• Heritage language refers to the language used in the home of the student. It is generally seen as a language other than English, in the New Zealand context, but dialect, varieties and different registers of English also fall into this category.
  • There is growing recognition of the value in maintaining the heritage language in that it has an additive effect on a student's learning and not a subtractive one as can be seen in Baker's (2006) summary of the advantages below:

Summary of advantages in having Language Heritage Programs(Baker, 2006 ,p.273)

  • Maintaining the heritage language generates pride in their identity as well as fostering connections with home and community
  • There is no loss of curriculum performance and in fact learners often perform better than other mainstream counterparts (Fig. 1. Thomas & Collier, 1997; Baker, 2006).
  • The English language performance of students who also undertake part of their education using their heritage language, is comparable to those in the mainstream because they have a positive identity and their language and intellectual skills are better promoted by the learner being educated in the home language (Cummins, 2001).




  • Acknowledgement of the importance of the heritage language is important for the development of two key competencies in particular in the New Zealand curriculum, relating to others and participating and contributing (Ministry of Education, 2007), because of the implications for not only the student themselves but also their family and community.
  • Even if there is not the opportunity for the students to learn in their heritage language in an immersion or bilingual language programme, there is still much to be gained from being allowed to develop their heritage language alongside the second language wherever possible such as in the home and with other language learners at school.

Baker, C. (2006). Cognitive theories of bilingualism and the curriculum. In Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (p. 166 - 186)
4th edition). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2001). Empowering Minority Students: A Framework for Intervention. In C. Baker, & N. Hornberger, An introductory reader to the
writings of Jim Cummins. (p 175-194) Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.

Thomas, W. P. & Collier, V. P. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. NCBE Resource Collection Series, No. 9.
Retrieved 10:09:11 from http://eric.ed.gov.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/PDFS/ED436087.pdf