Introduction to Heritage Languages and Heritage Language Learners
Briefly stated, "within the foreign language teaching profession in the United States, the term 'heritage speaker' is used to refer to a student of language who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language" (Valdés, 2000a, p. 1).
Heritage speakers present a challenge to the foreign language instructor because the source of their linguistic proficiency is different from that of foreign language learners. Consequently, they know the language differently-their listening comprehension is typically their strongest language skill, followed by their ability to speak. At the same time they may or may not be literate in their heritage language.
In this section we will explore definitions of both heritage languages and heritage language learners. We will also present some learner profiles and discuss the differences between the heritage language learner and the standard foreign language learner.
Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2006