Hassanzadeh & Mao Present at the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research

November 24, 2023

EML students Mona Hassanzadeh and Xiaojun Mao presented their paper “The Importance of Heritage Language Maintenance to Cultural Identity” at the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research (SCCUR) on Saturday, November 18, 2023.

Their research, guided by Dr. Olga Griswold, built on recent studies indicating that heritage language maintenance plays a significant role in people's cultural identity (Lee, 2013; Otcu, 2010; Park & Sarkar, 2007). Hassanzadeh and Mao noticed that most studies on the topic were conducted either outside the US (e.g., Otcu, 2010; Papapavlou & Pavlou; 2001) or by interviewing parents of young children (Lee, 2013; Park & Sarkar, 2007). Instead, they wanted to learn how adult bilinguals in the US think about their cultural identity as linked to their own heritage language use.

To do so, Hassanzadeh and Mao interviewed nine bilingual adults with different heritage languages, including Persian, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin. Interviewees had different levels of connection to their cultural communities, but they were all fluent users of their heritage language. Hassanzadeh and Mao's analysis of interview data indicated that maintaining a heritage language is an important link between self and community—especially for staying connected to elders and to religious and cultural practices. All participants planned to teach their heritage language to their children.

Given the fundamental connection between heritage language and cultural identity, Hassanzadeh and Mao proposed that mainstream public education should strive for including heritage language maintenance as a key part of the curriculum, especially in the multilingual and multicultural environment of California. Such inclusion is essential in the promotion of equitable and antiracist attitudes in the modern society.

Hassanzadeh and Mao's talk was very well received by SCCUR attendees, generating lively discussion after their presentation. They were also invited to submit their paper to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, in Long Beach, CA, in April 2024. Congratulations, Mona and Xiaojun!

Xiaojun Mao, Olga Griswold & Mona Hassanzadeh smile together at CSU Fullerton
Xiaojun Mao, Olga Griswold & Mona Hassanzadeh at SCCUR 2023