Persian Community- or Heritage Language Learning in International Context: Collaboration for Improvement

This panel will explore the status of Persian as a Community Language (CL) or Heritage Language (HL) in Australia and the USA. First, the panel will briefly inform Persian language learning in those different countries which comprise burgeoning Persian diaspora. Then the papers will examine, in relative depth and detail, three themes: learners’ perspective and language achievement, teacher professional development and curriculum development. Persian language programs need to address these issues as they accommodate heritage speakers in their classrooms. This panel aims to not only accost these issues but also to promote collaboration of scholars from different countries in order to improve Persian community or heritage language learning among its learners in different contexts.

Personal Information (Panel Organizer)

Mojgan Mokhatebi Ardakani
Macquarie University, Sydney

Chair

Azita Taleghani
University of Toronto

Discussant

Jaleh Pirnazar
University of California, Berkeley

Presentations

by Mojgan Mokhatebi Ardakani / Macquarie University, Sydney

This paper will report the status of Persian language learning in four Persian community language schools in Sydney, Australia.This ongoing research, emanated as a pilot study in 2009 and continued as a PhD research from the beginning of 2011 onwards, aims to ireport challenges and issues informed by school principals, teachers, Persian heritage language learners and their parents. Ad hoc curriculum, lack of parental involvement, high rate of learners’ attrition, learners’ language proficiency diversity and paucity of professional teachers were among issues evolved from the pilot study. However, the ongoing PhD research is focusing on learners’ motivation and identity as cornerstones which impact the language learning and achievement among Persian heritage language learners attending one of the four schools in Sydney.

by Shahnaz Ahmadeian / San Diego State University

Teachers are often faced with the challenges of instructing students especially second language learners, heritage or non-heritage, at various levels of academic progress. With the growing awareness of the importance of teaching and learning a second language, the need to improve professional qualities in teachers has been identified. In order to maintain academic standards teachers must be armed with the knowledge of how to instruct students with different capacities for learning, they need to maintain academic requirements necessary to comply with state and national standards. Having qualified teachers will results in more successful performance and allows heritage schools to uphold their academic integrity.
Despite the overwhelming interest and real needs of effective policies for second language, little effort has been made to maintain and develop linguistic diversity at the governmental level. The absence of any consciously planned, unified, and national policy for less commonly taught languages like Persian language has hindered the development and maintenance of heritage languages. Based on my own personal experience working at Persian school, unqualified, unprepared, and untrained teachers are the most serious problem that is preventing heritage schools to obtain the realistic learning outcomes.
The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of teacher education on Persian language teaching and learning by reviewing literature existing in the fields related to teacher training and professional development. In addition, I reviewed studies that have outlined the effects of teacher preparation and development. Any teacher training or professional developments can offer teachers an insight to best practices in teaching. It will help them to better equip themselves with technology needed for 21st century classrooms.
In order to get better results I will use three different methods. I evaluate literature, will interview and conduct surveys targeting different demographics such as parents of heritage students, teachers, and principals of heritage schools. I will also interview four teachers who have had some professional training; this focus group will help evaluate the impact of teacher education and training in students’ learning.
Key words: heritage language, language learning, teacher training, professional development,

by Naghmeh Babaee / University of Manitoba

Research suggests that immigrants’ heritage languages need to be maintained to facilitate ethnic identity construction (Babaee, 2010), educational achievement (Cummins, 2001) and familial relationships (Wong Fillmore, 1991) for immigrant children. Heritage language maintenance (HLM) refers to the ability to use one’s ancestral language in a bilingual or multilingual context (Richards, Platt & Platt, 1992). Previous studies on heritage language maintenance in Iranian Diaspora communities tend to focus on the degree to which Farsi has been maintained (Modarresi, 2001; Najafi, 2009; Namei, 2012; Sohrabi, 1997) without investigating potential challenges Iranian immigrants might face in maintaining or transmitting Farsi. Moreover, such studies lack educational implications to facilitate maintaining Farsi for Iranian children. To bridge these gaps, this study attempts to examine a HL program at a Farsi community school in a major city in Canada. Data, drawn from a larger, ongoing critical case study on HLM in an Iranian community in Canada, include semester-long classroom observations, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with five students, five parents and five HL teachers, and reflective notes on the interviews and observations. Educational challenges faced by the students, parents and teachers include community school’s time (Saturdays), teacher-centered classes, a traditional teaching style, de-contextualized literacy materials and conflicting ideologies transmitted through textbooks. Conclusion follows and recommendations for HL teachers and materials developers to improve HL programs are offered in the end.