Lithuanian Saturday Schools in Chicago: Student Proficiency, Generational Shift, and Community Involvement

In: Heritage Language Journal
Aurelija Tamošiūnaitė Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

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This article explores the Lithuanian heritage speakers’ community in the United States. It aims to look at the correlations between generation or age of arrival in the United States, and self-reported language proficiency. Usage of Internet materials in Lithuanian and involvement in Lithuanian activities are also addressed. The case study contrasts findings from two different sources: a survey conducted in two Chicago-area Lithuanian Saturday schools in 2007 and an Internet Survey administered to Lithuanian-American middle, high school, and college students via Survey Monkey in 2008. The empirical data indicate that Lithuanian heritage speakers form a diverse linguistic community having different linguistic competences in the heritage language. Consistent with the findings of other heritage languages (Carreira & Kagan, 2011), Lithuanian heritage speakers exhibit high oral proficiency but lack writing and reading skills. The correlation between the age of arrival and linguistic competence in Lithuanian was also observed: the younger the age of arrival in the United States, the weaker competence in Lithuanian was reported. Findings on Lithuanian heritage speakers’ involvement in the heritage community indicate that most of the respondents are highly involved in community activities. All of the third-generation (G3) respondents reported their involvement in Lithuanian Saturday schools, which indicates that Lithuanian education is still actively promoted among G3 heritage speakers.

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