Heritage language project expands

February 21, 2017

Formerly known as “kitchen” languages, heritage languages are now the focus of a Yale project that is expanding to include eight language departments.

The Heritage Meets Heritage project, launched in spring 2016, aims to unite heritage language learners from across many Yale departments and to study their linguistic and cultural patterns. Spanish lector Sybil Alexandrov leads the project, and Greek lector Maria Kaliambou, Russian lector Julia Titus ’99 and Korean lector Angela Lee-Smith.joined in 2016 This year, the project also expanded to include Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese heritage learners.

A heritage speaker is a person who has grown up using a language other than English for cultural or religious reasons but who has not received a formal education in that language. However, heritage speakers from different languages have never interacted through an official Yale program, which is what the new project focuses on.

“It occurred to me that we have all of these heritage speakers and they probably have a lot of things in common,” Alexandrov said. “But I kept thinking what would happen if they spoke to each other, and that’s what this project is all about.”

The first of the project’s three stages requires that students involved with the project complete an anonymous questionnaire about how they use their heritage language, as well as their cultural identity. Second, all participants review the survey responses of the other students. Finally, the participants meet in pairs to discuss a series of questions involving their heritage identity. Each meeting is videotaped and submitted to the lectors.

The full story can be found on the Yale Daily News, here