BILINGUAL ANXIETIES AND BARRIERS TO ACQUISITION: LANGUAGE CHOICES AMONG URBAN SAKHA AND THEIR CHILDREN

Jenanne K. FERGUSON

This paper, based on ethnographic fieldwork among young adults and their families in Yakutsk, deals with urban ethnic Sakha bilinguals and their language ideologies and choices, especially concerning the language socialization of their children—both at home and within the educational system. The usage of the Sakha language within urban spaces has been on the rise in the post-Soviet years, but it is still generally acquired in the home environment as a first language, whereas Russian is acquired later in the ‘outside’ world and reinforced through the educational system. Barriers toward Sakha acquisition and maintenance that speakers face are explored; these obstacles are both ideological and structural. Narratives concerning unapprehension toward bilingualism and the possibility of mastering two languages within the educational system are discussed, along with the need for language instruction—especially in schools—to be made to accommodate those with little to no Sakha knowledge in order to continue to increase the usage of Sakha by urban speakers.

Keywords: bilingualism; language acquisition; language ideologies; family language planning; Sakha (Yakut) language