Instructed Heritage Language Acquisition

Melissa A Bowles, Julio Torres

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter begins by highlighting the findings of recent narrative reviews on outcomes of instructed heritage language acquisition. Further, it describes the advantages of quantitative meta-analysis, which has proven to be an effective research synthesis method to identify patterns in study findings and to determine under-investigated variables. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to a description of an exploratory quantitative meta-analysis of the research on instructed heritage language acquisition to date. The grand weighted effect size for the over-arching question, “What impact does heritage language instruction have on heritage language ability?” was d =.57, indicating that heritage language instruction has a moderate, positive effect on heritage language development. The need for more detailed reporting, echoing similar calls in second language acquisition, is emphasized; attention to variables identified by the meta-analysis as under-studied are drawn; and a call is made to conduct longitudinal studies in order to trace the impact of instruction beyond the short term. The conclusion stresses recommendations for multi-site research and replication, a strategy that will help to move the field forward, especially in heritage languages with smaller populations of speakers or speaker populations that are geographically dispersed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Heritage Languages and Linguistics
EditorsSilvina Montrul, Maria Polinsky
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108766340
ISBN (Print)9781108487269
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Publication series

NameCambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics


  • heritage language instruction
  • outcome measures
  • type of instruction
  • learner characteristics
  • replication
  • multi-site research
  • meta-analysis
  • effect size


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