Research: Ongoing Projects

Linguistic Correlates of Proficiency: A Comparison of Heritage and Foreign Language Learners at the Intermediate to Advanced Levels

Project Director: Kira Gor (University of Maryland, College Park)

This project will collect data from heritage speakers of Russian closely matched in proficiency with L2 learners. Previous research during the pilot phase of the project has identified areas of differences between these two groups of learners, and a rigorous follow-up study is planned to demystify the similarities and differences between heritage and non-heritage learner profiles and developmental curves. Professor Gor will focus on determining linguistic barriers to proficiency at the Intermediate to Advanced Levels (ILR 1, 1+, and 2) for non-heritage learners. The results will be vital for curriculum planning, in particular for teaching mixed (heritage/non-heritage) classes.

Searchable Database of College-Level Heritage Language Classes/Programs in the U.S.

Project Leader: Maria Carreira (California State University, Long Beach)

The objective of this project is to create a searchable database of college-level heritage language programs across the U.S. To date, the database has collected information from over 100 institutions and 20 language programs across the country. We are adding to this information, analyzing it, and creating a typology of heritage language programs and instructional contexts, the goal being to identify the varying institutional conditions that correlate with having heritage-language-only classes as opposed to mixed classes (heritage and non-heritage students together).

The data for this project is being collected by a short online survey for college-level instructors of heritage language students, whether they teach in heritage-only classes or mixed classes (heritage and non-heritage students together).

Identifying Oral Proficiency Profiles of Heritage Speakers

Project Leader: Elvira Swender (ACTFL Professional Programs)

Each year thousands of heritage language speakers are given an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) for a variety of purposes. Because the OPI rating guidelines and scales (ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines or ILR Language Descriptors) were written for true second language learners, there is debate in the language testing community about their validity for assessing heritage language speakers (Valdés, 1989; Lowe, 1998; Kagan & Friedman, 2003). This project will gather data on the range and variety of linguistic profiles of Chinese and Hindi heritage speakers through oral proficiency testing and rating. In light of this data, the linguistic biographies of the test takers will be analyzed in order to gain an understanding of the linguistic, educational, and experiential factors that contribute to their speaking proficiency. This understanding will result in an expanded set of OPI descriptors that are needed to capture heritage speakers’ proficiency, enhance OPI tester training so that heritage speaker knowledge is taken into account, and inform instruction of heritage students. The results will also provide a corpus of data for curriculum development.