Next CLLEAR seminar: Supporting Heritage Language Development

CLLEARThe next Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR) seminar will take place on Friday 9th March 2018 at 16:00 in Lecture Theatre B, Building 65, Avenue Campus. The talk is entitled “Supporting Heritage Language Development and will be delivered by Silvina Montrul from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. All welcome for the seminar and discussion!

Here is the abstract for this seminar:
Defined by their transmission across a generation, heritage languages are spoken by the bilingual children of immigrant parents. There is little consensus in the U.S. today about the language education of English Language Learners (ELLs) who I refer to as heritage language speakers: while some call for the early teaching of English, others insist that this can have negative repercussions for the full development and maintenance of the heritage language. Similar concerns affect heritage speakers in other parts of the globe. In this talk, I challenge widely held ideas about native language proficiency: namely, that once acquired early in childhood, a language is stable, especially in adults. I argue instead that native language proficiency can be shaped by the environment, and this is particularly true for U.S. bilinguals. In contrast to monolingual native speakers, the language mastery of heritage speakers by early adulthood is often significantly different from that of both their immigrant parents and native speakers in the home country. Heritage speakers, like all speakers, are born with the ability to learn one or more languages fully and indeed retain native ability in selected grammatical areas due to their early exposure to the language, when compare to second language learners who start acquisition of the second language much later, for example. I will show how insufficient use of the language during late childhood and adolescence can profoundly affect specific aspects of their command of grammar, interrupting the full development of the language and turning their native language into a second language. I will conclude with suggestions for supporting heritage language development during the language learning period.