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“There is no space for being German”: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German Roswita Dressler University of Calgary

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Presentation on theme: "“There is no space for being German”: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German Roswita Dressler University of Calgary"— Presentation transcript:

1 “There is no space for being German”: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German Roswita Dressler University of Calgary

2 Motivation for Article While some Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) are comfortable identifying themselves as such, others are decidedly uncomfortable or reluctant to adopt this term (Piño & Piño, 2000, p. 13).

3 Study Definition By definition, HLLs may have one parent or grandparent who speaks the target language or they may have spent a significant period of their childhood in the country where the target language is spoken (Beaudrie & Ducar 2005). “Does the above definition apply to you?

4 Characteristics of HLLs HLLs, who appear at an advantage because of their connection to the target language community, are not always more successful than true beginners (Montrul 2007). HLLs may come to the L2 classroom with incomplete or little language competence (Kagan 2005). HLLs often report higher motivation to learn the target language than their non-HLL peers (Noels 2005).

5 Language Identity language identity is the “assumed or attributed relationship between one’s sense of self and a means of communication (i.e. language)” (Block, 2007, p. 40). comprised of expertise (competence), affiliation (formal identification) and inheritance (heritage) (Leung, Harris, & Rampton, 1997, p. 555)

6 Cultural Artifacts objects or symbols which have meaning for a specific group of people. An artifact can “assume a material aspect (which may be as transient as a spoken word or as durable as a book) and/or an ideal or conceptual aspect (such as a label, like “good girls” and “bad boys”) (Bartlett, 2007, p. 217).

7 Positioning Block (2007) describes positioning as the adoption of an “imagined” subject position by the language learner.

8 Study Design Beginner, intermediate, advanced German language students at the University of Calgary Fall semester – 2 online questionnaires o Beginning and end of semester o 33 participants completed both Winter semester - follow-up interviews ◦12 participants

9 Case Studies of HLLs 6 students ◦4 “typical” HLLs ◦2 reluctant HLLs Pseudonyms chosen by the students

10 HLL Participants NameLevel of German Who speaks German? Childhood Experience Self-Identify ChristineAdvancedParents, grandparents Noneyes MagdalenaBeginnerParents, grandparents Noneyes CarolynBeginnerGrandparentsNoneyes SueAdvancedGrandparentsNoneyes AlexanderAdvancedParents, grandparents Noneno BiancaAdvancedParents, grandparents Ages 8-10no

11 Christine Mature student, adv. German class, parents speak German Chose German to “open pathways to older members of the family” Driven to obtain mastery of grammar “grammar in German is critical to communicating, perhaps more so than English” Sees herself as German-Canadian

12 On being German-Canadian “There’s a broader openness to different cultures, accepting that there can be significant differences. I think some of the work ethic definitely was inherited from my parents. The German part tends to be a little more rigid. ‘This has to be done now. It’s got to be on time’” (Christine).

13 Magdalena First year student, dual citizenship, previous HS and Community school German classes Chose German to keep up her competence Somewhat demotivated “seen it all before”

14 On Her Language Identity “In Germany, when we say we are Canadian, we tend to get more attention... just because we’re from Canada... In Canada, I feel like I am like any other person” (Magdalena).

15 Sue 4 th year student, advanced German class, German- speaking grandparents “always wanted to know German” Desires fluency, but hesitant to speak in class Proud of German heritage, unable to articulate why it is important Identifies with German traditions

16 On Her Language Identity “My German identity comes out at Christmas time” (Sue).

17 Carolyn 2 nd year student, beginner German, German-speaking grandparent “always wanted to know German for a really long time” More motivated than for other classes “wasn’t brought up in a classic German household”

18 On Studying German “It started making my life better. It became the course I would look forward to every day” (Carolyn).

19 Alexander 3 rd year student, advanced German class, German-speaking grandparent Interested in languages, since family heritage is German, it would be a “terrible thing to let go” Devotion to German high, to assignments “not very high” Does not consider himself an HLL

20 On not self-identifying “My grandmother, she’s German, but she never spoke it. Kind of odd. I would say a few sentences, but she would never respond in German and that’s why [I answered no. I] never had German spoken to me in my family” (Alexander).

21 Bianca Recently graduated, adv. German class, lived in Germany ages 8-10 Spoke German fluently as a child, then forgot it, relearned “’cause it might be easy for me” Very motivated, found it interesting Does not consider herself an HLL

22 On Her Language Identity “I don’t feel anything at all. I feel no connection. I already have to judge being Canadian with being Romanian. Really, there is no space for being German” (Bianca)

23 Discussion Language expert - Expertise Language loyalty ◦Affiliation ◦Inheritance (Rampton, 1990)

24 Expertise “My devotion to German is high.” (Alexander) “I like German. I like the way it is structured. I enjoy the language, I have no negative points on it.” (Bianca)

25 Affiliation “Me being German, a German citizen, I am German. That’s how I always will be”. (Magdalena) “being just someone who passed through Germany, on the way to Canada...” (Bianca)

26 Inheritance “All my friends know I am German”. (Sue) “My family heritage is German, so it is kind of nice to keep it up.” (Kath) “I was always really interested in that part of my heritage.” (Carolyn)

27 Cultural artifacts German Christmas traditions “a classic German household” Canada as a multicultural country Germany as a country intolerant of non- Germans

28 Implications For the classroom ◦Student ◦Instructor For research

29 Conclusion Where students reject the label of HLL, these students do not “situate themselves” or consider themselves to be “situated by others” (Block, 2007, p. 18) in an HLL identity.

30 References Bartlett, L. (2007). Bilingual literacies, social identification, and educational trajectories. Linguistics and Education, 18(3-4), Beaudrie, S., & Ducar, C. (2005). Beginning level university heritage programs: Creating a space for all Heritage Language Learners. Heritage Language Journal, 3(1), Block, D. (2007). Second language identities. London: Continuum. Gonzalez Piño, B., & Piño, F. (2000). Serving the Heritage Speaker across a Five-Year Program. ADFL Bulletin, 32(1), Kagan, O. (2005). In support of a proficiency-based definition of Heritage Language Learners: The case of Russian. International Journal of Bilingual Education &Bilingualism, 8(2-3),

31 References Leung, C., Harris, R., & Rampton, B. (1997). The idealised native speaker, reified ethnicities, and classroom realities. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), Montrul, S. (2007). Bilingual Past Project. from 007summer/Bilingual+Past+Project.pdf 007summer/Bilingual+Past+Project.pdf Noels, K. A. (2005). Orientations to Learning German: Heritage Language Learning and Motivational Substrates. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 62(2), Rampton, M. B. H. (1990). Displacing the 'native speaker': expertise, affiliation, and inheritance. ELT Journal, 44(2),


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