Language Proficiency and Cultural Identity of Korean Heritage Speakers

Griffin Gamble, Erin Kwak, Joanna Kwasek, and Hannah Shin

A heritage language is defined as a minority language spoken at home that is not part of a dominant language in society. This study looked specifically into Korean heritage speakers living in the United States and investigated whether language proficiency in Korean will align with the degree of Korean cultural identity. In order to study this relationship, we utilized two separate data collection methods: an elicitation task to assess language proficiency and a self-reported questionnaire to record cultural identity. As expected, we found that the more grammatical errors the participants made, the less they identified with their Korean culture. This finding suggests a positive relationship between Korean language proficiency and Korean self-identity, which contradicts previous findings that higher proficiency in a heritage language predicts a more balanced bicultural identity that is not dominated by one culture.

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