvement in Polish organizations, and use the Internet. The paper also compares language maintenance/shift in Polish speakers with other language groups. We include some reflections on the future of Polish in Australia as well as some recommendations for the ongoing support of Polish language and culture.


Polish language and culture, domains, language maintenance, language shift, core values, identity



Many migrants face the problem of striking a balance between two cultures, whether it be as individuals, a family, or a group. The Polish community in Melbourne is a case in point and this article sets out to trace their story, the shifts in attitude of one migrating generation to the next, and the retention of language and culture by their children.

The two most significant periods for Polish immigration to Australia were the post-World War Two era (1947-1955) and during the decade of the 1980s. In the years immediately after World War Two, 71,721 Polish immigrants arrived in Australia while in the 1980s 23,741 people arrived. These two groups differ from each other in many ways: in level of education, gender, marital status, place of origin in Poland, English skills, attitudes toward Poland, and Polish language retention. Early post-war Polish migrants wished to maintain the language not only in the home but also by forming Polish organisations. In contrast, the issue of Polish cultural values seems less important for migrants from the 1980s as some spoke English and had a different attitude towards their migration. The earlier migrants had more in common with each other than migrants of the 1980s: two-year work contracts, limited savings, homesickness for the lost country, and no hope of returning to Poland. They wished to maintain the Polish language, religion and traditions. The 1980s' migrants are more educated and independent; they maintain closer contacts with their homeland and with the Polish Consulate in Sydney. They also enjoyed stronger moral and material support from the Australian Government. By 2006, according to the census, there were 163,802 Polish people by ancestry in Australia, 52,255 Polish people by birthplace, and 53,389 Polish people by language spoken at home in Australia (ABS, 2007). If we compare these figures to 2001 census, there were 150,900 Polish people by ancestry in Australia, 58,110 Polish people by birthplace and 59,056 Polish people by language spoken at home. As the figures indicate, there are decreasing numbers of Polish people in terms of birthplace and language spoken at home. Furthermore, there was a drop of approximately 10% between 2001 and 2006 in the use of Polish language at home (Clyne, forthcoming; ABS, 2007).

The current paper addresses sociolinguistic research that is not well represented in Australia, despite the importance and visibility of various ethnic groups, and Government-based work on various aspects of language policy. Issues relating to migration and identity should be important topics for consideration by language teachers, particularly in the light of the 2009 report by Lo Bianco and Slaughter (2009), Second Languages and Australian Schooling. Furthermore, there is only a limited number of publications on this topic, especially in regard to the second wave of Polish migrants, and no publications which explicitly differentiate the second generation in terms of endogamous (i.e. married within the ethnic group) or exogamous (where one spouse married outside the ethnic group) parentage of Polish migrants from the 1980s.

Domains of language and culture

Research into language maintenance--the retention of a migrant's first language in one or more spheres of usage, or domains--amongst migrant communities dates back to the 1920s and 1930s (Branshausen, 1928; Schmidt-Rohr, 1932). Arguably, the most important publication in this field is by Fishman and his colleagues (Fishman, Nahirny, Hofman, & Hayden, 1966). Current research on language maintenance traces back to Fishman's original studies and his famous question: Who speaks what language to whom and when? Initial attempts to answer this question in Australia were undertaken by Michael Clyne (1967). He focused on a particular German migrant group examining language maintenance patterns. Schmidt-Rohr (1932) was the first scholar to suggest the concept of domains, differentiating between nine domains of language: the family, the playground and the street, the school (subdivided into language of instruction, subject of instruction, and language of recess and entertainment), the church, literature, the press, the military, the courts, and the governmental bureaucracy. A number of researchers, followed this typology including Barker (1947), who studied bilingual Spanish Americans, and Barber (1952), who studied trilingual Yaqui Indians.

The most comprehensive study, however, remains the work by Fishman and his colleagues (Fishman et al., 1966). According to Fishman, domains help in the understanding of language choice and topics, 'they attempt to designate the major clusters of interaction situations that occur in particular multilingual settings' (Fishman, 1966, p. 429). If the community language is used in many domains, it significantly contributes to language maintenance; otherwise, language shift--the process by which a first language is gradually replaced by a second language of the host community in all spheres of usage--will occur. Many researchers have analysed the issues of language maintenance and language shift (Kloss, 1966; Clyne 1985, 1991, 2003, 2005; Smolicz 1979, 1981). Kloss represents American theory while Clyne and Smolicz are known for their Australian research.

The Polish community in Australia

In terms of Polish language, a range of authors have explored this area (Smolicz, 1979; Smolicz & Secombe, 1981; Jamrozik, 1983; Harris & Smolicz, 1984; Sussex & Zubrzycki, 1985; Smolicz, Wozniak, Smolicz, Secombe, & Uszynska, 1993; Drozd, 2001; Debski, 2009). Jamrozik (1983) analyses the settlement of Polish migrants in the early 1980s in New South Wales after 1-36 months residence. Jamrozik also conducts a limited examination of sociolinguistic aspects, for example the popularity of Polish newspapers among migrants.

Smolicz et al. (1993) examine attitudes of post-1980s Polish migrants to their children's education, both in Poland and Australia. Their work also includes a study of Polish-Australian students (born in Poland and in Australia, but with at least one Polish-born parent) in South Australian secondary schools, focusing in particular on language usage at home, as well as identity and social acceptance at school.

Drozd (2001) explores the settlement of Polish migrants who arrived in the years 1980-1984, after ten to fourteen years of living in Melbourne. She also examines (to a lesser extent) language use at home and identity among the first and second generations.

Debski (2009) examines the Polish ethnic group in the post-war period and Polish language maintenance, analysing the changes in the language maintenance/ shift in censuses from 1976 until 2006. His research analyses not only the use of technology in the transmission of Polish language in the home but also a model of a teaching program, modern pedagogical attitudes and Internet technology in a Polish school in Australia. Debski also argues that much academic research tends to ignore the influence of outside factors as being influential in language retention. These little considered influences include the political-economic situation in Poland, return visits to Poland, family visits from Poland, participation in family and culture life in Poland and in Polish world diaspora. Also, he contends that academic research takes an Australian point of view, neglecting Polish and world perspectives. He argues that globalisation and social information influence English-Polish bilingualism among the second generation in Australia, e.g. the use of the Internet and Skype has a great impact on Polish language retention that is why he proposes more research to analyse constant Internet communication and frequent visits in the home country.

Polish migration to Melbourne in the 1980s

This case study is drawn from a larger research project carried out in 2004/5 (Leuner, 2007). The research focuses on Melbourne, as the majority of Polish migrants to Australia live in Victoria, the most multicultural state in the country. Government data have revealed that migrants from more than 200 countries live in Victoria: 23.8% of Victorians were born overseas, 43.69% of Victorians were either born overseas, or have a parent who was born overseas, and 72.8% Victorians come from non-English speaking background countries. They speak more than 230 languages and have more than 120 religious faiths (Victorian Multicultural Commission, 2010).


The research questions are:

* To what extent is the Polish language maintained by first generation Polish migrants arriving in Melbourne during the 1980s and the second generation (children born in Poland or Australia), considering endogamous and exogamous marriages?

* To what degree have explicit policies of multiculturalism influenced language maintenance, especially among first generation Polish migrants arriving in Melbourne during the 1980s and their children?


Quantitative and qualitative research methods were employed in 2004/5 and two instruments were used: questionnaires and in-depth interviews The total research sample consisted of 180 people. The respondents in this study were the youth group (aged 15 24, the second generation) and their parents (the first generation Polish migrants who came to Australia during the 1980s and settled permanently in Melbourne) They were divided into two groups: endogamous versus exogamous families. 180 questionnaires were completed and fifteen in depth interviews conducted

Two types of questionnaires were employed, each with 52 questions. Within a Polish family, one questionnaire was given to each parent--the first generation Polish migrant--while a different questionnaire was given to their children--the second generation. The interview contained twelve questions and was designed specifically for first generation Polish migrants. It usually took two hours to conduct interviews (in Polish) at the participants' home, as this location was more familiar and relaxing. The interviews were taped and analysed and the responses were translated literally into English to maintain authenticity (for further information on methodology, please refer to Leuner, 2007).

Selection of participants

Finding participants for the interviews was difficult in comparison to respondents for the questionnaires. The reasons for this were the time factor involved for interview participants as well as the demanding nature of the questions; for instance, many interview questions prompted long and emotional responses. The questionnaires, on the other hand, allowed participants to remain anonymous and were not as time consuming.

Participants were selected in a variety of locations where Polish was used: the Victorian School of Languages (VSL), Monash University, folk dancing groups, scout groups, sporting events, Polish erganisations, Polish Houses, English classes for Polish migrants, Polish travel agencies, and through personal contacts and word of mouth. An advertisement was also placed in Melbourne's Polish newspaper Tygodnik Polski (Polish Weekly), and radio announcements were made in Melbourne on Polish radio programs on SBS and 3ZZZ. Notices were placed in Polish shops and leaflets were distributed in churches which conducted Polish masses on Sundays. There was a general lack of response. The most productive strategy proved to be personal contacts and word of mouth.

Domains of Polish language maintenance

According to Clyne (2005), language maintenance can be determined by domains, interlocutors, interaction types: personal or professional contact, and medium: face-to face interaction, telephone calls or letters. This is a similar model to that of Fishman (1966), who wrote about the practical use of the mother tongue: Who speaks what language with whom and when? My study found many domains where the Polish language was used: home, institutions of learning, Polish Catholic Church, media, organisations and other spheres of Polish activity such as visits to Poland, social networks, Polish bookstores and other Polish shops, reading Polish books and viewing Polish films on video/DVD, and the Internet. These domains are explored in the following paragraphs, from those that impact the most on language maintenance/ usage, to those which impact the least. For detailed tabulated data on language maintenance domains, please refer to my earlier study (Leuner, 2007).


The most common usage of Polish language was in the home between spouses, and between parents and their offspring. It applied mainly to the first generation, and second generation from endogamous marriages. Siblings, of both exogamous and endogamous parentage, mostly spoke English to each other. However, the first generation always spoke Polish with their parents. If children had grandparents in Australia, they often spoke Polish with them. The best maintained traditions were the celebration of Polish Christmas, Polish Easter, and fasting on Christmas Eve The traditions maintained to a lesser extent were Polish name days and cooking of Polish cuisine. People living in endogamous marriages celebrated Polish traditions and customs more frequently than those in exogamous marriages. In the case of exogamous marriages, of those who continued Polish traditions, the wife was always Polish.

If the parents encouraged children to speak only Polish and were adamant about following Polish traditions, then the child generally cooperated and maintained these traditions. The parents' attitude towards Polish was also mentioned as an important factor, for example, as one interviewee stated:
   Most of the children of Polish
   migrants whom I know speak
   extremely limited Polish because
   their parents could not be bothered
   enforcing it at home. Also, the
   availability of opportunities to use
   Polish is limited. I could barely write
   Polish before I was fifteen, because I
   was much more interested in reading
   English language books. Then my
   father moved to America for three
   years, so I frequently wrote emails to
   him in Polish.

The Polish language was considered to be a core value for many Polish families. According to Smolicz's 'core value' theory (Smolicz, 1979, 1981), 'core values can be regarded as forming one of the most fundamental components of a group's culture. They generally represent the heartland of the ideological system and act as identifying values which are symbolic of the group and its membership' (Smolicz, 1981, p. 75). Language does not only exist as a communication medium but is also an identity-marker.

One respondent from an endogamous marriage emphasised reasons for maintaining the Polish language:
   Polish is our mother tongue and the
   carrier of our culture and we did not
   wish to speak to our it children in our
   own home in a foreign language.
   We also wanted to maintain cultural
   continuity for our children and to
   keep the connection with their origins
   open for them through the access to
   literature and through being capable
   of personal contacts with Poles.
   The Polish culture is so rich and
   knowing the language helps children
   to understand it. Moreover; we did
   not wish our children to learn English
   from us, realising how difficult it
   would be for them to get rid of the
   accent and all the imperfections we
   would transfer to them.

Social networks

The first generation 1980s migrants and the second generation were different regarding social contacts The first generation had mostly Polish friends in Australia (98.2%) and were represented by more endogamous than exogamous marriages. In contrast, the second generation had mainly non-Polish friends (95.3%). This applied regardless of endogamous or exogamous parentage.

Visits to Poland

The study revealed that 88.7% of the first generation 1980s migrants visited Poland at least once after their migration to Australia. Notably, those who visited Poland 'every year', 'every second year', or 'every third year' were represented more in exogamous than endogamous marriages. Those, who visited Poland 'rarely' or 'never', were represented more in endogamous marriages. This seems counter intuitive. However, for both groups the main motivations for their visits were similar: 'family and friends', followed by 'tourism' and 'participation in cultural activities'.

Members of the second generation accompanied their parents on trips to Poland and were encouraged to learn Polish. One mother expressed her opinion as follows:
   For our daughters a real turning point
   in their attitude towards the Polish
   language and culture was their first
   visit to Poland. They went there on
   their own and were free to make their
   own judgement on the country and
   its people. They spent a lot of time
   with their young cousins and their
   friends. Of course they picked up
   some slang but began perceiving the
   Polish tongue as one in which one
   could communicate with interesting
   people. This visit also helped them to
   find their roots and gave them some
   sense of belonging to an old nation
   with long and rich traditions and

The study by Debski (2009) revealed that visits to Poland influence Polish language retention to a greater degree than attendance of a Polish school or participation in Polish social networks or social networks of the Polish diaspora.

Institutions of learning

During my research, there was no mainstream primary or secondary school in Melbourne/Victoria that provided Polish language instruction as there were too few students wishing to study the language. For this reason, Polish was offered in Saturday ethnic schools and at the VSL. It was also offered at Monash University in Melbourne from 1981 until 1988, and from 1995 until 2005. The greatest majority of the second generation attended secondary level Polish classes at the VSL (72.3%), followed by primary level Saturday ethnic school (35.4%), with the majority being represented by endogamous parentage. In cases of exogamous parentage, the mother was Polish. Only a few second generation participants (6.0%) attended classes at Monash University in the period 2000-2004, and in all cases both their parents were Polish.

It should be noted that children largely maintained the Polish language at a higher level before their matriculation exams than afterwards. Soon after their matriculation exams they became more focused on their careers and did not have as much time to continue with their Polish activities.

Polish media: newspapers

I examined the popularity of Polish newspapers in Australia and Poland. These included Tygodnik Polski: published weekly in Melbourne since 1949, Express Wieczorny: published weekly in Sydney since 1987, and Kurier Zachodni: published in Perth between 1987 and 2008, as well as Gazeta Wyborcza, Wprost and Polityka published in Poland. The first and second generations mostly read newspapers published in Australia (64.3% and 26.2% respectively) with Tygednik Polski being by far the most popular--clearly due to demographic factors.

Polish media: radio and television

Of two major radio stations broadcasting in Polish: SBS and 3ZZZ, the most popular radio program for both groups (first and second generation) was the Polish news program on SBS.

In the same period, there was a choice of Polish news or films on SBS Television as well as Television Polonia which became available via digital satellite. Overall, the majority of the first and second generations did not receive Television Polonia at home (78.3%). If they did receive it, the first generation watched it (25.7%) and only a small proportion (9.2%)of the second generation, all of endogamous parentage, watched it. However, the majority (68.7%) of the first generation watched Polish news on SBS compared with less than one third (30.8%) of the second generation--again, of endogamous parentage.


My study revealed that a third of the Polish diaspora in Melbourne attended Polish worship regularly. A further third attended Australian' masses on Sundays in Catholic Churches, and the remaining third attended the Polish church only on special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, weddings, or christenings. It was notable that many people who arrived at the beginning of the 1980s participated in Polish worship because they were united in their fight for Poland's independence. In my study, Polish migrants still attended Polish worship but on a smaller scale than was the case in the 1980s, possibly because Poland has been a free country since 1989 and has entered a period of relative political stability. The other obstacle may have been the long distances required to travel to Polish mass. Some people chose a closer Australian' church. The majority of the first generation (59.0%) attended Polish worship, compared with almost a half of the second generation (49.2%), mainly represented by persons of endogamous parentage.

A range of other Polish activities and their popularity are summarised in table 1.

All the domains mentioned above except for one, namely watching Polish films on video, were represented only by endogamous families. A small number (6.7%) of second generation offspring from exogamous families watched Polish films on video/DVD. In exogamous parentage situations, where a parent was present, that parent was invariably the mother. The second generation in table 1 refers exclusively to endogamous parentage.

Some second generation participants also considered opportunities for work in Poland or in Europe: 'There will be many positive circumstances such as employment availability for those who know Polish, English and French and who are studying arts/law and the participation of Poland in the European Union enables this.' This statement was also confirmed in the study by Debski (2009) who maintains that Polish ancestry and the knowledge of Polish language are positive factors influencing the language functionality in the global economy.

According to Smolicz (1981), Italian and Anglo-Saxon groups relate to family structure, whereas for Poles, Greeks, Latvians and Chinese, language is a 'cultural core value'. Smolicz (1981) argues that ties between ethnicity and Polish language are historical and are the consequence of the persecution of language during most of the nineteenth century due to the partition of Poland. Therefore, Poles associate the language with political independence. They are proud of its having survived successive attacks over the centuries and proud of its cultural achievements (Smolicz, 1981, 1984; Secombe & Zajda, 1999).


Language is an integral and pivotal part of ethnic identity and language preferences are important for the retention of identity (Smolicz et al., 1993). In my study, almost half of my respondents (46.1%)--the first generation--identified themselves as completely Polish, while in the case of the second generation, their identity was mainly hyphenated (61.5%)--part Polish, part Australian. This contradicts the study by Markus (1993) who stated that 'amongst the second generation, a key variable in determining primary identification appears to be birthplace of parents; this survey suggest that where both parents were born overseas--especially in NESB [non-English speaking background] countries--the Australian-born offspring are more likely to identify with their parents' country of birth' (Markus, 1993, p. 44). A few members of the second generation (12.3%), all of exogamous parentage, identified themselves as completely Australian. This part of my findings agrees with the findings of Smolicz et al. (1993), according to whom those of endogamous parentage were more likely to identify themselves as completely Polish and those of exogamous parentage were more likely to identify themselves as completely Australian.

The high Polish identity level among the first generation may be connected with nationalistic feelings among Poles and has its rationale in Polish history. Poland had to fight for its territory a number of times and over a long period. Such identity level may also be a tendency of migrants in general (Markus, 1993). Markus found that 'of those born overseas, a clear majority, including those born in the United Kingdom, continue to identify more closely with their country of birth than Australia, even after 30 years of residence' (Markus, 1993, p. 44). Additionally, 'overseas-born men are more likely to identify with Australia than females' (Markus, 1993, p. 44). However, my study did not provide any evidence to confirm such a connection between gender and identity.


In the case of German language maintenance and identity, according to Everke Buchanan (2007), identity is (re-)constructed in the interplay between two spheres: a sense of past, from which stability could be derived, and a sense of present, in their involvement in networks in Australia. German-born residents of Melbourne who arrived since 1982 achieved bilingualism and biculturalism. They were often highly successful in both countries: Australia and Germany. Their language skills were highly developed in both languages, and 'some maintained two places of residence they could call home, one in Germany and one in Australia' (Everke Buchanan, 2007, p. 195).

Language shift rates among different language groups

Among Polish people in this study, the second generation from Polish endogamous marriages retained language well while those from exogamous marriages did not, especially when the father was Polish. This is supported by Clyne (2003) when comparing language maintenance in the context of other ethnic groups in Australia. Drawing on Clyne's (2003) work, I compare Polish and German in table 2. The data presented are from the 1996 census because the 2001 census included no question about parental birthplace. At present, there are only two options: 'in Australia/outside Australia'.

In general, most ethnic communities in Australia have experienced an increase in the rate of language shift over the past decade for first generation speakers (Clyne & Kipp, 2002; Clyne, forthcoming). Illustrative data are presented in table 3.

As table 3 indicates, according to the analysis of previous censuses, the three countries representing the highest language shift are among those whose waves of migration occurred when assimilationist policies and attitudes were in place. This is also due to their ageing populations.

It should be noted that Vietnamese is the best maintained community language in Australia. Polish occupies the area between the high and low shift groups and, according to the 2001 census, Polish was the twelfth most popular community language in Australia (Kipp & Clyne, 2003). According to Clyne (2003), pre- and post-migration experiences of groups and individuals determine the possible shift to English of the ethnic group. However, Kipp and Clyne (2003) also defined other factors influencing this outcome: cultural similarity to the dominant group, the relative importance of language in the core value systems of different language communities, and the relative size and dispersion of the group. Based on this, we may conclude that there is increasing language shift among Poles because of the lack of new migration, length of residence (and ageing of the population), lack of geographical concentration, and post-migration experiences of Polish migrants. There are more Polish people aged 60+ speaking Polish in the home (30.33%) than Polish young people (0-19 years: 12.57%) (ABS, 2010).

Also, language shift in non-metropolitan areas is usually higher than in metropolitan areas, for instance, for Polish it is 34.1% versus 20.3%. This is due to the fact that smaller numbers live in non-metropolitan areas (88% of all speakers of languages other than English in Australia live in the capital cities, most of them in Sydney or Melbourne). Moreover, outside urban areas there is a marked lack of access to institutions of language maintenance such as schools, relatively few social events, and reduced community support. In the case of Polish, Victoria and South Australia represent lower than expected shift rates, and in South Australia the language shift was the smallest (17.4% versus 22.2% in Victoria). Nevertheless, Victoria is still the State where the maintenance of community languages is the highest (Kipp & Clyne, 2003). This might also justify my research findings. Considering the major cities and the ten most popular community languages, in Adelaide, Polish was the fourth community language (after Italian, Greek and Vietnamese) and, in Perth, Polish was in seventh place (Clyne & Kipp, 2002).

In general, the highest language shift is recorded among 25-34 year old speakers, e.g. for those of French, Greek, Latin American, Macedonian, Maltese and Turkish origin. However, the shift can be higher in some of the older communities in the age bracket 35-44 (Austrian, Dutch, Italian) or 55-64 (German, Polish). Also, the language shift is proportional to the length of the residence period as table 4 shows (from Clyne, 2003).


In terms of external forces that affect language maintenance, the advent of explicit policies of multiculturalism in Australia (late 1970s onwards) had a great impact on language maintenance for migrants. This allowed them to maintain their own language, identity and other cultural traits, while still taking part in the general life of the nation. The policy enabled multicultural media to flourish (SBS Radio, SBS Television, and ethnic press) and ethnic organisations received support from the Australian Government for maintenance of their cultures. Multicultural education was strongly supported and took the form of ethnic language schools and institutes; community languages taught in mainstream schools and universities and other initiatives, such as ethnic festivals (see Clyne, forthcoming, for a detailed discussion of language maintenance institutions in Australia).

For first generation Polish migrants coming to Melbourne in the 1980s, Australia's multicultural policy made it easier to maintain their language, in contrast to the Polish migrants experiencing the assimilationist policies in the wake of World War Two. Poles are now able to listen to Polish radio programs on 3ZZZ and SBS Radio, and to watch Polish news on SBS Television. They also receive support for Polish ethnic schools or Polish classes at the VSL. Policies of multiculturalism introduced ethnic languages (Polish in 1975) as subjects for matriculation exams, and for this reason, Polish language use gained in prestige.


The Polish language among the first generation Polish migrants arriving in the 1980s and the second generation (i.e. their children born in Poland or Australia) was on the whole well maintained and was still a 'core value' (Smolicz, 1981), although there were differences of retention among endogamous and exogamous marriages. We may conclude that Polish culture is robust enough to survive the transfer to another continent, where the mainstream language spoken is also European in origin, and where Polish people are not persecuted for their cultural traits.

More specifically, the first generation used the community language widely, while the second generation used it only with parents and, sometimes, with their friends and grandparents, whilst they talked to brothers and sisters mostly in English. My study revealed no gender differences in the language choice among the first generation which contradicts Clyne's studies (2003, forthcoming). Significantly, other groups show strong gender effects. For instance, if we examine German, Greek and Vietnamese speaking communities, then German women and Vietnamese men are those who use the community language most, mainly in the neighbourhood domain. Greek women, however, use their Greek language in all domains (Pauwels, 1995; Winter & Pauwels, 2000; Clyne, forthcoming). Notably, for Polish, the presence of a Polish mother in exogamous marriages led to lower rates of language shift among the second generation.

Polish migrants also believed in maintaining Polish traditions because they did not want to deprive the second generation of their cultural roots. The second generation from Polish endogamous marriages retained language well while those from exogamous marriages did not, especially if the father was Polish. In general, according to Clyne (forthcoming) 'in exogamous families across communities, English is generally either used throughout or is the language of family discourse and each parent interacts with the child in 'their own language".

The most popular domain for Polish language use is the family home, followed by social communication within the extended family. The first generation Polish migrants always used Polish when speaking to their Polish relatives, compared with more than two thirds of the second generation. A great majority of the second generation also used Polish when speaking to parents of Polish friends. Some of the second generation respondents were proud of their Polish roots or ancestry, and they wished to maintain the link by taking Polish classes at the VSL in order to improve their Polish language maintenance. Some also preserved cultural traditions by joining traditional Polish music, scout or dance groups. Also, children without siblings maintained the Polish language better than those with brothers or sisters. Siblings mostly spoke English to each other and only spoke Polish to their parents or grandparents. However, my research has revealed that the second generation only used Polish media facilities to a very small degree.

Taking the type of interaction into consideration, Polish immigrants in this study, regardless of whether they were from endogamous or exogamous marriages, always used English terminology in their professional domains when speaking to other colleagues who were Polish compatriots. However, they used Polish in personal matters, e.g. telling jokes, with their neighbours if they were Polish, at social/sporting clubs, in restaurants, or whenever they met Polish people.

Concluding remarks

The most important question arising from this paper is What will be the future of the Polish language in Melbourne? The answer is uncertain, as it depends on a number of variables. Among these is the continuation of Polish classes at Saturday ethnic schools or the VSL. These classes may continue for some time yet, but as one Polish VSL teacher commented, they may also cease to exist altogether because of a lack of students. The reason for this is the relatively small number of Polish people currently migrating to Australia. Also, the participation in Polish organisations is very small and usually represented by older migrants because the young migrants do not need this sense of belonging. There are also more exogamous marriages than in the past, where English is the dominant household language used. Most Polish migrants arriving in Australia in the past several years are proficient in English, as this has been a requirement of the Australian Government.

It is, therefore, very important to continue research on Polish language retention, particularly among the second generation from exogamous marriages, as they are more likely to undergo/cause language shift. It would be interesting to compare in detail the retention of the Polish language of the second generation with other immigrant languages in Australia as well as Polish language retention in Australia in comparison with other countries in terms of endogamous and exogamous marriages.


The author would like to thank Matthew Absalom and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


Recommendations for maintenance of the Polish language (Adapted from Leuner, 2007)

Recommendations for parents

* Encourage the second generation (children) to be proud of and respect their cultural background

* Encourage children to be interested in Poland as the country of their ancestral roots and to speak positively about Poland and its culture

* Teach basic Polish at home from early childhood onwards

* Inform the second generation about Polish history, literature and culture

* Provide children with the opportunity to visit PoLand to experience the Polish language firsthand, through meeting relatives, including cousins who are their peers

* If possible, facilitate visits by Polish grandparents to stay for some time in Australia with family members

* Allow the second generation to learn Polish by involving them in Polish language activities that they like

* Attend interesting activities where Polish is spoken

* Draw the attention of the second generation to contemporary Poland rather than a sentimentalised premigration Poland

* Acquaint Polish friendship groups with each other and their children, so they can consolidate and extend the network of Polish people in the Australian community

* Attend workshops on how to bring up the second generation bilingually when in exogamous marriages

Recommendations for institutions

* Embrace multiculturalism by promoting the Polish culture in the wider community

* Organise more social and cultural activities directed at young people who are of Polish background, but brought up in Australia

* Promote contemporary Polish culture in Australia

* Teach the Polish language at primary, secondary and tertiary levels

* Stress the creation of Polish clubs and groups

* Encourage more people to be involved in local Polish communities and to initiate more activities

* Educate people and inform them about the possibilities of learning the Polish language

* Lobby the Polish media in Australia to produce material which is more relevant to younger Polish people

* Organise student exchange programs between Australian and Polish universities and schools

* Establish a Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Melbourne


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Beata Leuner is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Community Ethnicity and Policy Alternatives (ICEPA) at Victoria University, Melbourne. She is currently researching employment discrimination against non-English speaking background (NESB) groups on a national and international level. Beata was awarded a Masters of German Studies from the University in Wroclaw, Poland and she completed her PhD and Master of Social and Cultural Sciences at European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. She has worked as a researcher at Victoria University, the University of Melbourne and Monash University, and the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder). Beata's PhD, Migration, multiculturalism and language maintenance in Australia. Polish migration to Melbourne in the 1980s was published in 2007.
Table 1 Other spheres of Polish activities and their
popularity--endogamous families

                           generation       second
                              (%)       generation (%)

Polish shops: cake shops
  and delicatessens           71.3           35.4
Polish films on video         53.9           30.7
Polish films on DVD           49.6           27.7
Internet                      34.8           12.3
Polish bookshops              34.0           12.3
Polish books                  32.2            3.1
Polish organisations          13.0           28.0

Table 2 Language shift for second generation (1996 Census)


Language shift for     Polish (%)   German (%)
second generation

exogamous parentage       86.9         92.0
mother                    81.0         90.0
father                    89.8         93.6
endogamous parentage      58.4         77.6

Table 3 Language shift rates for first
generation speakers

Country       Percentage

Netherlands      64.4
Austria          55.2
Germany          53.9
Singapore        49.1
Switzerland      44.9
Lithuania        44.6
Latvia           42.4
Poland           23.6
Taiwan            4.8
Somalia           4.5
Eritrea           4.4
Iraq              3.8
China             3.8
Vietnam           3.0

Table 4 Residence period in Australia

                period: 5-9
generation      Percentage of
speakers from   language shift

Poland          5.2/13.1
Germany         26.0/35.9
Netherlands     26.1/41.8
Austria         24.3/34.0
Hong Kong       4.0/8.1
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