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Why Do Heritage Language Speakers Opt Out of Their Own Heritage Language? A Survey-based Study of Heritage Language Learners at Community Colleges

In: Heritage Language Journal
Authors:
Tomonori Nagano LaGuardia Community College

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Eric Ketcham New York City Department of City Planning

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Alexander Funk Baltimore City Public Schools

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This study analyzes the choices that heritage language (HL) learners make when enrolling in language courses at community colleges. Data from the Students and Instructors of Language at Community Colleges (SILCC) Surveys, a nationwide survey with 1,756 students taking language courses at 101 community colleges across 33 states in the U.S., show that as many as 42.2% of community college students in modern language classrooms are identified as HL speakers.

Surprisingly, more than half of these HL speakers are studying a language other than their own HL despite their prior linguistic knowledge, cultural familiarity, and familial ties with their HL. This paper evaluates a few possible explanations why a large proportion of HL speakers are opting to learn a new, third language. Building upon prior research and current data, we discuss differences in linguistic backgrounds, demographics, motivational attributes, and academic goals between HL learners studying their own HL and those studying a new language.

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