Date of Graduation


Document Type

MFA Creative Writing Thesis

Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

Committee Chair

Xiangying Jiang

Committee Co-Chair

Susan Braidi

Committee Member

Lisa DiBartolomeo


Heritage language students' social-cultural background has a great impact on their experiences as language learners. The inability to address and meet their specific needs and goals in class can result in loss of their interest for studying their home language formally. The goal of the present study was to provide descriptions of Russian heritage language learners' experiences and perceptions of their heritage language formally in university-level Russian-as-a-foreign-language courses in terms of their motivations, attitudes, goals and expectations. Due to the fact that the above mentioned variables are dynamic by nature, the study also investigated whether heritage language learners' motivations, attitudes, goals and expectations evolved over the course of the semester study. The study implemented a multiple case design, presenting profiles of four heritage language learners enrolled in Russian-as-a-foreign-language classes at intermediate and advanced levels. The findings showed that the participants' motivations were both integrative and instrumental, however, mainly oriented towards enhancing students' education and career opportunities. The students possessed positive attitudes towards the Russian language and culture, and had a strong desire to acquire a near-native proficiency in their heritage language by aiming at learning to use Russian language grammar correctly. In general, all participants' expectations and goals were met and achieved, thus, motivating them to pursue further studies in their heritage language. The study concludes with pedagogical and curriculum implications for heritage language instruction, as well as suggestions for further research.