Heritage Language and Ethnic Identity: A Case Study of Korean-American College Students

Clara Lee Brown


The current study explores how heritage language proficiency affects the ethnic identity of four Korean-American college students who have maintained a high level of heritage language proficiency. Findings from in-depth interviews are consistent with previous studies which show close relationships between heritage languages and ethnic identity, yet the study reveals that a high level of heritage language proficiency is not necessarily associated with a heightened sense of ethnic identity for the selected students. Interview data suggest that participants’ perceived expectations from society in general contribute to identity conflicts. A path to maintaining heritage language should start from creating a safe environment, especially in schools where heritage language speakers are protected from negative stereotypes.


Korean-American; Heritage Language; Ethnic Identity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18251/ijme.v11i1.157

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