The CruCES Project: A Consideration of Service Learning and Intercultural Sensitivity Among Heritage Learners
ResumenThough intercultural competence (ICC), community service learning (CSL), languages for specific purposes (LSP), and heritage learners (HLs) have respectively received increasing attention by language scholars within the previous twenty years, much remains to be done in the way of research concerning the relationship between them. The term HLs is used by academics in the United States in reference to students with previous knowledge of the target language and culture as a result of their cultural heritage and upbringing. This article considers the relevance of CSL to HL intercultural competence through a discussion of a 2015 community service learning project and study titled Creating Communities, Engaged Scholarship (CruCES). The project involved students and faculty from the University of Memphis, local non-profit organizations, and community members from the linguistically and ethnically diverse neighborhood of West Binghampton in Memphis, Tennessee (USA). CruCES sought to build capacity and foster community through the development of sustainable micro-economy projects centered on the arts. During the project, students also participated in a study on ISD. This paper considers the implications of the study’s findings for HLs specifically. In total, eight of the fifteen participating students self-identified as HLs. The CruCES project outcomes and study data for participating HLs are most telling with regards to their unique subjective positioning and language learning. Specifically, the study found that participating HLs demonstrated a higher degree of cultural sensitivity at the outset of the project and experienced an increase in self confidence and self-esteem related to the purposeful application of their language skills. A transformational experience for many of the HLs, the CruCES study findings hold significant implications for the development and integration of CSL in LSP courses and HL education.
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