Russian Heritage Language Learners

From Students’ Profiles to Project-Based Curriculum

Authored by: Olga Kagan

Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States

Print publication date:  January  2014
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415520669
eBook ISBN: 9780203122419
Adobe ISBN: 9781136332494


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This chapter describes heritage speakers of Russian in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century. However, no discussion of heritage speakers is possible without at least a brief reference to the history of immigration and a description of the immigrant community’s attitudes toward language preservation. Similarly, no discussion of heritage language learners (HLLs) is possible without putting forward recommendations for curriculum and methodological approaches. I, therefore, begin this chapter with a brief introduction to Russians in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century, addressing both who they are and where they come from. The second and third sections give a linguistic profile of Russian heritage language learners, including their language competencies, self-defined identities, and perceived needs for learning and instruction. The final two sections describe a project-based curriculum as a suitable approach to teaching heritage language learners. The first two sections of this chapter were published in the Russian Language Journal (Kagan, 2010) and are reprinted here (with minor changes) with the journal’s permission.

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