ERIC Identifier: ED433696
Publication Date: 1999-05-00
Author: Lewelling, Vickie W. - Peyton, Joy Kreeft
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Spanish for Native Speakers: Developing Dual Language Proficiency. ERIC Digest.
The increasing number of children who enter U.S. schools from homes where languages other than English are spoken and the overdue recognition that bilingualism is a valuable national resource have helped to generate interest in the field of heritage language instruction, or the teaching of heritage languages as academic subjects. Heritage language students are "students who speak a language other than English as their first language, either because they were born in another country or because their families speak another language at home" (Campbell, 1996). The fastest growing of these heritage language populations is Spanish-speaking immigrants and Americans of Hispanic descent who come from Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central and South American backgrounds. The entrance of Spanish speaking students into foreign language classes places huge demands on teachers, particularly at the secondary and postsecondary levels. As a result, a growing number of secondary schools, colleges, and universities in states with large Hispanic populations are offering Spanish courses tailored to the needs of Spanish speaking students. These Spanish for native speakers (SNS) courses offer Spanish as an academic subject to students who have some level of exposure to Spanish from their home environment.
THE NEED FOR SPECIAL COURSES
In all of these groups, language proficiency may vary from individual to individual and from language to language. Many students are completely fluent in oral Spanish (both speaking and comprehending), others speak and understand Spanish fairly well, while others possess only basic skills in the language. In addition, students in SNS courses come from a number of cultural backgrounds and have had exposure to different varieties of Spanish (Rodriguez-Pino, 1997).
GOALS OF SNS INSTRUCTION
"Language maintenance". This goal is based on the view that Spanish maintenance across generations can be sustained through the formal study of Spanish. Instruction with this goal focuses on grammar, reading and writing instruction, vocabulary development, exposure to the language and culture of Hispanic communities, and consciousness raising activities about Spanish language and identity. "Expansion of the bilingual range." Valdes (1997) defines the bilingual range as "the continuum of linguistic abilities and communicative strategies that . . . individuals may access in one or the other of two languages at a specific moment, for a particular purpose, in a particular setting, with particular interlocutors." Many bilingual students have uneven development in their two languages. For example, they may possess the cultural understanding to participate in a particular exchange but be unable to express themselves using the appropriate vocabulary. The goal of expanding the bilingual range moves beyond developing initial expressive and receptive language abilities to cultivating a much broader command of the language.
"Acquisition of the prestige variety." Many students who participate in SNS courses speak what may be interpreted as rural or stigmatized varieties of Spanish. One goal of SNS courses is to teach students the prestige or standard variety. Such instruction involves developing metalinguistic awareness about the differences between the standard and other varieties, teaching traditional grammar, and teaching when it is appropriate to use more or less formal Spanish. "Transfer of literacy skills." According to Cummins (1984), "academically mediated language skills can be transferred across languages in a manner that facilitates the acquisition of these skills in the second language." Peale (1991) emphasizes the need for Spanish-speaking students to develop not only their oral language but also their literacy skills in Spanish. In the process, they draw on existing English literacy skills and enhance their English literacy development.
EVALUATING THE GOALS According to Valdes (1997), the initial goal of SNS instruction was to develop skills in Spanish speakers that would allow them to participate in advanced placement courses in Spanish. She has suggested that the goals need to expand to appeal to students who do not want to be Spanish majors, but who may want to use Spanish in other ways (professionally, for example). Benjamin (1997) discusses how the goals of SNS educators may not jibe with the goals of the students taking SNS courses.
Some SNS educators take issue with the focus on the prestige variety of Spanish and are concerned that some teaching practices may harm students by suggesting that the language they have learned at home is inferior. Francisco Alarcon, director of the SNS program at the University of California, Davis, suggests that "the traditional view is to put down the Spanish spoken in the barrio. People will say it's not pure Spanish." George Blanco of the University of Texas suggests that instructors should work to build on what students already know, rather than trying to replace it. Ana Roca of Florida International University believes that the goal should be to expand students' repertoire without making them feel bad or putting down their parents (described in Collison, 1994, p. 1).
Benjamin, R. (1997). What do our students want? Some reflections on teaching Spanish as an academic subject to bilingual students. "ADFL Bulletin, 29," 44-47.
Bills, G. (1997). Language shift, linguistic variation, and teaching Spanish to native speakers in the United States. In M.C. Colombi & F.X. Alarcon (Eds.), La ensenanza del espanol a hispanohablantes. Praxis y teoria (pp. 263-82). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Campbell, R. (1996). New learners and new challenges. In R.C. Lafayette (Ed.), "National standards: A catalyst for reform" (pp. 97-117). Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.
Collison, M. N-K. (1994, February 2). Spanish for native speakers. "The Chronicle of Higher Education."
Colombi, M.C., & Alarcon, F.X. (Eds.). (1997). "La ensenanza del espanol a hispanohablantes. Praxis y teoria." Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Cummins, J. (1984). "Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and pedagogy."San Diego, CA: College Hill.
Faltis, C. (1990). Spanish for native speakers: Freirian and Vygotskian perspectives. Foreign Language Annals, 23, 117-26.
Merino, B.J., Trueba, H.T., & Samaniego, F.A. (Eds.). (1993). "Language and culture in learning: Teaching Spanish to native speakers of Spanish." London: Falmer.
Peale, C.G. (1991). Spanish for native speakers (and other native languages) in California schools: A rationale statement. "Hispania, 74," 446-51.
Rodriguez-Pino, C. (1994). Ethnographic studies in the SNS program. "Teaching Spanish to Native Speakers, 1," 1-4.
Rodriguez-Pino, C. (1997). Spanish for native speakers. "ERIC/CLL News Bulletin, 21,"1.
Valdes-Fallis, G., & Teschner, R.V. (1977). "Spanish for the Spanish speaking: A descriptive bibliography of materials." Austin, TX: National Educational Laboratory.
Valdes, G. (1997). The teaching of Spanish to bilingual Spanish-speaking students: Outstanding issues and unanswered questions. In M.C. Colombi & F.X. Alarcon (Eds.), "La ensenanza del espanol a hispanohablantes. Praxis y teoria" (pp. 93-101). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.