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Language acquisition research often conceives of language learners in terms of linguistic proficiency and perhaps assigns them a position on a continuum with the native speaker at one end and the foreign language learner on the other. The heritage language learner falls somewhere between these two extremes and often shares a deep affiliation with the language that can be ethnically, historically, culturally or religiously driven or they may share a multifaceted affiliation with the language. Arabic heritage language learners typically include Arabs of any religious or non-religious affiliation and non-Arab Muslims. Research has considered various matters associated with Arabic heritage language learners that range from differences in their motivations to language maintenance within communities. However, research on Arabic has not really considered the implications of the term heritage itself. This paper will critically examine the term heritage language learner and argue that it is problematic due to the inherent implications of the word “heritage” which can contribute to the perpetuation of linguistic hegemony and result in language loss. Consequently, the paper recommends the use of alternative terms.
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