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Carreira Appointed Co-Director of National Heritage Language Center

Published: November 15, 2010

Maria Carreira, a professor of Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures at CSULB, was appointed recently as co-director of UCLA’s National Heritage Language Resource Center.

Carreira, who joined CSULB in 1991, will supervise a variety of Learning Resource Center (LRC) research projects at UCLA including the creation of a first-ever data base of heritage language programs nationwide and coordination with area community colleges to improve heritage language instruction. LRCs create language learning materials, offer professional development workshops and conduct research on foreign language learning.

“Each LRC has a different mission,” explained Carreira. “Some are dedicated to language instruction at the elementary school level. Others are dedicated to secondary instruction. The UCLA LRC is the only center dedicated to the study of heritage languages. Unless a concerted effort is made to preserve these languages, they can be lost. The NHLRC works to preserve and promote this country’s immigrant and native languages by sponsoring research and professional training projects.”

More than 55 million people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Individuals exposed to a language spoken at home but educated primarily in English are heritage speakers of the home language, Carreira explained. The center’s mission is to develop effective pedagogical approaches to teaching heritage language learners, first by creating a research base and then by pursuing curriculum design, materials development and teacher education. UCLA’s LRC is one of 15 such centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is a joint project of the UCLA Center for World Languages and the University of California Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching.

“Heritage speakers, usually first-generation citizens of the U.S., have a good foundation for their languages,” said Carreira. “It is possible to make them highly competent in short periods of time. It is the mission of the LRC to teach these languages.”

RGRLL's Carreira Appointed Co-Director of National Heritage Language Resource Center
Maria Carreira

A big responsibility for the LRC’s new co-director is to organize week-long summer workshops for heritage language instructors and administrators to better respond to student needs. “It is up to the LRC to tell faculty, staff and students what resources exist and to organize exchanges between different parts of the country,” she said. “What if great research is being done on the West Coast but nobody knows about it on the East Coast? I’ve hosted these workshops for two years and the center recently won another grant to support more. I’m really excited about it.”

Carreira received her doctorate in linguistics from the University of Illinois with a specialization in phonology in 1990. She is a member of the Spanish SAT committee which is responsible for writing and revising the Spanish SAT. One of her main tasks in this committee is to make sure that the test attends to heritage language learners.

Carreira expects to continue her commitment to heritage languages. “If anything, my commitment is growing,” she said. “When I began my career, I focused strictly on Spanish. Then I saw there was a growing need for heritage instruction in other languages such as Mandarin. These are languages with large numbers of native speakers. I’m glad I can apply what I have learned about teaching Spanish to teaching speakers of other heritage languages.”

–Richard Manly