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Title:The role of schooling for heritage language learners: A case study of Turkish heritage speakers
Author(s):Evcen, Ozge
Director of Research:McCarthey, Sarah
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McCarthey, Sarah
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Montrul, Silvina; Thornstensson Davila, Liv; Bresler, Liora
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):heritage language
heritage language education
complementary language schools
emergent bilingual
community support
bicultural identity
Abstract:This qualitative case study with a descriptive statistical analysis of heritage language learners’ language skills explores how Turkish communities in the U.S. support their children’s heritage language maintenance with the help of Heritage Language school. The goal of this study is to analyze Heritage Language (HL) literacy learning and identity processes within a Heritage Language school. Understanding the community’s values, and ideologies are central to analyzing Heritage language learners’ development. Thus, the study considers: (1) teachers’ classroom practices, (2) students’ motivation or resilience, (3) parents’ role and identity, (4) heritage language community’s support and (5) HL learners’ verbal narrative language skills. Data was collected through interviews, conversations (face-to-face and virtual), videotaping students’ task, fieldnotes extracted from observations. This study illuminates how Turkish American heritage language learners keep their HL and what role parents, volunteer teachers, and the Turkish community play in learners who are 7 to 12 years old. This research is contributing to our understanding of language and culture and the challenges a unique group, Turkish immigrants, face while living in a host country where the dominant language is different than their heritage language. Findings suggest that even the limited time the parents share for their children’s heritage language literacy skills every Sunday has a meaningful and beneficial impact both on the language skills and identity construction despite the lack of appropriate resources and teachers with teaching certificate or experience to teach the heritage language. Conflicting views regarding the need for the continuous cultivation of language and identity are observed. The majority of the participants recognize the importance of nurturing language and culture but in ways that they primarily associate with certain institutionalized forms of teaching. Three out of four teachers believe that the existence of this school contribute to the students’ language identity and their attitude towards keeping their mothers’ or fathers’ language. The controversial idea coming from one teacher imply that students at this heritage school are too young to be expected to adapt to heritage language culture. Analysis of the open-ended interview questions which are related to identity demonstrate that students’ self-acknowledgement is based on how parents represent and interpret their own identities. Content-analysis of the open-ended interview questions with heritage language learners indicate that a large number of learners directly adhere to their heritage language through either their mothers or their fathers or through both their parents. The inconsistency between children and parents in terms of how they approach the heritage language lead children to adopt more bicultural identities because they are the product of bicultural families who live in a society where the American way of schooling and living is the culture. Statistical analysis of HL learners’ spoken data show that they are having troubles in their heritage language acquisition of inflectional morphology in Turkish. When the results are interpreted to analyze the speaking skills of heritage speakers, dominant home language of each family, frequency of visits to Turkey of heritage speakers, their age, and lastly the duration of heritage language schooling help uncover the underlying variables that influence students’ skills. The study finds that the value of the school is enormous since it is the only environment for students, who attend English-only public schools during the week days while living in an English-speaking city, to get exposed to their heritage language. Future research must include a longitudinal study over the children who attend a heritage language school until they complete high school. It would not only help Less Commonly Taught Language programs at universities or colleges by providing a background on the process but also help pre-service teachers who are in English only public schools with heritage language students.
Issue Date:2020-11-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Ozge Evcen
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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