“There is no space for being German”: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German

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There is no space for being German: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German. Roswita Dressler University of Calgary rahdress@ucalgary.ca. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


New Insights into Heritage Language Learners of German

There is no space for being German: Portraits of Reluctant Heritage Language Learners of GermanRoswita DresslerUniversity of Calgaryrahdress@ucalgary.caGuten Tag. I recently completed a study on the motivation of HLLs of German. My presentation today focuses on one component of that study: the interviews I conducted with the HLLs upon the completion of their German language course. Though case studies, I will explore how HLLs see their language identity.1Motivation for ArticleWhile some Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) are comfortable identifying themselves as such, others are decidedly uncomfortable or reluctant to adopt this term (Pio & Pio, 2000, p. 13). Study DefinitionBy definition, HLLs may have one parent or grandparent who speaks the target language or they may have spent a significant period of their childhood in the country where the target language is spoken (Beaudrie & Ducar 2005).

Does the above definition apply to you?3Characteristics of HLLsHLLs, who appear at an advantage because of their connection to the target language community, are not always more successful than true beginners (Montrul 2007).HLLs may come to the L2 classroom with incomplete or little language competence (Kagan 2005). HLLs often report higher motivation to learn the target language than their non-HLL peers (Noels 2005).

The following are some of the characteristics of HLLs as established by recent studies. (Keep this brief)4Language Identitylanguage identity is the assumed or attributed relationship between ones sense of self and a means of communication (i.e. language) (Block, 2007, p. 40). comprised of expertise (competence), affiliation (formal identification) and inheritance (heritage) (Leung, Harris, & Rampton, 1997, p. 555)

In this talk I use the term language identity which is defined by Block as follows (Identity in adult migrant contexts; Identity in foreign language contexts; Identity in study abroad contexts)

I will also use a framework suggested by Rampton 1990 and furthered by L, H and R in 1997 which steers us away from the dichotomy of native speaker/ non-native speaker and looks at the following aspects of language identity: exp, aff, & inheritance

5Cultural Artifactsobjects or symbols which have meaning for a specific group of people. An artifact can assume a material aspect (which may be as transient as a spoken word or as durable as a book) and/or an ideal or conceptual aspect (such as a label, like good girls and bad boys) (Bartlett, 2007, p. 217).Pause. In addition to Ramptons framework, we see the meaning of cultural artifacts to these students. German traditions, especially around Christmas time, and stereotypical values or characteristics such as punctuality, orderliness are just some of the cultural artifacts referred to by the students.6PositioningBlock (2007) describes positioning as the adoption of an imagined subject position by the language learner. Study DesignBeginner, intermediate, advanced German language students at the University of CalgaryFall semester 2 online questionnairesBeginning and end of semester33 participants completed both Winter semester - follow-up interviews12 participants

My study involved 8Case Studies of HLLs6 students4 typical HLLs2 reluctant HLLsPseudonyms chosen by the students

Note these 2 students specifically said no to a self-identification question despite being walked through the definition in three questions previous.9HLL ParticipantsNameLevel of GermanWho speaks German?Childhood ExperienceSelf-IdentifyChristineAdvancedParents, grandparentsNoneyesMagdalenaBeginnerParents, grandparentsNoneyesCarolynBeginnerGrandparentsNoneyesSueAdvancedGrandparentsNoneyesAlexanderAdvancedParents, grandparentsNonenoBiancaAdvancedParents, grandparentsAges 8-10no10ChristineMature student, adv. German class, parents speak GermanChose German to open pathways to older members of the familyDriven to obtain mastery of grammar grammar in German is critical to communicating, perhaps more so than EnglishSees herself as German-CanadianOn being German-CanadianTheres a broader openness to different cultures, accepting that there can be significant differences. I think some of the work ethic definitely was inherited from my parents. The German part tends to be a little more rigid. This has to be done now. Its got to be on time (Christine).In describing her German-Canadian upbringing, Christine says the following:12MagdalenaFirst year student, dual citizenship, previous HS and Community school German classesChose German to keep up her competenceSomewhat demotivated seen it all before

On Her Language IdentityIn Germany, when we say we are Canadian, we tend to get more attention. . . just because were from Canada. . . In Canada, I feel like I am like any other person (Magdalena).

In describing her language identity, Magdalena makes a comparison between her identity in Germany and in Canada.14Sue4th year student, advanced German class, German- speaking grandparentsalways wanted to know GermanDesires fluency, but hesitant to speak in classProud of German heritage, unable to articulate why it is importantIdentifies with German traditions

On Her Language IdentityMy German identity comes out at Christmas time (Sue).

Sue refers to her language identity with reference to cultural artifacts.16Carolyn2nd year student, beginner German, German-speaking grandparentalways wanted to know German for a really long timeMore motivated than for other classeswasnt brought up in a classic German householdOn Studying GermanIt started making my life better. It became the course I would look forward to every day (Carolyn).

Carolyn expresses a deep satisfaction with the experience of finally studying German.18Alexander3rd year student, advanced German class, German-speaking grandparentInterested in languages, since family heritage is German, it would be a terrible thing to let goDevotion to German high, to assignments not very highDoes not consider himself an HLLOn not self-identifyingMy grandmother, shes German, but she never spoke it. Kind of odd. I would say a few sentences, but she would never respond in German and thats why [I answered no. I] never had German spoken to me in my family (Alexander).

Alexander relates why he answered no to the question where I asked students if they felt my study definition fit their situation.20BiancaRecently graduated, adv. German class, lived in Germany ages 8-10Spoke German fluently as a child, then forgot it, relearned cause it might be easy for meVery motivated, found it interestingDoes not consider herself an HLL

On Her Language IdentityI dont feel anything at all. I feel no connection. I already have to judge being Canadian with being Romanian. Really, there is no space for being German (Bianca)When asked about her second language identity, Bianca says: I would never venture to say I have anything German because the society is not very accepting of that. (turn to quote)22DiscussionLanguage expert - ExpertiseLanguage loyalty AffiliationInheritance

(Rampton, 1990)

I would like to discuss the case studies in light of Rampton (1990). Rampton displaces the term native speaker with a language expert or an L2 learner having language loyalty. Since HLLs, are neither native speakers, nor true beginners, this framework helps us to understand what factors into the language identity construction of these learners.23ExpertiseMy devotion to German is high. (Alexander)

I like German. I like the way it is structured. I enjoy the language, I have no negative points on it. (Bianca)Students see their facility or fluency with the language as contributing to their claim to a language identity. Even some non-HLLs in my study express a German language identity based on their linguistic competence. Alexander and Bianca, who were reluctant to call themselves HLsL, had positive feeling toward German, the language.24AffiliationMe being German, a German citizen, I am German. Thats how I always will be. (Magdalena)being just someone who passed through Germany, on the way to Canada. . . (Bianca)

Pause. Affiliation to a language and culture can be political, but it doesnt have to be officially recognized to be valid. Part of what connects Magdalena to German and Germany is her citizenship and part of what repels Bianca was the temporary nature of her familys stay in Germany.25InheritanceAll my friends know I am German. (Sue)My family heritage is German, so it is kind of nice to keep it up. (Kath)I was always really interested in that part of my heritage. (Carolyn)Pause. Inheritance is where we might expect to see the most claim from HLLs as it fits with our traditional definition. While this aspect of identity does not serve to predict how HLLs respond to the label, it sheds insight on the components by which HLLs may assess their sense of belonging to the this group. 26Cultural artifactsGerman Christmas traditionsa classic German householdCanada as a multicultural countryGermany as a country intolerant of non-GermansWhile we might be surprised at the generalizations made by the students, several of them made reference to German Christmas traditions as markers of a classic German household. Additionally, students make frequent mention of Canada as a multicultural country and Germany as an Auslaender intolerant country.27ImplicationsFor the classroomStudentInstructorFor researchFrom my study, we see that HLLs are potentially at an advantage in the German language classroom because of their more consistent motivation. However, from my interviews I see additional implications.

In the classroom, how does the rejection of this HLL identity affects the students work and motivation? Are there advantages to encouraging these students to recognize themselves as HLLs or would w