Heritage learners proficiency and use
Heritage learners bring a wide range of HL abilities and varieties into the classroom. Below are a few general recommendations for you, the HL instructor, so that you can better understand your students and respond to their needs.
Published: Monday, October 03, 2005
HLLs' language abilities vary widely. Administer a diagnostic test at the beginning of the course to have a general idea, then build on what they know rather than highlight what they do not know. Make students aware of the benefits of becoming fluent in their HL. Point out the local and global importance of their language and culture.
Set up high goals for students' progress in the HL course and help them reach those goals. Use a wide range of HL tasks to reach all the levels of proficiency in your class. Use visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile prompts for HL use in class to appeal to most students' preferred learning styles.
Involve students in learning more about their language through independent work and interaction with members of the HL community.
Express your appreciation for your HLLs' ability to understand (and speak) HL, and their desire to increase their HL proficiency (e.g., learn to read and write) by enrolling in your class.
Express your own interest and passion for speaking, studying, and teaching HL.
Don't feel threatened by the HLLs' (potential) higher language ability and cultural knowledge. Let them know that you will be glad to learn from them things about their language and culture that you are not familiar with while teaching them the skills they need to increase their own proficiency in HL.
HL use in class
Use HL all of the time or most of the time in an HL class, and as much as possible in a mixed class. You will thus foster the use of HL in class by example. You will also expose your students to as much HL as possible in a class setting.
Encourage HLLs to use HL in class all the time, but don't force them.
Some HLLs hesitate to speak in class because they feel uncertain or embarrassed by their limited proficiency. Organize speaking activities in pairs or small groups to draw them out; assign individual presentations for students to prepare at home and then present or read in class.
Allow students to speak in English or mix codes, especially when they urgently try to communicate something. Gradually they will gain confidence and use more and more HL for oral communication. When time allows, work with them to re-express their thoughts in HL.
Point out that mistakes should not deter anyone from using HL. All people make mistakes when they speak any language. Mistakes are also an integral part of the learning process.
Many HLLs are diffident about their HL abilities, so praise their efforts to speak in class, read, and write in order to improve their HL proficiency. Don't criticize them for their linguistic shortcomings or look down on them for the HL variety they speak.
Don't try to dominate the class by being an authoritative figure and/or over-correcting students' language performance; it has a negative effect on their motivation for and interest in HL study. Work with the class to help them grow.
At the beginning of the course, you might inform your students that you will grade each of them on their specific progress from the first to the last day of class. This will give each HLL a sense of achievement, pride in his/her individual progress, motivation to continue HL study, and willingness to participate in class.
If the HLLs in your class speak different varieties of HL (Northern/Southern, standard/dialect, prestigious/stigmatized, formal/colloquial), express your appreciation of the linguistic richness and diversity characteristic of HL that is represented in your class.
Explain that, even though the textbook may contain linguistic samples from just one HL variety (e.g., standard HL or one regional variant), all the HL varieties students speak or are familiar with are equally valuable, beautiful, and legitimate.
To the extent possible, bring language samples from the HL varieties represented in class to acknowledge all HLLs' HLs and to acquaint the class with the richness and variety of HL.
Have permanent rubrics on the board: standard/regional varieties of HL, formal/informal HL, etc. When introducing language belonging to one of the categories in the rubrics, make a point of giving the form belonging to one of the other categories. Even if you don't do this for each and every language item you teach, by doing it at all you acknowledge the value of all HL varieties while helping HLLs clarify differences in HL use. Alternately, elicit forms to fill out the rubrics from the HLLs in your class.
Whenever the situation arises, point out the differences between "standard" HL and American-HL (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) in rubric format if you wish. Don't criticize the students' use of American-HL features; explain why it happens.
At the beginning of the course, provide general information about the HL: what language group, brief history, varieties, etc. Throughout the course, whenever applicable, provide (and encourage HLLs to provide) historical, cultural, or anecdotal information about the language items you teach. This helps with HL retention, HLL pride in HL, and acquiring a cultural perspective of HL.
Whenever time allows, at the end of an HL class ask each student or have students volunteer to give one example each of something about HL that they learned that day. It can be anything: a word, a phrase, a grammar structure, a cultural aspect of HL. This is an effective, personalized way of summing up a lesson and highlighting how much the class as a whole gains each day.
Submitted by Georgiana Galateanu, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures, UCLA