The cultural and historical configuring of bilingual/bicultural parent participation



This article focuses on one of three case study parent's conscious reflections of their own being and becom- ing as a parent in a bilingual/bicultural family (of young children). The article draws from a research study that aims to understand what parents bring to bilingual/bicultural practices as migrants in an Australian context. The contention for this article is that history in motion creates an intergenerational pathway for individual development beyond their own individual histories in the forming and transforming of Self. This research study is situated in a cultural-historical framework that facilitates a dynamic insight to the formation of the parent Self and the participation and contribution they bring to their current social world from their personal and intergenerational histories. The article discusses the theoretical underpinnings and methods of data generation for this study that enabled consideration of how the bilingual/bicultural parent represents their subjectively configured Self, in their own unique ways of being and becoming as a migrant parent in Australia, maintaining their heritage language and culture.

General Information

Keywords: Self, Subjective configurations, Intergenerational family, Language & cultural maintenance/enrichment.

Journal rubric: Problems of Cultural-Historical and Activity Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Babaeff R. The cultural and historical configuring of bilingual/bicultural parent participation. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2013. Vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 63–73.

Full text

1. Introduction

Assimilate, accommodate, integrate or unite? Australia, as a widely diverse country over many decades has experienced continuous transformation in reforming the way to best function as a nation of multicultural heritages. Cultural and linguistic diversity is not unique to Australia, but as one of the world's most diverse nations, policy and implementation has been set forth to work through the multifarious issues that arise, as differing cultures meet for societal, political, and economic function in the approach for unity and harmony. The political and societal grappling as to what extent new immigrants should leave their heritage customs and languages at the door as they enter Australia, or how best to maintain their inherited ways of living and being, has been in political and societal controversy since the post-war immigration wave in 1945 (Clyne, 2005).

Studies of immigrant families maintaining heritage languages (Dopke, 1992; Schecter, Sharken-Taboada, & Bayley, 1996; Saunders ,1988; Shin, 2007; Souto- Manning, 2005) affirm that the interlocutors, or parents in the instance of the family, are one of the major influences to the realisation of heritage language maintenance and childhood bilingualism. However, studies beyond parent language and language maintenance associated with migration have not specifically considered the dynamic development of Self that the parent brings to their bilingual/bicultural participation with their children, and how this influences parents' current day practices of bilingualism and biculturalism with their children and in their community. A cultural-historical approach to investigating parents in their past and present bilingual-bicultural family participation provides a dynamic view to understanding this phenomenon, as part of a process of human development, to illuminate human ontogenetic forming and transforming of Self through social and contextual experience.

The term language and cultural maintenance is widely used in the literature in defining an intergenera­tional continuation of language as a tool for communication and interaction with others. However, in the scope of a cultural-historical perspective the term maintenance implies a static and transmission approach to the development of language. For this study, the term enrichment replaces maintenance to highlight language and cultural tools that both mediate and communicate a person's way of being in the world.

The term first generation can be defined as the first citizen or resident of a country born in a foreign country, or the first naturally born citizen or resident of immigrant parents who have citizenship or residency in the country of migration. This study honours migrants as Australians, and therefore enlists the term first-generation to those who have migrated to Australia, and second and subsequent generations to those born in Australia through the lineage of first generation (migrant) Australians.

The Problem

Identifying language practices and cultural approaches to everyday living, between generations, is complex and reliant on so much more than the spoken words and their meaning, or cultural artefacts available. There is no dispute that these are valuable tools for mediating language and culture. However, with each individual's unique way of being, in their approach to enriching children's heritage language and culture, further investigation to insight the subjective disposition of individuals as embedded in their participation, and the choices for participation and contribution in practices is needed. The leading question for this research relates to how intergenerational and personal histories configure with parents' present way of participating and contributing to their family's language and cultural enrichment. This cultural-historical approach to conceptualising migrant parents' subjective way of being is in the early stages of analysis, with all data generation completed at this time. However, at this early stage of data analysis there are very distinct features presented from each case study. It is these features and overlapping themes between participants which have led to further exploration of Self and subjective perspectives.

Theoretical consideration

The intertwined connection between cultural-historical movement and ontogenetic transformation of the individual is founded in historically shared experiences of generations gone by. This article considers the connection between intergenerational life histories and the individual's sense of Self in terms of their subjective present day life participation and contribution. The social and situated nature of development that is presently emerging in today's psychology of human development, enlightens understanding for the role of culture and history in determining how knowledge is generated, and how social practices contribute to the individual's sense of Self in relation to being and becoming in their world, (Stetsenko, 2010). Contemporary researchers (Chaiklin, 2011; Gonzalez Rey, 2007, 2009, 2011; Hedegaard, 1999; Rogoff, 2003; Stetsenko, 2005, 2010) have interpreted and extended on the foregrounding notions of Vygotsky's learning and development of externalisation to internalisation that enables understanding of the interdependence between cultural tools and the cultural/historical contexts of lived experiences.

Vygotsky's theory, according to Stetsenko (2010), was to create a psychology "in which each individual attains freedom autonomy in and through contributing to the freedom and autonomy of others, thus blending one's self-realization with that of others in a truly collaborative endeavour" (p. 8).

Cultural-historical theory

Adopting cultural-historical theory enables a dialectical approach to studying "history in motion" (Vygotsky, 1997); an opportunity to synthesise the phenomena of "development through time, by tracing a person's historical roots and conditions of origination, including their internal relations with other phenomena as these relations develop and are transformed in history" (Stetsenko, 2010, p. 73).

Ontogenetic analysis is the focus on individualistic attributes in terms of physical and mental ability, age, temperament and the interwoven moments of cultural practice and participation in life activity to form the individual's own history (Palinscar, 2005); it is the development of individuals throughout their life course. Ontogenetic movement for the individual is unique and dynamic in the dialectical relationship between natural and cultural lines of development. The role of mediation and cultural tools as central to Vygotsky's notions for ontogenetic growth of intelligence, enables a perspective to position the role of the external environment and social other in human development; the cultural line of development. The innovative theoretical constructs of Vygotsky's cultural line of development and mediation provide the foundation for interpreting the data of three case studies, to establish a dynamic structure for understanding Self in human development. This study moves beyond the individual's own direct life history to consider the antecedent life experiences of preceding generations to view history in motion across generations, as it has become situated for the individual in the course of their own development.

Subjectivity and Self

Gonzalez Rey (2007) explains Vygotsky's use of the term sense to account for the unity between cognitive and affective processes whereby "the social becomes subjective not because of internalization, but by sense production related to the living experience" (p.9).

The work of Stetsenko (2005, 2010) and Stetsenko & Arievitch (2004) establishes the concept of Self, and Gonzalez Rey (2007, 2009, 2011) brings understanding to psyche of Self through the individual's subjective sense and subjective configurations. Such concepts insight the dynamic process of the individual's external world, and all that comes into being for the developing Self through thinking and emotions. The dialectic relationships that pertain to the formations, reformations and transformations in one's connection between themselves and the world, and recursively, the world and themselves can be embodied as subjective sense of Self. The concept of subjective sense of Self, endorses the contribution of the individual's being in the past and present, and their becoming for the present and future, to connect the dynamic and evolving process of psychological and subjective human development. In the tenet of cultural-historical traditions, Historical Becoming is a lifelong process that ubiquitously emerges as the individual participates and contributes to collective cultural practices, based on their own intentional goals and ideas of the future (Stetsenko, 2010, 2011).

The notion of contribution accounts for the individual's agency and deliberate role in decision making and setting of goals for the future, as a "ceaseless process of idealogical becoming in pursuit of meaningful changes in the world" (Stetsenko, 2010, p. 9).

In viewing the person as implicitly and explicitly embedded in their social, cultural, and historical contexts provides the opportunity to see the multi-perspectives and the dynamic relationships that interweave between the individual as Self and the integrated social dimensions that permeate actions and motives in one's social activity (Stetsenko & Arievitch, 2004). The connection between how the environment is embodied through the awareness, perceptions, interpretations, feelings, and the manner in which the individual relates to situated experience is represented in the term Vygotsky (1994) enlists as perezhivanie. Perezhivanie has also been defined as lived experience and describes the embedded relationship that exists between the individual and their surrounding world, a notion explored further by Ferholt (2010) to be appreciated more dynamically and complexly as "intensely-emotional-lived-through-experience" (p.164). Vygotsky (1994) identifies perezhivanie as the emotional experience that results from the way the environment influences the child to connect with their psychological development and conscious personality to impact on their way of being in future participation. Stetsenko (2010) proposes that "people come to know themselves and their world and ultimately come to be human in and through (not in addition to) the processes of collaboratively transforming their world in view of their goals and purposes" (italics in original, p. 9). The generated data in this study is being analysed in terms of Gonzalez Rey's (2009, 2011) conception of subjective sense, a contemporary view deriving from Vygotsky's incomplete work on the notion of sense. Gonzalez Rey (2009, 2011) extends the idea of sense and perezhivanie to move beyond a portrayal of specific links between a single action or event and an affective consequence; rather it is extensively bound between the individual and their previous encounters in living, to develop their current way of being as subjective sense. These subjective senses flow in the ongoing human experiences as an interwoven movement of emotional and symbolic processes where the emergence of one of them evokes the other without becoming its cause (Gonzalez Rey, 2011). The subjective configurations, that are ever transforming based on the newness and changes in the social and action of the momentary present, create tension for modification in aspects of the individual's subjective sense — in turn generating change to the subjective configurations, and therefore adjusting the individual's behaviour that produces motivation through the course of human activity (Gonzalez Rey, 2011). The actual objective conditions of human life become the psychological motivation through cognitively dealing with the consequences of past experiences to affectively determine possibilities for future participation and contribution in human activity (Gonzalez Rey, 2009).

Subjective configurations network to form an array of social and historical intergenerational and personal experiences that affectively develops parent agency for current participation with their family and community daily life. For the diverse parent in the new culture, the past and present aspects of subjective configurations, that are founded in their development of language and cultural ways of being, can illuminate aspects of subjective sense for the parent Self.


In this section, I describe the data generation methods developed for this research study and present the data for one of three participants from a multiple case study of three parents from diverse linguistic and cultural family backgrounds living in Melbourne, Australia. Daniels (2008) speaks of establishing empirical data that enables analysis to "invoke an account of the production of psychological tools or artefacts, such as discourse, that will allow for exploration of the formative effects of the social context of production at the psychological level" (p. 152). The multi-level of data tools for this study were designed to invoke the discourse for present and past reflection corresponding to language and culture.

The initial data set was a preliminary questionnaire asking parents about their own heritage language development, language practices from their own heritage background, and their current practices in the home, and the language tool as formed through family and the community.

Interviews commenced with a demographic-language tree (Babaeff, 2009) to generate data in the presence of the interviewer from maternal and paternal family lineage over four generations, incorporating languages spoken and countries of birth and residence (including the years of residence), enabling extended discussion for a dynamic view of cultural-historical and socio-political events from the participant's intergener­ational history. Permeating through the interview discussions were specific events and activities of parents and grandparents' personal/family histories, as collectively shared in their family, to portray historical events and resulting influences to the individuals involved. The fortnight break between interviews and reflection journals allowed some time for conscious awareness to continue emerging, facilitating the participants to share any further reflections in relation to their own heritage language/cultural practices, participation, contribution, and memories of earlier experiences, in turn capturing a transformation in awareness of Self.

The spontaneous approach to interviewing allowed the participants to steer the dialogue, as their own thinking and memory recall came to being in moments of the interview. This approach to interviewing provided the opportunity for the interviewer develop shared meaning and seek clarification if necessary without compelling the participants into particular lines of thinking; the ultimate aim for the data generation being for the participant Self to be authentically represented throughout the interview. Using a range of data generation tools enabled a wide range of representation of past and present forming and transforming from the participant's own historical and cultural experiences, and from the shared understanding they had developed through intergenerational connecting.

Data generation: historical sharing in dialogue

Remarkably each of the participants discussed the political influence of war from their countries of origin (Hungary, Poland and Vietnam), and the significant impact this had on their language and cultural constructions with their family. Participants explicitly and implicitly spoke of the Self they brought to their current participation and contribution, even though there was no line of questioning or comment from the interviewer that was intent in directing to such dialogue. As each participant shared their personal histories and of their predecessors' histories, all three made connections with the social disarray from the past that had created quite obvious long-term impressionable impacts on their formation of Self, and in turn, their way of being in their current participation and contribution to language and culture. There were clear representations of the subjective configurations that indicated moments of forming and transforming of Self within the generated data. Sue, a mother of three and married to a third-generation Australian of Italian heritage, spoke of her own childhood experience as a five year old leaving her country of Vietnam and her becoming of refugee status in Japan, followed by her experience as a non-English speaking child starting school in Australia. Grace is a first generation Hungarian-Australian and her husband is a second generation Australian, they have two children, aged seven and eight at the time of the study. Throughout Grace's story, there are many reflections on the impact of a country changing borders from Hungary to Serbia and personal impacts on the family's Hungarian language and culture through exposure to the newly formed Serbia, arising as a consequence of the Treaty of Triannon.

The data generated with all three participants is significant and abundant in terms of life experiences relating to the forming and transforming of the participants' diverse language and culture, representing a dynamic range of attributes and issues from the participants' reflections and sharing. The data particularly depicts affective insights to being and becoming from the past and present lived experiences of Self. For the purpose of this article, I have chosen to draw from Sarah's story as it prominently identifies intergenerational language shift, almost to the point of cessation, and subsequent language reversal, to explicate intergenerational and social mediation of knowledge as embedded within Sarah's subjective configuration for her ongoing participation.

I acknowledge that the data generated in this qualitative study is emotively described from my perspective as the researcher of this study and author of this article. The data is interpreted in light of the intersubjective meaning that was established through the research data generation process. Lev Vygotsky argued that research should move beyond causal, objective psychology to entail "a humanistic, subjective, idealistic approach, which sought to describe and understand human experience" (Chaiklin, 2011, p.140). The data generation for this project aimed to represent the human and social experience.

Sarah's story : developing of multilingual Self — A Contextual overview


Sarah was raised in a mainly English-speaking home environment in the United States with some phrases and labelling occurring in Yiddish. The origins of Sarah's Jewish language and cultural heritage, travelled in varying forms, intergenerationally, from Eastern Europe to Canada and the United States over two generations.

In Sarah's home, interactions and language support to Hebrew occur largely through religious practices both in and out of the home. Much of the Hebrew language learning occurs through artefacts and prayer. Yiddish interactions and support occur in the home, school, and with the family's Jewish community largely through cultural practices and the sharing of Jewish community and religious values. English interactions and support occur both in and out of the home environment. Sarah estimates (at the onset of the study) around 40% of home interactions occur in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Sarah and her husband migrated to Australia with their four children, aged between one and six years of age (their fifth child was born in Australia). Both parents hold specific personal goals of leadership roles to revitalise Hebrew and Yiddish language, culture, and religion in a predominantly Jewish community in Melbourne that is experiencing language and cultural shift to English and away from practices ofJudaism. The revitalisation of Hebrew and Yiddish for Sarah and her husband has seen an active community role undertaken by both these parents to embrace and enrich language and cultural heritage. Sarah leads a Hebrew/Yiddish early learning centre (Sarah has a Diploma of Children's Services) and her husband is the Rabi of a synagogue in suburban Melbourne.


A preliminary view of all forms of generated data was undertaken using Rogoff's three foci of analysis, acknowledging that all foci intertwine with each other whilst bringing to the foreground a dialectical view of the unity between the individual and their social world. The analytical purpose of this tool is to enable a view of the individual's participation, over time, that engages a dynamic and interconnected contextual wholeness. As (Robbins, 2007) explains

data generation and analysis that attends to personal, interpersonal and cultural/contextual issues, can reveal the dynamic nature of children's (read people's) thinking, and how it is constituted with their participation with others in sociocultural activities, is mediated by particular cultural tools, and is inseparable from interpersonal and community or contextual factors (p. 354).

Although Robbins (2007) refers specifically to children's thinking in this instance, the three foci of analysis provide a valuable tool for considering the life span of human development in all its forms of movement.

The personal lens enables the opportunity to consider transformational emergence over time and as they are subjectively presented by the participants

The interpersonal lens makes possible consideration to the intergenerational relationships and collaborative situations of shared stories and experiences that have become embedded in the individual's way of being in their bilingual/bicultural world/s.

The community/contextual lens affords the opportunity to insight the effects of social, cultural, and political events that intertwine with one another and the way in which the individual makes sense for Self in their world and affords ways of being in contribution and participation

(Adapted from Robbins & Jane, 2005).

While one of the three lenses is analytically in focus, there is a constant interplay occurring between all three, to present a dynamic view of the bilingual/bicultural parent's subjective configurations as they are situated in their unique positions of being and becoming. Paradise (2002), emphasises the importance of not seeing particular practices and orientations as being specific to particular cultural groups as homogenous ways of being, but rather " a holistic relational approach to understanding and explaining culture can promote 'looking beyond' cultural particulars in order to include historical, economic, and political realities in the analysis" (p. 231).

This article presents the data as interpreted and conceptualised at the second stage of analysis for this study. The learning and development that has occurred in cultural-historical contexts, the artefacts, social tools, cultural knowledge and language (mediation) provides aspects of a connected whole in which to investigate processes of forming and change in views and approaches to participation and contribution. A dialectical approach to interpreting and triangulating the findings as parts within the unity of the data supports an understanding of the Self as a whole, through participants' conscious awareness of experiences and action.

The Findings

Cultural-Historical Perspectives

The data generation processes for this study brought to light the intergenerational and present day contexts of lived experience and the intergenerational collective knowledge and enlightenment that integrated the participant's way of being and knowing in their world.

With the focus on Sarah for this article, there is an external view showing intergenerational language loss between generations through migration and then reignited through institutional means in the third generation. However, with further exploration in establishing dialogue with Sarah, the cultural-historical context for this view becomes a dynamic interweaving of complex issues that instigated language shift in Sarah's intergenerational family. The demographic-language family tree (Babaeff, 2009) allowed this movement to be revealed more specifically through the representation of the migratory movement of the family during the times of LaShoa (The Holocaust). Alongside migrating to a country (Canada and the United States) with the dominant language of English being the societal means for communication, it is essential to understand that for personal safety and survival, Sarah's grandparents chose to diminish the use of their heritage language. The subjective decision to minimise Hebrew and Yiddish was a consequence of the contextual traumas that the Jewish cultural communities were experiencing during these times of societal and global disarray (1939—1945). The treacherous events of genocide created the need for many of the Jewish people to assimilate in a context that would not have them targeted for their difference in the Nazi attempts for the eradication of the Jewish people (Wilkinson & Charing, 2004). The cultural-historical consequences of language shift, almost to cessation and cultural blending in the grandparents''new' context prevented a valuable language and cultural tool from moving from one generation to the next. However, the perezhivanie (lived experience) of Sarah's grandparents and parents embedded from the historical event, resulting in cultural and linguistic transformation, is represented in the cognitive-affective actions of Sarah's own parents motivation to ignite the intergenerational heritage language.

Interview Transcript 1

Sarah: Most of us didn't grow up speaking much Yiddish in our homes. If you notice from my family background, that neither of my parents grew up with Hebrew [or] Yiddish in their home. So they learned Hebrew and Yiddish that are culturally related only when they were in their twenties. They never really had that deep you know [sic.] but they wanted us children to have it. So my parents struggled to speak to us in those languages that were foreign to them, in order that we should have those languages which they knew would be a big part of our lives. The Yiddish that I use with my children is very strongly related to that which was spoken to me as a the effort my parents did put in definitely paid off.

Sarah speaks of the languages as being "learnt" by her parents, but in terms of a cultural-historical perspective in attaining Hebrew and Yiddish language use there is a process of development emerging. The language is developmental rather than simply learnt for particular practices because it is utilised for ongoing everyday interaction in child rearing between parents and their children, in turn creating a change in overall life-long participation. The parents utilisation of Hebrew and Yiddish a cultural tool for education in linguistic and cultural institution, is a subjective representation of parent's choice for Sarah and her siblings. Additionally, this action deriving from her parents' multilingual development transpires to Sarah's generation, and her development in the language, that enables her participation across many dimensions of societal interaction and contribution to her everyday life in schooling and religious practices, and later intergenerationally with her children. Cultural-historical theory assumes the continuation of culture with change occurring over time, a vision supported by Sarah's parents that Hebrew and Yiddish will be a part of their children's lives in the future, as seen in transcript 1. This has been interpreted that Sarah's parents anticipated there will be a continuum in societal and institutional transformation of social attitudes to supporting Judaism practices of religion, culture, and the associated languages, as current day contexts continue emerging to a more societally safe space for active and accessible participation, than experienced during the 1940's.

Language as a cultural tool, and a cultural artefact, changes over time in the context of time and practice. In considering the language tool of Yiddish it becomes possible to appreciate how tools, in this instance a language, transform to meet the needs of the cultural groups for which the tools enable mediation. Sarah provides an in­depth reflection on the importance of Hebrew in terms of learning and appreciating religious teachings, with extensive consideration to her views of Yiddish and the Yiddish language as a transforming language in relation to transnational movement.

Interview Transcript 2

Sarah: It s [Hebrew] something that we want to pass on to our children so that they will be able to study what His [God's] teachings in the original language, and also to speak his language which is a beautiful thing. So I personally, and there are many like me in my group of Judaism would feel that Yiddish is a strong language but unfortunately it s well known around the world that [pure]Yiddish is a dying language, [pause] because [pause] in general, Yiddish has always been very much a changing type of language — it adapted to the Country it was in...

... so Yiddish is sort of the, sort of a mixture of Hebrew and the language of the countries where the Jews were at the time ... so there's a, there's a German style Yiddish, there's a Polish style Yiddish, there's a French style of Yiddish and now there 's even an English style Yiddish....

Throughout the interviewing process (with particular reference to interview transcript 2), Sarah determines that her perception of Hebrew is still very much to be one of an unchanged language tool, closely affiliated with very particular purpose of religious practice and is a language experiencing very little change. Sarah's perception of Hebrew in terms of Jewish practice is a set in a stable context with very little transformation occurring. However, a language used in the community for interaction within a demographic context of another language spoken by the community, demonstrates a transformation of the language tool (Yiddish) which

Sarah suggests is associated with the language-speakers' experience of migration to many countries. From Sarah's awareness of varying forms of Yiddish, it can be determined that speakers of a particular language transform the language tool to befit their social needs in the community/institutional context of their living. Hence, there is an emergence of language transformation through the language contact with a dominant language mediating change to suit the social requirements on a microcosmic level for the individual, and as a macrocosmic transformation collectively occurring for the community. This transformation identified, exemplifies Rogoff's (2003) recognition of human participation in cultural communities creates change to the ontogeny of human development, correspondingly creating change in these cultural communities through people's participation within them. The impact of socio-political events, resulting in migration as seen in Sarah's inter- generational family language practices and collectively through the societal language changes and shifts, demonstrates the individual's ability to create transformation to cultural-historical contexts and the tools of mediation. The dynamic movement of the languages loss and then reigniting is history in motion that co-exists in the realms of cultural-historical developments and ontogeny.

Ontogenetic Trajectory: Mediation and the social world

Mastering language and culture is a developmental process that forms through psychological tools and inter-relations with others based on the principles of higher mental functions, and although more dynamically configured, the psychological development for learning and developing in more than one language is set within these same principles. According to Kozulin (2005) Vygotsky enlisted the term developmental psychology to explain these processes, but "Vygotsky meant much more than a mere analysis of the unfolding of behaviour in ontogenesis...Vygotsky perceived psychological development as a dynamic process full of upheavals, sudden changes, and reversals" (p. 106). The following section of the findings from this study, indicates aspects of Sarah's ontological development identified in the generated data, as a basis for understanding the dynamic role of cultural-historical foundations in ontogenetic trajectories. Furthermore, mediation that has interplayed in Sarah's life experiences, to bring about her conscious awareness of Self and the way in which she participates and contributes to language and cultural enrichment has been identified.

Referring back to interview transcript 1, analysis of the ontogenetic representations of Sarah's bilingual- bicultural development trajectory shows Sarah's own childhood to be relatively limited in the home in relation to the use of more than one language. Sarah explains her home languages were mainly English and some Yiddish with her parents due to the limitation to her own parents' understanding as almost non-native speakers of the language, resulting from learning and developing Hebrew and Yiddish languages at a later stage in their own life trajectory. The upheavals and reversals Vygotsky speaks of align relevantly to the language shift that has occurred for Sarah's parents and more specifically her grandparents. However, more distinctively in considering Sarah's ontological development, the influences of previous intergenerational language-cultural shifts and the movement in psychological development experiences has set different pathways for Sarah's development based on the very nature of the cultural tools presented in Sarah's social environment. From Sarah's story, her parents were motivated to embellish her life experiences with Hebrew and Yiddish cultural ways and languages by utilising resources in the community/institutional setting of schooling in a Judaism context. Sarah also highlights her access to Hebrew and Yiddish social mediation of more than one language (as cited in interview 1) through early interactions with her parents (although limited in its Yiddish form). The essentiality of Sarah's parents' social contributions to her early language development is understood through Vygotsky's argument that "every function in the cultural development of the child appears on the stage twice, in two planes, first the social, then the psychological, first between people as an intermental category, then within the child as an intermental category" (Vygotsky, 1997, p.106). In the essence of this assertion, the interpsychological is present through the parent-child interactions Sarah experienced in her early years of development. Additionally, as Sarah reflects on her language use of the Hebrew/Yiddish with her own children and in the early learning centre she coordinates, (see interview transcript 3 below), it can be seen that she is able to bring forth this language tool, with mastery of her own language and for her social contribution/participation. The dynamic relationship between the individual and their environment, as they interchange for transformation of one upon the other, exemplifies Vygotsky's (1997) contention of the individual's capacity to transform their own way of participation. This cultural-historical representation is two-fold as the individual masters historically formed cultural tools (such as language), and within this process of development, in turn, transforms the environment in which they participate and contribute to. Once again, it also becomes possible to see that as the individual participates in their community, they also transform the practices in the community, in Sarah's instance through her provision of a Yiddish-Hebrew language and cultural embellished environment for children in early childhood, (see interview transcript 3 below).

Interview Transcript 3

Sarah: Yiddish is cultural trend in the Centre. They come from all different homes. You 've got children that come from Yiddish speaking homes, children who come from Hebrew speaking homes, and children from English speaking homes. I find because I have all three languages that I find myself speaking to each child in the language of their choice, you know and I find myself repeating a lot. Like, I'll say things in two languages like, 'Let'spack up now' and I'll say it again in Hebrew. But the children that did [pack up], you know [pause] that speak [Yiddish and Hebrew] so we do use a lot of different languages in the teach [sic] in the actual teaching in the singing... in the books .umm. we have a variety. I'll read some stories in Yiddish, some in Hebrew, some in English. I'll sing some songs in various languages.

Sarah identifies when she is best suited to code switch between the languages, a "valuable linguistic strategy" (Shin, 2005, p.18) to enhance comprehension within the communication, or for extending multilingual support to the child. This mastery of Sarah's ability to appropriate and make participatory decisions in how she uses her multilingual skills is a reflection of her own linguistic development, and is representative of her conscious awareness and deliberate choice in the particular language tool she elects to use, as she perceives relevant to the social interaction of the moment. The dynamic tapestry of mediation through the social other, as it has moved for Sarah in her early years from the interpsychological to the intrapsychological, to then become interpsychological once again for other's language (in this instance of her own children and the children in her childcare centre). As Kozulin (1986) explains, language and speech play a specific dual role in Vygotsky's psychological system. "On the one hand, they are a psychological tool that helps to form other mental functions; on the other hand, they are one of these functions, which means that they also undergo a cultural development" (Kozulin, 1986, Sarah socially mediates language with an array of cultural artefacts such as books, song and story through the development of her own language as both a tool for mediation, and a psychological tool, and in turn supporting her contribution of social mediation for language development and learning for others (see interview transcript 2 and 3).

Mediation and cultural tools

Stetsenko and Arievitch (2004) clarify that tools, in both the physical artefact and the more complex tool of knowledge, as interwoven with social mediation, reflect human culture; humans master tasks and activities in collaboration with others. Throughout the discourse of the interviews for this study, Sarah made reference to a range of cultural artefacts interconnected with cultural knowledge that mediate the multilingual environments of her current everyday living. The tools Sarah highlighted in the interviews, as part of her own practices, are inclusive to those that were founded in her own upbringing, her current day family practices with her own children, and the tools she brings to her early learning centre to additionally mediate the culture and language within the community.

Interview Transcript 4

Sarah: You asked do I consider myself a bilingual family and I said 'no' because I never thought of myself as a bilingual family.

The other languages that come up in my household are much more cultural..those other languages are a part of our culture. For example a lot of our interactions involved in different languages are related to prayers, blessings, rituals that are performed and, umm, a lot of stories that we read to our children and the games that we play, and the events that happen in our house surround our culture.

. from the moment of birth, you know, we try and surround the children with Jewish practices. we have to do cards that go on the baby s cot in hospital, they have Jewish prayers on them. When a child begins to speak, we begin to teach them by [pause] to recite words of the Bible [books of the Tanakh] ... that is the first thing you want them to say, and then when you give them something to eat you want them to make a blessing.

...they are going to school and they [the children] are learning songs in Hebrew and learning songs in Yiddish...from the community, friends, family — and everywhere. But I wouldn t say its language related it s cultural.. [pause]. I guess with Yiddish, I am more aware of the bilingual aspect.

The prayers and reciting of the Bible is a language tool that gives meaning to the religious practices and Jewish culture through the rituals and blessings. Sarah speaks of prayer cards that are placed in the baby's cot from birth and the blessings that are given before food in the very early days of the child's life, all of which are the beginnings of embellishing the child in cultural tools and knowledge for their future cultural and psychological development. The use of these particular artefacts in practice moves beyond the use of tools as mere implements for language practice in the here and now, but rather form part of humanities' continuous historical practices (Stetsenko and Vianna, 2011). In interview transcript 4, Sarah states she does not see herself as bilingual, demonstrating her perception of language as a cultural tool that is embedded in her cultural practices and not as two separate entities. Identifiable in Sarah's statement is the intertwining of language and culture exemplifying that tools (language in this instance) are not mere instruments that create or transmit knowledge, but rather are part of a dynamic process that interlink with the social and the cultural to create processes of mediation.

In the understanding of one's own cultural Self and the specific essence of culture and language choices is the subjective stance that a person intends to consciously mediate in their social connections.

Interview Transcript 5

Sarah: We have Jewish DVDs, things that have a good message, values and ways that what we want our children to see and then say, you know, perhaps you might show' them a TV show' once in a while that we thought might have some educational value, but we wouldn't, most of us don t have a TV in our houses.

We don t turn the radio on in the car because for the most part what's being said is not in accordance with what we consider the values, that we want to raise our children.

An example of subjective positioning in mediation is shown throughout the interview transcripts (although more specifically interview transcript 3) demonstrates Sarah choosing particular languages for particular moments of social interaction, and various traditions in her bringing of semiotic and physical tools to the language and cultural practices. Alternatively, there can also be subjective choice for the exclusion of particular tools, as seen in interview transcript 5, where there is a deliberate choice for non-mediation of the dominant culture that leads to specific choice in action to make unavailable cultural tools and knowledge to Sarah's children. Sarah and her husband choose not to have English television or radio in their endeavour to embellish their children with their Jewish cultural values and avoid possible a conflict in values arising from the dominant societal culture. Media opportunities are limited unless there is a clear alignment in the values desired: "a good message", with Sarah making particular reference to making available Jewish DVDs for their preferred option to mediate cultural ways for their children. In the undertaking to sustain intergenerational values of Judaism, by limiting access to values and practices of the English-majority, the contingency process of mediation is abated as a result of the reduction in tools available (television and radio).

Stetsenko and Vianna (2011) explain that the content of learning and the process of thinking and knowledge "is connected to one's positioning in community practice in their past and present, and to one's commitment to changing them as part of one's meaningful agenda and thus, identity" (p. 320). Both Sarah and her husband demonstrate commitment to the active promotion of Hebrew and Yiddish in their present community, immersing themselves in proactive Jewish community roles to advocate their Jewish language and culture. The relevance of participating in, and contributing to, historically purposeful cultural knowledge and practices mediates a lifelong dynamic that "can spur and enrich the development of one's meaningful life project while this project, in turn, further enriches and supports learning — in a bidirectional cyclical process where learning and identity can become intertwined" (Stetsenko and Vianna, 2011, p. 320).

Subjective configurations — Self

Stetsenko and Arievitch (2004), explain the codependent and co-evolving of human subjectivity (and Self) with social interactions and the collective practices as a complex history that emerges in each individual's unique development, furthermore creating a dialectic unity in the individual's agentive role and social dimensions. Even though the forming of Self is directly manifested in their history, the individual determines an active role in choice for Self. It is on the contention of subjective configurations that the Self is observed to establish motives directly affected from one's life experiences (perezhivanie). The desire for Sarah's contribution in igniting her heritage language and culture is interwoven in the intergenerational tragedies that 'stole' language and culture from the communities of the past. Hedegaard (1999) explains, sense captures the personal and motivational aspects of activity, but it can only be expressed through a shared meaning system...senses are created through a person's real relations in his or her life, and reflect the motives in these activities" (pp. 282—283).

Accordingly, shared meaning and sense spans over intergenerational boundaries and consequentially reflects history in motion, shown in the collectively shared stories of events that (re)create a shared sense of lived experience (perezhivanie) between generations. Furthermore, mediational processes for the individual's Self can develop across time and through historical events over many lifespans. Sarah portrays affective connection to her heritage culture and language in the commitment that penetrates through her everyday activity and her emotive expression to motivate her religious practices relating to "His [God's] teachings in the original language, and also to speak His language which is a beautiful thing" (Sarah, 2008, Interview transcript 2). Gonzalez Rey (2011) explains, "motive is always a configuration of subjective senses permanently produced on the course of human activity" (p. 38). For Sarah these subjective configurations are a continual Self-pathway of affirming and learning in her development of her Self through her current and on-going practices with her children and the religious community work she embraces; her "subjective senses result from other social spaces and social discourses that assemble into the familiar subjective configurations" (Gonzalez Rey, 2011, p. 40). The expression of configurations is always co-related to the decisions and options made in the person's ongoing everyday experiences (Gonzalez Rey, 2011). Referring back to transcript 2, Sarah's subjective affiliation and affective volition of her language and culture are represented through her expressed view of His language, and are embedded in how she chooses to contribute to enriching Judaism in her community.

When Sarah commenced participation in the research project she began by stating that she did not see herself as bilingual (Sarah, 2009, Interview transcript 4), however in the course of the interview dialogue Sarah adjusts this view stating that "I guess with Yiddish, I am more aware of the bilingual aspect" (Sarah, 2009, Interview transcript 4). Sarah speaks of her awareness in terms of her Yiddish language use and being bilingual, in this sense it is when she speaks of her language tool as part of her social practices with others that her awareness mediates her sense of Self-participation in Yiddish language/culture. This mediation of Self-awareness seems to come to light throughout the course of data generation as Sarah transforms her perception of Self as bilingual and enlightening her view of her husband as bilingual through heightening consciousness of language practices.

Journal 1: Sarah's conversation with husband

Sarah: I spoke to my husband about the initial interview we had for this research project. He was marvelling about how he had never really thought about how much he uses his other languages in daily life. He explained how he just considered his language use as part of his religious and educational upbringing. We thought of many expressions he uses as part of his day-to-day speech that comes from his different languages.

Sarah (associated discussion to journal in conversation): The next day he was on the phone to do with his work [as Rabi], and he came in to the kitchen and said to me I use Hebrew and Yiddish all the time in conversation' I can t believe I never realised this before

The transforming consciousness of Self in the bilingual/bicultural practices is quite clearly, although implicit in nature, mediated and provoked through the interview conversations and journal writing "implicit mediation typically involves signs in the form of natural language that have evolved in the service of communication and are then harnessed in other forms of activity" (Wertsch, 2007, 184). Vygotsky (1987) explains that consciousness can only be explicitly communicated through indirect arrangements by means of mediated pathways.

It is not mediated directly by signs. It is mediated internally by meaning. It is the internal mediation of thought first by meanings and then by words.Meaning mediates thought first in its path to verbal expression by words. The path from thought to words is indirect and internally mediated (p. 282).

The opportunity to revisit Sarah for a second interview, after valuable social interactions had occurred with her husband and reflections in the personal journal, Sarah articulated a greater understanding of her own and her husband's contribution and participation in their sense of Self, and their multilingual perspectives. Sarah's greater awareness of Self becomes reflected in her language practices and the way in which she participates for community transformation. In the reflection journal, Sarah made a number of recordings in relation to interactions she had with parents from her Child Care service about supporting Hebrew and Yiddish in family homes. Sarah stated she shared ideas of practices and activities the parents could be involved in with their own children, to extend the children's understanding and use of heritage languages.

Journal 2: Sarah's conversation with community member

Sarah: We spoke about being brought up with different languages and the words we knew. She told me that since there was a strong anti-Semitic vibe in Russia in her youth, her parents did not speak any Yiddish to her, only Russian (since Yiddish is a Jewish language). Therefore, her only Yiddish vocabulary is from her early youth, from her grandparents. She expresses a regret that she didn 't pass her Yiddish on to her children. We talked about ways she could change this for her children and grandchildren.

Once again it can be seen that the socio-political events in contextual time have directly created change (language shift for individuals and their community). Sarah's proactive contribution to assisting in reigniting the intergenerational language loss for this Russian-Jewish family presents as one of many examples from the data of Sarah's awareness of Self in contributing to her 'life-project' of commitment to Judaism in language and culture.


This study is bringing to the forefront an understanding of the dialectical duality of the uniqueness in bilingual-bicultural parents' historically encountered cultural tools and experiential interactions as they transform to establish new ways of knowing and being in a cultural context that differs from their own original cultural sources. Although this study is in the early stages of analysis, it is already possible to determine that the Self develops through a dynamic process of social and experiential mediation that brings change to practices and participation, consequentially creating possibilities for change in human life. The impressions from social, political and historical events that occur in earlier generations do not cease between generations, but rather form an emergent trajectory for subsequent generations. The forming and transforming of Self is an ontological process that is mediated through the cultural-historical artefacts, psychological tools, collectively shared intergenerational histories and lived experiences of the unique human being.

Through the comprehensive discourse and analysis of subjective configurations, this study makes possible an insight to participant's ontological development and how this affectively contribution to practice and participation. Additionally conscious awareness of Self, also comes to the fore as participants reflect on their participation and experiences. This study also insights a sense of knowing about why and how individuals participate the way they do, from interpersonal and intrapersonal perspectives, and with community in their everyday life. In turn, the opportunity for genuine meaning-making, intersubjective relationships, and understanding of the 'other', particularly in the light of this research, the other in diversity, becomes possible.

Language and cultural maintenance is "so much more than the way we speak or the things we do, it includes emotions as well" (Grace, 2007, research participant), is a participant's reflection that acknowledges the subjective situation of parents' enriching bilingual-bicultural heritage for their children.


I would like to thank the enthusiastic parents of this study for sharing their wonderful stories and ways of being, with so much commitment to provide meaningful understanding of their personal histories and family origins. Special thanks to my supervisor, Dr. Jill Robbins, (Monash University) for inspiring me with her knowledge to appreciate the explicit and the implicit in the participant's stories.


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Information About the Authors

Robyn Babaeff, Monash University, e-mail:



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