Date of Award

Fall 12-21-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Department

Honors College

Faculty Advisor

Connie Zucker

Abstract

Few issues are as relevant to modern education as the topic of bilingual students. As the school-age population in the United States becomes increasingly diverse, teachers and other educational professionals need to know how they can best serve their English learners (students who speak a first language other than English). A common question that many educators grapple with is what role a student’s heritage language (native language) ought to play in the classroom. Specifically, how important is it that students maintain their heritage language? By critically reviewing the existing literature relating to the subject, this article strives to answer that question. A number of articles spanning both a variety of disciplines and a number of years is taken into consideration. The general consensus is that the maintenance of students’ heritage languages is not merely beneficial but is essential to their psychological, cognitive, linguistic, social and academic success. Rather than compromise students’ English abilities, maintaining a heritage language furthers their proficiency. Far from taking away from class instruction and causing divisions in society, helping students sustain competency in their native language is an asset to both the classroom and an increasingly multicultural society. Following the argument for heritage language maintenance, this essay suggests a number of practical implications. Heritage language maintenance is not only feasible, it is an absolutely realistic and attainable goal. Those who are willing to take the necessary steps to work towards that goal will be working towards the enrichment of students and their families, schools and communities.

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