What is a Heritage Language?

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You might be familiar with the term bilingual speaker, but are you familiar with the term heritage speaker?

While the term bilingual speaker implies fluency in two languages, the term heritage speaker does not imply that a speaker is fluent in both. In fact, heritage speakers tend to have one dominant language and one that they could further develop.

Here is a great definition written by the UC San Diego Linguistics Department:

The term ‘heritage language’ denotes a language learned at home that is different from the dominant language of the community, and a ‘heritage speaker’ is someone who speaks that language. 

Are you a heritage speaker?

Here are some ways to know:

  • You speak a language at home that you do not regularly speak at school or work
  • You are stronger in the language that you speak at school or work
  • You sometimes find it difficult to find the right words when speaking in a heritage language

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