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Research and Resources
In the News
The Alliance periodically posts links to online news articles that feature information related to heritage languages.
Because the direct links to these articles change as news organizations move articles to archives on their Web sites, we provide links to the home page of the appropriate news outlet when an article is no longer accessible. Many of these Web sites retain archives that can be accessed by visitors, some free and some for a small fee.
The Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics Issues Statement on the Critical Need for Foreign Language Education in the United States
Our nation’s capacity to maintain national security, promote international cooperation, compete effectively in a global economy, and enhance our domestic well-being depends on our ability to communicate effectively in other languages and across cultures. In response to the findings of CAL’s recent survey of foreign language education in U.S. schools, CAL’s Board of Trustees has issued a statement concerning the vital importance of foreign language education and calls on all stakeholders to work collaboratively to address this critical issue. Read the statement.
National Heritage Language Resource Center Receives Grant Renewal
The National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC) has been funded for a second four-year grant by the U.S. Department of Education's Title VI. NHLRC, one of fifteen Title VI-funded National Language Resource Centers, is hosted by the UCLA Center for World Languages. The Center's mission is to develop effective approaches to teaching heritage language learners by creating a research base and pursuing curriculum design, materials development, and teacher education. Learn more.
ACTFL Position Statement on Language Learning for Heritage and Native Speakers
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and its members encourage learning environments that support heritage and native speakers of languages other than English. Read the ACTFL Position Statement.
Speaking in Tongues
New Film Features Vignettes About Second Language Learners
This film features four American children who learned a second language -- in some cases, their heritage language -- in a bilingual education setting starting from kindergarten. This film explores the rewards and challenges these children encountered as they became bilingual and bicultural. The film also addresses issues of building a multilingual society, addressing communication barriers, heritage language learning, and cultural awareness. Learn more.
Maryland takes lead in developing strategies to preserve heritage languages
The state of Maryland has taken a strong leadership role to ensure that it capitalizes on the diverse language skills of its population and reaps the benefits of language learning. The Task Force for the Preservation of Heritage Language Skills in Maryland is the first state-sponsored task force on heritage languages in the U.S. Read the report of the task force. (PDF, 851 KB)
A Navajo Success Story: Heritage Language Revitalization in Magdalena
In Magdalena, New Mexico, students have been improving their English and Navajo language skills. Through an innovative bilingual model of heritage language revitalization, Navajo students can receive instruction in English as a second language and in Navajo language and culture.
Learn more about the program and read the report: English Language Acquisition and Navajo Achievement in Magdalena, New Mexico: Promising Outcomes in Heritage Language Education
Multilingualism Brings Communities Closer Together
Science Daily, February 10, 2009
Learning their community language outside the home enhances minority ethnic children's development, according to research led from the University of Birmingham. The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that attending language classes at complementary schools has a positive impact on students.
Read the full article online.
Finding Our Way with Words
NEA Today, October 2008
What does it say about America that we are the only industrialized nation that routinely graduates high school students who speak only one language? Frankly, it says that if you want to talk to us—to do business with us, negotiate peace with us, learn from or teach us, or even just pal around with us—you'd better speak English. The fact that we're woefully behind in world language skills has long registered somewhere between, "Hmmm," and "Yeah, so?" on the national priority gauge. (Compare that to our panicky responses to indicators that we're not on top in math and science.)
"The norm is still either no foreign language or two years in high school," says Marty Abbott, director of Education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The Council's most recent estimates show enrollment in foreign language programs in the United States at about 30 percent for grades 7–12, and just 5 percent for elementary students.
But the English-only-is-OK attitude may be on the way out. A series of wake-up calls relating to national security, diplomacy, and economics—for example, the scramble to find Arabic translators after 9/11 and the struggle federal agencies faced aiding the Gulf Coast's sizable Vietnamese community post-Katrina—elicited voices of concern from the business community, the Department of Defense, educators, and families, all dismayed by our collective ignorance of world languages and cultures.
Read the full article online.
Deutsch Spoken Here: German School starts 2nd year at Rippowam
Stamford Advocate, September 25, 2008
The German School, serving Connecticut communities on Saturdays for nearly 30 years, moved from Weston to Stamford last year.
With 350 students divided between the Stamford and Hartford branches, GSC started its second year at Rippowam Middle School on High Ridge Road two weeks ago.
The smallest toddlers go to the school with their parents. Some of them are too young to go on their own. After they first start to speak, they learn their first German words.
They learn that red is rot, yellow is gelb and green is gruen. They hold their daddy's or mommy's hand and learn what different streetlight colors mean, and - of course - how to pronounce the words in German.
Download a PDF of the full article. (364 KB)
Wise to nurture 'heritage speakers'
Baltimore Sun, June 23, 2008
Op-Ed piece by Alliance member Dr. Catherine Ingold
Maryland has adopted a promising new strategy to deal with the U.S. shortage of skilled foreign language speakers, one that offers a model for other states. A new state law seeks to make better use of an under-valued language asset: immigrants and their descendants.
Many of these "heritage speakers" converse in a foreign language at home and learn English at school. This early bilingual experience helps them in mastering critical languages such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Chinese and Wolof, to name just a few. Heritage speakers represent the most reliable pool of bilingual talent as our nation plays language catch-up with the rest of the world.
Gov. Martin O'Malley recently signed into law a bill creating the Task Force on the Preservation of Heritage Language Skills. It charges the task force with making an inventory of existing heritage resources and recommending steps to use them better.
As simple as this may sound, it's more than others have done. Certainly, many current, vigorous efforts to improve our national foreign language capabilities naturally turn to heritage speakers when recruiting students and teachers. For example, the new federal STARTALK summer program has shown that well-educated heritage speakers make excellent and willing teachers of critical languages.
Visit the Baltimore Sun Web site to locate this article in their archives.
2nd-generation Asian Americans embrace identity, enrich area
Detroit Free Press, May 4, 2008
They grew up in a crescent around Detroit, with some scattered inside the city like stars.
They grew up the children of immigrants, traversing two identities fraught with self-imposed barriers and subtle discrimination.
They grew up into a new consciousness, calling themselves what previous generations did not: Asian Americans.
Like no other generation before them, this wave of Asian Americans had access to college classes that examined their histories, courses that arose in the aftermath of a cataclysmic movement that started in Detroit. U.S. census data released last week showed that Asian Americans continue to be the fastest-growing ethnic group in Michigan, topping Latinos, the fastest-growing minority in the nation. And this generation, now in their 20s and 30s, is a huge reason why.
Visit the Detroit Free Press Web site to locate this article in their archives.
Rescuing Languages From Extinction
The Experience of the Hoopa Valley, Karuk, and Yurok Tribes
Jefferson Public Radio, March 21, 2008
According to a National Geographic report released last September, more than half of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today will likely be extinct by the year 2100, and languages are dying at the rate of one every two weeks. The Pacific Northwest, Oklahoma, the Amazon Basin, Siberia, and Australia were identified in that report as global hotspots of language extinction. Many languages die as the speakers die off. Other languages die as their words are replaced in the minds of their speakers with the language of a more dominant culture—like English or Portuguese or Russian.
In the United States, the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation in the first half of the twentieth century had a particularly devastating effect on the continuity of native languages. Children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their own languages.
Many Hupa children were sent to a boarding school in Riverside, California, even though a similar institution operated on their own reservation. This arrangement was made apparently to prevent the children from staying in contact with their families. Verdena Parker, the most fluent of the remaining Hupa native speakers, was one of the exceptions. She went to the Hoopa Valley boarding school beginning at age six and was able to maintain regular contact with her family. At seventy-one years old, she is today the youngest of the native Hupa speakers. She credits this to being raised by her grandmother, who spoke only Hupa to her.
Read the full article online.
Speaking Their Own Language
The Washington Post, January 22, 2008
Lilian Diaz, an emergency room technician, used to feel apprehensive when a doctor or nurse at her Takoma Park hospital would ask her to interpret for a Spanish-speaking patient. She knew she was chosen because of her Spanish surname, but what if she told someone the wrong thing? Her Spanish was fine for everyday matters, but was it really good enough, she wondered, to explain a life-threatening illness to a fearful patient?
Now Diaz and a dozen of her co-workers have new confidence in their skills. They are the first graduates of a program at Adventist Health Care Systems that trains already-bilingual staff in the technical terms and cultural nuances of interpreting in a hospital setting. It is one way area health-care providers are trying to meet the demand for qualified interpreters to help inform and reassure a growing community of non-English-speaking patients.
Read the full article online.