Angela Lee-Smith Attends 2011 Heritage Language Research Institute

I participated in the Fifth Heritage Language Research Institute, directed by Professor Maria Polinsky (Harvard), from June 26 to July 1, 2011 at the University of California, Los Angeles. The theme was “(Re)Learning the Heritage Language: Integrating Linguistics and Pedagogy,” and the institute focused on current linguistic research and the implications for heritage language instruction.

As one of its Asian Languages Panels, I also presented.  The title of my talk was “Issues in Teacher Training for Korean Heritage Learners: You Are Not Teaching Ugly Ducklings!”. A brief summary of my talk is as follows:

Teacher training for Korean language has mainly focused on teaching Korean as a foreign language. However, we must train Korean teachers for students from various backgrounds. In particular, one of the mainstreams of Korean learners is heritage learners, especially in the U.S., and therefore it is absolutely necessary to build pedagogic variations of Korean language education as a heritage language and incorporate them into teacher training curricula. Teachers should be able to identify and address heritage Korean learners’ linguistic profiles and needs because they are clearly distinguished from those of foreign learners. We should train teachers to meet those critical challenges in curriculum design and the development of teaching-learning materials for Korean heritage learners, and to accommodate their special needs, weaknesses, and strengths.     

I suggested practical pedagogic solutions that are suitable learning aids to accommodate individual heritage learner’s needs:

  • Grammar translation
  • Dictation
  • Decoding practice
  • Explicit correction
  • Accuracy-focused  (vs. Fluency)
  • Literacy-emphasized
  • Interlanguage Defossilization
  • Objective testing (Grammar)
  • O-H-E (observe, hypothesize, experiment) paradigm (vs. Present-Practice-Product)
  • Lexical Approach
  • Explicit corrective feedback, form-focused instruction
  • Students-initiated self /peer correction
  • Raising noticing and awareness
  • Backward curriculum design
  • Expanding vocabulary
  • More explicit vocabulary teaching: Lexical-Grammar
  • Various registers
  • Portfolio (both writing and speaking)
  • Storytelling (Narrative skills)
  • Increasing inputs to develop receptive skills

It is also very important to shift heritage language teachers’ attitudes and mindsets: we should raise our teachers’ understanding and awareness about heritage language learners and instruction.

Throughout the four-day institute, I learned a lot from the presenters and from discussions with colleagues. However, it would have been more beneficial to the heritage language instructors including myself if there had been more presentations and panels on heritage language pedagogy. In future institutes, I hope the linguistic research and pedagogical implication/application parts will be more balanced. I came home highly encouraged and motivated as a language instructor to do more active work on classroom-based pedagogical research.

2011 Institute abstracts and readings are available at

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