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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Challenges, needs, and contributions of heritage language students in foreign language classrooms Shinbo, Yayoi


In recent years, heritage language education has been receiving renewed interest by policy makers, applied linguists, and language educators in the United States, Canada, and many other countries all over the world. The number of publications and heritage language (HL) education initiatives are gradually increasing, as more universities start offering special language track courses designed for heritage language students (HLSs). However, there has been little research exploring how those students perceive their experiences learning their own HL in foreign language (FL) classrooms. This study attempted to better understand HLSs' experiences in FL classrooms in relation to those of instructors and non-heritage language students (non- HLSs). It examined heritage language students' weaknesses and needs, strengths, challenges, and ways of using them as a resource. The data were collected through questionnaires, interviews, observations, and e-mails and were analyzed by emerging themes guided by research questions. The data showed the HLSs strongly felt that they need to improve reading, writing, and oral skills so as to become proficient enough to be employed at the professional level. Also, HLSs considered kanji as one of the major problems while instructors did not perceive this difficulty. Instructors' challenges were identified to be related to affective factors, inappropriate placement, and the lack of resources, whereas HLSs' challenges were associated with the unfamiliarity of FL pedagogy, mismatch of their linguistic skills with available courses, and psychological factors such as peers' negative perception and the level of support received by instructors. Although HLSs appeared to be a great resource in FL classrooms, instructors found it difficult to integrate their abilities into classroom activities due to affective factors.

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