Heritage Language Learners in First-Year Foreign Language Courses: A Report of General Data Across Learner Subtypes



Abstract: This article reports on a survey of language study motivations for first-year language learners at two large private East Coast American universities. Surveys were completed by 401 students in courses for 19 different foreign languages. Forty percent of respondents were designated as heritage language learners (HLLs), and they were divided into two subclasses: narrowly defined HLLs, who indicated that the target language was regularly spoken in their home and who constituted 34% of all HLLs (55/162); and broadly defined HLLs, who indicated familial or heritage connections to the language without regular prior exposure to the target language and who constituted 66% (107/162) of all HLLs. This article reports students' prior exposure to the language, reasons for studying it, and goals and attitudes among these subclasses, and outlines avenues for further investigation.