Akavalou Eirini

Greek Language Teacher – Grekiska Skolan i Stockholm


Swedish and Greek Teachers’ Perceptions of their Role in Heritage Language Education


Migration flows have created various educational needs worldwide. One such is Heritage Language Education as people claim their right to connect with their cultural, traditional, religious and linguistic background while they reside abroad. Ethnic communities have established settings in which they aim to sustain their ethnolinguistic capital. The present thesis explores how heritage language teachers perceive their role in two Heritage Language Community Schools, the Swedish School of Athens and the Greek School of Stockholm. Based on a qualitative design, the research focuses on sociolinguistic phenomena such as language use and maintenance, and ethnic identity creation. Data were collected in Athens and Stockholm through semi-structured interviews with nine teachers. Despite some differences, HL teachers in both schools perceive their role in similar ways. The analysis of findings reveals self-perceptions of teacher role that include cultural and linguistic connotations. Teachers contribute to language use and maintenance and to some extend to ethnic identity formation. Teacher practices and experiences strive not only for linguistic development but for group’s ethnolinguistic vitality as well. Family support and community presence that promotes language use and maintenance play also important roles according to the teachers. The study concludes that there is a need for further research on teachers of Heritage Language Education since the topic has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Keywords: Heritage language, heritage language education, heritage language teachers, language maintenance, ethnic identity, ethnolinguistic vitality, sociolinguistics.


Eirini Akavalou is a PhD Candidate in Language Education at the Department of Teaching and Learning at Stockholm University. Her research focuses on the provision of multilingual study mentoring in Sweden based on an ethnographic study of multilingual language learning trajectories of newly arrived Greek-speaking students in public schools. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education from the University of Patras, and a Master’s in International and Comparative Education from Stockholm University. Eirini has professional experience as a teacher and teacher assistant in primary school, and preschool, and as a mother tongue teacher and multilingual study mentor in primary and secondary school. She has also worked as an English language instructor, among others. Her research interests include minoritized and heritage languages while in diaspora, sociolinguistics and multilingual education.