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Keywords:

  • heritage language learner;
  • LCTL (less commonly taught language);
  • learner perspectives;
  • non-heritage language learner;
  • postsecondary foreign language instruction.

Abstract: This study investigates how learners of the less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) (i.e., Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Swahili, Yoruba) perceive their identities as heritage or non-heritage language learners. A survey of 530 college-level language learners reveals that heritage and non-heritage learner identities are constructed in relationship to others and are perceived to be multifaceted and fluid. The data empirically validate the complexity of learner characteristics involved in the identification process of heritage and non-heritage learners and suggest that these two categories may not be mutually exclusive. This article proposes a reconceptualized framework representing the various profiles of learners of the LCTLs including those learners who see themselves as having characteristics of both a heritage and non-heritage learner.