September 29, 2013

More Colleges Opt for Classes Targeting Heritage Learners


Forget ‘foreign’ languages; More colleges opt for classes targeting heritage learners
September 25, 2013

Children in multi-lingual homes grow up a step ahead of other would-be language learners. They can easily engage in small talk or follow the latest soap opera in their families’ native language. Yet when it comes to meatier topics, or reading and writing, they are stuck.

The linguistic gaps become apparent in high school, where these students can snooze through basic language classes but often drown in more advanced ones — if their heritage language is even offered. After all, how many American high schools offer Arabic or Korean?

Heritage language programs have existed in the U.S. in some form for more than a century as a way to retain both language and culture — even as English-only movements waxed and waned. German schools were common in the late 1800s. Youth in California have long attended weekend Chinese and Japanese programs. Bilingual Spanish classes have been around for decades.

Yet the development of separate heritage language university instruction is relatively new. The University of Texas-Pan American received funding from the Department of Education in 2007 to create a minor in medical Spanish for heritage speakers, and other schools are beginning to replicate the program.

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