Teaching Persian to Both Heritage and Foreign Language Learners

Persian language classes at post-secondary settings possibly consist of both heritage and foreign language learners. The principal topic argued in this paper is how to have both groups of Persian language learners in a class while focusing on needs of both groups and facilitating language learning through student-centered instruction. A heritage learner is considered as the one who has acquired an ancestral language using it at home or perhaps in the community to a certain oral, and/or possibly written, level of proficiency (Kondo-Brown 2003). One of the major differences between the acquisition of a heritage language and that of a foreign language is that the former begins at home while the latter begins in classrooms (Sedighi 2010). Separating heritage language learners from foreign language learners in dual-track programs is possible when some languages have high enrollments (Kondo-Brown, 2003). However, Persian is a less commonly taught language; therefore, in most post-secondary settings, Persian heritage language learners and Persian foreign language learners are placed in the same classes, but they certainly enjoy different levels of language proficiency showing various strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Persian heritage speakers have acquired the language in families or communities, so they might be much better with colloquial register or be stronger with spoken language. Persian foreign language learners, on the other hand, have learned the language in classroom settings, so they might be better with formal register or be stronger with written language. In this paper, in addition to emphasizing on “differentiated Instruction,” altering method of teaching in order to have the best possible experience of learning (Tomlinson, 1999), and “linguistic instruction,” involving heritage students in the process of detection and grammar induction to identify the linguistic patterns (Megerdoomian 2010), it is suggested to use student-centered instruction (Auerbach 1996, 1992) considering needs and linguistic backgrounds of both heritage and foreign language learners of Persian. Learner-centered instruction is an approach of instruction when procedures and content of learning are selected from and about learners’ information; moreover, this term is used to describe learners’ active involvement in learning process (Nunan1999). Teacher’s role is suggested to involve both groups of Persian language learners in different activities and make them have collaboration so that each group’s strength can facilitate the other group’s learning process.