2020 Heritage Language Education Conference

2020 Heritage Language Education Conference

20th-21st November 2020, online

On November 20 and 21, Mother Tongues in Dublin, Ireland, and Móðurmál – the Association on Bilingualism in Reykjavík, Iceland, co-organized an annual conference for their mother tongue/heritage language teachers. Both organizations connect small and big heritage language schools, offer heritage language teachers professional training and assistance, organize events that promote heritage languages and plurilingualism and advocate positive views towards diverse languages. Representatives of these two organizations first met in 2017, continued to exchange expertise, and followed with each other´s activities, until this year when they decided to join forces to organize an annual conference together. This conference was the third annual conference of Mother Tongues and the eighths of Móðurmál.

This year has been coloured by Covid and by online teaching which both had negative and positive impact on the work of our organizations. The positive outcome is the increased familiarity with online environments which allowed us to think further and bigger about our events. This year´s “2020 Heritage Language Education Conference” took place entirely online, on Zoom, and it had speakers and participants from Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Italy and Greece. A total of more than 70 participants took part in both days of the conference. The program was as follows:


Conference Programme

Friday, 20th November 2020

7 -7.30 PM Opening and Introductions


8.55 -9 PM Summary

Saturday, 21st November 2020

4 -5 PM School Presentations

Complementary programme: More presentations of heritage language schools also available on the Móðurmál website.

5.00 - 5.20 PM Break-Out rooms. Networking & coffee time

5.20 - 6.20 PM Panel discussion with guest speakers

6.20 - 6.30 PM Conference Closing

The conference was started by the founder and director of Mother Tongues Francesca LaMorgia and by the president of Móðurmál Maria Sastre. The keynote speakers, as well as discussants, are introduced here. On Friday evening, Dr Małgosia Machowska-Kościak introduced her new publication “The Multilingual Adolescent Experience: Young Poles growing up in an English-speaking school – Small stories of integration”. Dr Siobhan Hannan spoke about a bilingual preschool programme in Australia. On Saturday, representatives of two mother tongue schools from Dublin and one from Reykjavík introduced their schools, and two umbrella organizations from Eindhoven in the Netherlands and from Edmonton in Alberta were presented. In the virtual coffee break, all participants were divided into groups of 3-4 in breakout rooms and had a chance to network. That time was far too short and passed quickly, and then the conference was concluded by a lively moderated discussion of two speakers from Dublin heritage language schools and two from Reykjavík heritage language schools. They discussed questions about best ways to teach online, what qualities does a good heritage language teacher need, how to engage students online, what are suitable applications and online platforms for teaching, or how to celebrate events online. A complimentary program was in the form of pre-recorded presentations about heritage language schools, umbrella organizations and projects, saved on the website of Móðurmál

The atmosphere of the conference was wonderful, very friendly, in a spirit of sharing and learning. It was obvious that heritage language teachers in any country have similar questions, challenges and joys, and that they teach because they find it important for children and they enjoy teaching their language, even if their work conditions may be far from ideal. 

Everybody learned from this event, organizers, guests, and presenters, and there is hope that this fruitful cooperation of heritage language schools and umbrella organizations will continue. What a small organization in one country finds difficult, two, three or four similar organizations can achieve. Together we can go further. 

If you took part in the conference, we would appreciate it if you could share with us your opinion using this anonymous feedback form. Thank you!

Aga Pedrak 
Director, Mother Tongues 

sen dublin

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