Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Caroline Vickers


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the entwined roles of schooling, family support and investment, and community contact in Heritage Language Learning (HLL), Heritage Language Maintenance (HLM) and identity formation among two groups of North American Latvians. One is made up of 49 teenagers at Gaŗezers language camp in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The other comprises 25 parents, other adult Latvian speakers and camp staff members. I explore differences and similarities among them by age, gender and self-stated national identity and language proficiency. Primary data consist of some 70 questionnaires completed by youths and adults and six 30- to 90-minute interviews conducted and transcribed by me. Six more were conducted via e-mail. Based on aggregate analysis of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, supplemented by participants’ individual responses to longer-form survey questions and to my questions during interviews, findings demonstrate a connection between self-stated national identity (Latvian, Latvian-American or Latvian-Canadian, or American or Latvian) and self-assessment of Latvian language proficiency among the youths. Among the adults, men were more likely to identify simply as Latvian than were women, and adults of both genders who identified as Latvian averaged slightly lower in self-assessment of proficiency, even though most of them grew up speaking Latvian at home. Additionally, my research shows a community proud of its HLM accomplishments alongside those of displaced peoples from other nations—a community now at home in North America, although 60 years ago members were determined to return to Latvia.

Keywords: L2, Latvian heritage language revitalization, third space, lingua franca, language immersion, heritage language maintenance.

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