Complementary reversing language shift strategies in education: the importance of adult heritage learners of threatened minority languages

Cassie Smith Christmas, Timothy Currie Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Heritage learners of minority languages can play a lynchpin role in reversing language shift (RLS) in their families; however, in order to enact this role, they must first overcome certain barriers to re-integrate the minority language into the home domain. Using a combination of conversation and narrative analysis methods, we demonstrate how both enacting this lynchpin role, as well as the specific barriers to its enactment, unfolds at the micro-level for heritage learners of Scottish Gaelic. We then turn to Gaelic language planning at the macro- and meso-levels, and argue that Gaelic language education policy does not explicitly recognise this potential lynchpin role, nor does policy or pedagogy specifically address the particular interactional challenges that heritage learners face. We argue that in order to best maximise Gaelic education as means to RLS, the education of adult heritage learners needs to be seen as a complementary strategy to childhood education, not as a secondary (and often lower priority) tactic to ensuring the vitality of the language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-326
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number3
Early online date21 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014



  • dult language learning
  • eritage learners
  • Gaelic
  • tergenerational transmission
  • reversing language shift

Cite this