Is it never too late to learn your heritage language?
June 13, 2022
So much of the information available on our HLE Network site has to do with young learners of heritage languages. There are, however, many adults out there who are interested in trying to learn their heritage language.
For example, an adult heritage language learner might already understand the language well, but perhaps they never learned how to read or write in the language, or perhaps they can only talk about limited topics. These individuals can face some special challenges when trying to learn their heritage language. They do not have to start from scratch, but there are lots of expectations by others.
Have you ever tried to learn another language? If so, you know how tough it can be. Now imagine trying to learn another language everyone already expects you to know.
This issue is discussed during an interview with Prof. Maria Carriera on a well-known U.S. news radio show, NPR's All things Considered. She talks about how a "native" speaker is different than a "heritage" speaker of a language. What kind of pressure is there on heritage speakers to speak their heritage language perfectly, and what kind of negative reactions do they get when they do not speak perfectly?
Prof. Carriera assures us that it is never too late to learn your heritage language. Be positive about what skills you already have. Language learning takes time, so it is important to be patient and to have clear goals about what you want to use your heritage language for.