Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 4

Heritage Language Related Abstracts

4 Defining Heritage Language Learners of Arabic: Linguistic and Cultural Factors

Authors: Rasha Elhawari


Heritage language learners (HLL) are part of the linguistic reality in Foreign Language Learning (FLL). These learners present several characteristics that are different from non-heritage language learners. They have a personal connection with the language and their motivation to learn the language is partly because of this personal connection. In Canada there is a large diversity in the foreign language learning classroom; the Arabic language classroom is no exception. The Arabic HLL is unique for more than one reason. First, is the fact that the Arabic language is spoken across twenty-two Arab countries across the Arab World. Across the Arab World there is a standard variation and a local dialect that co-exist side by side, i.e. diaglossia exists in a strong and unique way as a feature of Arabic. Second, Arabic is the language that all Muslims across the Muslim World use for their prayers. This raises a number of points when we consider Arabic as a Heritage Language; namely the role of diaglossia, culture and religion. The fact that there is a group of leaners that can be regarded as HLL who are not of Arabic speaking background but are Muslims and use the language for religious purposes is unique, thus course developers and language instructors need take this into consideration. The paper takes a closer look at this distinction and establishes sub-groups the Arabic HLLs in a language and/or culture specific way related mainly to the Arabic HLL. It looks at the learners at the beginners’ Arabic class at the undergraduate university level over a period of three years in order to define this learner. Learners belong to different groups and backgrounds but they all share common characteristics. The paper presents a detailed look at the learner types present at this class in order to help prepare and develop material for this specific learner group. The paper shows that separate HLL and non-HLL courses, especially at the introductory and intermediate level, is successful in resolving some of the pedagogical problems that occur in the Arabic as a Foreign Language classroom. In conclusion, the paper recommends the development of HLL courses at the early levels of language learning. It calls for a change in the pedagogical practices to overcome some of the challenges learner in the introductory Arabic class can face.

Keywords: Teaching, Arabic, Heritage Language, langauge learner

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3 Maintaining the Formal Type of West Java's Heritage Language with Sundanese Language Lesson in Senior High School

Authors: Dinda N. Lestari


Sundanese language is one of heritage language in Indonesia that must be maintained especially the formal type of it because teenagers nowadays do not speak Sundanese language formally in their daily lives. To maintain it, Cultural and Education Ministry of Indonesia has input Sundanese language lesson at senior high school in West Java area. The aim of this study was to observe whether the existence of Sundanese language lesson in senior high school in the big town of Karawang, West Java - Indonesia give the contribution to the formal type of Sundanese language maintenance or not. For gathering the data, the researcher interviewed the senior high school students who have learned Sundanese language to observe their acquisition of it. As a result of the interview, the data was presented in qualitative research by using the interviewing method. Then, the finding indicated that the existence of Sundanese language in Senior High School also the educational program which is related to it, for instance, Kemis Nyunda seemed to do not effective enough in maintaining the formal type of Sundanese language. Therefore, West Java government must revise the learning strategy of it, including the role of the Sundanese language teacher.

Keywords: senior high school, Heritage Language, language maintenance and shift, Sundanese language, Sundanese language lesson

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2 The Lifecycle of a Heritage Language: A Comparative Case Study of Volga German Descendants in North America

Authors: Ashleigh Dawn Moeller


This is a comparative case study which examines the language attitudes and behaviors of descendants of Volga German immigrants in North America and how these attitudes combined with surrounding social conditions have caused their heritage language to develop differently within each community. Of particular interest for this study are the accounts of second- and third-generation descendants in Oregon, Kansas, and North Dakota regarding their parents’ and grandparents’ attitudes toward their language and how this correlates with the current sentiment as well as visibility of their heritage language and culture. This study discusses the point at which cultural identity could diverge from language identity and what elements play a role in this development, establishing the potential for environments (linguistic landscapes) which uphold their heritage yet have detached from the language itself. Emigrating from Germany in the 1700s, these families settled for over a hundred years along the Volga Region of Imperial Russia. Subsequently, many descendants of these settlers immigrated to the Americas in the 1800-1900s. Identifying neither as German nor Russian, they called themselves Wolgadeutche (Volga Germans). During their time in Russia, the German language was maintained relatively homogenously, yet the use and status of their heritage language diverged considerably upon settlement across the Americas. Data shows that specific conditions, such as community isolation, size, religion, location as well as language policy established prior to and following the Volga German immigration to North America have had a substantial impact on the maintenance of their heritage language—causing complete loss in some areas and peripheral use or even full rebirth in others. These past conditions combined with the family accounts correlate directly with the general attitudes and ideologies of the descendants toward their heritage language. Data also shows that in many locations, despite a strong presence of German within the linguistic landscape, minimal to no German is spoken nor understood; the attitude toward the language is indifferent while a staunch holding to the heritage is maintained and boasted. Data for this study was gathered from historical accounts, archived records and newspapers, and published biographies as well as from formal interviews with second- and third-generation descendants of Volga German immigrants conducted in Oregon and Kansas. Through the interviews, members of the community have shared and provided their family genealogies as well as biographies published by family members. These have helped to trace their relatives back to specific locations, thus allowing for comparisons within the same families residing in distinctly different areas of North America. This study is part of a larger ongoing project which researches the immigration of Volga and Black Sea Germans to North America and diachronically examines the over-arching sociological factors which have directly impacted the maintenance, loss, or rebirth of their heritage language. This project follows specific families who settled in areas of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and who later had relatives move west to areas of Oregon and Washington State. Interviews for the larger project will continue into the following year.

Keywords: language change, Language contact, linguistic landscape, Heritage Language, immigrant language, Volga Germans, Wolgadeutsche

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1 Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual: The Effect of Language Learning on the Working Memory in Emerging Miao-Mandarin Juveniles in Rural Regions of China

Authors: Peien Ma


Bilingual effect/advantage theorized the positive effect of being bilingual on general cognitive abilities, but it was unknown which factors tend to modulate these bilingualism effects on working memory capacity. This study imposed empirical field research on a group of low-SES emerging bilinguals, Miao people, in the hill tribes of rural China to investigate whether bilingualism affected their verbal working memory performance. 20 Miao-Chinese bilinguals (13 girls and 7 boys with a mean age of 11.45, SD=1.67) and 20 Chinese monolingual peers (13 girls and 7 boys with a mean age of 11.6, SD=0.68) were recruited. These bilingual and monolingual juveniles, matched on age, sex, socioeconomic status, and educational status, completed a language background questionnaire and a standard forward and backward digit span test adapted from Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R). The results showed that bilinguals earned a significantly higher overall mean score of the task, suggesting the superiority of working memory ability over the monolinguals. And bilingual cognitive benefits were independent of proficiency levels in learners’ two languages. The results suggested that bilingualism enhances working memory in sequential bilinguals from low SES backgrounds and shed light on our understanding of the bilingual advantage from a psychological and social perspective.

Keywords: Working memory, Heritage Language, bilingual effects, Miao/Hmong language Mandarin

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