“Why Won't You Speak to Me in Gaelic?” Authenticity, Integration, and the Heritage Language Learning Project
The last speakers of an endangered language often include many individuals who have acquired less than full productive proficiency in the language, language users Nancy Dorian (1977) called semi-speakers. When these individuals enter formal education and seek to learn or relearn their endangered heritage language, they are often frustrated by challenges to their authenticity as legitimate language users and by difficulties in effecting integration into local language networks. This study investigates the unique language-learning task faced by heritage learners of an endangered language, Scottish Gaelic, and shows how this task differs significantly from the task of learning and using a foreign language. I will argue that the results of this study have important implications for pedagogical practice and curriculum development for the teaching of endangered languages, particularly where language learning is understood, at least in part, as a strategy for language revitalization.
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