Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages

The Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages (the Alliance) was an initiative to advance language development for heritage language speakers in the United States as part of a larger effort to educate members of our society who can function professionally in English and in other languages. Alliance partners included the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) at the University of Maryland, the National Heritage Language Resource Center at the University of California, Los Angeles; and the Center for Applied Linguistics. 

The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) facilitated the work of the Alliance by maintaining the Heritage Languages in America website and by collecting and compiling the Heritage Language Programs Database to promote information sharing and capacity building. CAL continues to make the archived Heritage Languages in America website available for reference, including the archived Heritage Languages database. The Heritage Voices Collection features profiles on both programs and languages and were designed to help build community among all those interested in preserving our rich heritage of language resources. The Heritage Briefs Collection features short papers on topics of interest about heritage languages.

Visit the archived Heritage Languages in America website. 

Publications from the Alliance included Heritage Briefs and Heritage Voices, which are available in the Resource Archive section of the CAL website.
Browse the Resource Archive. 

History of the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages
Developing a strong knowledge base is crucial to effective heritage language policies and practices. No one was more committed to this goal than Russ Campbell, who organized a series of meetings to discuss what was known at that time about heritage language maintenance, development, and revitalization and what needed to be investigated. With the momentum that Russ created, a founding Advisory Board came together to support the first national Heritage Languages in America Conference, hosted by California State University, Long Beach, October 14-16, 1999. The Heritage Language Research Priorities Conference was held a year later at UCLA, September 21-23, 2000. The Second National Heritage Languages Conference was held October 18-20, 2002 in the Washington, DC area. After this conference, The Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages was officially established.

Heritage Languages in America Conference: October 14-16, 1999 
The Heritage Languages in America conference, held October 14-16, 1999 in Long Beach, California, in collaboration with California State University Long Beach, was the first major project of the Heritage Languages Initiative—a national effort by the National Foreign Language Center and the Center for Applied Linguistics to develop the languages of our heritage communities. Nearly 300 leaders from heritage language communities and schools, pre-K-12 schools, and colleges and universities joined world-renowned researchers, federal and state policymakers, and others interested in improving heritage language teaching (the teaching of languages other than English that are spoken in the United States).  

Participants included noted researchers James Alatis (Georgetown University), Richard Brecht (National Foreign Language Center), Russell Campbell (UCLA), Donna Christian (Center for Applied Linguistics), Cecilia Colombi (University of California, Davis), Lily Wong Fillmore (University of California, Berkeley), Joshua Fishman (Yeshiva and Stanford Universities), the Honorable Cruz Reynoso (former federal judge, now at UCLA), Ana Roca (Florida International University), Fabián Samaniego (University of California, Davis), Guadalupe Valdés (Stanford University), and Terrence Wiley (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona). Over two dozen languages were represented—ranging from heritage languages with a long history in the United States, such as indigenous American Indian languages, Spanish, French, and German—to the languages of more recent immigrant populations from southeast Asia and other regions. The conference provided a forum for presenting a rich array of heritage language success stories. In Glendale, California, an Armenian school with an annual budget of 2.5 million dollars provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in Armenian history, language and culture. In New Mexico, a pueblo has successfully revitalized its native language through a community-wide effort supported by leaders in heritage language research at Stanford University. School districts throughout California have collaborated with local Chinese heritage schools to award high school credit for students enrolled in weekend programs that meet high standards.Policymakers talked of diverse and increasing language demands in many government and private sector areas, and said these areas are inadequately served by existing educational programs. Researchers discussed psychosocial benefits to immigrant and native American populations of maintaining strong ties to their communities, languages, and cultures. In short, the economic and social benefits to our nation of heritage language preservation are manifest.  

The following priorities were announced at the conference: an advocacy group will work for the development of enlightened public policies supportive of heritage language preservation; leading language and linguistic researchers will pool their efforts and resources through a broad-based empirical investigation; the Initiative convened a research symposium on the West Coast in 2000 and the Second National Conference on Heritage Languages in America was set for 2002; a website on heritage language issues, print and electronic publications, and a listserv will help establish a national organization of professionals concerned with heritage language education and preservation.

The Second National Conference on Heritage Languages in America: October 18-20, 2002
The purpose of the conference was to provide a place for individuals, organizations, and associations to participate in new initiatives in heritage language development and to build on and develop the language proficiency of heritage language speakers in our country. The following goals were discussed at the conference: develop visibility and public awareness of the economic, personal, and social benefits of proficiency in languages other than English and of the language resources that we have in the United States; increase the extent to which heritage language issues are part of the national dialogue; provide a public forum for participants to shape a national heritage language policy and to engage in heritage language planning for the nation; provide a forum for information sharing; provide opportunities for participants to work together in various, flexible groups on issues of interest; and develop collaboration among all constituent groups and a plan that moves us from rhetoric to action. Attendees included heritage language community and school leaders, representatives from pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, researchers, federal and state policymakers, and business leaders.