University of Houston professor receives Fulbright award

June 05, 2012

Marta Fairclough, associate professor of Spanish linguistics and director of the Spanish as a Heritage Language (SHL) Program at University of Houston (UH), has been awarded a U.S. Fulbright Scholar grant to research Croatian as a heritage language at the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Fairclough will spend about six months in Zagreb, Croatia, starting in January 2013 to study the Croatian language in an academic context, examine the acquisition process of a heritage language and document her experience firsthand. She defines heritage learners as a language that is acquired by individuals raised in their homes where the dominant language of the region is not exclusively spoken.

"Professor Fairclough's project represents a promising and novel approach to studying heritage language learning in a formal context by following and analyzing her own learning of Croatian," said Maria Carreira, a professor of Spanish, California State University, Long Beach. "As a heritage speaker of the Croatian language and an expert in language acquisition in classroom settings, Marta Fairclough is ideally qualified to carry out this study."

Fairclough hopes the in-depth analysis might offer insights into the issues of language, culture and identity shared by many minority language speakers in today's globalized world, as well as shed some light on the importance of teaching and learning heritage languages at home and at school.

"My parents were born in Croatia, and my first language is Croatian. As a heritage speaker of Croatian, I can understand it and speak it fairly well, but my literacy skills are limited. I was born and raised in Argentina, but I spent most of my life in the U.S., where I completed my Ph.D.," said Fairclough. "I believe the Fulbright experience will give me the opportunity to document my firsthand learning experience and contribute to my heritage language student's experiences and more broadly to this fascinating emerging field of research."

Fairclough received her Ph.D. Spanish linguistics and her M.A. in Spanish and French from the University of Houston. She is the author of two books and numerous articles in academic journals. Her book, "Spanish and Heritage Language Education in the United States: Struggling with Hypotheticals," is considered to be the first book-length study of grammatical acquisition by heritage language learners. "To date, it remains unparalleled in scope and quality among classroom studies of language acquisition. Marta's recent work on placement and assessment also uniquely qualifies for her proposed project and attests to her finely honed analytic skills and command of statistics and testing," said Carreira.
About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide. For more information about the Fulbright Program, please visit

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit

University of Houston

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