Image for NHLRC Multimedia pic

About Us

One in five people in the U.S. use a language other than English at home. These languages, known as heritage languages, are the focus of the National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC), a U.S. Title VI federally funded Language Resource Center. At the heart of our mission is celebrating the importance of heritage languages as well as their development and inter-generational transmission.

Too often, speakers of heritage languages feel insecure or even ashamed of their heritage language. These deficit feelings, combined with societal pressures to use the dominant language, can contribute to speakers abandoning their home language.

In contrast, the NHLRC recognizes that there are often differences between heritage and other speakers of the same language, but the center assesses these differences in positive terms and views them as the basis for further development.

This development can take many forms, among them the acquisition of literacy skills in the heritage language and the incorporation of the structure and vocabulary of formal registers of the language.

At NHLRC we believe that:

  • Heritage language speakers are bilinguals – often with two native languages – but native bilinguals are not two monolinguals in one. Mastery and use of their languages is different from that of monolinguals.
  • Heritage language use does not interfere with learning the dominant societal language. In fact, bilingualism has been shown to have lifelong cognitive, social, emotional, and academic benefits.
  • The unique ways heritage speakers innovate with their home language (including what is sometimes called code switching or mixing) are indicative of their sophisticated knowledge of both language systems – not a sign of lack of knowledge.
  • The linguistic and cultural knowledge of bilinguals should be valued, celebrated, and recognized as a national, social, and economic resource.

Our central mission is to promote heritage languages – to encourage their use and transmission from one generation to the next. We do this in three ways:

  1. Through outreach to families and communities – because heritage bilingualism starts at home.
  2. By conducting research into the linguistic profiles and pedagogical needs of heritage language speakers.
  3. By translating this new knowledge into practical professional development for language teachers so that they are best equipped to support heritage languages in the classroom.


Maria Polinsky

Co-Director of Research (Professor, University of Maryland)


Melissa Bowles

Co-Director of Pedagogy (Professor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)



Arturo Díaz

Assistant Director


Claire Hitchins Chik

Associate Director


Heritage Language Journal

Rajiv Rao

Editor-in-chief, Heritage Language Journal


Web Team

Kaya Mentesoglu

IT Manager and Senior Developer


Oliver Chien

Multimedia Coordinator


Advisory Board on Pedagogy

Editor-in-Chief, Heritage Language Journal (ex officio)

Fatih Bayram, The Arctic University of Norway

Richard Brecht, University of Maryland

Irina Y. Dubinina, Brandeis University

Patricia Duff, University of British Columbia

Shoichi Iwasaki, University of California, Los Angeles

Shushan Karapetian, University of Southern California

Hi-Sun Kim, Harvard University

Kim Potowski, University of Illinois Chicago

Alegría Ribadeneira, Colorado State University Pueblo

Julio Torres, University of California, Irvine

Advisory Board on Research

Editor-in-Chief, Heritage Language Journal (ex officio)

Abbas Benmamoun, Duke University

Joseph Lo Bianco, The University of Melbourne

Cristina Flores, Universidade do Minho

Agnes He, Stony Brook University

Jürgen M. Meisel, Universität Hamburg

Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Ricardo Otheguy, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Irina A. Sekerina, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Harold Torrence, University of California, Los Angeles

Li Wei, University College London

Marit Westergaard, The Arctic University of Norway

Affiliates by Region

Eastern Region

Sybil Alexandrov, Yale University

Irina Dubinina, Brandeis University

Agnes Weigum He, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Gabriela Ilieva, New York University

Marie-Michelle Monereau, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Sara Shin, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Alla Smyslova, Columbia University

Western Region

Masako Douglas, California State University, Long Beach

Linda Godson, Portland State University

Kimi Kondo-Brown, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Alejandro Lee, Santa Monica College

Jin Sook Lee, University of California, Santa Barbara

Namhee Lee, California State University, Los Angeles

Ekaterina Moore, University of Southern California

Alegría Ribadeneira, Colorado State University, Pueblo

Southern Region

Sara Beaudrie, University of Arizona

Victoria Hasko, University of Georgia, Athens

Tanya Ivanova-Sullivan, University of New Mexico

Diego Pascual y Cabo, University of Florida

Midwest Region

Melissa Bowles, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Kim Potowski, The University of Illinois at Chicago

Laura Walls, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Wayne Wright, Purdue University