Heritage Languages: Crossing New Frontiers in Education and Research
Director: Masha Polinsky, (University of Maryland, College Park)
Co-Director: Silvina Montrul (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
For over a decade, the field of heritage languages has focused in understanding the linguistic properties of heritage languages from childhood to adulthood. This understanding has informed the best practices in helping heritage speakers develop higher proficiency in early adulthood, through language programs that address their linguistic and identity needs.
Still more needs to be done to understand the effects of language education during the school-age period, when the fate of the heritage language is determined. At least for some linguistic groups, Spanish speakers in particular, academic achievement in school has been partly linked to their bilingualism, and their language was to be forgotten if they were to do well in school. Today, we know that maintenance and support of the heritage language has been shown to not only support and enhance the development of the majority language but to also close the achievement gap. This sentiment was recently portrayed in the NYTimes article by Héctor Tobar (Nov 15, 2016) in the wake of the overwhelmingly approval of a ballot in California to expand bilingual education in public schools: “Being literate in the language of your immigrant ancestors (whether that language is Spanish, Korean, Mandarin or Armenian) makes you wiser and more powerful. I know this from experience”. Proposition 58 overhauls another ballot initiative that was approved by the voters in 1998. Could the political tides be changing? How can we, as researchers and educators, help to communicate the value and importance of supporting heritage languages throughout the school-age period?
Join us for this year’s Heritage Language Research Institute that will take place May 22-25, 2017, at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. It will feature presentations by scholars of heritage languages and a round table with educators to discuss efforts to support heritage languages in schools to help our heritage speakers succeed personally, linguistically and academically.
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