Teaching Heritage language students:
Definition, placement, and curriculum
development
Kimi Kondo-Brown
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Cornell University
Language Resource Center
March 5, 2009
1
Context

In the last decade, research on teaching heritage
language (HL) learners has expanded enormously and
encouraged language professionals to work toward
responsible curriculum development for this specific type
of learners.

Behind this movement is a national and global interest in
developing new approaches that promote advancedlevel competence in non-dominant languages

The MLA Ad Hoc Committee on foreign languages
advocates for adopting and promoting best practices for
heritage-language teaching as one of the national
priorities (see the committee’s 2007 report, p.9).
2
Objectives
By the end of today’s session, you will be able to…

Define and characterize HL students in postsecondary
language instruction settings

Compare the placement procedures for HL students
used in other institutions to those used in your program

Describe approaches to designing upper-level courses
for HL and non-HL students in a single-track curriculum
Many university programs provide special
beginning/intermediate level courses for a subgroup of HL
students whose spoken and written language skills may be
critically unbalanced. At the upper-level, HL and non-HL
students are often merged into the same classroom in a
single-track system (Kondo-Brown, 2003)
3
Defining and characterizing
“heritage language” students
4
Who is a heritage language student?

A heritage language is a “language which was first
for an individual with respect to the order of
acquisition but has not been completely acquired
because of the switch to another dominant language”
(Polinsky, 2008, p. 149).

A heritage language student has acquired
competence in a non-dominant language primarily
through contact at home with foreign-born parents
and/or other care takers (Valdés, 1995). They may be
“transnational” (travels from the home and host
countries back and forth) or “”generation 1.5”
(foreign-born but immigrated to the host country as a
child).
5
Who is a heritage language student? (continued)

If a speaker of a non-dominant language has not
acquired competence primarily through interaction at
home, such an individual may be referred to as a
heritage identity student (if the target language is the
student’s ancestral language) or a foreign language
student.

A foreign/international student is a foreign-born
student who speaks a non-dominant language as his/her
first language.
6
How are HL students different from
traditional FL students?



Campbell and Rosenthal (2000)
Angelelli & Kagan (2002)
Kondo (1999)
7
How are HL students different from traditional
FL students?: Campbell and Rosenthal’s (2000)
observations
Comparative estimated distance between “educated native speakers
(ENS),” HL, and traditional FL (TFL) speakers [See Material 1, p.1]
8
How are HL students different from traditional
FL students? : Angelelli & Kagan’s (2002)
observations [See Material 2, p.2]

Angelelli & Kagan (2002) compared the
language profiles of HL and non-HL learners of
Russian and Spanish at the “superior” level and
suggested that, regardless of the target
language (i.e., Spanish or Russian), certain
similarities and differences existed between
superior-level HL and non-HL learners.
9
How are HL students different from traditional
FL students? : Kondo’s (1999) observations
In general, incoming HL speakers of Japanese at UHM
can:
Sustain
casual conversations about a variety of familiar
topics comfortably and easily, with native or near-native-like
fluency and accuracy
Read
and write two basic Japanese scripts, namely,
Hiragana and Katakana fluently
10
How are HL students different from traditional
FL students? : Kondo’s (1999) observations
(continued)

Produce a variety of Japanese constructions orally and
in writing, but have difficulty in describing and analyzing
them due to their lack of meta-linguistic awareness, i.e.,
“explicit consciousness of linguistic form and structure”
(Cazden, 1974).

They lack in knowledge and skills in giving formal
speeches and for academic reading and writing
11
Heritage language learners as a highly
heterogeneous group

Recent studies that investigate the language
behavior of HL and non-HL students,
especially those in upper-level university
courses, have revealed sizable intra-group
differences in the demonstrated knowledge
and skills in the target HL (Kanno et al. 2008,
Kondo-Brown & Fukuda, 2008, Rubio, 2003).
12
Heritage language learners as a highly
heterogeneous group: Contributing factors




Diverse L1 backgrounds such as age of
immigration/arrival, L1 use at early ages, and
parental L1 background
Extensive contacts as well as opportunities to
use the language
Various socio-psychological factors such as
attitude, motivation, orientation, identity, and
vitality perception
Quality and duration of formal instruction
received
13
Heritage language learners as a highly heterogeneous
group: Kondo-Brown (forthcoming)
Distributions of total self-ratings (in percentages) for the HL and
non-HL groups [See Material 3, p.3]
60
Percentage
50
40
Foreign language student
30
Heritage language student
20
10
0
6-9 pts
10-12 pts
13-15 pts
16-18 pts
Total self-ratings
14
Heritage language learners as a highly heterogeneous
group: Kondo-Brown (forthcoming) (continued)
Distributions of self-ratings (in percentages) of the HL and nonHL groups by reading tasks [See Material 3, p.3]
Heritage Language Students
Foreign Language Students
Quite easily
30%
20%
10%
Reading Tasks
d
he
lifi
e
Au
t
Si
mp
Le
t
Le
t
t
al
Te
x
l
Te
c
hn
ic
No
ve
es
az
in
er
Ma
g
tte
Le
ws
pa
p
Ne
rs
r
te
Le
t
en
t ic
th
fie
d
Au
pli
Sim
Quite easily
te
r
0%
Some difficulty
rs
sp
ap
er
Ma
ga
zin
e
No
Te
ve
ch
l
nic
al
Te
xt
Some difficulty
te
70%
60%
50%
40%
Great difficulty/Not
at all
Ne
w
Great difficulty/Not at all
100%
90%
80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
nt
ic
Number of Students (in %)
90%
80%
Number of Students (in %)
100%
Reading Tasks
15
Placement of heritage language
students: Issues and procedures
16
Placement procedures: A nationwide placement survey
of 169 modern FL departments: Brown, Hudson, and
Clark (2004)

A majority of programs use single or multiple languageplacement procedures

A majority of programs use locally/internally developed
tests and self-ratings although certain commercial or
externally developed tests are also widely used (e.g., AP
subject test, SAT II subject test, CAPE [BYU], OPI, etc.)
17
Placement procedures: A nationwide placement survey
of 169 modern FL departments: Brown, Hudson, and
Clark (2004) (continued)

The locally/internally developed tests were largely
constructed by teachers

The receptive skills of reading, writing, and grammatical
knowledge are much more commonly assessed than
oral skill or “real world” tasks

The primary source of test contents were course
objectives, course textbooks, authentic materials, etc.
18
Example: Japanese language placement at
UHM: Kondo-Brown (2005)
Listening comprehension: Formal and informal dialogues of various
levels of lexical difficulty and syntactic complexity
Grammar knowledge: Syntactic, morphological, and sociolinguistic
rules of Japanese.
Reading comprehension: Japanese texts of beginning to advanced
levels.
Reliability estimates and correlations for the Japanese placement test (N=185)
Number of Reliability LIST
items
LISTEN
38
.927
1.00
GRAM
55
.964
READ
29
.922
Total
122
.979
.947
** Correlation is significant at p <0.001 level (2-tailed)
GRAM
READ
.891
1.00
.742
.781
1.00
.862
.976
19
Example: Japanese language placement at UHM:
Kondo-Brown (2005) (continued)
The distributions of total placement test scores (in percentages)
by group
60
Students of non-Japanese ancestry (n=30)
Students of Japanese ancestry, but no
Japanese parent or grandparent (n=46)
50
Students without Japanese parent, with
Japanese grandparent (n=66)
Students with at least one Japanese parent
(n=42)
Percentage
40
30
20
10
0
0-19
20-39
40-59
60-79
80-99
100-122
Placem ent test scores (122 max.)
20
An institutional strategy for encouraging
students to take FL courses and do their best
in placement exams…
“Back-credit policy” at the UHM [See Material 4, p.4]
All students with experience in another language other
than English (including HL students) may earn “back
credits.” Upon completion of a course, if students earn a
letter grade of C or better in the course, they will receive
between 3-16 back credits.
21
Examples of recent studies on placement
exams for university-level heritage language
learners

Korean: Placement tests for HL learners should assess
academic writing skills. A diagnostic OPI is also
recommended (Sohn & Shin, 2008)

Filipino, Russian, and Thai: Performance-based
placement tests (Oral/written) based on ACTFL guidelines
have been developed and used (Dolgova, 2008;
Takahashi, 2008; Zamar & Robotham, 2008)
22
Examples of recent studies on placement
exams for university-level heritage language
learners (continued)

Filipino & Hindi: The use of self-ratings to
create HL student biographical profiles was
recommended (Domingo, 2008, Ranjan, 2008).

Japanese: Productive performance tests such
as essay writing seem to be effective for
identifying students with the highest-level overall
proficiency (Kondo-Brown, 2004)
23
Examples of recent studies on placement
exams for university-level heritage language
learners (continued)

Spanish: S-CAPE seems to be a popular placement
instrument for Spanish programs. Faculty-made exams
are additionally given to HL learners (e.g., contextualized
paragraph-length cloze test, a composition that requires
a formal writing style, etc.) (Fairclough, 2006)

Russian: ACTFL OPI guidelines as well as SOPI may be
useful for placing Russian HL learners; HL learners of a
given level may have better pronunciation, higher fluency,
and a wider vocabulary range (Kagan & Friedman, 2003)
24
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 1: Essay writing test
The students can choose one of the three prompts
which are all descriptive in nature

Prompt 1: Asked the students to describe how they like to
spend their vacation
Prompt 2: Asked them to describe themselves, their
background, and their family members
Prompt 3: Asked them to describe Hawai‘i to a friend in
Japan
There
were 20 lines below the prompt, and students
were asked to write an essay there.
25
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 1: Essay writing test (continued)
Kondo-Brown (2004) study

225 incoming students of Japanese at UHM took an
essay writing test.

The length of the writing samples ranged from one or
two lines (one or two sentences) to the entire 20 lines.

Each essay was evaluated by 3 judges using an adapted
version of Jacob et al.’s (1981) rating profile. Average
scores were used as essay test scores. [See Material 5,
p.5]
26
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 1: Essay writing test (continued)
The distributions of the essay test scores (in percentages) by group
(Adapted from Kondo-Brown, 2004, p.15)
39.5
Heritage language
students (n=53)
3 9 .6
N u m b e r o f s t u d e n t s ( in % )
4 0 .0

J P N parent(s )
3 5 .0
N o J P N parent
3 0 .0
27.3
FL and heritage
identity students
(n=172)
2 2 .6
2 5 .0
2 0 .0
17 .0
15.1
15 .0
11.3
11.0
10 .0
5.8
5 .0
5 .7
3 .8
1.2
0 .0
40- 49
50- 59
60- 69
70- 79
80- 89
9 0 - 10 0
T e s t co r e s
27
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 2 : Biographical profiling
Biographical filing at UHM [See Material 6, p.6]




Background information
Self-assessment of language use
Self-assessment of language choice
Self-assessment of oral performance: Self-perceived
speaking ability scales
Reliability
 The reliability estimates for the total scores of three
self assessment measures were .790, .817, and .912
respectively – Very good
28
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 2 : Biographical profiling
(continued)
Tasks used in speaking ability self-rating scales
[See Material 6, p.7]
Domain 1: Very basic tasks simply requiring the production of isolated words
Count to 10 in the language. [Task 1]
Say the days of the week. [Task 2]
Give the current date (month, day, year). [Task 3]
Domain 2: Simple communicative tasks requiring mostly formulaic expressions
Introduce myself in social situations, using appropriate greetings. [Task 4]
Order a simple meal in a restaurant. [Task 5]
Give directions on the street. [Task 6]
Domain 3: Narrative tasks requiring more extended speech on personal topics
Give simple biographical information about myself. [Task 7]
Describe my present job, studies, or other major life activities accurately and in detail. [Task 8]
Domain 4: Extended communicative tasks requiring prolonged register-sensitive speech
Sustain everyday conversation in casual style Japanese with my Japanese friend. [Task 9]
Sustain everyday conversation in very polite style Japanese. [Task 10]
Domain 5: Explanatory tasks requiring speech on abstract topics
• Describe the U.S. educational system in some detail. [Task 11]
• State and support with examples and reasons of my position. [Task 12]
29
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 2 : Biographical profiling (continued)
Self-rating means by task and group (adapted from KondoBrown, 2005, p, 572)
3
Foreign language
2.8
Heirage Identity (Jpn Descent)
Heritage Identity (Jpn
Grandparent)
Heritage Language (Jpn
Parent)
2.6
2.2
2
1.8
1.6
1.4
1.2
D
ir
ec
g
ti
ra
on
p
s
h
ic
al
in
L
fo
if
e
.
ac
ti
vi
ti
es
C
a
u
sa
lc
o
n.
P
o
lit
D
e
e
sc
co
ri
n
b
.
e
U
S
S
u
p
e
p
d
or
u.
t
p
o
si
ti
o
n
B
io
u
d
tr
o
In
O
rd
er
ce
te
D
a
ek
W
e
n
t
1
C
o
u
Average self-ratings
2.4
Oral tasks
30
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 2 : Biographical profiling (continued)
Correlations between the multiple-choice placement test scores and three self-ra
Types of self-rating measures
Use of Japanese during the last one month
(language use)
Degree of Japanese dominance (language
choice)
Correlations with total
placement test scores
.821**
Self-ratings of oral tasks
.821**
.884**
** Correlation is significant at p <0.001 level (2-tailed)
31
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 3: Use of prototype interview
questions based on ACTFL OPI

Brown et al. (1991) developed prototype
interview questions based on the ACTFL OPI.
[See Material 7, p.8]

The questions are already available in five IndoPacific languages (Indonesian, Khmer, Tagalog,
Thai, & Vietnamese).
32
Placement strategies for HL learners
Suggestion 3: Use of prototype interview
questions based on ACTFL OPI (continued)

The effectiveness of the instruments in these
languages as proficiency tests has been
validated.

It’s possible forms to develop the same interview
questions for other language groups and pilot
them for placement & exit assessment purposes.
33
Curriculum development for
upper-level heritage language
and non-HL students in singletrack systems
34
Issues and challenges

Most university FL programs in the U.S. that
host both HL and non-HL students rarely offer
multi-track systems

Demonstrated and perceived proficiency levels
among students in upper-level courses are
critically different and that these differences exist
not only between HL and non-HL learners but
also within each group (Kondo-Brown & Fukuda,
2008, Kondo-Brown, forthcoming).
35
Issues and challenges (continued)

Student views on the presence of both HL and
non-HL students in the same upper-level class
may influence the attitudes and motivations of
either type of students in either direction-negatively or positively (for example, see Lee &
Kim, 2007)
36
Suggestions

Take into account the diversity in students'
previous language learning experiences and
current linguistic and cultural knowledge and
skills (A principle of learner-centered curriculum,
Nunan, 1998)

Identify a common goal that meets the language
needs of either type of student at this level (e.g.,
advancing competence in formal, academic
register in oral and written discourse to a higher
level)
37
Suggestions (continued)

To some extent, allow students to be active and
responsible for the course of their learning, i.e.,
have them develop learning outcomes for
themselves so that the work is personally
relevant to past experiences, present concerns,
and future goals (A principle of learner-centered
curriculum, Nunan, 1998)
38
Suggestions (continued)

Allow students to advance their language
competence by integrating particular content
with the teaching of language skills. In other
words, “(t)he focus for students is on acquiring
information via the second language and, in the
process, developing their academic language
skills” (A principle of content-based instruction,
Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 2003, p. 2)
* Content-based instruction is recommended by
HL educators (e.g., UCLA heritage language
resource team)
39
Suggestions (continued)

Encourage cooperative Learning, rather than
learning based on competition, that may foster
positive interdependence between HL and nonHL learners and individual accountability (A
principle of cooperating learning, Oxford, 1997)

Develop a sense of a learning community and
positive perceptions of the community (Booker,
2008)
40
Recommendation: Project-based instruction

Encompass principles of content-based
instruction and learner-centered curriculum
(Beckett, 2006).

Can be translated in practice in so many
different ways (e.g., degrees of student
ownership, purposes, data collection
methods, products, classroom interactions,
assessment procedures, etc.) (Beckett &
Miller, 2006)
41
Recommendation: Project-based instruction
(continued)

Offer a number of benefits in foreign language
learning and teaching (Stoller, 2006) [See Material 8,
p.9]

Create “purposeful opportunities for language
input, language output, and explicit attention to
language-related features (e.g., forms,
vocabulary, skills, strategies)” (Stoller, 2006, p.
32)
42
Recommendation: Project-based instruction
(continued)

Work toward mixed-abilities classrooms where
both HL and non-HL students are present (e.g.,
Gabriela Nik, 2008)

Provide upper-level students an opportunity to
integrate their cumulative language abilities and
cultural knowledge through individualized,
project-based learning
43
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) [See Material 9, pp. 10-11]
Each student is expected to …

Commit himself/herself as a responsible member of a
learning community where students of Japanese from
diverse language backgrounds and life experiences
work together.

Learn how to conduct and present a survey research
project that deals with a specific aspect of Japanese
language use, variation, or changes.
44
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) (continued)

Aims at advancing competence in the formal, academic
register in an oral and written discourse to a higher-level
by using the language in carrying out and presenting a
research-based project

Essentially content-based, but a substantial amount of
time will also be spent drawing students’ attention to
formal academic expressions and vocabulary to enhance
the fluency and accuracy of their academic speech and
writing
45
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) (continued)

Each student’s contribution should help his/her
classmates become more aware of key linguistic,
sociolinguistic, and pragmatic issues so that they can
use that information in improving their competence in
Japanese

The products that the students will produce may also be
used to showcase their Japanese language abilities for
wider audience or different purposes (e.g., be included
as part of job/grant/graduate admission applications)
46
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) (continued)
The teacher assumes the role of…



Student Advisor
Language and research expert (on academic
discourse and research)
Co-evaluator (regular use of self-, peer-, and
instructor evaluations) [see Material 10, p. 12]
47
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) (continued)
Students’ performance will be evaluated based on their
portfolios which include:
10
%
10 %
20 %
40 %
Attendance and participation records
Research proposal
Questionnaire construction and data gathering
Ten-page report (that includes the background,
reason, purpose, motivation, methodology,
results, and conclusions)
10%
Self/peer/instruction feedback sheets
10 % Final project presentation using technology
48
Example: Japanese 493 (Project work in
Japanese) (continued)
Formative and summative evaluation


The student work is monitored and evaluated in stages using
multiple criterion-referenced evaluation tools and procedures
(e.g., teacher evaluations, peer reviews, self-reflections, etc).
HL and non-HL students’ proficiency outcome data (e.g.
ACTFL OPI standards) as well as their learning experiences
are systematically collected and used for future development
of the course.
Theoretical
foundation
Curriculum
development
Assessment
Data collection
& analyses
Implementation
49
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Domains of language use and skills in HL learners