The Critical Intersection of Heritage Language Learning and eTandem Learning Environments

Alexis Vollmer Rivera, Kaitlyn Teske

Abstract


At first glance, the growing popularity of eTandem mobile applications for language learning purposes seems to facilitate the connection and collaboration of speakers from all different locations and walks of life. However, when looking more deeply at the design of these applications, an exclusive dichotomy is revealed that prescribes use only by Native Speakers (NS) and Second Language Learners (L2), leaving no consideration for the needs of Heritage Language Learners (HLL). This perpetuation of the hierarchical ranking of language learners and speakers mirrors these same power structures that are present in society (Valdés, González, López García, & Márquez, 2003). In order to explore the apparent lack of space for HLL, this study critically analyzes two eTandem mobile applications, HelloTalk and Tandem. By means of Content Analysis (Krippendorff, 1989) of the applications’ affordances informed by a Critical Applied Linguistics framework (Pennycook, 2001), the study finds that there are various features that might offer HLL a space within this environment and foster their affective and educational needs. However, these features are not a primary focus of the application design and the way in which these features could be used to support HLLs’ development is totally dependent on the individual experiences of each user. Utilizing these findings, the investigators offer a set of suggestions for future research in order to advocate for social change manifested by the inclusion of HLL in language learning technologies. In addition, they discuss pedagogical implications for the current state of affairs in order to prepare HLL for interaction with these virtual power structures.


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