British Academy project: Heritage Languages go to School

British Academy logo.

Lancaster University is leading an international project that seeks to better understand the factors behind successful bilingualism in childhood, funded by the British Academy.

The project focuses on heritage language bilinguals, i.e. on young children growing up in a home in which they speak a minority language that is different from the majority language dominant in larger society.

The project will be conducted by a team of internationally-leading researchers in linguistics and psychology from Lancaster University, the University of Minho, the University of Lisbon, and NOVA University Lisbon, and in close collaboration with two important non-academic stakeholders, the Anglo-Portuguese School of London, a free primary school that offers English-Portuguese bilingual education, and Portugal’s Camões Institute, one of Europe's leading institutions promoting heritage language education.

Professor Patrick Rebuschat (Linguistics), Principal Investigator on the grant, said: “This British Academy project will lay the essential foundation for a significantly larger and more ambitious project that will investigate the factors underpinning successful linguistic development in children and adolescents growing up multilingually across Europe."

Professor Cristina Flores (Minho), one of the Co-Investigators, added: “The linguistic development of heritage speakers has been widely studied over the past two decades as these children encounter conditions that are particularly beneficial for the development of native proficiency in two languages. The study of heritage language speakers thus promises to be the key to understanding successful bilingual development.”

The project team further includes Professor Padraic Monaghan (Psychology), Professor Cristina Flores (Minho), Professor Ana Lúcia Santos (Lisbon), Professor Maria Lobo (NOVA).

The project is a joint initiative of the Heritage Language 2 Consortium (HL2C), a strategic international partnership for the study of bilingualism and second language research.

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