First Advisor

Carolyn Quam

Date of Award

Winter 3-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Public Health Studies: Pre-clinical Health Science and University Honors


Health Studies




bilingualism, heritage language, multilingualism, asian hate, COVID-19


This thesis investigates the complex interplay of language and identity among speakers of East Asian and Southeast Asian languages in the United States, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the concurrent rise in anti-Asian hate. The study adopts a mixed-methods approach to delve into these complexities, guided by three research questions exploring changes in language use since the onset of the pandemic, changes in perspective on language identity since the onset of the pandemic, and the effect of geopolitical climate, specifically the rise in Asian hate, on language use and perspective on language identity. The qualitative methodology employed in this study allowed us to capture a diverse range of language experiences. We found that the geopolitical context, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated xenophobia, has significantly shaped language use among individuals. The pandemic led to increased family interaction, which in turn led to augmented use of HLs among some participants. Despite the rise in anti-Asian hate, there as a notable increase in cultural pride and community solidarity. At the same time, experiences of discrimination, bias, and hate crimes significantly influenced language use and feelings toward the HL. Some participants reported having to minimize or hide their identity, which distanced them from their HL. Yet, despite these adversities, the desire to pass on HL remains strong, highlighting the enduring importance of language as a facilitator of cultural connections. Taken together, the results shed light on the complex ways in which the current geopolitical context is both promoting and discouraging heritage language maintenance among East Asian and Southeast Asian language speakers in the US.

Persistent Identifier