ERIC Number: EJ825443
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-May
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 14
Hispanic Heritage Language Speakers in the United States: Linguistic Exclusion in Education
Schreffler, Sandra B.
Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, v4 n1 p25-34 May 2007
The Hispanic population of the United States is quite diverse and with each passing year, due to (im)migration patterns, more and more students are entering language classrooms with some degree of familiarity with the language. However, because of the tendency toward intergenerational loss of Spanish, the linguistic proficiency covers the bilingual continuum. Some of these individuals are Spanish-dominant, some are strongly bilingual in Spanish and English, while still others are English-dominant with some, although at times minimal, control of Spanish. The traditional response to linguistic diversity of both the education system and society in general has been an attempt to eradicate varieties other than the perceived standard. This view has been rationalized by stating that the standard language, which is selected to be taught, is the vehicle for general communication and serves many and varied public functions while a dialect is considered only to have informal daily functions, thereby hindering its usefulness for the stated functions (Hidalgo, 1990). This contributes to the common assumptions that drive the approaches to educating Hispanics in public schools and post-secondary institutions (Villa & Villa, 1998). But there are institutions where reversing language shift is a central concern, some Spanish for Native Speakers (SNS) programs (i.e., New Mexico State University, which is located in a heavily Mexican/Mexican-American populated area) make no effort to modify or eradicate the varieties of Spanish spoken by students in the program. One of its major goals is to preserve students' heritage varieties of Spanish (Villa & Villa, 1998). Even so, some of Hispanic students are reluctant to participate in SNS programs because they, as many speakers of minority languages, often internalize the negative attitudes of others towards their heritage language variety, and develop a belief that the way they speak is somehow "bad." These factors are directly related to the creation of an identity with a particular group. This is a complex process involving cultural, linguistic, psychological and social components. Thus, it is essential to understand the labels heritage language speakers use to identify themselves as well as their language use because the Spanish-English bilingual dynamic in many areas of the United States creates an environment in which Spanish speakers identify themselves in two languages, thereby creating a possible dichotomy in the labels they use. According to Le Page and Tabouret-Keller (1985, p. 221), "[m]embers of the younger generation seem to be able to establish their ethnic identity separately from their language identity" while for their parents' generation "ethnic choice had to coincide more or less with language choice." Given the fact that heritage language skills that students bring to the classroom have been belittled or completely ignored by many, those of us involved in the education of this population must place a positive emphasis on those skills.
Descriptors: Ethnicity, Negative Attitudes, Heritage Education, Familiarity, Language Skills, Migration Patterns, Spanish, Native Speakers, Bilingualism, Hispanic Americans, Language Proficiency, Language Dominance, Language Variation, Native Language Instruction, Second Language Learning
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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