ERIC Identifier: ED469209
Publication Date: 2001-12-00
Author: Peyton, Joy Kreeft - Lewelling, Vickie W. - Winke, Paula
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington
Spanish for Spanish Speakers: Developing Dual Language
Proficiency. ERIC Digest.
The increasing number of students who enter U.S. schools from homes where
languages other than English are spoken, and the recognition that proficiency in
non-English languages is a valuable national resource, have generated interest
in the field of heritage language instruction. A heritage language student is "a
language student who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken,
who speaks or at least understands the language, and who is to some degree
bilingual in that language and in English" (Valdes, 2001, p. 38).
The fastest growing heritage language population in the United States is
Spanish-speaking immigrants and Americans of Hispanic descent whose families
came from Central America, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and South America. The
inclusion of Spanish-speaking students in foreign language classes places
additional demands on teachers, who may be prepared to teach only speakers of
English. As a result, a growing number of secondary schools, colleges, and
universities in states with large Hispanic populations offer separate Spanish
for Native Speakers (SNS) courses or programs tailored to the needs of these
THE NEED FOR SPECIAL COURSES
Since the late 1970s and early
1980s, the practice of teaching Spanish to Spanish speakers has achieved wide
recognition. During this period, increasing numbers of students from Hispanic
backgrounds began enrolling in Spanish courses at the secondary and
postsecondary levels. Teachers trained to teach Spanish as a foreign language to
English speakers found themselves teaching classes in which an increasing
percentage or even a majority of the students were not the traditional foreign
language learners that the teachers were trained to teach (Draper & Hicks,
2000). In some cases, the Hispanic students were more fluent in oral Spanish
than the teacher was. According to Campbell (1996), the average heritage
language student possesses a level of competence in many aspects of his or her
ancestral language that far exceeds what typical students in foreign language
courses can attain after many years of formal study. However, there is consensus
among foreign language teachers that these students need to develop other areas
of Spanish language proficiency. For example, many students have an extensive
vocabulary in some contexts but a restricted one in others. Many are unfamiliar
with the formal grammar of Spanish and do not read or write it. The challenges
of teaching Spanish to students who have no experience with the language are
clearly different from those involved in helping students develop proficiency in
a language in which they already have considerable competence (Bills, 1997).
To fully understand the goals and
challenges of teaching Spanish to Spanish speakers, it is important to
understand the diverse backgrounds of students who participate in Spanish
courses and their motivations for studying a language they already know.
Students include the following groups:
Third- or fourth-generation U.S.-born Hispanic students considered to be
receptive bilinguals. These students are English dominant and understand almost
all spoken Spanish, but they have limited speaking skills in Spanish and do not
read or write it.
First- or second-generation bilinguals who possess different degrees of
proficiency in English and Spanish. In most cases, these students have received
their education in English and have developed few if any literacy skills in
Recent immigrants to the United States who are Spanish dominant. Their level of
English proficiency, the amount of formal education they have had in Spanish,
and their literacy skills in Spanish vary (Valdes, 2001).
In all of these groups, language proficiency may vary from individual to
individual. Many students are completely fluent in oral Spanish (both speaking
and comprehending), others speak and understand Spanish fairly well, while
others possess only basic oral skills in Spanish. In addition, students come
from a number of cultural backgrounds and speak different varieties of Spanish.
GOALS OF SNS INSTRUCTION
SNS courses offer Spanish-speaking
students opportunities to study Spanish formally in an academic setting in the
same way that native-English-speaking students study English language arts.
Spanish-speaking students participate in SNS courses for a number of reasons.
These may include a desire to reactivate the Spanish they have learned in the
past and develop it further, to learn more about their language and cultural
heritage, to acquire literacy skills in Spanish, to develop or augment academic
language skills in Spanish, to enhance career opportunities, or to fulfill a
foreign language requirement. The skills that students can acquire range from
learning grammar and spelling and developing basic academic vocabulary in
Spanish to learning how to critically analyze a text, write poetry, or acquire
new information in different academic content areas.
ValdEs (1997) delineates the following goals of SNS instruction:
Language maintenance. Based on the view that Spanish can be maintained across
generations through the formal study of Spanish, this instructional goal focuses
on grammar, reading and writing, 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. The language proficiency of many bilingual
students is not equally developed in their two languages. For example, they may
possess the cultural understanding to comprehend a particular exchange but be
unable to express themselves using the appropriate vocabulary and grammar. The
goal of expanding the bilingual range moves beyond developing initial expressive
and receptive language abilities to cultivating a much broader command of the
Acquisition of a prestige variety. Many students who participate in SNS
courses speak what may be interpreted as rural or stigmatized varieties of
Spanish. Instruction aimed at teaching students the prestige or standard variety
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), language skills can
be transferred across languages in a manner that facilitates the acquisition of
first language 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 enhance their English
literacy development as well.
EVALUATING THE GOALS
ValdEs (1997) suggests that the
initial goal of SNS instruction was to develop language skills in Spanish
speakers that would allow them to participate in advanced placement courses in
Spanish, with a strong focus on grammatical correctness. She argues that
instruction must move beyond grammar to a focus on teaching students to function
effectively in oral and written discourse, including in professional settings.
SNS educators are also concerned that an inordinate focus on instruction in
prestige varieties of Spanish may harm students by suggesting that the language
they have learned at home and in their communities is inadequate. Collison
(1994) reports the views on this issue of several leaders in SNS research and
education. Francisco Alarcon (University of California, Davis) points out that
many people view the Spanish spoken in the barrio as inferior. George Blanco
(University of Texas, Austin) suggests that instructors should build on what
students already know rather than trying to replace it. Ana Roca (Florida
International University) believes that SNS instruction should focus on
expanding students' cultural knowledge about their Hispanic heritage and helping
them develop more formal registers--academic and professional varieties of the
language--without making them feel deficient in the process.
PROGRAM DESIGN, INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES, AND MATERIALS
the late 1980s and early 1990s, few resources were available for educators
seeking to establish SNS programs or classes or to work with the Spanish
speakers in their foreign language classes. Teachers generally relied on
instructional strategies that they used with their English-speaking students and
on self-made materials. Recently, more attention has been given to developing
programs, instructional strategies, curricula, materials, and assessments
designed specifically for Spanish speakers. A number of recent publications
provide guidelines and resource lists (see, e.g., American Association of
Spanish and Portuguese, 2000). See also Pino & Pino (2000) for a description
of a 5-year SNS university program, with surveys for developing learner profiles
and determining learner needs.
Some publications focus specifically on instructional strategies and
activities that promote interaction among students, teachers, and community
members (Carrasquillo & Segan, 1998; Colombi & Alarcon, 1997; Merino,
Trueba, & Samaniego, 1993; Rodriguez-Pino, 1994). Roca and Colombi (in
press) describe a number of ways that teachers can promote interaction and
facilitate oral and written activities that build students' academic and
professional skills in Spanish. In her textbook Nuevos mundos, Roca explains how
content-based and thematic approaches that develop students' knowledge in
important content areas (e.g., cultures and civilizations) while developing
their language skills work well in SNS courses.
Numerous textbooks and materials designed for teaching Spanish-speaking
students have become available in recent years, such as "Entre mundos"
(Alonso-Lyrintzis, Zaslow, & Villarreal, 1996, Prentice Hall), "Nuevos
mundos" (Roca, 1999, John Wiley & Sons), Espanol escrito (ValdEs &
Teschner, 1999, Prentice Hall), "Nosotros y nuestro mundo" (Schmitt &
Woodford, 2000, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill), and "Tu mundo" (Samaniego, Alarcon, &
Otheguy, 2002, McDougal Littell). Many textbook publishing companies now
maintain special divisions for the production and marketing of SNS textbooks and
materials. In addition, many textbook series for Spanish instruction to English
speakers offer supplementary materials, such as workbooks and readers, for
Spanish speakers enrolled in the classes.
The National Foreign Language Center has collaborated with the Center for
Applied Linguistics to create an annotated bibliography of these and other
Spanish textbooks and materials for Spanish speakers that are used in K-12 and
university instruction. This bibliography will be online at the Web site of
LangNet, the national portal for language resources, sponsored by the National
Foreign Language Center.
American Association of Teachers of Spanish and
Portuguese. (2000). "Spanish for native speakers: AATSP professional development
series handbook for teachers K-12. A handbook for teachers (Vol. 1)." Fort
Worth, TX: Hartcourt College Publishers.
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.
Carrasquillo, A., & Segan, P. (Eds.). (1998)."The teaching of reading in
Spanish to the bilingual student" (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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.
Draper, J. B., & Hicks, J. H. (2000). Where we've been; What we've
learned. In J. B. Webb & B. L. Miller (Eds.), "Teaching heritage language
learners: Voices from the classroom" (pp. 15-35). Yonkers, NY: American Council
on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Merino, B.J., Trueba, H.T., & Samaniego, F.A. (Eds.). (1993). "Language
and culture in learning: Teaching Spanish to native speakers of Spanish."
Peale, C.G. (1991). Spanish for native speakers (and other native languages)
in California schools: A rationale statement. "Hispania, 74," 446-51.
Pino, B.G., & Pino, F. (2000, Fall). Serving the heritage speaker across
a five-year program. "ADFL Bulletin, 32," 27-35.
Roca, A., & Colombi, C.M. (in press). "Developing Spanish as a heritage
language in the United States." Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Rodriguez-Pino, C. (1994). Ethnographic studies in the SNS program. "Teaching
Spanish to Native Speakers, 1," 1-4.
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. 8-44). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Valdes, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In
J.K. Peyton, D. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.), "Heritage languages in
America: Preserving a national resource" (pp. 37-77). McHenry, IL and
Washington, DC: Delta Systems and Center for Applied Linguistics.