I am looking for statistics/research/terminology about the native language rejection by immigrants. I mean by this partial or complete refusal to use one's mother-tongue in favor of the local language (or another language suitable for communication.)

One example I can think of is early European immigrants to Israel speaking Hebrew (Ben Yehuda famously refused to speak anything but Hebrew to his family, and Amos Oz in his autobiography makes remarks about his parents' lack of intimate family vocabulary, since for them Hebrew was not the first language.)

On more anecdotal level I have heard of Algerian immigrants in France refusing to speak Arabic or Russian cold-war era immigrants to the US renouncing Russian. In this case this is likely motivated by political reasons or cultural rejection.

In a softer form this may appear as refusing to use the native language with one's children - this seems to be a relatively widespread attitude in immigrant communities, as a means of facilitating children' integration into local society.

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    We really need to differentiate between refusing to speak one’s own language in favour of a more dominant language, and refusing to speak a more dominant language in favour of one’s own language, however defined. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 20:06
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    Your use of the term 'NATIVE' is problematic here because its deixis is all messed up. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 3:29
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    @AdamBittlingmayer indeed, this is something I also had in mind when thinking of large immigrant communities.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 7:24
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    @Araucaria-him proper terminology interests me as well, so feel free to expand about it (possibly as an answer)
    – Roger V.
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 7:26
  • So I live in Scotland and my first language is English. So the 'native' language here is English, and my native language is English. If I move to France, my native language will still be English, but the native language of the place that I've moved to is French. Taking that last example, it's not very clear when you say "I am looking for statistics about the native language rejection by immigrants" whether you mean my rejection of French or English! Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


The form of the question helps to explain why there isn't anything systematic in this area. Immigrants who decrease use of their earlier most-used language after immigration may not be rejecting the original language, instead they are not using it, then one would have to engage in an intensive personal study to determine why. Lack of conversation partners is a frequent reason for a person to stop using the home language – not every immigrant moves into a community of thousands of people from the old country. I presume you wouldn't classify this as "rejecting" the language. In the case of a minority language where a national language was imposed on the population (Spanish over Basque under the Franco regime), I suppose you could deem refusal to speak Spanish "rejecting" the language, but that is a very different kind of rejection from the situation with Arab immigrants into France. Systematic research would have to inquire into motivations for language shift in order to determine that language-shift is due to "rejection".

  • Thank you. I am specifically interested in the situations where not using the language is a deliberate decision.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 17:30

While plain native language rejection is rather rare, the gradual loss of the native language of immigrants is a well-researched phenomenon. Some terms to watch in this respect are language attrition (loss of L1 linguistic abilities) and heritage language (typically an L1 of second generation immigrants that is rarely used in daily life).

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