Identifying through language: an explorative research on identity switching in Dutch-English compound bilinguals
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This research explores the possibilities of identity switching within compound Dutch-English bilinguals and the extent to which they feel part of different cultures. In order to do so, a mixed method approach is implemented including a survey with 143 respondents and semi-structured interviews with eight interviewees. The survey is executed to find compound bilinguals for the interviews and offer more detailed information on the group as a whole who identify as bilinguals. The eight participants are found through the survey and are all compound bilinguals, having learnt two or more languages from birth until the age of four, as a direct result of their environment. The respondents have American, Australian, British and South-African backgrounds, alongside Dutch. The results from the survey show that although no significant difference can be found, compound bilinguals filling in the survey feel more of a cultural identity switch than people with other forms of bilingualism. The results from the interviews show that language and culture are deeply connected as the norms and values passed on by parents and the environment of a language greatly influence their perception of their usage of a language (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004). The participants do not necessarily feel part of either culture, yet discover they have taken on components of both cultures and construct a third unique identity. With this in mind, they tend to switch identity and language depending on the context (Dervin, 2012). This context for example relies on topics of conversation, emotional repertoire, family relations, language opportunities and surroundings (Sapir, 1985; Zhu, 2013). These answers are underlined in the results from the survey, which offer various different answers as to when and why a participant identifies more with one language than the other.