Guidance boosts heritage language learning

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A Goldsmiths academic has helped design a set of recommendations to boost the study of heritage languages across the world.

A poem and painting by a student from Peace School, UK

Why not a peaceful world? – Sobhia Anfal Boularas, Peace School, UK

Dr Jim Anderson, from the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, is part of the team behind a global call for action released on UNECSO’s International Mother Language Day on 21 February 2024.  

The recommendations are for everyone – from students to mainstream schools to policy-makers – to help improve heritage language and culture education for multilingual children worldwide.  

Heritage languages are languages which are not official languages of the community or country where the speaker is currently residing, and are spoken by individuals and groups living in that community or country. 

Dr Anderson is a member of the Global Heritage Language thinktank which has released the recommendations and also belongs to the UK’s Home, Heritage, Community Languages Advisory Group.  

Writing in a blog for the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning which strongly supports the call to action, Dr Anderson said: “Let us remember that the UK is a multilingual country where an estimated 300 languages are spoken. In fact, over 20% of children come from homes where another language is spoken. 

Far from being divisive socially the heritage language learning undertaken in these community settings, provided largely by volunteers, enables young people to develop confidence in their bi/multilingual identities. It also means that as active citizens they can play an important mediating role in local and global communities.

Dr Jim Anderson, Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Educational Studies

He added: “There has been growing recognition of multilingualism in the U.K. and elsewhere in recent years and innovative approaches showing how this can be embedded in language education. 

“But there is so much more that can be done. Our team is looking forward to witnessing the impact of this Global Call to Action.”