Differences Between Heritage Language Learners
Overview: Heritage Language Learners
A defining distinction between heritage and foreign language acquisition is that heritage language acquisition begins in the home, as opposed to foreign language acquisition which, at least initially, starts in a classroom setting (Heritage Language Research Priorities Conference, 2000).
The following table from Schwartz (2001, p. 233) of discussion presented in Campbell & Rosenthal (2000) presents typical differences between foreign language students after 2 years of study and heritage students. It should be regarded as a rough guide and does not specify language or level.
Comparison of Heritage Language and Traditional Language Learners
|Knowledge and Competencies||Typical Heritage Language Learners||Traditional Foreign Language Learners|
|Phonology||Pronunciation, stress, and intonation conform to educated native speaker level.||Have acquired 75-85% of the phonological system of a prestige dialect; pronunciation is accented.|
|Grammatical Rules||80-90% of their grammatical competence is consistent with the rules of a prestige dialect.||Are aware of many grammatical rules, but cannot use them fluently nor comprehend them fully in real-life communication.|
|Vocabulary||Have acquired extensive vocabulary, but range is limited to home, community, and religious institutions; a large number of ï¿½borrowingsï¿½ from the majority language are noted.||Vocabulary is extremely limited, but consistent with the prestige dialect.|
|Sociolinguistic Rules||Control registers relating to verbal interactions with family and community members; competence is limited by range of social interactions.||Have very limited knowledge and control of sociolinguistic rules except for those appropriate to the classroom.|
|Culture||Have learned and adopted the culture of their ethnolinguistic communities, but the customs, values, and traditions may be hybridized with those of the majority culture.||Have superficial understanding and sensitivity to the target culture; have few opportunities to interact in the target culture communities.|
|Literacy Skills||Have not developed literacy skills beyond elementary levels.||Have a good to very good foundation for development of literacy; will depend on the writing system of the target language.|
Campbell, R. N., & Rosenthal, J. W. (2000). Heritage languages. In J. W. Rosenthal (Ed.), Handbook of undergraduate second language education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Schwartz, A. M. (2001). Preparing teachers to work with heritage language learners. In J. K. Peyton, D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource (pp. 229-252). McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007