Is Instagram the New Duolingo? Investigating How Social Media Usage Affects Heritage Language Competence

Sarah Bassiry (Sky), Anna Harutyunyan, Akina Nishi, Jasmine Shao

Diaspora communities and heritage language speakers are a very unique population when it comes to language and bilingualism. Heritage speakers vary greatly in their language skills, language background, and environment. As heritage speakers are generally exposed to their heritage language only at home or in other limited contexts such as a cultural community group, this study investigated to see if social media may also be a context of heritage language exposure for some heritage speakers. If so, this study investigates the role social media might play in language competence. Four Eastern Armenian and four Mandarin heritage speakers attending UCLA and one native speaker in each language, were participants in this study. The participants were given a language background survey, a grammaticality judgment test, and an elicitation task judged by a dominant native speaker using a Likert scale. Initially, we expected to see a positive correlation between social media usage in the heritage language and the participants’ heritage language skills. However, the results did not provide sufficient evidence to support this hypothesis. Thus, further testing with a larger sample size is recommended to further investigate whether or not there might be a correlation.

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