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The Acquisition of Heritage Languages

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"This work centres on the grammatical development of the heritage language and the language learning trajectory of heritage speakers, synthesizing recent experimental research."

Review of  Heritage Language Education

Reviewer: Laura Michele Callahan
Book Title: Heritage Language Education
Book Author: Donna M. Brinton Olga E. Kagan Susan Baukus
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 19.3345

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EDITORS: Brinton, Donna M.; Kagan, Olga; Bauckus, Susan
TITLE: Heritage Language Education
SUBTITLE: A New Field Emerging
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2007

Laura Callahan, The City College of the City University of New York

This volume contains twenty papers, plus a preface and index. Two of the papers
serve as an introduction and conclusion, respectively. The remaining 18 are
grouped into three sections. Notes and references appear at the end of each
article. The languages discussed include Chinese, French, Gaelic, Japanese,
Korean, Russian, and Spanish. The majority of the situations examined are in the
United States or Canada.

Introduction. Nancy H. Hornberger and Shuhan C. Wang. Who Are Our Heritage
Language Learners? Identity and Biliteracy in Heritage Language Education in the
United States.
Hornberger and Wang provide a literature review to set the scene for the volume.
Major attention is given to the biliteracy continuum model (Hornberger 1989;
Hornberger and Skilton-Sylvester 2000), which features four continua - context,
content, media, and development - each of which in turn has three dimensions.
The authors then use Rampton's (1995) notions of expertise and allegiance and
Ruiz's (1988) orientations toward language as problem, right, and resource to e
xamine heritage language learners' positioning by self and society.

Part I: Heritage Speakers: Demographics, Policy, and Identity

G. Richard Tucker. Learning Other Languages: The Case for Promoting Bilingualism
within our Educational System.
Tucker reminds us of the United States' current shortcomings with respect to
fostering the development of proficient second language speakers, and of the
negative consequences this has for participation in the global marketplace. He
reviews the benefits of additive bilingualism, wherein speakers who have been
given the chance to develop cognitive/academic skills fully in the first
language can transfer these skills to the second language. Tucker offers
suggestions to remedy the national linguistic shortfall, with special attention
to dual immersion programs in conjunction with electronic communication for
connecting speakers in different countries.

Joseph Lo Bianco. Policy Activity for Heritage Languages: Connections with
Representation and Citizenship.
Lo Bianco focuses on the impact policy discourses have on intergenerational
retention of heritage languages. He then traces language policy in Scotland and
Australia, and examines the criticisms of sedition and parochialism that affect
efforts at heritage language maintenance.

Patricia A. Duff. Heritage Language Education in Canada.
Duff traces the rich history of heritage language education in Canada, including
information on official definitions of what qualifies as a heritage language
(languages other than indigenous ones, and other than the two official ones,
English and French), learner demographics and linguistic profiles, research on
heritage language education, language loss, maintenance, and identity. She
concludes with policies and pedagogical decisions in one province, British Columbia.

Terrence G. Wiley. Chinese ''Dialect'' Speakers as Heritage Language Learners: A
Case Study.
Wiley discusses the complex situation of the so-called Chinese dialects and
their speakers, and the implications for Chinese heritage language education in
the United States. After presenting a case study of a Taiwanese-American man who
had an unsatisfactory experience with university level Mandarin instruction,
Wiley advocates for ''teachers of Chinese dialect speaking students to be at
least minimally trained in contrastive analysis and sociolinguistics of the
major Chinese languages'' (p. 102). The author makes an apt comparison to
contrastive approaches in curricula designed for dialect speakers of other
languages in the U.S., such as English and Spanish.

Guadalupe Valdes, Sonia V. Gonzalez, Dania Lopez Garcia, and Patricio Marquez.
Heritage Languages and Ideologies of Language: Unexamined Challenges.
Valdes et al. examine the ideologies and categorizations concerning the Spanish
spoken by people raised in Spain and Latin America (considered to be the true
native speakers), U.S. Latinos, and non-Latinos who have learned Spanish as a
foreign language. Interviews with 43 members of a U.S. university Spanish
department - full and part-time faculty, and doctoral and masters students -
expose a hierarchy in which the native speakers, as defined above, are ranked
highest, followed next by the foreign language speakers, and last by the U.S.
Latinos. The authors' findings highlight the lack of acquaintance with basic
socio- and psycholinguistic notions that is not uncommon in such settings.

Mary McGroarty and Alfredo Urzua. The Relevance of Bilingual Proficiency in U.S.
Corporate Settings.
McGroarty and Urzua present a case study of three professionals from Mexico
working in corporations within the United States. The authors find that each of
the three uses Spanish in his or her workplace to a greater or lesser degree,
although this linguistic expertise is not a formal part of their job description
and thus is subject to neither official assessment nor extra compensation.
McGroarty and Urzua conclude that language and occupational identity are dynamic
and idiosyncratic.

Part II: Heritage Speaker Profiles and Needs Analysis

Maria Polinsky. Heritage Language Narratives.
Using pictures depicting a boy and his pet frog to elicit narratives, Polinsky
compared the abilities of a child and adult heritage speaker of American
Russian. Differences, especially in tense and case, were found between the
narratives of the child and the adult, as well as between these heritage
speakers' narratives and those of two Russian native speakers.

Kazue Kanno, Tomomi Hasegawa, Keiko Ikeda, Yasuko Ito, and Michael H. Long.
Prior Language-Learning Experience and Variation in the Linguistic Profiles of
Advanced English-Speaking Learners of Japanese.
Kanno et al. divided (for the purposes of analysis) 15 English-speaking students
of Japanese into heritage vs. non-heritage, and each of these two types was
further divided into two subgroups. Of the non-heritage speakers, naturalistic
learners were separated from classroom learners, and the heritage speakers were
grouped into those who had attended a hoshuukoo (a special auxiliary school for
children of Japanese citizens in residence outside Japan) vs. those with no
school experience in the language. The heritage speakers with hoshuukoo
experience ''outperformed all other groups with respect to accuracy and
complexity'' (p. 177).

Debra Friedman and Olga Kagan. Academic Writing Proficiency of Russian Heritage
Speakers: A Comparative Study. Friedman and Kagan did a three way comparison
between academic essays written in Russian by heritage speakers with various
ages of emigration to the U.S., traditional foreign language students of Russian
in the U.S., and high school students in Russia. The heritage speakers and
foreign language learners were enrolled in a university course entitled ''Russian
for Native and Near Native Speakers: Literature and Film.'' The heritage
speakers' writing was also compared to their work in English. The findings were
inconclusive due to the small number of participants, but an interesting result
was the lack of a positive correlation between age of emigration and ability in
written academic Russian.

Claudia Parodi. Stigmatized Spanish Inside the Classroom and Out: A Model of
Language Teaching to Heritage Speakers.
Parodi outlines the origins and features of the vernacular Spanish of Los
Angeles. She cites differences between Mexicans (in Mexico) and Chicanos with
respect to linguistic features as well as cultural practices. The author offers
several suggestions for the teaching of Spanish to heritage speakers, including
the incorporation of some sociolinguistic science, with instruction in
registers, contact phenomena, diglossia, and more.

Masako O. Douglas. A Profile of Japanese Heritage Learners and Individualized
Using data from students in intermediate Japanese for heritage speaker classes,
Douglas proposes an individualized curriculum, in which students can develop
strategies for autonomous learning once the course is over. An important
component of the curriculum is training students to be aware of their own
learning characteristics. Douglas finds evidence that ''if instruction is
individualized so that the learners can focus on areas needing improvement, then
learning occurs effectively but differently for each student'' (p. 223).

Part III: Program Development and Evaluation

Scott McGinnis. From Mirror to Compass: The Chinese Heritage Language Education
Sector in the United States.
McGinnis traces the evolution of Chinese language education, from private
heritage language schools that imitated models in their directors' home
countries, to organizations that are now charting new courses within the U.S.
school system. Still on the agenda is the creation of an AP (Advanced Placement,
for high school students) curriculum and more professional development
opportunities for heritage language school teachers. One recent development is
the emergence of programs serving ''Families with Children from China'' (FCC),
with classes for children adopted from China as well as for their non-Chinese

Joy Kreeft Peyton. Spanish for Native Speakers Education: The State of the Field.
This chapter reports the reflections and recommendations of participants in a
1999 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer institute for teachers
of Spanish to Spanish speakers (SNS). Topics considered include the benefits and
challenges of SNS education, the characteristics of heritage speakers of
Spanish, SNS teacher qualifications and training, SNS programs and instruction,
and assessment of SNS students.

Donna Christian. School-Based Programs for Heritage Language Learners: Two-Way
Christian provides a brief overview of heritage language programs in the U.S.
public school system, before going on to focus more in depth on the various
models of dual immersion programs.

Sung-Ock S. Sohn and Craig C. Merrill. The Korean/English Dual Language Program
in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Sohn and Merrill studied three types of programs for Korean English language
learners in the Los Angeles Unified School District: English only, modified
bilingual, and Korean/English dual language. The authors conclude that students
achieve the most academic and language development in the dual language program.

Andrew D. Cohen and Tania Gomez. Enhancing Academic Language Proficiency in a
Spanish Immersion Classroom.
Cohen and Gomez examined how development of the L2 inner voice can improve
immersion students' oral scientific academic language performance. When defining
scientific terms, fifth grade students (ages 10 and 11) were at first ''unable to
give a precise and comprehensible definition'' and would often give examples
rather than a definition (p. 296). (It bears noting that such a task also
presents difficulties to many adults in their L1.) The authors conclude that
instruction in learning strategies for the acquisition of specific proficiencies
associated with academic language can have positive consequences.

Merrill Swain and Sharon Lapkin. ''Oh, I Get It Now!'' From Production to
Comprehension in Second Language Learning.
Swain and Lapkin studied the listening comprehension of French immersion
students, and examined how production mediates comprehension. Students spent
time noticing and verbalizing differences between their own and reformulated
drafts of a story written in their L2, in the process coming to understand words
and sentences that they had earlier produced without comprehension.

Brian K. Lynch. Locating and Utilizing Heritage Language Resources in the
Community: An Asset-Based Approach to Program Design and Evaluation.
Lynch challenges heritage language educators to design programs that not only
involve the heritage language community but also use as a point of departure the
community's resources rather than its lacunae.

Conclusion. Terry Kit-Fong Au. Salvaging Heritage Languages.
Au compared adult heritage language students of Spanish and Korean who had had
early childhood experience with hearing or speaking the language to students
without such experience, as well as to native speakers. Her research indicates
that early exposure, even when followed by several years out of contact with the
language, gives adults some advantage in the development of native-like
pronunciation. It seems to have no effect on the acquisition of morphosyntax,

This book will serve a wide audience, including readers with an interest in
language policy, the teaching of heritage and second languages, and heritage
language maintenance. It features a good mix between papers presenting new
research and survey articles covering a more general spectrum. Each chapter is
well-written and comprehensive, with a thorough yet concise exposition of
background information and, where applicable, the particular study done. The
book is suitable for use in a doctoral level course and will help introduce the
pan-linguistic nature of the discipline to students who may be acquainted with
the situation of just one language.

Although any one of the chapters in this volume can be read alone, when perused
from cover to cover the book invites one to ponder the similarities and
differences between the situations of various heritage languages and their
learners, as well as to examine or re-examine certain issues. These include
matters such as, for example, which languages are considered to be heritage
languages and who is considered to be a heritage language speaker, the
similarities and differences between heritage and non-heritage learners of a
language and under what circumstances both types of student can study together
(see, for example, Friedman and Kagan, this volume, p. 197), and what solutions
might be available to bridge differences between the feasible and the ideal
within the constraints of the U.S. public education system from kindergarten
through college level.

Hornberger, N. H. (1989). Continua of biliteracy. _Review of Educational
Research_. 59(3), 271-296.

Hornberger, N. H. and Skilton-Sylvester, E. (2000). Revisiting the continua of
biliteracy: International and critical perspectives. _Language and Education: An
International Journal_, 14(2), 96-122.

Rampton, M. B. H. (1995). _Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents_.
London: Longman.

Ruiz, R. (1988). Orientation in language planning. In S. L. McKay and S. C. Wong
(eds.), _Language Diversity: Problem or Resource?_ (pp. 3-25). Boston: Heinle
and Heinle.

Laura Callahan is Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at the City
College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), and
Research Fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban
Society (RISLUS), at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests include
heritage language maintenance, intercultural communication, and codeswitching.
Some of her recent work examines the use of written Spanish in the United States.

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