Heritage language education

Language is defined by its power and status, such as dominant language or minority languages. Dominant language can be the official language in a country and widely used by the residents. We all agree that society is multilingual or multicultural. It means that, monolingual country does not exist. However, the politics of a country can held a monolingual view, and advocate monolingualism. In such countries, teaching and learning of the minority languages are suppressed and downplayed by the language policy makers. These languages face the risk of extinction. Thus, heritage languages are languages of immigrants and indigenous minorities. Minority languages taught as subjects or mediums of instruction is the basic form of heritage language education such as supplementary schools or bi/multilingual programs.

The current situation of heritage language is somehow better than ever before. Some linguistic scholars and educators began to pay close attention to the need of these minorities. In some countries, they set up Sunday Schools which promote the heritage language education. For example, the supplementary or complementary schools were opened for immigrants and minorities in the UK (Horner & Weber, 2012). This type of schools often used the bilingual programs for children to learn their native language, such as “Bengali, Gujarati, Cantonese, Mandarin and Turkish” (Horner & Weber, 2012). They mostly work at the weekend to teach these minority languages.

These minority languages can also be taught at mainstream schools through bilingual/ multilingual programs. Mainly the medium of instruction is the dominant language, and minority languages are taught as subjects. On the other hand, if there is a strong support from that community, minority languages can be the medium of instruction. Taking into account of one of the indigenous language in New Zealand, Maori medium schools were opened to endorse Maori language teaching and learning by bilingual programs.

To conclude, whether heritage language education is shaped by supplementary schools or bi/multilingual programs, it indeed contributes to the language revitalization. For these marginalized minorities, their linguistic rights are supported and implemented in language education which is crucial to revive the languages.


Horner K. and Weber J.J. (2012). Heritage language education. Introducing Multilingualism a Social Approach. (p. 137.).Routledge.

Horner K. and Weber J.J. (2012). Revitalization of endangered languages. Introducing Multilingualism a Social Approach. (p. 53.).Routledge.

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