Congratulations to Jennifer Markovtis Rojas who recently completed her dissertation defense for her Ph.D. in the Bilingualism and 2nd Language Acquisition program here at Rutgers. Her final dissertation is called "Heritage Aymara Bilingual in the North of Chile: Evidence of a Language Contact Situation to Enrich Intercultural Education."

Abstract: Despite Spanish being the socially dominant language in many countries in South America, the indigenous language, Aymara, is widely spoken in Bolivia, southern Peru, and northern Chile (Adelaar, 2012). Consequently, most Aymara people in the north of Chile are early bilinguals who acquire both the ancestral and socially dominant Spanish languages at an early age. However, the sociopolitical status of the Aymara language within a Spanish-dominant country influences the language acquisition and results in Aymara speakers in northern Chile being heritage speakers (Hs). Hs are a particular type of bilingual since they are Aymara native speakers with low proficiency levels when they speak Aymara, but they may have higher comprehension abilities. However, within the educational system, Aymara students are, in linguistic terms, monolingual Spanish with a strong indigenous identity. This misconception is reflected in the current Chilean language intercultural curriculum. Current intercultural education programs for Aymara communities pursue teaching Aymara to strengthen language development and identity in combination with Spanish (MINEDUC, 2019). However, these programs are designed for L2 Aymara learners, ignoring the ancestral language's early exposure, which can be an advantage in learning the target language. Furthermore, the current Spanish literacy courses for Aymara students are designed for monolingual Spanish children, disregarding the cognitive effects of Aymara's early exposure to the acquisition of Spanish as a second language. Therefore, my dissertation project aims to enrich intercultural programs and education for the indigenous community in Chile by examining on the one hand, the level of indigenous languages acquired by bilingual Aymara heritage children. On the other hand, the present investigation attempt to analyze the degree of cross-linguistic influence between the ancestral language and Spanish in the comprehension and production of bilingual past narration discourse. In addition, the present investigation aims to examine the effect of sociolinguistic factors when students comprehend and produce past bilingual narrations. The results will provide valuable information to enrich current indigenous revitalization programs and, at the same time, to redesign current Spanish literacy courses to move from a monolingual approach to a bilingual literacy approach.

WhatsApp Image 2021 03 06 at 9.15.21 AM2Bio: Jennifer is an Assistant professor at Chile's Universidad de Playa Ancha (UPLA). She recently completed her Ph.D. in the Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition program at Rutgers University. Her work has focused on intercultural education, specifically on curriculum design for revitalizing indigenous languages in Chile and Spanish as a second language for indigenous heritage bilingual speakers in the region. In addition, she has led projects to improve living conditions for migrants in Chile, developing material for teaching Spanish as L2 for the Haitian community in her country.

Research Interests: Indigenous languages, heritage speakers, languages in contact, and intercultural education.