Promote the Maintenance and Development of Heritage Languages

Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has worked with partners, particularly the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, on the Heritage Language Initiative to promote the maintenance and development of heritage languages in the United States (languages other than English used in immigrant and indigenous communities around the country). Bilingual programs in schools and communities are key elements of this movement. In 1999 and 2002, CAL and its partner organizations organized and sponsored two national conferences on heritage languages and produced proceedings from the conferences.

They also launched the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages in order to continue to collect and disseminate resources for the field, including profiles of heritage language programs. Bilingual education is also relevant beyond the borders of the United States, and the Center has sought to contribute positively to the improvement of the education of second languages worldwide. In 2004, for example, the Center published a report titled “Expanding Educational Opportunity in Linguistically Diverse Societies,” which profiled programs in 13 countries where a key element was instruction in the mother tongue.

The current global Education for All effort has not yet focused on language, despite the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) argument for the use of the mother tongue in primary instruction, and CAL’s efforts are directed at informing international and national educational institutions about this issue. Throughout the Center’s history, the education of ethnic and linguistic minorities has been a constant concern.

In its research, resources, and services, the Center has sought to integrate a better understanding of language and culture to improve learning opportunities and language development for these students. These efforts are described in the next section, along with CAL’s involvement with the development and implementation of two-way immersion bilingual education.