About us

The Heritage Language Consortium, is a strategic partnership between Lancaster University, the University of Lisbon, the University of Minho, NOVA University Lisbon, the University of Porto, Tübingen University, and Camões: Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The objective of the Consortium is to promote research on language learning in a variety of settings (from naturalistic development to classroom-based instruction) and across different age groups (children, adolescents and adults). The focus of our research will be on the acquisition of Portuguese in multilingual settings, though the insights gained from Consortium projects will be applicable to other languages.

Our research will help us understand how children and adults learn new languages and identify those factors that make some of us particularly good language learners. We can then use these insights to improve language education.

Consortium projects involve leading researchers from a range of disciplines (theoretical linguistics, education, computational linguistics, cognitive psychology, language pedagogy, corpus linguistics, second language research) and a range of methodological approaches. Please visit the People page to learn more about the Steering Committee, the Scientific Advisory Board, and the Consortium Members.

In addition, the Consortium also participates in impact and outreach activities to engage with parents, teachers and policy makers. An early example of such an outreach initiative can be found here.

Our Events page and our News feed serve as a repository for Consortium activities.

Departments involved (in alphabetical order):

Why Portuguese as a heritage language?

Since the 1960s, millions of Portuguese citizens have left their country to seek better living conditions elsewhere. Currently, over 2,3M Portuguese – roughly a quarter of Portugal’s citizens – live abroad. The Portuguese State has recognized early on that the children of these migrants should have access to Portuguese language and culture, and thus established an extensive network of heritage language education that is unique in the world. The network is maintained by the Camões Institute, a branch of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qualified teachers are sent from Portugal in order to offer language classes based on the same frame of reference (based on the Common European Framework of Reference). The network currently covers over 70,000 students (children and adolescents) in 85 countries. Each country has a dedicated person to coordinate the network nationally. Typically, these coordinators are based at the Portuguese embassies.

The existence of a world-wide Portuguese heritage language network, in which instruction is coordinated centrally and in which thousands students are taught in accordance with the same framework, provides us with a unique opportunity in the domain of heritage language research.

For further information on the Consortium, please email heritage-language@lancaster.ac.uk.