THE INFLUENCE OF CULTURAL ATTITUDES ON LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT AMONGST INDIGENOUS YOUNG SEMAI CHILDREN
Keywords:cultural attitudes, first language development, second language acquisition, childrearing practices, sharing culture, Indigenous communities
Cultural attitudes are beliefs and practices of a group of people; they define the culture in determining appropriateness for its culture. This paper highlights the influence of cultural attitudes on language development of indigenous young Semai children from Malaysia. The research examines the influence of parents’ interactions with their children and their sharing culture practices on the children’s first and second language development. Findings showed that young Semai children were reluctant to speak the second language, which is the Malay language, after nearly a year of attending a national kindergarten in their village. This is perhaps due to the fact that all parents spoke Semai language to their children all the time. However, it must be noted that their interactions were substantially imperative in nature instructing the children to follow parental orders. Casual discussion of other topics was non-existent. Nor did parents ever read or tell stories to their children; they admitted to not knowing any stories in Semai language. Parents have also hardly encouraged their children to learn other languages. They have no confidence in their children’s ability in speaking Malay as a second language. The exclusiveness of sharing culture practices between adults and children is prominent among the Semai. The children are encouraged to share their space and toys but they are to play by themselves. The research concludes that cultural attitudes in Semai community have slowed down the development of the first and second language of their young children.