Constructing multilingual selves. Subjective perspectives on learning and living with German as a "heritage" language in Canada
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Based on the perception that language students who have a family background in the target language differ from ‘typical’ foreign language learners in important ways, the phenomenon of what has been termed "heritage language learner" has attracted increasing interest over the past three decades. Traditionally, heritage learners have been characterized as falling in between foreign language learners and native speakers with respect to their proficiency in the ‘heritage’ language, and been further distinguished from foreign language learners with reference to identity needs in light of their family connection to the language. This dissertation argues that traditional conceptions of the phenomenon cast a monolingual, monocentric view on heritage learners, failing to capture important dimensions of what learning and living with a ‘heritage’ language means to multilingual people who navigate complex cultural and linguistic spaces in today’s world. Drawing on contemporary models of multilingualism and the self, it discusses and empirically demonstrates the extended perspective on heritage learners that comes to light when approaching the phenomenon through a theoretical lens of multilingual subjectivity. Applying a multimodal narrative inquiry approach, I investigate the perspectives and experiences of adults who grew up in (partly) German-speaking families in anglophone Canada. I examine how individual participants construct their sense of self as multilinguals in relation to narrated processes of learning German in institutional settings and beyond, showing how learning and living with German as a ‘heritage’ language figures into their development and perspective as multilingual language users. Data sources include individual interviews, written reflection, and participants’ creation of a drawing that reflects their sense of self in relation to language. Analyses comprise three in-depth studies and a cross-case analytic approach. Implications are derived at the levels of theory and pedagogical practice. I suggest the incorporation of biography-centred modules in heritage language education and call to seize the emergence of the phenomenon of heritage learner as an opportunity to rethink language education more in general.
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Katharina Schroeder (2018). Constructing multilingual selves. Subjective perspectives on learning and living with German as a "heritage" language in Canada. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14249