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Fiji School Students’ Multilingual Language Choices When Talking with Friends

Friendship and Peer Culture in Multilingual Settings

ISBN: 978-1-78635-396-2, eISBN: 978-1-78635-395-5

Publication date: 17 December 2016



Fiji is a multicultural and linguistically multi-competent country. Historical ethnic divisions have socialised students into language friendships based around common languages. Recent changes to educational policy, specifically the mandating of students learning all three of the Standard languages of Fiji (Fijian, Hindi, and English), have been introduced in hope that cross-linguistic understanding will encourage a greater sense of national identity amongst all Fijians regardless of ethnicity. This study explores one multilingual school environment considering students’ language use, attitudes and friendships in light of these policies.


A convergent mixed-methods research design using surveying, artefact collection, students’ drawing and observation was employed.


The majority of students reported some proficiency in the language of their inter-ethnic peers; however, students’ inter-ethnic friendships predominantly relied on English language use. It was observed that most friendships amongst these Fijian primary school students were still established according to main language use at home; however, inter-ethnic peer interaction in English was observed to be friendly and respectful. These language use patterns and friendship behaviours were potentially reinforced by individual and societal multilingualism, in addition to the school environment.


The chapter presents the first research linking Fijian primary school students’ language choices and friendship development.




First and foremost we would like to say vinaka vakalevu (thank you) to the students, their families, teachers and head-master of the Fiji school where these data were collected. We would also like to acknowledge the translation services and research assistant support of Mrs. Sala Sauqaqa. Thanks to Dr. Paul Geraghty, of The University of the South Pacific, for his guidance with this manuscript. Finally, thanks to an Australian Linguistic Society Gerhardt Laves Scholarship (awarded July, 2015) and Australian government Endeavour Awards Postgraduate Scholarship (awarded December, 2014) that have funded the first author’s PhD project ‘Supporting Fijian children’s speech, language, and literacy’ from which this chapter is drawn.


Hopf, S.C., McLeod, S. and McDonagh, S.H. (2016), "Fiji School Students’ Multilingual Language Choices When Talking with Friends", Friendship and Peer Culture in Multilingual Settings (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 55-88.



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