The Role of Attitudes in Language Shift and Language Maintenance in A New Migrant Community In New Zealand

ABSTRACT New Zealand has become a home to several linguistic groups over the years. Telugu language speakers are the recent migrants to New Zealand. Telugu is the fourth most spoken language in India with over 8 million having Telugu as their mother tongue. It is considered one of the fifteen most spoken languages in the world. Telugu speakers are a recent immigrant community to New Zealand, and their current number is estimated to be over 5000 and growing. The study examines the language loss and maintenance issues of the Telugu language speakers based in New Zealand. It investigates the language attitudes of mothers and children in the Telugu community and how they relate to the loss of the language in an English-speaking environment. The findings reveal that although most of the Telugu people speak their own community language at home, the children are rapidly losing their language. These results point out, being a new migrant community in New Zealand that places more emphasis on jobs and settlement, the community does not make any deliberate attempt to protect language skills. On the other hand, some mothers emphasise the English language on the hope that it would give their children an advantage in New Zealand, which is a predominantly English-speaking country. As a result, children are losing language skills rapidly, particularly their reading and writing skills. The findings call for urgent explicit steps for language maintenance if New Zealand were to thrive as a truly multicultural hub in the South Pacific region. Such an approach requires concerted efforts by families, community and government agencies. Keywords: Telugu language, migrant community, language shift, language maintenance, New Zealand.