Community & Heritage Languages


Over twenty percent of people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. These heritage language speakers often do not fit the traditional categories of “native speaker,” or “second language” or “foreign language” speaker. Most of these people do not receive formal education in their home language. Their first language use remains confined to the home or immediate community. As they get older, their competence in their home language usually suffers attrition.

In the last two decades, heritage languages have become an important and growing subject for research, curriculum development, and instruction. Communities who became interested in revitalizing their languages and started non-formal schools have propelled some of this interest. Given the dearth of foreign language skills in the U.S.A., government agencies have also shown support for the development of heritage languages. Whether for reasons of cultural identification, or national priorities like security and trade, the untapped linguistic resources in these communities are finally starting to be appreciated and utilized.




STARTALK was created in 2006 to provide learning opportunities in the critical languages for students (K-16) and professional development for teachers of the critical languages, mainly through programs offered during the summer.


Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States: Research, Policy, and Educational Practice

Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States: Research, Policy, and Educational Practice

This timely and comprehensive publication provides a state-of-the-art overview of major issues related to heritage, community, and Native American languages in the United States, providing a foundational perspective on how these languages are learned and used in a variety of contexts and outlining the importance of drawing on these languages as valuable national resources.

News & Events

Native American Language Revitalization Legislation in the 113th Congress

August 14, 2014

The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) is engaged in a campaign to educate and inform members of the U.S. Congress about the benefits of Native American language revitalization.

There are two bills currently pending in both houses of Congress which seek to enhance efforts to revitalize Native American languages. The Center for Applied Linguistics encourages you to visit the LSA website to learn more about steps you can take to help raise awareness within Congress about the importance of Native American language revitalization.

Visit the LSA website