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Maintenance Bilingual Education for Heritage Language Learners

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Introduction

According to the 2010 U.S. census the Latino community makes up 16% of the country’s population and grew 43% from 2000 (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011). Within this large community there is great diversity both culturally and linguistically (Schreffler, 2007), from newly arrived immigrants to individuals whose families have been established in the region for generations.

Most bilingual education programs are targeted towards English language learners (ELL) with the purpose of acquiring a second language (L2). In the recent 15 years there has been an increase in dual language immersion (DLI) programs which is also known as two-way immersion (TWI), with an aim to provide bilingual education to monolingual Spanish and English students.

Due to the U.S. massive Latino population a third group has developed which oscillates between the monolingual Spanish and English student. The bilingual student or heritage language learner has been integrated into many DLI especially in the southwest part of the country (Howard, 2002).

Second language acquisition has also become a significant factor in the country because multilingualism is linked to “economic interchange, national security, and community development” (p. 586) in the current globalized world (Cummins, 2005a). Many heritage language students are enrolled in English as Second Language (ESL) program or mainstream education without linguistic support. These students live parallel linguistic and cultural lives divided between home and school which may create stress or inner conflict (Reyes and Vallone, 2007). Ironically, many heritage language students willingly enroll in foreign language classes in middle school, high school, and or college in order to further develop...

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