Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Sedique Popal

Second Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Third Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad


There is insufficient research on the cultural identity formation of White immigrant descendants who have experienced ancestral language loss. This phenomenological qualitative study conducted in San Francisco, California explored the experiences and perceptions of seven White immigrant descendants in response to these questions: (1) What is the role of L1 (mother tongue) maintenance on identity maintenance among White immigrant descendants? (2) How do immigrant descendants view their cultural identities in the absence of their ancestral languages? And (3) How might educators encourage second language and culture acquisition, while protecting students’ first languages and cultures? Research data included narratives from in-depth, one-on-one semi-structured interviews with seven participants.

The qualitative findings of this study uncovered that when White immigrant descendants have experienced ancestral language loss, their cultural identities are exceptionally fragile. Factors such as familial relationships, community involvement, and well-rounded education impacted these participants’ cultural identities. Additionally, participants reported that their whiteness allowed them the privilege to choose their cultural identities to some extent. They also described a desire to belong to their linguistic cultural group, and for education to acknowledge the diversity and richness in ancestral language and culture expression. An education rooted in student perspectives is an authentic education.