Follow-up project: Language awareness and multilingualism - Developing a resource-oriented didactics for heritage and foreign language education with the example of Russian and Polish heritage speakers


The joint research project aims to develop didactic approaches for heritage language teaching based on the findings of the previous research project regarding the language proficiencies and learning needs of Russian- and Polish-speaking adolescents. Our main focus lies on the ways in which these adolescents may capitalise on their existing language resources and metalinguistic competences (language awareness and language learning strategies) in acquiring additional languages.

What is investigated?

We continue the longitudinal analysis of heritage language proficiencies among adolescents in the first study, with additional questions for investigation:
1. How does knowledge of other languages (German, foreign languages learned at school) impact the process of heritage language maintenance?
2. Does the acquisition of additional languages contribute to the language awareness of these adolescents?
3. Do the heritage language speakers generally display a higher degree of language awareness when compared with foreign language learners coming
from a monolingual background?

These topics are combined with observations on the effects of foreign- and heritage-language education programmes which focus on differentiation and methods to foster language awareness. Teaching units which internally differentiate between different types of learners will be prepared, introduced and discussed in close cooperation with teachers of Russian and Polish. Furthermore, specific instruments are being developed to determine metalinguistic awareness regarding the heritage language as well as general aspects of language awareness among multilingual adolescents. Results will be compared with those of monolingual adolescents.

Expected outcomes

From a linguistic perspective, the project will contribute to a better understanding of factors responsible for maintaining heritage languages in the long term. The goal of this action research, conducted together with teachers, is to develop recommendations regarding the inclusion of learners’ linguistic and
cognitive resources in heritage language education. We focus on the effects of internally differentiating measures within heterogeneous learner groups.

Implications for educational practice

We will develop guidelines for teachers, along with corresponding teacher trainings, on how to use heritage language knowledge for language education in the classroom. The findings should be of great interest and practical use to teachers as we will document best practices from the interventions along with guided simulations of similar scenarios during the teacher trainings.