Im a Heritage Speaker of the Damascene Dialect of Arabic: Negotiating the Identity Label of Arabic Heritage Language Learner Academic Article uri icon


  • Utilizing an ecological perspective of heritage language learner (HLL) identity (Hornberger & Wang, 2008), this study investigates how an underexamined group within HLL studieslanguage learners with diverse ties to the Arabic languageperceive the label of HLL and how they position themselves and their classmates relative to this label during interviews and in an advanced Arabic language classroom. I draw on interview, observational, and videotaped classroom interaction data collected as part of a larger ethnographic study of this classroom community and show how a priori educational labels assigned to these students did not always match with their self-concepts and ignored the nuances of their relationship to the umbrella term Arabic. These labels also affected students classroom roles, self-esteem, and participation in the classroom. I examine the implications of educational classifications and assigned identities that are constructed by stakeholders such as researchers, teachers, or administrators, rather than negotiated by the language learners themselves, and critique Arabic HLL as an identity and educational classification. Finally, I offer some suggestions for how to engage language learners (HLLs if they choose to identify themselves as such) in critical discussions about their relationship with the language of study.

published proceedings

  • Heritage Language Journal

author list (cited authors)

  • Hillman, S.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Hillman, Sara

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM
  • December 2019