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Kim Potowski The University of Illinois at Chicago

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Presentation on theme: "Kim Potowski The University of Illinois at Chicago"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teaching Spanish to heritage speakers: Pedagogical and administrative considerations
Kim Potowski The University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Hispanic & Italian Studies

2 3rd Annual Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Linguistics Conference
Thank you 3rd Annual Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Linguistics Conference

3 Organization Part I: Who are heritage speakers?
Linguistic, academic, and affective considerations Part II: What are some good approaches to teaching Spanish to heritage speakers?

4 Definition: A native/heritage speaker is…
…an individual who was raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or only understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language (Valdés 1997)

5 Demographics 16% U.S. Hispanic population (2010) 24%
Projected Hispanic population by 2050

6 Latinos may be 16% of U.S. population….
Hispanic children = 23% of U.S. public school population Urban areas have many schools with 50% to 100% Latino populations: 33% of Chicago schools 34% of New York City schools 46% of Miami schools 71% of Los Angeles schools

7 Concentration (2010)



10 Conclusion: There is a high probability for many instructors that heritage speakers will be enrolled in our classes... … in spite of the fact that most of us have only been trained to teach Spanish as a foreign language (L2).

11 How are heritage speakers different from L2 learners?
1) Linguistically 2) Affectively 3) Academically

12 1) Linguistically 2) Affectively 3) Academically
Heritage speakers L2 learners Learn grammatical terminology Learn a prestigious, monolingual variety Exposed to reading and writing in Spanish Learning begins after “critical period” has ended 1) Linguistically 2) Affectively 3) Academically Path of Spanish acquisition is different.

13 Heritage speakers L2 learners Typically possess fluent oral abilities – production and comprehension Larger vocabulary, particularly for everyday items and cultural processes/products Greater sociolinguistic accuracy: for example, use of “usted” and titles of respect Pronunciation is native

14 “Los alumnos L2 aprenden una variedad prestigiosa y monolingüe”
Factores sociales Factores lingüísticos De prestigio Clase alta; zonas urbanas; altos niveles de educación formal No muestra efectos recientes del contacto con otras lenguas. Estigmatizada Clase trabajadora; zonas rurales; niveles más bajos de educación formal Muestra efectos recientes del contacto con otras lenguas.

15 Rural; lower levels of formal education traje truje así asina vi vide
Prestigiosa Estigmatizada Motivo del estigma nadie nadien Rural; lower levels of formal education traje truje así asina vi vide fuiste fuistes haya haiga delito mayor felonía Contact variety solicitar un trabajo aplicar para un trabajo

16 At least 6 categories of language variants
Bilingual/language contact: felonía Rural/education: haiga, fuistes Spelling: boy aser Slang/informal nomás Developmental yo no sabo Regionalisms cierran hasta las 9:00

17 1) Linguistically 2) Affectively 3) Academically
Family connection to the language. Many heritage speakers have been ridiculed for their variety of Spanish – here and abroad. Very aware of their limitations in Spanish. Subordinate status of their home language and culture “Linguistic self-esteem”

18 1)Lingüísticamente 2) Afectivamente 3) Académicamente
Niveles más bajos de educación formal de los padres. Leerles libros a los niños  destrezas de lectoescritura 39% niños latinos 44% niños afroamericanos 64% niños anglo Vivir en estado de pobreza: 26% niños latinos 26% niños afroamericanos 8% niños anglo

19 High school dropout rates:
National: Illinois: Arizona: Latino 18% 31% ? Afroamerican 10% 40% ? Anglo 5% 14% ? Source: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and Union-Tribune, S. Lieberman, July 17, 2008 Some scholars suggest that SHS courses can contribute to HS graduation rates as well as college recruitment and retention/graduation.

20 Not only are heritage speakers substantially different from L2 Spanish learners…

21 Heritage speakers can also be very different from each other.
60% were born in the U.S. 40% were born abroad, but arrived at different ages.

22 Example 1: Marta Born in Mexico, came to U.S. at age 7
Family from a small, rural ranch. Some non-prestige features of Spanish. Intermittent schooling. Three years in bilingual education. Speaks 100% Spanish at home with parents, 50% with siblings.

23 Example 2: Luis Born in the U.S., but lived
from ages 3-5 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. No bilingual education. Speaks ~50% in Spanish with parents, 100% in English with siblings.

24 Example 3: Roberto Born in Argentina, came to the U.S. at age 12.
Regular schooling; middle-class family; parents completed high school. Speaks only Spanish at home; a prestige variety.

25 Example 4: Carolina Born in the U.S. to U.S.-born parents.
Grandparents from Honduras. Speaks 100% English at home with parents & siblings. Speaks Spanish with grandmother who lives in the house.

26 Example 5: José (most typical in Chicago)
Born in U.S., parents immigrated from Mexico as adults. 100% Spanish with parents, 50% with siblings. Began school monolingual (or very dominant) in Spanish. By 3rd grade, dominant in English, although still uses Spanish with parents.

27 Summary thus far: Heritage speakers’ linguistic, affective, and educational needs are different from those of L2 learners. However, heritage speakers can be a very heterogeneous group themselves.

28 Some good pedagogical and “philosophical” approaches
Part II Some good pedagogical and “philosophical” approaches

29 Two programmatic options:
Separate classes into heritage and L2 at the introductory levels; students can join at upper levels. Mix the two types of students from the beginning.

30 If there are separate courses:
Heritage speakers should not take classes designed for the foreign language students. …for the same reasons that native English speakers are not permitted to fulfill their English requirement in an ESL course (English as a Second Language).

31 Reality: Mixed classes (heritage + L2)
Pedagogically unsound, but very common. L2 students are intimidated by the heritage speakers. Heritage speakers are intimidated by the L2 students. Especially when that “easy A” doesn’t materialize. Teacher goes crazy.

32 How to make the best of a mixed class?
Assess what heritage speakers know and what they need to learn. Don’t assume grammatical knowledge. Avoid the “poster child syndrome.” “Helping” should go both ways.

33 Differentiated instruction
Definition: Learner-centered teaching that varies instruction and tasks according to individual learner profiles (Thomlinson 2011)

34 Traditionally, teachers have dealt with different student levels by attempting to teach to the “middle of the class”. However, students who are either above or below the perceived midpoint – or who learn best through different kinds of activities – may become bored or frustrated with this “one-size-fits-all” approach. To explain differentiated instruction, she uses the metaphor of “dressing” students.

35 “One-size-fits-all” instruction attempts to dress all students in the same suit of clothes, even though it is visibly obvious that not all students are the same size.

36 Some teachers may think they’re differentiating instruction by tailoring the same suit of clothes for different students – tucking and gathering here, letting out a seam there.

37 The way to do this is by utilizing multiple approaches to:
However, truly differentiating instruction entails providing clothes that are the right fit for each student. The way to do this is by utilizing multiple approaches to: Content (what students learn) Process (how students make sense of information) Product (the output through which students demonstrate what they have learned).


39 Some teachers may insist:
“Our job is to teach standard Spanish.”

40 The concept of a single “standard” in any language has been rejected
Hidalgo (1997): There is no standard language, only a social or regional variety that, for economic or political reasons, was elevated to higher status. Escobar (1976): Standard language is an abstract concept; it represents a variety that no one actually speaks. Spanish has standardized spelling, but that’s it. Lexicon, morphology, and syntax vary.

41 Beach vs. wedding

42 Question the concept of “incorrect.”
Instead, talk about formal vs. informal Use examples from English: most students know not to write “ain’t” or “cuz” in a school essay. Respect what students are wearing At least they’re not naked!! They will need their bathing suits during their lives. Take them to Macy’s. Expand their wardrobe and knowledge of when to wear what.



45 One of the many challenges of the job of Spanish teachers working with heritage speakers:
Deciding what is “ok” at the wedding. It’s very hard to keep up with changing norms – and even harder to buck them. Such decisions should be locally grounded and based on the question: Who are the audiences?

46 If you have a separate program/coursework:
What do students already know? What do you want students to learn? This is unproblematic in L2 courses, but HL are very heterogeneous. LANGUAGE ARTS

47 Curricular ideas

48 Phenomena of language contact:
#1 Phenomena of language contact: “Spanglish” #1 Codeswitching #2 Borrowings #3 Extensions #4 Calques 48

49 The term “Spanglish” Is it positive, or does it reflect and create harmful connotations? Ana Celia Zentella Ricardo Otheguy For a video of the debate, a complete transcription in Spanish, and a summary in English:

50 Curricular idea #2 Grammar
“Study grammar” – what does this mean?? (1) Terminology. Sustantivo, verbo, pluscuamperfecto (2) Use. Focus only on forms that impede comprehension or that are strongly stigmatized. Yes: “Mi primos le gusta las fiestas.” “Yo buscaba una libro que era (vs. fuera) barato.” “Fumando es malo para la salud.” “Yo no ha visto esa película.” No: Present simple“Yo como a las dos.” Definite articles: “____ libro” Always contextualized, never mechanical

51 Curricular idea #3: Writing
Writing as a process, not to turn in overnight Multiple versions; brainstorm in class Always involve an audience and a purpose that go beyond “the professor” and “to get a grade.” Be selective and respectful when providing feedback. Use a detailed rubric.

52 Three compositions, 2 versions each
vs. Two compositions, 3 versions each

53 Curricular idea #4: U.S. Latino communities as focus of study
Literature, film, art, etc. Students can investigate their own communities. ASU: “Hispanidades”

54 Meet the students where they are
Linguistically, academically, and affectively. Choose materials relevant for their linguistic level and their lives. Language arts more than foreign language. Respect the language they bring to class. 54

55 Thank you Resources for teaching Spanish to Heritage Speakers: Kim Potowski “Profesora Potowski”

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