Heritage Learners’ Portuguese. An exploration of Language Attitudes in the Portuguese-Speaking Diaspora of Southeastern New England
Graça Índias Cordeiro
New England is a crossroads of peoples from the Portuguese-speaking world. Given these demographics, there exist forms of Portuguese-language education. Over time, generations of these speakers have led to their descendants using Portuguese in ways which differ from the use in their region of origin. Heritage learners distinctively use, perceive, understand, and conceptualize themselves and this form of language differently from other learners in addition to how they acquire language. These uses are complexly intertwined with notions of family, community, identity, and variety, and range greatly in their forms, particularly mixed in their proximity to English, and thedivide with standard forms of Portuguese. Official data however tends to gloss over these learners, as well as a Portuguese which exists legitimately in only two varieties. In such a space for instruction in the language learning classroom I suspect that these monolithic notions of linguistic legitimacy and hegemony of certain varieties devalue not only what the students already know, but as a consequence their language, families, communities, cultures, and consequentially their identities. This study serves as an impressionist panorama of Portuguese language classrooms of different levels and varieties in various counties of Massachusetts and Rhode Island through interviews with students, educators, and coordinators. The study also includes an analysis of instruction materials, investigating how the notion of heritage learners is simplified, devalued, and erased in the classroom. Instructor beliefs are also probed as well as how heritage learners face notions of variations and legitimacy surrounding language ideology.