Immigration is becoming increasingly common around the world, and as a result, many language policies are becoming stricter. But what about the children of émigré families who grow up with one language but then shift to the socially dominant language? Once people have lost a language while growing up, they find it very difficult to reclaim it as an adult. Yet, fluent multilingualism is an asset in the growing global market. Therefore, we should be working to help children from émigré communities maintain their heritage languages.
How then can we create an educational program that achieves success in simultaneously teaching the heritage language and the socially dominant language to heritage language learners for mastery over both? At present, this effort has been taken on predominately by individual émigré communities, which find a way to teach the heritage language once per week at best. However, I have identified and conducted pilot data from a public primary school in the United States that has found a way to foster multilingualism for heritage language learners in the school itself.
By returning to conduct in-depth fieldwork, I will be asking the following questions:
Researchers have found that students who lose their family language also feel that they have lost a connection to their heritage culture. Simultaneously, they feel that they don’t entirely belong to the mainstream culture, so they develop a sense of being an outsider. As a result, the majority of these students disengage with the educational system and have a much higher drop-out rate. However, if students are able to maintain a connection to their heritage language and culture, they maintain a strong sense of belonging and contributing to their community through school. Their school retention rate remains high, and a large number of heritage language learners go on to post-secondary schooling.
This project is important because through it, I can investigate a public school that has established an in-house program for heritage language learners, a rare thing, and find what exactly about their program is contributing to the students’ success (a rise in state exam scores from 70% proficient to 95% proficient). I can then use these findings to construct a model that can be applied to other schools and heritage language populations. By funding this project, you are contributing to the future educational success of heritage language learners.
In order to conduct in-depth ethnographic fieldwork, it is necessary to purchase at least two video cameras and five high-quality voice recorders to document the students’ interactions with teachers as well as between peers to understand the real time effects of this innovative program. Additionally, students will rotationally be provided with wristwatch style voice recorders, making it possible to investigate how peers socialize each other into various patterns of language use in the school setting outside the formal classroom.
The remainder of the funds will be used to support the training of two local undergraduate linguistics and anthropology students into methods of ethnographic data collection and analysis. This will provide them with a real hands-on opportunity to take part in a research endeavor that will contribute to furthering educational success for heritage language learners. Any additional funds received above the amount requested will go to supporting additional undergraduate research assistants.
Corinne Seals (Mykytka) is currently a fourth year PhD candidate of Linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She holds an MS in Linguistics from Georgetown University and a BA in Sociocultural Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara, where she completed her undergraduate honors thesis on home language loss for children of Spanish speaking immigrant families.
The maintenance of heritage languages is very important to Corinne because her family from Ukraine experienced language loss, which she has worked very hard to recover. Knowing what it is to feel the loss of a language and a culture, Corinne has committed herself to supporting heritage language maintenance for émigré communities. She currently puts her research into practice with the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages (specializing in Ukrainian) and with the Language Policy Research Network, both at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. She has received multiple institutional grants in support of her work and has published in peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes, and proceedings.
Corinne's website: http://corinneseals.weebly.com
This week I talked about the project at a conference in LA, and there was a ton of interest! Many people also recognized the project from the Petridish site! Please continue to share the project so that it can become a reality!
We made the front page today! Thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen! We were also featured on the Facebook page for Borderless Learning today! 66 more days to make this happen!
We've been featured today on the Facebook pages for the American Anthropological Association and LingEducator! Thank you so much! Let's keep the momentum going!