In a Heritage Language Class:

  • At the beginning of the course of study, evaluate student HLLs' language skills to determine the best way you can help them improve their performance in the HL.
  • Explain to your students the needs of HLLs as opposed to FLLs. This clarification will help students understand why they are in a class just for HLLs.
  • Remind them of the importance of reading, and point out good reading habits to process what they read. For example, highlighting important passages, summarizing main ideas, and paying attention to orthography.
  • Define academic writing (e.g. essay form, types) as opposed to informal writing (e.g. email letters, notes)

In a Mixed Class: HLL and Foreign Language Learners (FLL )

  • At the beginning of the course of study, evaluate student HLLs' language skills to determine the best way you can help them improve their performance in the HL.
  • Assign HLLs exercises and activities that will help HLLs improve their writing skills. While FLLs are required to do fill in the blank exercises, HLLs can write complete sentences based on the same topic and using the same grammatical forms FLLs are working on.
  • For example, invite HLLs to role-play dialogues, situations or short readings.
  • Explain to all students the different needs of HLLs and FLLs. This clarification will help students understand each other's needs when they work together in groups or in pairs.

On confidence and self-esteem

Here are few important facts regarding how some Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) see themselves and feel about themselves when they use the language they have inherited, as well as some recommendations for the HL instructor on helping HLLs build their confidence and self-steem.

  • Some HLLs grow up in environments, domestic or scholastic, in which they are not encouraged to speak their heritage language.
  • In some cases, speaking the HL causes negative reactions from relatives and peers, a fact that lowers the heritage speaker's self-steem.
  • Most HLLs acquire their language skills by listening, which reduces their confidence when they encounter more formal situations where they are expected to read and write.
  • Few HLLs receive formal training in their HL before they come to college, and most of them are not confident speaking, reading, and writing their HL.
  • Most HLLs have little practice reading in their heritage language. Although some of them might be fluent readers in a language other than the one inherited, reading in their HL becomes a new experience.
  • Be aware that the formal study of HL will build up HLLs' confidence and self-steem.
  • Point out benefits for HLLs to understand the system of the language they inherited
  • Invite successful members of the HL or academic community to serve as role models.
  • Show movies where HLLs can see their HL being used in other countries and cultures.
  • Challenge more advanced HLLs by assigning them more complex class and homework assignments.
  • HLLs benefit greatly from reading out loud. This helps them practice punctuation, breathing, and in some cases pronunciation. When they read fluently, they feel more confident, and they can concentrate better in the content of the text being read.

Motivate HLLs by

  • Finding materials related to their age
  • Emphasizing the benefits of obtaining an academic proficiency level in the language they inherited.
  • Mentioning any possible jobs in the community, the nation or internationally.
  • Pointing out any practical application to an academic discipline.
  • Arranging cultural presentations (e.g. music, art) that emphasize the diversity and richness within their HL.
  • Organizing research projects to collect data or statistics related to their HL and their community.
  • Coordinating interviews of other HLL, with relatives, or community members.

Learning styles

The way a heritage language student learns will vary according to the exposure each individual had to a wide variety of learning practices whether they happened in school or at home. Most of the time, the exposure they have tends to reflect a drastic difference among their experiences.


  • Some HLL are first generation college attendees as opposed to other ones whose parents and grandparents have a college degree.
  • Type of education acquired during their elementary and secondary levels. Some schools are more conventional than others.
  • Some HLL take a HLC to reinforce and maintain what they have already learned in their grade-school years. In general, this group of students have a good learning style that works for them.