Heritage Language Maintenance

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Heritage Language Maintenance

Breanna Miller
Hamline University

Submitted to:
Professor Kathryn Heinze
ESL 7660: Second Language
Acquisition
Fall 2010
Introduction

What affects heritage language maintenance and what are some approaches to maintain heritage language? This paper will discuss the properties of heritage language maintenance and will describe what can be done to preserve a learner’s home language. All second language learners possess some degree of home language background. Teachers of English and teachers in bilingual programs should become familiar with what affects student’s language maintenance and the factors that contribute to the maintenance of that heritage language. Minority-language parents will also find this article interesting, especially if they desire for their children to retain their home language.

In this paper I will define heritage language, discuss trends and parental opinions pertaining to heritage language, and conclude with the importance of heritage language maintenance and the factors that affect its preservation. Defining Heritage Language and Maintenance

Heritage Language
Heritage language is the language used by parents or the language that was used in the past by one’s ancestors. This language (also called home language) usually has a strong personal connection or is spoken at home (Valdès, 2001; Anderson-Mejìas, 2002; Urzùa & Gòmez, 2008). A heritage language helps students connect to their culture, even while they live in a different, more dominant culture (Anderson-Mejìas; Guardado, 2002; Urzùa & Gòmez). For example, although Spanish is widely spoken around the world, it is a heritage language in the United States because it is a non-English language (Suarez, 2002; Valdès). However, students do not have to speak the familial language for it to be considered a heritage language. Valdès mentions that even monolingual English speakers can have a heritage language if some important personal connection is noted. For example, Norwegian would be a heritage language to an English monolingual with grandparents that immigrated to the United States from Norway. These monolinguals, too, could become heritage language learning candidates. Heritage Language Learner

The term heritage language learner refers to individuals that have been exposed to a language other than the one used in the dominant society where they live (Valdès, 2001; Suarez, 2002). Language Maintenance

Language maintenance is a process that occurs after a language has been transmitted or passed on to a child by their family. It deals with the continued development of the language that has been transmitted (Nesteruk, 2010). Unfortunately, current research shows that there is an overall decline in heritage language maintenance. Heritage Language Retention Trends

In the year 2000, approximately 9.3% of students in kindergarten to twelfth grade were limited English proficient (LEP); a number that has increased each year (Suarez, 2002). Current research shows that the majority of students who live in the United States become English-dominant or English monolingual by the time they reach adolescence (Nesteruk, 2010; Seong & Sarkar, 2007). A language trend seems to occur the longer a family unit lives in the United States. First generation immigrants tend to speak some English, but prefer to use their heritage language in the home. Second generation immigrants are inclined to use English in school and with their friends. Although some heritage language is used at home, these immigrants prefer to respond to the older generation in English as well. The majority of third generation immigrants are likely to lose the first generation’s native language on account of little heritage language support in the home or in the greater community (Valdès, 2001; Suarez, 2002; Guardado, 2002). This loss of family language is a...
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