ChapterPDF Available

Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners: An interdisciplinary endeavor

Authors:
is is a contribution from Advances in Spanish as a Heritage Language.
Edited by Diego Pascual y Cabo.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
is electronic le may not be altered in any way.
e author(s) of this article is/are permitted to use this PDF le to generate printed copies to
be used by way of oprints, for their personal use only.
Permission is granted by the publishers to post this le on a closed server which is accessible
to members (students and sta) only of the authors/s’ institute, it is not permitted to post
this PDF on the open internet.
For any other use of this material prior written permission should be obtained from the
publishers or through the Copyright Clearance Center (for USA: www.copyright.com).
Please contact rights@benjamins.nl or consult our website: www.benjamins.com
Tables of Contents, abstracts and guidelines are available at www.benjamins.com
John Benjamins Publishing Company
 ./sibil..10par
©  John Benjamins Publishing Company
Understanding identity among Spanish
heritage learners
An interdisciplinary endeavor
María Luisa Parra
Harvard University
e present chapter presents a general overview of the main advancements
in understanding the relationship between the Spanish language and Spanish
heritage learners’ identity, and explores the signicance of Spanish heritage
classes for the students’ identity formation process. Following the conviction that
what we teach can only be meaningful if we understand to whom we are teaching,
I argue that scholars and educators in the eld have come to rely progressively
on an interdisciplinary perspective on identity to inform their theoretical
frameworks and pedagogical practices. I propose that this interdisciplinary
approach has broaded our understanding in four main areas: (a) the importance
of the community in shaping Latino ethnolinguistic identity; (b) the impact of the
pressures of assimilation to mainstream culture; (c)the signicance of so-called
“Spanglish” in the construction of Latino identity; and (d) the importance of
considering commonalities and individual dierences when seeking to dene our
student body. As more programs for Spanish heritage learners open around the
country, I suggest two pedagogical frameworks aligned with the interdisciplinary
perspective on identity to support and nurture students’ identity formation in
our classrooms: Latino studies and global education. To conclude, I reect on the
road ahead and on the importance of promoting open dialogue between teachers
and researchers, while encouraging expert and novice teachers to continue
augmenting the resources available to help Spanish heritage learners develop a
strong and creative sense of ethnolinguistic identity.
. Introduction
e study of the relationship between Spanish language and identity is of primary
signicance to educators and practitioners in the eld of Spanish heritage language
(SHL), who aspire to empower Spanish heritage language learners (SHLLs) in their
cultivation and use of their language in and out of the classroom. Our understanding
of the complex identity formation process of SHLLs – and the impact of SHL classes
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
on this process has seen important advancements in the last decades. e once-
common idea that SHL classes should aim at undo[ing] the damage that had been
done at home” (Valdés, 1981: xi) through teaching of the standard Spanish norm has
fallen largely by the wayside, replaced by more socially responsive agendas centered
around empowering students’ use of Spanish and fostering their sense of agency for
social change.
is development has its roots in the seminal work of Guadalupe Valdés, who,
in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, came together with other important authors (see, for exam-
ple, the volume edited by Valdés, Lozano, & García-Moya, 1981) to call attention to
the particular strengths and needs of SHLLs in the United States. Embedded in the
spirit of the Civil Rights movement and derived from a deep social commitment to
Latino communities (especially those of Mexican-American children and youth in the
Southwest), this groundbreaking work provided the basis for dening the autonomy of
Spanish as a heritage language, separate from the Spanish taught as a foreign language
to English-speaking and non-Latino students. At the center of the theoretical and
applied work spearheaded by Valdés was an urgent call to understand the relationship
between language ability and learner identity; only by doing so, Valdés argued, could
we design eective pedagogical practices to address students’ needs and enhance their
strengths as speakers and citizens (Valdés, 1978, 1981).
e present chapter presents a general overview of the main advancements in
understanding the relationship between Spanish itself and the SHLL identity, and
explores the signicance of SHL classes for the students’ identity formation process.
What are the contributions that have informed our current understanding of this rela-
tionship? What are the advancements in current practices and curriculum design that
address the language-identity relationship in the classroom? And, looking down the
road ahead, what are the steps that educators and researchers can take in order to
nurture and strengthen students’ ethnolinguistic identities in our globalized world?
I will argue that SHL scholars and educators have come to rely progressively on
an interdisciplinary perspective on identity to inform their theoretical frameworks;
this perspective draws from many elds, including but not limited to psychology and
human development, philosophy and linguistics, studies on bilingualism and linguis-
tic anthropology, sociology and sociolinguistics, immigration, and border and gender
studies. e embracing of this new perspective in our profession stems from the con-
viction that what we teach can only be meaningful if we understand to whom we are
teaching. In He’s (2006, p. 7) words, the learner’s identity is the centerpiece rather
than the background of heritage language development.
e chapter is organized in three parts. In the rst part, I outline the theoretical
underpinnings of the contemporary theories of identity most relevant for our eld.
e second, most extensive, part of the chapter is organized into four subparts that
represent four clustered areas of important contributions that have had a signicant
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
impact on our understanding of the SHLL identity formation process. ese areas
are: (a) the importance of the community in shaping Latino ethnolinguistic identity;
(b)the impact of the pressures of assimilation to mainstream culture; (c) the signi-
cance of so-called “Spanglishin the construction of Latino identity; (d) the impor-
tance of considering commonalities and individual dierences when seeking to dene
our student body. Finally, the third part of the chapter, “Rethinking identities in
college,presents research that has shed light on important shis in Latino identity
experienced in collegiate educational settings. I propose two pedagogical frameworks
to support and nurture SHLLs in our classrooms: Latino studies (in agreement with
Potowski, 2012) and global education. In the nal remarks, I reect on the road ahead
and on the importance of promoting open dialogue between teachers and researchers,
while encouraging expert and novice teachers to continue augmenting the resources
available to help SHLLs develop a strong and creative sense of ethnolinguistic identity.
. eoretical underpinnings of the concept of identity
e term “identity” receives frequent use within dierent disciplines that relate and
contribute to the eld of Spanish as a heritage language: psychology and human devel-
opment, philosophy, linguistics, studies on bilingualism and linguistic anthropology,
sociology, sociolinguistics, immigration and border studies, and others. Although an
exhaustive revision and discussion of the concept of “identity” is beyond the scope of
this work, I will outline some of the main ideas put forward in contemporary theories
of identity that relate directly to our understanding of the role of Spanish language in
the process of identity formation for SHLLs.
e concept of identity has undergone a signicant reformulation in the social
sciences since the last century. e structuralist perspective, which equated identity
to a sum of memberships (chosen or given by others) in established, xed social cat-
egories (gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, occupation, social status) has been recon-
sidered within a post-modern framework, re-envisioned as a process of “becoming”
rather than “being” ( Hall, 1996).
Proponents of this position (among them Hall, 1990; Hall & DuGay, 1996; Ricoeur,
1992) see discourse as the means of becoming who we are. In Hall’s (1996, p. 4) words:
“Identities are constructed within discourse.” In narrating our stories, in dialogues or
arguments with others, we enact our identities. Our discourse is not, then, a mere
description of the world, but a statement, a “performance” of who we are.
In articulating our discourse, we must rst consider the temporal and spatial posi-
tion from which we speak, and second, the recipient to whom we speak – the other,
real or imagined (Ricoeur, 1992). For Hall (1990, p. 222), what we say is always “in
context, and this context positions both ourselves and the other in our attempts to
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
negotiate understanding. In Ricoeur’s terms, our discourse “attests” (Ricoeur, 1992)
who we are, to ourselves and to others.
is way of conceptualizing identity – as a process of discourse articulation and a
negotiation of meaning between ourselves and others – becomes particularly relevant
when we think about multilingual and multicultural environments where speakers
with dierent languages and dierent cultural backgrounds and values come together
and interact in myriad social situations: What language do they choose for commu-
nication? What reasons and forces are behind the selection of one language over the
other? What if one speaker rejects the other’s language? What if both speakers speak
both languages? How do dierent languages position the speakers, and what is the
impact of this positioning on the speakers’ identity?
Research in sociolinguistics has shown that when trying to understand speak-
ers’ identities within multilingual and multicultural environments, we need to treat
language choice itself as an “act of identity” (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985): a state-
ment that the speaker identies with one specic group and not another. ese choices
position the speaker vis-à-vis the interlocutor, both as an individual and as a member
of a group (Romaine, 2011; Valdés, 1981).
ese choices, however, are never neutral. ey encode deep issues of power rela-
tions in regard to ethnicity, social class, gender and race. Pierre Boudieus work in
social theory oers a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the dynamics
of language choice, implicating as it does the dimensions of history, power and social
structure in the study of language in society. Drawing an analogy between language
and economic capital, Bourdieu proposed that any “linguistic exchange is an economic
exchange(Bourdieu, 1991, p. 502) within the “linguistic market” of the society. e
linguistic market, like other markets, is never free from the inuence of power, which
predetermines favored standards and values and legitimizes specic means of com-
munication over others.
Naturally, multilingual contexts, more than in monolingual ones, are particu-
larly intricate; Pavlenko and Blackledge (2004, p. 1) argue that language choices are
inseparable from political arrangements, relations of power, language ideologies, and
interlocutors’ views of their own and others’ identities.Multilingual speakers form
their identities while navigating a complex system of uneven power structures and
continuously negotiating a sense of belonging, backward and forward, between their
native communities and the mainstream culture.
Scholars in the elds of border and Chicano studies, anthropology, and gender
studies have used dierent spatial metaphors to characterized these contexts of asym-
metrical power relations as “borderlards” (Anzaldúa, 1999), “contact zones” (Pratt
2007) or “third space” (Bhabha, 1990). All these proposals see these zones of disparity
in power relations between minorities (i.e. women, immigrants, colonized people) and
mainstream culture as “epistemological spaces” (Achugar, 2006, p. 99) where speakers
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
live “in between” languages, sets of cultural values, and power structures. As interstitial
areas, these spaces allow for the emergence of (a) critical awareness/consciousness that
precedes social change and (b) new and creative forms of “ambivalent(Block, 2007)
and “hybrid” (Anzaldúa, 1999) discourse to empower identities.
. Interdisciplinary contributions to our understanding of SHLLidentities
. Ethnolinguistic identity: e signicance of the community
e dynamic conception of identity outlined above, and embraced by contemporary
educators and researchers in the eld of Spanish as heritage language, has caused a
concomitant shi in our understanding of the notion of “community.” In what follows
I will summarize (a) this conceptual shi and (b) how student identity might impact
(and be impacted by) the relationship with their communities.
Today, instead of talking about a “collective” of people sharing certain xed char-
acteristics, we talk about “communities of practice.” Again, discourse is at the center of
this denition: “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they
do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.1).
Drawing on this idea, scholars within the eld of gender studies, including Eckert,
McConnell-Ginet (1999) and Cameron (2005), use the term “community of practice
to articulate the notion that identity emerges through common linguistic practices
that dene the community to which the speaker belongs.
Given that a signicant percentage of the Latino community (around 73% of
Latinos ages 5 and older: Krogstad, Stepler, & Lopez, 2015) shares the Spanish lan-
guage as a vehicle for many common linguistic practices, important questions emerge:
What is the meaning of the Spanish language itself for the Latino community? Is this
meaning part of a SHLLs ethnolinguistic identity? And, is it related to students’ moti-
vation to enroll in Spanish classes?
According to Silverstein (2003, p. 532), ethnolinguistic identity emerges “where
people ascribe a certain primordiality to language and a certain consequentiality to
language dierence. ey consider it for one or another cultural reason to be a guide to
socially meaningful dierences among people and to people’s socially eective mem-
bership in groups.” In my view, particularly salient in this denition is the use of the
word “primordiality.
e New Shorter Oxford English dictionary (1993) denes the word primor-
dial” as “existing at or from the beginning of time.1 In his article, Silverstein (2003,
. ere is also another sense of this word, which I will return to at the end of the chapter.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
p. 532) echoes this use of the word “primordial” to refer to “the autonomous exis-
tence of languages – or at least of language – outside of human actors and agents.”
However, Iwould like to oer another reading of the meaning of “primordiality” in
the context of language. For many in the Latino community, the Spanish language is
“primordial” because it is at the center of the family, which is itself the beginning of
the community– the historical and symbolical archetype of any community (Nisbet,
1993). We can see the force of this reading of “primordiality” in the following quote
from a report by the Pew Rsearch Center (2013, p. 8) that shows the role of the Span-
ish language in the socialization of young Latinos and its relation to the “pride” of
belonging to the country of origin:
Young Hispanics are being socialized in a family setting that places a strong
emphasis on their Latin American roots. More say their parents have oen spoken
to them of their pride in their family’s country of origin than say their parents
have oen talked to them of their pride in being American – 42% versus 29%.
More say they have oen been encouraged by their parents to speak in Spanish
than say they have oen been encouraged to speak only in English – 60% versus
22%. e survey also nds that the more likely young Latinos are to receive these
kinds of signals from their parents, the more likely they are to refer to themselves
rst by their country of origin. (8)
e survey also shows that the preference for English shown by the majority of Latino
youth “does not necessarily mean abandoning Spanish” (8): 79% of second- generation
immigrants and 38% of third-generation immigrants report being procient in
Spanish– data used by the survey authors to illustrate the “resilience of the mother
tongue” (8).
Along with “primordiality,” Silverstein identies another key element in the
emergence of any identity, and certainly of ethnolinguistic identity: the “consequen-
tiality to language dierence.” Silverstein reminds us that identities emerge as a result
of a process of identication with the community through the language, paired with a
simultaneous recognition of that individual’s dierence from others. As Crawshaw,
Callen and Tusting (2001, p. 532) propose: “Identity [is] a continuous process of
discursive construction involving voluntary acts of self-dierentiation through
language.
In multilingual communities, children have to make important, if not monumen-
tal, eorts to balance identication and dierentiation; they must juggle the pressures
of assimilating to the mainstream culture (through the learning of English) with the
need to maintain their home culture and language. In the following section, I will sum-
marize contributions from the elds of sociology, human development, and immigra-
tion studies that have added to our understanding of the impact that living in unequal
and undermining environments can have on young Latinos’ overall development and
sense of identity.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
. Latino identity and the pressures of assimilation: An ecological
perspective
e incorporation of an ecological perspective into the SHL eld has fostered and
improved our understanding of identity development among SHLLs. e ecological
perspective2 holds two chief premises: (1) children don’t develop in isolation; they
develop through interactions with signicant others in their dierent environments
(mainly home and school), and (2) the members of these contexts (i.e. parents and
teachers, parents and employers, teachers and administrators) continuously interact
with each other while directly or indirectly shaping the linguistic, social, emotional,
academic, and economic development of children and students.3 As Hornberger and
Wang (2008, p. 6) describe it, an ecological system is a “dynamic interface with the
social, educational, cultural, economic and political institutions [where] individuals
are the center of inquiry, but they are also always a part of a larger system which they
shape and are shaped by various factors in the system.
From this perspective, multicultural and multilingual environments are partic-
ularly complex, as they bring together individuals with dierent languages, beliefs,
values, and mores in social, educational, cultural, economic, and political institutions
(Hornberger & Wang, 2008). ese settings are particularly demanding for members
of minority groups who face the major challenge of having to adjust and adapt to the
mainstream norms of language, culture, and power.
Studies on how immigration impacts the ecological context – and consequently
the linguistic and identity development of children and youths demonstrate that
growing up in an environment where one’s home language and culture is undermined,
discriminated against, or stigmatized by mainstream values creates an eect of nega-
tive “social mirroring”4 (Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001, p. 96), which in turn
deeply threatens the child’s sense of cultural and linguistic belonging and identity.
. e ecological model was first proposed in the field of child development by Uri
Bronfenbrenner (1979) as a response to lab-based research into child development that iso-
lated children from their natural environments. e ecological model conceives of the en-
vironment within which a child grows up as a primary source for understanding human
behavior and development.
. Recent deportations of undocumented immigrant parents oer a clear and crude example
of how a working situation, part of a larger political system, can impact the development of
children of immigrants.
. Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco (2001, p. 98) take this notion from the child psychoan-
alyst D.W. Winnicott. e authors explain that: “the child’s sense of self is profoundly shaped
by the reflections mirrored back to her by significant others. Indeed, all human beings are
dependent upon such reflections; ‘others’ include not just the mother, but also nonparental
relatives, adult caretakers, siblings, teachers, peers, employers, people on the street, and even
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
Children and youths need to learn to relate to both their home and mainstream
environments in skillful ways, while negotiating between their ethnolinguistic iden-
tities and the demands that cultural assimilation imposes (Alba, 2004; Portes &
Rambaut, 2001; Rambaut & Massey, 2013; Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001).
Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco (2001) have proposed three possible patterns or
styles of adaptation. Children of immigration may: (1) embrace total assimilation and
identication with the American culture; (2) develop a new ethnic identity that selects
aspects of both cultures; (3) develop an “adversarial” identity in their struggle to adapt
to the mainstream society. In many cases, these children and young Latinos are at
higher risk to drop out of school (Carreira, 2007).
Under these circumstances, home language use, as the most prominent identi-
er of cultural and ethnic identity, is one of the rst traits Latino youth negotiate in
the process of adaptation. Whether a child keeps or loses the home language will
depend on many factors, including positive or negative social mirroring – from the
mainstream and home cultures – of their ethnolinguistic identity; educational oppor-
tunities that validate and provide opportunities to learn both their home language
and English; and opportunities for using their home language in meaningful and
valued social contexts. Of course, there are many possible combinations of these cir-
cumstances, and as many possible outcomes. Whatever the precise conguration of
factors, many Latinos preserve in dierent degrees the Spanish they learned at home,
and use it, mixing it with English, in their daily communication in order to preserve
aective ties with their families and to enrich their interactions with Latino peers.
In the following subsection, I will summarize some of the main ndings concerning
the impact of this blended Spanish-English language so-called “Spanglish” – on
SHLLidentity.
. Spanglish and SHLLs identity
e mixing of Spanish and English into “Spanglishhas been the subject of a num-
ber of studies in the disciplines of psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and Latino and
cultural studies, among others. Within the eld of SHL, this scholarship has provided
useful social (Silva-Corvalán, 1994), linguistic (Poplack, 1980) and aesthetic (Sommer,
2004) lenses through which to analyze the use of Spanish and English by Latino com-
munities and the impact of that language use on Latino identity.
Researchers in sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics, for instance, have long dem-
onstrated that code-switching (CS) between these two languages is a ruled-governed
the media. When the reflected image is generally positive, the individual (adult or child) will
be able to feel that she is worthwhile and competent. When the reflection is generally negative,
it is extremely dicult to maintain an unblemished sense of self-worth.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
phenomenon (e.g. Poplack, 1980). Other researchers have emphasized the role of CS
in building a sense of in-group identity and solidarity within communities (Romaine,
2011; Silva-Corvalán, 1994; Valdés, 1981). As Carvalho (2012, p. 139) explains in her
comprehensive review of CS research: “CS is the hallmark of bilingual competence
(not lack thereof), […and] it is rule-governed, serves a plethora of discourse func-
tions, and functions as an important, marker of group membership.
A major contribution to the study of CS among Latinos was made by research-
ers in the eld of conversational analysis who, based on the groundbreaking works of
Sacks, Scheglo and Jeerson (1974), proposed that CS was a way of “doing” bilin-
gualism (Auer, 1984; Zentella, 1997) as opposed to just “being” bilingual. is new
approach aligns well with the post-modern perspective on discourse as a means to
enact our identities, and oers novel possibilities for conceptualizing CS not only as
a result of interdependence between languages (Cummins, 1979), but as a part of the
dynamic process of “translanguaging,a term dened by García and Li (2014, p. 22)
as “multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of
their bilingual worlds. Within this perspective, language is conceived of as “a prop-
erty of individuals not of the situations” (García & Li, 2014, p. 11) and, again, as a
“vital resourcein the process of negotiating and performing social identity (Leeman,
Rabin& Román-Mendoza, 2011b, p. 3).
Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of translanguaging in terms of the
Latino identity formation process is found the following passage from the book
Boderlands/La Frontera, by the Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa:
Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to
translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak
Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than
having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate. I will no longer
be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white.
I will have my serpent’s tongue – my womans voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s
voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence. (1999, p. 81)
Many of our SHLLs would identify with Anzaldúa’s need to have their multiple voices
heard in Spanglish as they perform their hybrid identities, the result of a synergy of
two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness [or Dominicanness or Puerto Rican-
ness, for that matter] or Angloness (Anzaldúa, 1999, p. 85).
However, as we saw above, many Latino youth translanguage within an unbal-
anced socio-cultural and linguistic environment that diminishes and stigmatizes their
linguistic practices, and therefore their identities. For this reason, many scholars in the
SHL eld have embraced what Zentella (1997) calls an anthro-political linguistics”
to unmask “the linguistic ideologies and sociopolitical structures that determine the
value of specic languages and the status of their speakers … perpetuat[ing] inequality,
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
undermining bilingual’s willingness to maintain and develop his/her bilingualism
(Zentella, 2008, pp. 4,7).
is “anthro-political” perspective aligns well with the goals of SHL researchers
and educators, who seek to recognize the diversity within the Latino community in
terms of socio-economic and educational background, not only within the U.S., but
also in the countries of origin. In the next subsection, I summarize key work attempt-
ing to dene the characteristics of SHLLs while also validating their individual dier-
ences in order to understand each student’s identity.
. SHLLs identities: Between commonalities and individual dierences.
e Spanish-speaking community in the U.S. is diverse in terms of countries of origin,
family social class, and levels of formal education. ese factors aect individual Lati-
nos’ language prociency, resulting in a range of specic Spanish variants and registers
(Valdés & Georion-Vinci, 1998). e particular Spanish variant spoken by a given
family will have features that encode that family’s social class and education, and these
features will be transmitted to the ospring. Valdés (2001, p. 9) states:
Heritage language speakers in the United States, like their monolingual
counterparts in their home countries, reect the complexities of class and access.
e linguistic repertoires of upper-middle-class individuals include a broad range
of registers including varieties appropriate for those situations (e.g., academia) in
which oral language reects the hyperliteracy of its speakers. e repertoires of
individuals of lower-ranked groups, especially those who have had little access to
formal education, are much narrower in range and do not normally include ease
with hyperliterate discourse.
Furthermore, children in bilingual communities composed mainly of immigrants
from lower socio-economic backgrounds are exposed not only to a narrower range
of registers, but also to registers that inevitably undergo important linguistic changes
as they come in contact with English (e.g. Silva-Corvalán, 1994). Furthermore, such
children will have very few opportunities to attend school programs in Spanish to
help them expand their linguistic knowledge to formal and academic settings. e
English-speaking community will tend to discriminate against such immigrant groups
based on the incorrect assumption that they don’t speak English “well,while at the
same time, they are stigmatized by the Spanish-speaking community for not speaking
“correct/standard” Spanish.
In contrast, SHLLs from a higher social class have access to social networks, pos-
sibilities of mentorship and access to knowledge in Spanish, and are likely to have
economic resources that allow them to return to their family’s country of origin. In
this way, they can reconnect with the language and culture, reinforcing their sense of
linguistic and cultural identity.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
e diversity outlined above, combined with the dierent educational opportuni-
ties available in Spanish and English in the U.S., results in a broad range of Spanish
functional prociencies (i.e. ability to function in the language), both oral and writ-
ten (Valdés, 2005). It is these prociencies that have always been the center of our
profession.
e integration of bilingualism research with research coming from related disci-
plines such as sociolinguistics, theoretical linguistics, and second-language acquisition
(e.g. Valdés, 2001, 2005) inspired Valdés (2001, p. 2) to propose the following multi-
faceted denition as the common denominator for the diverse group of SHLLs: “[An
HL] student [is an individual] who is raised in a home where a non-English language is
spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some
degree bilingual in English and the heritage language..
is denition, based on language prociency, has usually served as the rst and
most powerful criterion for dening a Spanish heritage speaker. is criterion lls
the need for a “precise account” (Carreira, 2004, p. 2) of the term Spanish heritage
learner”5 and, therefore allows heritage learners to be readily dierentiated from both
foreign language learners and native speakers. Further, it provides a basis for us to
advocate for specic heritage language courses (HL) and design a pedagogical “road-
map(Carreira, 2004, p. 1) that meets the language learning goals and needs of SHL
students in particular.
Dening a heritage learner solely by linguistic criteria can, however, be mislead-
ing; as Carreira (2004, p. 32) points out, “prociency-based denitions of SHLLs (or
of heritage students of any other language) are the most restrictive and narrow” in the
sense that they can exclude individuals with low linguistic prociency but with “strong
family or personal connections to the [heritage language].erefore, a “broad” deni-
tion of heritage language learner, informed by Fishman’s work (2001), was proposed by
Carreira (2004) and Polinsky and Kagan (2007) to encompass factors such as member-
ship in a HL community and personal connection through family background.
Under this denition, the student’s motivation to study the language as part of a
search for identity became part of the broad denition. In fact, for authors like Horn-
berger and Wang (2008) and Van Deusen-Scholl (2003) and Lacorte (2003), motiva-
tion to study the heritage language – and agency to seek one’s identity – is a dening
trait of heritage learners.
is motivation to study is an important point to consider, because not all Latino
students decide to enroll in SHL classes, nor do all those who do enroll bring the
same goals and ambitions into the heritage language classroom. For example, some
. A heritage speaker motivated to study the HL in a formal setting (Polinsky & Kagan, 2007,
p. 29).
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
students, usually those with a higher level of Spanish prociency, promptly enroll in
SHL classes out of a desire to improve their Spanish. Others, typically those with lower
levels of Spanish prociency, struggle and feel marginalized by the possibility of taking
HL courses, choosing to enroll in foreign language courses instead (Potowski, 2002;
Lynch, 2008; Pino & Pino, 2000). At the same time, Beaudrie and Ducar (2005) have
found that SHLLs with low prociency but high exposure to Latino culture may be
highly motivated to enroll in SHL classes.
e broader denition of “heritage speaker,” including the criterion of motivation,
also poses important challenges. Many Latino students struggle not only with the pres-
sure of assimilating into the mainstream culture, but also with doubts about their sense
of ethnolinguistic identity. An SHL student’s sense of “membership,” “community ties,
and “strong family connections” is not necessarily free of challenges, doubts, wonders,
and conicts. Students come into our classes with many questions about their Spanish
language abilities, having internalized a negative mirroring of the Spanish they speak.
ey also have doubts about the meaning of their language prociency in relation to
their identity as members of the Latino community.
e challenge for SHL educators in this context is to consider the common-
alities of SHLLs as a group without disregarding the importance of individual
dierences (Parra, 2013b). It is important to avoid what Potowski (2012, p. 180)
describes as an “essentializing view of identity” that assumes commonalities to be
stronger than the dierences. By not paying attention to individual dierences, we
run the risk of disregarding the sometimes subtle, but nevertheless important, dif-
ferences among our students that result from the complex ecological dynamics of
their upbringing.
. Rethinking SHLLs’ identities in college
e case of SHLLs who decide to study Spanish at the college level provides a clear
illustration of how linguistic and cultural identities develop within a specic commu-
nity of practice. I follow Urciuoli (2008) and He (2006) in arguing that the educational
environment in which students enroll in SHL classes (mainly college) can trigger new
questions about their identities, about their community membership, and about what
it means to study a heritage language. ese feelings are magnied by the fact that the
college experience typically takes place far from students’ homes, with new peers from
other Latino and non-Latino communities.
Signicant research in the eld of SHL education has developed around SHLLs’
identity development in the collegiate context, couched in an awareness of the complex
environments students come from. Many educators and researchers have committed
to listening to the diverse voices of students in the SHL classroom, taking note of their
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
reasons, motivations, hopes, and fears for studying and expanding their knowledge
of Spanish (Alarcón, 2010; Beaudrie & Ducar, 2005; Carreira, 2004; Martínez, 2012;
Parra 2013b; Roca, 1997; Scalera, 2004; Yanguas, 2013).
In general, students in these institutions identify themselves with their com-
munities and countries of origin (as Mexican, Salvadoran, Dominican, and the like)
(Tayl or, L ó pe z , Ma r tí n ez , & Vel a sc o, 2 01 3), but will revise this label as they encoun-
ter both Latino and non-Latino students in their college careers. I agree with Urci-
uoli (2008, p. 261) when she says that college is a social transition during which
many SHLLs “rethink themselves as Latinos.e new college environment, decon-
textualized from students’ original communities, leads students to become aware
of their ethnicity in contrast to the white-Anglo culture generally prevailing in
these settings – and the challenges and advantages of that ethnicity. At the same
time, college also presents SHLLs with the opportunity to meet other students with
dierent Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Within this new setting, membership in
Latino organizations and the study of Spanish brings a sense of safety” and “lin-
guistic solidarity” to those students who see Spanish as “emblematic” and as a “social
touchstone” (Urciuoli, 2008, p. 273).
It is important to note that SHLLs with higher Spanish prociency pose dierent
questions and challenges about their ethnolinguistic identities than those with lower
Spanish prociency. More procient SHLLs tend to be concerned with the relation-
ship between their Spanish variant and the more prestigious standard Spanish, and
with questions of speaking correctly” and learning the academic register (Alarcón,
2010; Yanguas, 2013). For these SHLLs, questions about their ethnolinguistic identity
have to do with: (1) the value of the Spanish variant they speak vis-à-vis the prestige
variant supposedly taught in class and (2) the possibility of being recognized as part
of an academic community in Spanish (Achugar & Colombi, 2008; Alarcón, 2010).
In this context, the hierarchy of Spanish dialects found within U.S. Spanish-
speaking
communities and the college classroom becomes relevant and signicant. Several
sociolinguistic studies have documented this hierarchy among dierent Latino com-
munities. For instance, De Genova and Ramos-Zayas (2003) studied Mexicans and
Puerto Ricans in Chicago, and found that both groups saw Mexican-Spanish as more
prestigious than Puerto Rican-Spanish. Zentella (1990), in her study of lexical leveling
among Cuban, Colombian, Dominican, and Puerto Rican dialects in New York, found
a hierarchy related to race, class and education. e Spanish spoken by middle-class,
lighter-skinned individuals with higher degrees of formal education was considered
more prestigious that the Spanish spoken by lower-class, darker-skinned Dominicans
and Puerto Ricans. Along with these extra-linguistic features, accents also play a pow-
erful role in the hierarchy and value of the dierent Spanish dialects that meet in the
SHL classroom. As Urciuoli (2008, p. 271) suggests, accents are “semiotic complexes
through which people locate each other.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
In contrast to these higher-prociency SHLLs, students with less Spanish pro-
ciency (or who perceive themselves to have low prociency) tend to be more insecure
and concerned with questions about the legitimacy of being Latino (Martínez, 2003).
As noted above, research has shown (Potowski, 2002; Lynch, 2008; Pino & Pino, 2000)
that some students in this situation don’t identify themselves as heritage speakers at
all, or may consider their Spanish “not good enoughfor the heritage classroom and
prefer to enroll in Spanish classes for foreign language learners even when SHL classes
are oered at their institutions. On the other hand, some SHLLs with low Spanish
prociency – typically those with a rich cultural background – are highly motivated to
learn the language in a heritage class despite feeling a lack of condence (Beaudrie &
Ducar, 2005). ere is an important and critical aective component to be noted here,
a complex combination of anxiety and motivation that relates the study of Spanish
to the possibility of overcoming feelings of insecurity and connecting in deeper ways
with family, friends and culture in general (Beaudrie & Ducar, 2005; Martínez, 2003;
Scalera, 2004; among others).
Regardless of the levels of prociency of a given SHLL, Valdés (1981: 14) contends
that, “e possibility here is vital growth in both the condence and competence for
the students in areas which can assure their retaining the Spanish language through-
out their lifetime.” If language is the conduit for identity formation (Niño-Murcia &
Rothman, 2008, p. 16), the motivation for enrolling in our classes is oen tied to a
desire to explore deep identity questions in a safe manner in a safe space.
. Two pedagogical frameworks to support SHLL identities
In order to ensure the realization of this “vital growth, we need to create in our
classrooms collaborative, safe communities of practice where students can voice
their concerns in the form of questions and reect critically on issues of language
and identity. We want to provide a space for students to reconnect with, recreate, and
enrich the linguistic and cultural experiences that so far have shaped their identities.
e end goal is developing what Juan Flores (2000) calls an “alternative ethos”: “an
ensemble of cultural values and practices created in its own right to its own ends.
We need, then, to create conditions that foster critical thinking, helping our students
to analyze, problematize, discuss, and reformulate issues of culture, language, and
identity.
Recent proposals (Beaudrie, Ducar & Potowski, 2014; Fairclough & Beaudrie,
forthcoming, among others) call for educators who aspire to this ideal to incorporate
two main components in their curriculum and class activities: (1) a critical pedagog-
ical approach (Leeman, 2005; Parra, 2016; Villa, 2004) and (2) relevant and mean-
ingful content (Webb and Miller, 2000). Many educators are already working with
an interdisciplinary curriculum that incorporates materials from domains such as
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
sociolinguistics and Hispanic linguistics to promote critical discussion around ques-
tions of language and identity with and among students.6 e goal is to validate and
expand the knowledge students already have about Spanish in general and their dia-
lects in particular, setting aside narrow and restrictive perspectives that see heritage
varieties of Spanish as “wrong,” “incorrect,” or decient. Educators need to guide
SHLLs through the process of disentangling language ideologies (see Leeman, 2012)
as a rst step towards what Aparicio calls the “decolonization” of SHL (1997, p.225).
In what follows, I suggest two frameworks within which educators can nd new
resources and expand existing resources in order to nurture and strengthen SHLLs’
ethnolinguistic identity. Researchers, too, will nd within these frameworks models for
building on their current research agendas. e frameworks suggested pull from the
principles of Latino studies (also proposed by Potowski, 2012) and global education.
. Latino studies
Following Potowski (2012), I contend that the theoretical and pedagogical frameworks
of SHL education can benet in meaningful ways by engaging with Latino studies
scholarship. e eld of Latino studies brings an historical perspective to the many
ideological, cultural, political, linguistic, and identity challenges that Latino communi-
ties face in their particular relationship to the United States. Research done within this
discipline provides important context, for instance, to the labels and stereotypes that
have been used to portray Latinos and latinidad throughout U.S history. Latino schol-
ars and writers theorize and reect upon many key issues for our students, all centered
around the common theme of search for identity:7 the impact of immigration; trans-
national life; imagined communities (Anderson, 1983) – which Juan Flores (2000) has
reformulated in his notion of the “Latino imaginary”; the meaning of latinidad; stereo-
types of language and race; gender and life in the “contact zone” (Pratt,2007).
. Examples of these materials can be found in several textbooks for SHLLs, including
Conversaciones escritas (Potowski, 2011), Sí se puede (Carreira & Georin-Vinci, 2007),
Palabra abierta (Colombi, Pellettieri & Rodríguez, 2006), Español escrito (Valdés, Teschner, &
Enríquez,2008), and Nuevos Mundos (Roca, 2012).
. Many literary works by Latino writers was actually first written in English and trans-
lated into Spanish subsequently. is practice oers the opportunity to use the same text with
SHLLs of low and high proficiency to discuss the same relevant topics without a language
barrier. Consider, for example, the works of Sandra Cisneros (e House on Mango Street),
Francisco Jiménez (e Circuit/Cajas de cartón), Esmeralda Santiago (When I was Puerto
Rican), Julia Álvarez (How the Garcia girls lost their accents), Junot Díaz (e brief wondrous
life of Oscar Wao), and the seminal works of Chicana writers Gloria Anzaldúa (Borderlands/
La frontera: e new meztiza) and Cherrí Moraga (La güera, among other writings on identity
and gender).
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
Using the principles of multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996)8 and critical
pedagogy (Freire, 2005), teachers can problematize the meanings of labels like “Latino
and “Hispanic” (see, for example, Santa Ana, 2004) as categories imposed by the U.S.
government in an attempt to homogenize what is, in reality, a heterogeneous group.
In fact, Taylor et al. (2013, p. 2) show that, “when it comes to describing their identity,
most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms.Along
the same lines, important discussions can develop around the concept of latinidad,
mainly used by the entertainment industry, mass media, marketing, and the main-
stream lm industry to erase important historical, racial, and class dierences among
the various Latino communities in the U.S. (Dávila, 2012).
At the same time, authors such as Aparicio (2003, p. 93) understand latinidad as
“a concept that allows us to explore moments of convergence and divergence in the
formation of Latino/a (post)colonial subjectivities and in hybrid cultural expressions
among various Latino national groups.As an example, Aparicio highlights Gregory
Nava’s movie Selena as a vehicle that can be used to unpack hegemonic notions of
Latina bodies, looks, gender ideologies, and hybridity: Nava cast actress Jennifer
Lopez, a Nuyorican, to play the role of Selena Quintanilla, the murdered singer, who
was Tejana: two women, dierent Latin American backgrounds, similar body types.
According to Aparicio, reclaiming the term latinidad opens up an avenue to explore
“anities and analogies of historical minorities as (post-)colonial subjects” (90).
Aparicio says, “To dismiss latinidad as an exclusively hegemonic site is to dismiss the
potential for continuing to explore our (post-)colonial historical experiences and for
nding anities and similarities that may empower us rather than fragment us” (103).
e term “heritageis oen a new label for Latino youth in the SHL classrooms
(Lacorte, 2003; Valdés, 2005); as such, the introduction of this term can aord instruc-
tors the opportunity to open up creative and insightful discussions about (a) the
accuracy of the term to portray SHLLs and (b) the dierent meanings of this term
in relation to linguistic diversity and language policies in the U.S. (see Van Deusen-
Scholl, 2003 for an extensive review on this issue).
A nal possibility for incorporating Latino studies and history into the SHL class-
room is to examine the history of the eld itself. It can be interesting for SHLLs to
think about why there is a Latino studies program at their institution (or why not, and
what would it take for the community, including students, educators, and administra-
tors, to advocate for it). e history of how Latino studies has emerged as an academic
. A multi-literacies approach (New London Group, 1996; Kern, 2004; Samaniego & Warner
forthcoming 2016) can be a powerful framework to present the many forms (literature, art,
music) and mass media means (advertisement, films) through which this concept has been
represented stereotypically with the purpose of homogenizing the Latino community.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
eld, and why dierent kinds of institutions embrace these programs, reects the his-
tory of the Latino academic community at each institution.9 What does this mean to
the particular college community? Can SHLLs play an active role in supporting or
requesting these programs at their institutions?
By focusing on the wide array of Latino experiences and by guiding critical dis-
cussions around the cultural, political and historical meanings of these stories, we
give SHLLs – with high and low Spanish prociency alike – key linguistic and cul-
tural experiences to identify with. Exploring the Spanish language allows students to
embrace the range of ethnolinguistic identities found within the Latino community
and place themselves in a larger context where they can perceive themselves not only
as individuals, but also as part of the “Latino imaginary” (Flores, 2000) experience
characterized by strength and resilience (Carreira & Beeman, 2014).
It is through this kind of exploration, along with a focus on critical examina-
tion of students’ language ideologies and beliefs that SHLLs’ voices can emerge and
be remolded in alternative and creative ways. Romaine (2011, p. 20) reminds us that:
“Processes of cultural and linguistic rearmation are not a return to past traditions
or simple revivals of previously existing customs or practices, but oen involve active
re-creation and refashioning of languages, cultures and identities, whose functions in
current contexts dier from those of the past.
. Global education
As we leave behind old paradigms of instruction centered on correction – as we
embrace critical pedagogical tenets and an interdisciplinary framework within which
is centered the “signature pedagogy”10 of our eld (Parra, 2014) – as we make SHLL
identity the center of our work – and as more SHL programs are developed throughout
. For example, some institutions oered Chicano studies first, and later on transformed
them into Latino studies. In the early ‘90s, some Ivy League colleges opened programs,
while others withdrew this possibility (for a historical review of the field, see Flores, 1997;
Cabán,2003).
. Lee S. Schulman proposed the term “signature pedagogy” to designate “characteristic
forms of teaching and learning” (Schulman, 2005, p. 52) within a professional field. ese
pedagogies “organize the fundamental ways in which future practitioners are educated for
their new professions” (52) and play a critical role “in shaping the character of future practice
and in symbolizing the values and hopes of the professions” (53). In the article “Strengthening
our teacher community: Consolidating a ‘signature pedagogy’ for the teaching of Spanish as
heritage language,” I contend that several factors, including an ecological perspective on bi-
lingual development, a sociolinguistic and functional approach to language and critical peda-
gogy, and a focus on multi-literacy and community service, are consolidating the signature
pedagogy of our field.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
the U.S. – as all these pieces begin to fall into place, the discourse on globalization
emerges as particularly worrisome. We face important challenges imposed by an eco-
nomic discourse that promotes competitiveness and the commodication of linguistic
and cultural diversity. From mass media to textbooks, we are all exposed to (and some
would even argue “seduced11 by) these troublesome messages.
Leeman and Martínez (2007) have shown that SHLs are not the exception and
are not free from this ideology. e authors analyze several SHL textbooks published
between 1970 and 2000 to determine the ideologies espoused by these texts and the
interrelationship between these ideologies and the politics of knowledge. ey are par-
ticularly interested in how these books connect Spanish and Latino identity and the
reasons given for valuing and/or studying Spanish. In their analysis, the authors iden-
tied a signicant shi from “the construction of Spanish as rooted in the local com-
munity and linked to a student’s identity, towards its construction as a commodity for
economic competitiveness in a globalized world” (37). ey also found a shi in the
construction of latinidad. Instead of representing this notion as rooted in Latin Amer-
ica (as it was in older books), the most recent books present latinidad as something to
be acquired from “a Spanish-speaking world as a site where students can deploy their
commodied language skills” (37).
Urciuoli (2008) also shows us that, today, the desire to learn Spanish has status
implications. e trend may be to consider SHL a commodity or an “advantage” with
little aective and cultural importance. Given these considerations, SHL teachers face
an indispensable task: we must raise critical awareness in SHLLs about this seduc-
tive discourse, provide creative and safe spaces where students can recreate their own
ethnolinguistic identities beyond commodication, and empower them to build on
their resilience (Carreira & Beeman, 2014) and their linguistic and cultural funds of
knowledge12 (Moll, Amanti, Ne & González, 1992).
While globalization presents an array of dangers, it also oers an interesting set-
ting in which to foster student’s ethnolinguistic identities. Recent educational propos-
als (Boix-Mansilla & Jackson, 2011; O’Loughlin & Wegimont, 2002; Suárez-Orozco,
2007) at all levels of education have focused on curriculum development that addresses
the needs and challenges of our interconnected and globalized world in the classroom.
. In his powerful article, Why Revolution Is Impossible: On e Seductive Power Of Neolib-
eralism (2014), Byung-Chul Han explains how messages about competitiveness, productivity,
and success, presented in a “seductive” way, transform any current situation into a possibility
for being “free” and successful entrepreneurs.
. Moll, Amanti, Ne and González (1992, p. 133) defined this central notion as “the his-
torically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for
household or individual functioning and well-being.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
Global education is concerned with the “recasting of our understanding of eco-
nomics, communication, security, cultural identity, citizenship and the environment”
(Boix-Mansilla & Jackson, 2011, p. 1). Given the demands of this task, educators need
to establish goals that push beyond the limits of traditional instruction within class-
room boundaries. e goal of this framework is to foster students’ global competence,
their “capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global signicance
(Boix-Mansilla & Jackson, 2011, p. xiii). Four main capacities are associated with global
competence: investigating the world, recognizing perspectives, communicating ideas,
and taking action (Boix-Mansilla & Jackson, 2011, p. xiii). Marcelo Suárez- Orozco
(2007), in his introduction to the edited volume Learning in the Global Era, states:
[A]n education for the global era is an education for life long cognitive,
behavioral, and relational engagement with the world. e skills, sensibilities,
and competencies needed for identifying, analyzing, and solving problems
from multiple perspectives will require nurturing students who are curious and
cognitively exible, can tolerate ambiguity, and can synthesize knowledge within
and across disciplines. (19)
As we read Suárez-Orozco’s thoughts on the importance of fostering “multiple per-
spectives” through cognitive exibility, tolerance of ambiguity, and capacity for cross-
disciplinary synthesis, we appreciate that many SHLLs, having grown up straddling
and struggling between cultural worlds and languages, are uniquely suited to tap into
and develop such abilities. rough the lens of global education, we can reframe our
students’ ethnolinguistically hybrid, complex identities as another fund of knowledge –
acquired, not through the traditional educational process, but through life experience.
A version of the four capacities of global competence (investigating the world,
recognizing perspectives, communicating ideas, and taking action) has already been
integrated into some textbooks (i.e. Potowski, 2011) for SHL classrooms, and can be
readily reframed in terms of global education. For example, research projects that
investigate how a student’s family members and community use Spanish and English
(e.g. Carreira, 2000) can be expanded into research projects to investigate the many
aspects of Spanish as a global language (investigating the world). Discussions about
language ideologies surrounding the use of Spanish vs. English (or of prestige vs. non-
prestige variants of Spanish) from both a normative and a sociolinguistic perspec-
tive (see Leeman, 2012; Leeman and Serani, 2016) can be extended to discussion
on the use of Spanish vs. indigenous languages in the students’ countries of origin
(comparing perspectives). Many are the possibilities to develop studentscommunica-
tive competence in Spanish while they “attest” their identities (Crawshaw et al., 2001),
from written journals and personal narratives, from oral presentations that reect stu-
dents’ professional interests (Carreira, 2015 in workshop at the Eight NHLRC Summer
Institute at Harvard University) to brochures, newspaper articles, and feature writing
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
centering on the issues that students investigate in their communities. When carried
out as group projects, these activities can foster communities of practice that expand
the possibilities for appropriating heritage language to a meaningful purpose. Finally,
pedagogical proposals that integrate a community service component (Abbott & Lear,
2010; Carreira & Kagan, 2011; Leeman, Rabin, & Román-Mendoza, 2011a, b; Parra,
2013a; Rabin, 2011) oer ideal sites to reect on and discuss the impact of globaliza-
tion on SHLLs’ communities and the identities of community members (for example:
how do trends in the global labor market aect both the students’ countries of origin
and their local communities?). Students can also explore or design concrete actions
that might improve, even in a small way, the conditions in their communities. More-
over, working in the community itself, in professional settings such as medical and
law oces, can be an eye-opening experience for students, helping them to acknowl-
edge the value and “sophistication” (Carreira & Armengol, 2001, p. 109) of their home
language and cultural background. As Martínez (2012, p. 74) exhorts, the SHL com-
munity must itself become proactive, and not just reactive, in its eorts to promote
positive attitudes towards bilingualism and bilingual upbringing.
. Final remarks
In this chapter, I have presented a partial overview of the dierent disciplines and per-
spectives that have helped to advance our understanding of the relationship between
language and identity for SHLLs. Contemporary theories of identity interact with
research from the social sciences and humanities – including psychology and human
development, philosophy and linguistics, sociology and linguistic anthropology,
immigration, border, gender and Latino studies – to provide us with solid theoretical
grounds and insights to aid in reformulating our students’ language behavior and prac-
tices as they perform their hybrid identities. I have also highlighted recent research
eorts that emphasize the importance of college settings as sites where SHLLs can
remake and recreate their Latino identities. Research from the disciplines of Latino
studies, Latino literature, and global education can be incorporated as part of the SHL
curriculum to provide students with new linguistic and cultural models, and expand
discussion and reections on ethnolinguistic identities, particularly in a global context.
As our students become representatives of our super diverseworld (Vertovec,
2007), and as we aim to develop strong SHL programs, “essentializations” (Potowski,
2012) should be avoided. It is important that attention to individual dierences be
favored and integrated in the current dialogue between teachers and researchers – and,
above all, between expert and novice teachers (Parra, 2013b). Research has shown that
the lack of understanding of the complex ecologies Latino youths come from leads to
situations where Teaching Assistants could diminish SHLLs ways of speaking with
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
negative eects on the classroom atmosphere, students’ motivation, and their sense of
identity (Lacorte, 2003; Potowski, 2001, 2002).
Research has also shown that expert and novice teachers dier regarding their
process of identifying priorities, setting overall goals, and course planning. Expert
teachers are more autonomous and ecient in their decision-making processes as
class dynamics unfold (See Tsui 2003, for a summary on this research). For these rea-
sons, it is imperative that these two groups meet in creative spaces (training programs,
institutes, workshops) where both groups can collaborate and learn from each other.
Much work still needs be done to develop teaching protocols and innovative practices
for teaching SHLLs with high and low prociency, in separate tracks or in the mixed
classes still predominant around the country (Carreira, 2014). Dierentiated instruc-
tion (Tomlinson 1999), proposed for SHL instruction by Potowski and Carreira (2004)
should also be considered when discussing issues of identity and its relationship to the
Spanish language: each student brings a particular narrative about her identity that
needs to be recognized, valued, and nurtured in the language classroom.
As I have suggested elsewhere (Parra, 2013b, 2014), the creation of an eective
and nurturing classroom for SHLLs (or any learner, for that matter) does not rely on
the students’ capacity or the instructor’s methodology as separate entities, but on the
relationship between the educator and each student; indeed, this relationship is an
essential part of any learning process. Ideally, this relationship should foster a two-way
learning process between teachers and students, where everyone’s voice is heard and
reshaped through a joint educational process.
e goal of our eorts as teachers is to develop a more integral and student-
centered teaching philosophy that contributes to students’ overall sense of wellbeing
through positive experience and new knowledge. We want to provide students with a
space to nd “coherence and continuity” – to develop “hybrid, situated non-conicted
identities within the dominant and heritage sociocultural discourses” they belong to so
they can thrive in today’s challenging, globalized world (Val & Vinogradova, 2010,p. 5).
SHLLs represent an invaluable resource for their communities and future genera-
tions; planning paths for SHLLs to become leaders and advocates for bilingualism and
bilingual upbringing should be part of our endeavors (Martínez, 2012). Given all these
considerations, we must continue to “ne tune” our listening to hear SHLLs voices in
all of their complexity and diversity and to understand “who heritage learners are in
various contexts and how they see, perceive, interpret, present and represent them-
selves in those contexts” (Hornberger & Wang, 2008, p. 6).
As we seek to nurture SHLLssense of ethnolinguistic identity, and as we face
declining trends in Spanish use among Latinos (Krogstad, Stepler & Lopez, 2015), our
SHL classrooms should strive to renew in SHLLs a sense of the “primordiality” of the
Spanish language in their lives. In this case, the meaning of the word does not neces-
sarily signify exist[ence] at or from the beginning of time” (a denition I used at the
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
beginning on the chapter in the context of family and community), but rather the sec-
ond dictionary denition available: a thing “from which another thing can develop.
Let us strive to lead SHLLs down eective and nurturing paths that will allow them to
carry into the future an integrated and richer sense of ethnolinguistic identity, com-
munity understanding, global citizenship and leadership.
References
Abbott, A., & Lear, D. (2010). e connections goal area in Spanish community service-learn-
ing: Possibilities and limitations. Foreign Language Annals, 43(2), 231–245.
doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01076.x
Achugar, M. (2006). Writers on the borderlands: Constructing a bilingual identity in Southwest
Texas. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(2), 97–122.
doi: 10.1207/s15327701jlie0502_1
Achugar, M., & Colombi M. C. (2008). Systemic functional linguistic explorations into the lon-
gitudinal study of advanced capacities. In L. Ortega & H. Byrnes (Eds.), e longitudinal
study of advanced L2 capacities, New York, NY: Routledge.
Alarcón, F. (2010). Advanced heritage learners of Spanish: A sociolinguistic prole for peda-
gogical purposes. Foreign Language Annals, 43(2), 269–288.
doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01078.x
Alba, R. (2004). Language assimilation today: Bilingualism persists more than in the past, but
English still dominates (Working papers, University of California). San Diego, CA: Center
for Comparative Immigration Studies.
Aparicio, F. R. (1997). La enseñanza del español para hispanohablantes y la pedagogía multicul-
tural. In M. C. Colombi & F. X. Alarcón (Eds.), La enseñanza del español a hispanohablantes
(pp. 222–232). Boston, MA: Houghton Miin.
Aparicio, F. R. (2003). Jennifer as Selena: Rethinking Latinidad in media and popular culture.
Latino Studies, 1, 90–105. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.lst.8600016
Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reections on the origin and spread of nationalism.
London: Verso.
Anzaldúa, G. (1999). Borderlands, La Frontera (second edition). San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute
Books.
Auer, P. (1984). Bilingual conversation (Pragmatics & Beyond V:8). Amsterdam: John
Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/pb.v.8
Beaudrie, S. M., & Ducar, C. (2005). Beginning level university heritage programs: Creating a
space for all heritage language learners. Heritage Language Journal 3(1), 1–6.
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C., & Potowski, K. (2014). Heritage language teaching: Research and practice.
Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.
Bhabha, H. (1990). e third space. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Community, culture, dier-
ence (pp. 207–221). London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Block, D. (2007). e rise of identity in SLA research, post Firth and Wagner (1997). e Modern
Language Journal, 9, 863–876. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2007.00674.x
Boix-Mansilla, V., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for global competence: Preparing our youth to
engage the world. Council of Chief State School OcersEdSteps Initiative & Asia Society
Partnership for Global Learning.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). e ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Cabán, P. (2003). Moving from the margins to where? ree decades of latino/a studies. Latino
Studies, 1, 5–35. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.lst.8600014
Cameron, D. (2005). Language, gender, and sexuality: Current issues and new directions.
Applied Linguistics, 26(4), 482–502. doi: 10.1093/applin/ami027
Carreira, M. (2000). Validating and promoting Spanish in the United States: Lessons from
linguistic science. Bilingual Research Journal, 24(4), 423–442.
doi: 10.1080/15235882.2000.10162776
Carreira, M. (2004). Seeking explanatory adequacy: A dual approach to understanding the term
‘heritage language learner’. Heritage Language Journal, 2(1), 1–25.
Carreira, M. (2007). Spanish-for-native-speaker matters: Narrowing the Latino achievement
gap through Spanish language instruction. Heritage Language Journal, 5(1), 147–171.
Carreira, M. (2014). Teaching heritage language learners: A study of programe, proles, prac-
tices and needs. In P. P. Trifonas & T. Aravossitas (Eds.), Rethinking heritage language edu-
cation (pp. 20–44). Cambridge: CUP.
Carreira, M. (2015). Project-based workshop given at the Eighth Heritage Language Research
Institute: New edges and broader domains, June 1–4. Harvard University.
Carreira, M., & Armengol, R. (2001). Professional opportunities for heritage language speakers.
In J. Kree Peyton, D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America:
Preserving a national resource (pp. 109–144). McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.
Carreira, M., & Beeman T. (2014). Voces. Latino students on life in the United States. Santa
Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Carreira, M., & Georin-Vinci, M. (2007). Sí se puede!: Un curso transicional para hispanohab-
lantes. Boston, MA: Cengage.
Carreira, M., & Kagan, O. (2011). e results of the national heritage language survey: Implica-
tions for teaching, curriculum design, and professional development. Foreign Language
Annals, 44(1), 40–64. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01118.x
Carvalho, A. M. (2012). Code-switching: From theoretical to pedagogical considerations. In
S.M. Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage language in the United States.
e state of the eld. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Colombi, M. C., Pellettieri, J., & Rodríguez, M. I. (2006). Palabra abierta. Boston, MA: Houghton
Miin.
Crawshaw, R., Callen, B., & Tusting, K. (2001). Attesting the self: Narration and identity change
during periods of residence abroad. Language and Intercultural Communication 1(2),
101–119. doi: 10.1080/14708470108668067
Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual
children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222–251. doi: 10.3102/00346543049002222
Dávila, A. (2012). Latinos, Inc. e marketing and making of a people (updated edition). Los
Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
De Genova, N., & Ramos-Zayas, Y. (2003). Latino crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the
politics of race and citizenship. New York, NY: Routledge.
Eckert, P., & McConnell-Ginet, S. (1999). New generalizations and explanations in language
and gender research. Special issue: Communities of practice in language and gender, Janet
Holmes (Ed.), Language in Society, 28(2): 185–201.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
Fairclough, M., & Beaudrie, S. (Eds.). (Forthcoming). Innovative approaches in heritage language
teaching: From research to practice. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Fishman, J. (2001). 300-plus years of heritage language education in the United States. In
J.K.Peyton, D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America. Preserving
a national resource. McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.
Fishman, J. (1991). Reversing language shi: eoretical and empirical foundations of assistance
to threatened languages. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Flores, J. (1997). Latino studies: New contexts, new concepts. Harvard Educational Review,
67(2), 208–221. doi: 10.17763/haer.67.2.9wxl957q7x716706
Flores, J. (2000). From bomba to hip-hop. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Friere, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the oppressed, translated by Myra Bergman Ramos (30th anniver-
sary edition). London: Continuum.
García, O., & Li Wei. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism & education. Houndmills,
UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Society, culture,
dierence (pp. 222–237). London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Hall, S. (1996). Introduction. Who needs ‘Identity’? In S. Hall & P. duGay (eds), Questions of
cultural identity (pp.1–17). London: Sage.
Hall, S., & du Gay, P. (1996). Questions of cultural identity. London: Sage.
He, A. (2006). Toward and identity theory of the development of Chinese as a heritage language.
Heritage Language Journal, 4(1), 1–28.
Hornberger, N., & Wang, S. C. (2008). Who are our heritage language learners? Identity and bil-
iteracy in heritage language education in the United States. In D. M. Brinton, O. Kagan,&
S. Bauckus (eds), Heritage language education: A new eld emerging (pp. 3–38). New York,
NY: Routledge.
Kern, R. (2004). Literacy and advanced foreign language learning: Rethinking the curriculum.
In H. Byrnes & H. H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to col-
lege programs (pp. 2–18). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
Krogstad, J. M., Stepler, R., & Lopez, M. H. (2015). Hispanics English prociency. Washington,
DC: Pew Research Center.
Lacorte, M., & Canabal, E. (2003). Interaction with heritage language learners in foreign lan-
guage classrooms. In C. Blyth (Ed.), e sociolinguistics of foreign-language classroom:
Contributions, of the native, the Near-native, and the non-native speaker (pp. 107–130).
Boston, MA: Heinle.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge:
CUP. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511815355
Leeman, J. (2012). Investigating language ideologies in Spanish as a heritage language. In S. M.
Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage language in the United States. e
state of the eld. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Leeman, J. (2005). Engaging critical pedagogy: Spanish for native speakers. Foreign Language
Annals, 38, 35–45. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2005.tb02451.x
Leeman, J., & Martinez, G. (2007). From identity to commodity: Ideologies of Spanish in heri-
tage language textbooks. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 4(1), 35–65.
doi: 10.1080/15427580701340741
Leeman, J., Rabin, L., & Román-Mendoza, E. (2011a). Identity and activism in heritage language
education. e Modern Language Journal, 95, 481–495.
doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2011.01237.x
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
Leeman, J., Rabin, L., & Román-Mendoza, E. (2011b). Critical pedagogy beyond the classroom
walls: Community service-learning and Spanish heritage language education. Heritage
Language Journal, 8(3), 1–22.
Leeman, J., & Serani, E. (2016). Sociolinguistics for heritage language educators and students:
A model for critical translingual competence. In M. Fairclough & S. Beaudrie (Eds.),
Innovative strategies for heritage language teaching: A practical guide for the classroom.
Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Le Page, R. B., & Tabouret-Keller, A. (1985). Acts of identity. Creola-based approaches to language
and ethnicity. Cambridge: CUP.
Lynch, A. (2008). e linguistic similarities of Spanish heritage and second language learners.
Foreign Language Annals, 41, 252–281. Retrieved August 9, 2012, from the University of
Miami website: http://works.bepress.com/andrewlynch/4
doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2008.tb03292.x
Martínez, G. (2003). Classroom based dialect awareness in heritage language instruction:
Acritical applied linguistic approach. Heritage Language Journal, 1, 44–57.
Martínez, G. (2012). Policy planning research for Spanish as a heritage language: From language
rights to linguistic resource. In S. M. Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage
language in the United States (pp. 61–78). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Moll, L. Amanti, C., Ne, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge in teaching: Using
a qualitative approach to connect home and classrooms. eory into Practice, 31(1),
132–141. doi: 10.1080/00405849209543534
New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard
Educational Review, 66(1), 60–92. doi: 10.17763/haer.66.1.17370n67v22j160u
Nisbet, R. (1993). e sociological tradition. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Niño-Murcia, M., & Rothman, J. (Eds.). (2008). Bilingualism and identity. Spanish at the cross-
roads with other languages (Studies in Bilingualism 37). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
doi: 10.1075/sibil.37
O’Loughlin, E., & Wegimont, L. (Eds.). 2002. Global education in Europe to 2015. Strategy, poli-
cies, and perspectives. Outcomes and Papers of the Europe-wide Global Education Con-
gress Maastricht, e Netherlands, 15th–17th November.
e new shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. (1993). L. Brown (Ed.), :
Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Parra, M. L. (2013a). Expanding language and cultural competence in advanced heritage- and
foreign-language learners through community engagement and work with the arts. Heri-
tage Language Journal, 10(2), 115–142.
Parra, M. L. (2013b). Exploring individual dierences among Spanish heritage learners: Impli-
cations for TA training & program development. In C. Sanz & B. Lado (Eds.), Individual
dierences, L2 development and language program administration: From theory to applica-
tion (pp. 150–170). Boston, MA: Cengage.
Parra, M. L. (2014). Strengthening our teacher community: Consolidating a ‘signature peda-
gogy’ for the teaching of Spanish as heritage language. In P. P. Trifonas & T. Aravossitas
(Eds.), Rethinking heritage language education (e Cambridge Education Research Series)
(pp. 213–136). Cambridge: CUP.
Parra, M. L. (2016). Critical approaches to heritage language instruction: How to Foster students
critical consciousness. En M. Fairclough y S. Beaudrie (Eds.), Innovative approaches in heri-
tage language teaching: From research to practice. Washigton, DC: Georgetown University
Press.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
Pavlenko, A., & Blackledge, A. (2004). Introduction: New theoretical approaches to the study
of negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. In A. Pavlenko & A. Blackledge (Eds),
Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts (pp. 1–33). Clevendon: Multilingual Matters.
Pew Research Center. (2013). Between two worlds. How young Latinos come of age in America
(A Pew Hispanic Center Report). Available from: http://www.pewhispanic.org/les/
reports/117.pdf
Pino, B., & Pino, E. (2000). Serving the heritage speaker across a ve-year program. ADLF Bul-
letin, 32, 27–35.
Polinsky, M., & Kagan, O. (2007). Heritage languages: In the ‘wild’ and in the classroom. Lan-
guage & Linguistics Compass, 1(5), 368–395. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00022.x
Poplack, S. (1980). Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish y Termino en Español: Toward a
typology of code-switching. Linguistics, 18(7–8), 581–618. doi: 10.1515/ling.1980.18.7-8.581
Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. (2001). Legacies: e story of the immigrant second generation. Berke-
ley, CA: University of California Press.
Potowski, K. (2001). Educating university foreign language teachers to work with heritage Span-
ish speakers. In B. Johnston & S. Irujo (Eds.), Research and practice in language teacher
education: Voices from the eld. Selected papers from the First International Conference on
Language Teacher Education (pp. 87–100). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota,
Center for Advanced Research in Language Acquisition.
Potowski, K. (2002). Experiences of Spanish heritage speakers in university foreign language
courses and implications for teacher training. ADFL Bulletin, 33, 35–42.
doi: 10.1632/ad.33.3.35
Potowski, K. (2011). Conversaciones escritas: Lectura y redacción en contexto (Spanish edition).
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Potowski, K. (2012). Identity and heritage learners: Moving beyond essentializations. In S. M.
Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage language in the United States. e
state of the eld (pp. 179–202). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Potowski, K., & Carreira, M. (2004). Towards teacher development and national standards for
Spanish as a heritage language. Foreign Language Annals, 37(3), 427–437.
doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2004.tb02700.x
Pratt, M. L. (2007). Imperial eyes: Travel writing and transculturation (second edition). London:
Routledge.
Rabin, L. (2011). Community service and activism in heritage languages, New York City,
1915–1956. Foreign Language Annals, 44(2), 338–352. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2011.01138.x
Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Romaine, S. (2011). Identity and multilingualism. In K. Potowski & J. Rothman (Eds.), Bilin-
gual youth. Spanish in English-speaking societies (Studies in Bilingualism 42) (pp. 7–32).
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/sibil.42.03rom
Rumbaut, R. G., & Massey, D. S. 2013. Immigration and language diversity in the United States.
Daedalus, 142(3), 141–154. doi: 10.1162/DAED_a_00224
Roca, A. (1997). Retrospectives, advances, and current needs in the teaching of Spanish to United
States Hispanic bilingual students. ADFL Bulletin, 18, 37–43. doi: 10.1632/ad.29.1.37
Roca, A. (2012). Nuevos Mundos (third edition). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Rodríguez Pino, C., & Villa, D. (1994). A student-centered Spanish for native speakers rogram:
eory, curriculum and outcome assessment. In C. Klee (Ed.), Faces in a crowd: Individual
learners in multi section programs (American Association of University Supervisors and
Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Language Programs Issues in Language Program
Direction) (pp. 355–373). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Understanding identity among Spanish heritage learners 
Sacks, H., Scheglo, E. A., & Jeerson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of
turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50, 696–735. doi: 10.1353/lan.1974.0010
Samaniego, F., & Warner, C. (2016). A ‘Multiliteracies’ approach to heritage language instruction.
In S. Fairclough & S. Beaudrie (Eds), Innovative approaches in HL pedagogy. Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press.
Santa Ana, O. (2004). Is there such a thing as Latino identity? Public broadcasting http://www.
pbs.org/americanfamily/latino2.html (2 February 2015).
Scalera, D. (2004). e invisible learner: Unlocking the heritage language treasure. Language
Association Journal, 5(2), 2–5.
Schulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134, 52–59.
doi: 10.1162/0011526054622015
Silva-Corvalán, C. (1994). Language contact and change. Spanish in Los Angeles. Oxford, UK:
Clarendon Press.
Silverstein, M. (2003). e whens and wheres – as well as hows – of ethnolinguistic recognition
Public Culture, 15(3), 531–557. doi: 10.1215/08992363-15-3-531
Sommer, Doris. (2004). Bilingual aesthetics: A new sentimental education. Durham NC: Duke
University Press.
Suárez-Orozco, C., & Suárez-Orozco, M. (2001). Children of immigration. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press. doi: 10.1215/9780822385790
Suárez-Orozco, M. (Ed.). (2007). Learning in the global era. International perspectives on global-
ization and education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Taylor, P., López, M. H., Martínez, J. & Velasco, G. (2013). When labels dont t: Hispanics and
their views of identity. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.
Tomlinson, C. (1999). e dierentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
Tsui, A. B. M. (2003). Understanding expertise in teaching: Case studies in ESL teaching.
Cambridge: CUP. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524698
Urciuoli, B. (2008). Whose Spanish? e tension between linguistic correctness & cultural iden-
tity. In M. Niño-Murcia & J. Rothman (Eds.), Bilingualism and identity. Spanish at the cross-
roads with other languages (Studies in Bilingualism 37) (pp. 257–278). Amsterdam: John
Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/sibil.37.16urc
Val, A., & Vinogradova, P. (2010). What is the identity of a heritage language speaker? Washington,
DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Valdés, G. (1981). Pedagogical implications of teaching Spanish to the Spanish-speaking in the
United States. In G. Valdés, A. Lozano, & R. García-Moya (Eds.), Teaching Spanish to the
Hispanic bilingual: Issues, aims, & methods (pp. 3–20). New York, NY: Teachers College
Press.
Valdés Fallis, G. (1978). A comprehensive approach to the reaching of Spanish to bilingual
Spanish-speaking students. Modern Language Journal, 62, 102–10.
doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.1978.tb02377.x
Valdés, G. (1995). e teaching of minority languages as ‘foreign’ languages: Pedagogical & the-
oretical challenges. Modern Language Journal, 79(3), 299–328.
doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.1995.tb01106.x
Valdés, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Proles and possibilities. In J. Kree Peyton,
D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds), Heritage languages in America. Preserving a national
resource (pp. 37–77). McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.
Valdés, G. (2005). Bilingualism, heritage language learners, and SLA research: Opportunities lost
or seized? e Modern Language Journal, 89, 410–426. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2005.00314.x
© . John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
 María Luisa Parra
Valdés, G., Lozano, A., & García-Moya, R. (Eds). (1981). Teaching Spanish to the Hispanic bilin-
gual: Issues, aims, and methods. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Valdés, G., & Georion-Vinci, M. (1998). Chicano Spanish: e problem of the underdeveloped
code in bilingual repertoires. Modern Language Journal, 82, 473–501.
Valdés, G. Teschner, R. V., & Enríquez, H. M. (2008). Español escrito. Curso para hispanohablan-
tes bilingües. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Van Deusen-Scholl, N. (2003). Toward a denition of heritage language: Sociopolitical and ped-
agogical considerations. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2(3), 211–30.
doi: 10.1207/S15327701JLIE0203_4
Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity & its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6):
1024–1054. doi: 10.1080/01419870701599465
Villa, D. J. (2004). Heritage language speakers and upper-division language instruction: Find-
ings from a Spanish linguistic program. In H. Byrnes & K. Sprang (Eds.), Advanced foreign
language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 88–98). Boston, MA: Heinle.
Webb, J. B., & Miller, B. L. (Eds.). (2000). Teaching heritage language learners: Voices from the
classroom. New York, NY: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Yanguas, Í. (2013). Hispanic heritage language learners in the Spanish classroom: A semester-
long investigation of their attitudes and motivation. In C. Sanz & B. Lado (Eds.), Individual
dierences, L2 development & language program administration: From theory to application
(pp. 71–89). Boston, MA: Cengage.
Zentella, A. C. (1990). Lexical leveling in four New York City Spanish dialects: Linguistic and
social factors. Hispania, 73(4), 1094–1105. doi: 10.2307/344311
Zentella, A. C. (1997). Growing up bilingual: Puerto Rican children in New York. Malden, MA:
Wiley-Blackwell.
Zentella, A. C. 2008. Preface. In M. Niño-Murcia & J. Rothman (Eds.), Bilingualism and Iden-
tity, Spanish at the crossroads with other languages (Studies in Bilingualism 37) (pp. 3–10).
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/sibil.37.02zen
... As the SHL teaching field continues to prioritize the strengthening of Latinxs' ethnolinguistic identities (Carreira 2004;Martínez 2016;Parra 2016;Parra et al. 2018;Sánchez-Muñoz 2016) and critical language awareness (CLA) is at the center of the SHL "signature than ever in the environment imposed by the global pandemic (Lomicka 2020). Finally, I demonstrate that students draw from the different affordances that design and DTs provide to make their poetry part of multimodal texts with deeper layers of meaning whose creation is only possible through the combination of words, images, and sounds. ...
... The course content draws from an interdisciplinary perspective within the humanities and Latinx studies (Martínez and San Martín 2018;Parra 2016Parra , 2021aPotowski 2012;Torres et al. 2017) and is organized in five modules that aim to take students on a linguistic, cultural, and historical journey around the Spanish-speaking world. Special emphasis is put on the ways in which the many historical, social, and cultural encounters that have shaped the Spanish-speaking world have led to the linguistic and the cultural innovations that the Latinx youth engage with in the 21st century. ...
... Interdisciplinary and humanities content that engages students with the richness and complexities of the history of the Spanish-speaking world and Latinx communities (Martínez and San Martín 2018;Parra 2016;Parra et al. 2018;Potowski 2012;Torres et al. 2017). As Parra (2021b, p. 61) explained elsewhere and the poems' analysis suggests, such a curriculum enhances the possibilities of: (a) identifying with the narratives of Latinx authors; (b) expressing the plurality of their lived experiences; and (c) re-appropriating the past in order to better understand the present and project to the future (Lionnet 1989). ...
Article
This paper presents an analysis of poems, digital art, and accompanying analytical essays authored by four college students taking an advanced Spanish as heritage language. This paper highlights the ways in which creative writing, along with digital tools for artmaking, can enhance the teaching of language literacy to heritage learners. It proposes that creative writing opens up simultaneously meaningful and transformative experiences for students: they engage with the performativity of creative writing, use their voices beyond the constraints of specific genre conventions, engage with critical language awareness exercises, and become motivated to use their writing in order to reach out to the wider Spanish-speaking communities outside the classroom. Digital technologies played a key role in the creative process, as they provided a range of artistic tools and flexibilities that enhanced and complemented the power of the written word. The paper aims to contribute to the pedagogy of Spanish heritage courses and to expand the notions of literacy and writing under which we work in the SHL classroom.
... As the SHL teaching field continues to prioritize the strengthening of Latinxs' ethnolinguistic identities (Carreira 2004;Martínez 2016;Parra 2016;Parra et al. 2018;Sánchez-Muñoz 2016) and critical language awareness (CLA) is at the center of the SHL "signature than ever in the environment imposed by the global pandemic (Lomicka 2020). Finally, I demonstrate that students draw from the different affordances that design and DTs provide to make their poetry part of multimodal texts with deeper layers of meaning whose creation is only possible through the combination of words, images, and sounds. ...
... The course content draws from an interdisciplinary perspective within the humanities and Latinx studies (Martínez and San Martín 2018;Parra 2016Parra , 2021aPotowski 2012;Torres et al. 2017) and is organized in five modules that aim to take students on a linguistic, cultural, and historical journey around the Spanish-speaking world. Special emphasis is put on the ways in which the many historical, social, and cultural encounters that have shaped the Spanish-speaking world have led to the linguistic and the cultural innovations that the Latinx youth engage with in the 21st century. ...
... Interdisciplinary and humanities content that engages students with the richness and complexities of the history of the Spanish-speaking world and Latinx communities (Martínez and San Martín 2018;Parra 2016;Parra et al. 2018;Potowski 2012;Torres et al. 2017). As Parra (2021b, p. 61) explained elsewhere and the poems' analysis suggests, such a curriculum enhances the possibilities of: (a) identifying with the narratives of Latinx authors; (b) expressing the plurality of their lived experiences; and (c) re-appropriating the past in order to better understand the present and project to the future (Lionnet 1989). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents an analysis of poems, digital art, and accompanying analytical essays authored by four college students taking an advanced Spanish as heritage language. This paper highlights the ways in which creative writing, along with digital tools for artmaking, can enhance the teaching of language literacy to heritage learners. It proposes that creative writing opens up simultaneously meaningful and transformative experiences for students: they engage with the performativity of creative writing, use their voices beyond the constraints of specific genre conventions, engage with critical language awareness exercises, and become motivated to use their writing in order to reach out to the wider Spanish-speaking communities outside the classroom. Digital technologies played a key role in the creative process, as they provided a range of artistic tools and flexibilities that enhanced and complemented the power of the written word. The paper aims to contribute to the pedagogy of Spanish heritage courses and to expand the notions of literacy and writing under which we work in the SHL classroom.
... Things are different in multilingual and multicultural environments where families and schools do not share language and socio-cultural values. Children must make significant, if not monumental, efforts to build a sense of belonging and maintain their ethnolinguistic identity (Silverstein 2003) as they juggle the pressures of assimilating into the mainstream through English while trying also to maintain their home culture and language (Baquedano- López and Mangual Figueroa 2011;Parra 2016;Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2001). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper aims to contribute to research and policy that supports Latino children in early education regarding their transition into the school system and their bilingual development. It presents the results of a one-year longitudinal ethnographic study of four Latino children starting school at a transitional bilingual kindergarten in the Boston area. The analysis identifies dynamics and trends at the micro and meso levels that show that Spanish use and development in Latino children cannot be fully understood and supported if we consider it an individual ability instead of an organic and intrinsic component of broader dynamic socialization, emotional, and academic processes (such as the transition to school) of which English is also a part and in which parents and teachers participate. Recommendations for designing and implementing comprehensive programs to engage Latino families and educators to support transitions, bilingual development, and academic performance in young Latino children are presented.
... It is precisely the presence of traditional approaches to HL teaching and language ideologies that delegitimizes local varieties of the heritage language and bilingual repertoires, which can have a negative impact on and damage students' ethnolinguistic identity. According to Parra (2016), for most Latinx parents, using Spanish is very important for socioaffective reasons, to create a strong emotional bond with the family. Thus, language becomes one cultural aspect many families try to preserve. ...
Article
Full-text available
As critical language pedagogies are being implemented in heritage language (HL) settings, there is an increasing need to examine the impact of critical approaches in Spanish HL speakers. The present study examines how the development of HL learners’ critical language awareness (CLA) influences ethnic identity formation in a university-level course that adopts a critical approach to HL instruction. As part of the curricular content, a CLA instructional intervention, consisting of a 4-week unit (10 h), was implemented. First, to measure ethnic identity, at the beginning (pre) and at the end of the semester (post), students completed the Ethnic Identity Scale (EIS) and provided comments with their answers. Additionally, in order to examine CLA development before and after the intervention, participants completed an existing questionnaire, which addresses topics such as language variation, language ideologies, and bilingualism. Overall, the results show that students’ CLA levels increased from “somewhat high” to “high”. Furthermore, participants reported different ethnic–racial identity statuses, which moved toward ethnic identity achievement. Higher CLA levels were associated with an achieved positive status. These findings can contribute to a better understanding of the link between students’ CLA and ethnic identity in HL educational settings, where a critical language pedagogy is applied.
... Considering the above, attention to the development of positive identities becomes an imperative in heritage language courses and programs. Identity plays a central role in the college lives of bilingual Latinxs (e.g., Leeman 2015;Parra 2016b;Showstack 2018) and it is of the essence to develop appropriate pedagogies to support it in its many fluid dimensions and forms. Therefore, these courses must incorporate an appropriate array of strategies to allow all students to engage in transformative work through readings, conversations, engagement with others, and the production of original artifacts as different lenses through which to reflect and grow. ...
Article
Full-text available
Couched in theories of translanguaging, multimodality, and multiliteracies, this article explores digital compositions (i.e., digital collages) as spaces for identity representation through the proyectos finales produced by 22 students in a Spanish composition class for heritage/native speakers in a U.S. university. Each digital collage was accompanied by two written documents: one describing the processes leading to its creation, and another one explaining the meaning of the collage and its components. Qualitative content analysis was used to investigate the submissions, with particular attention paid to instances of identity, experience, and self-representation through complex orchestrations of flexible multilingual and multimodal meaning- and sense-making. The proyecto final is discussed in terms of the curricular innovation for courses designed for racialized language-minoritized multilingual students, describing the nature and affordances of translanguaging in this context, and advancing an approach to digital composing as showing–telling.
... Even at the university level, limited programs offer multiple courses for heritage learners (Beaudrie, 2012). These Spanish heritage language (henceforth shl) courses structure their pedagogical goals to address both the ethnolinguistic identities of the students and the differentiated needs that distinguish them from L2 learners (Carreira, 2004;Parra, 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
This article analyzes the writing development of heritage speakers (HS) of Spanish in an intermediate level composition course at the University of California, Davis. The data comprised 480 essays written by 80 students from two groups: one who received face-to-face peer tutoring before the COVID-19 pandemic (Fall 2019), and one who received online tutoring during the pandemic (Fall 2020). These data were analyzed in terms of lexical richness as measured by (a) lexical density, (b) lexical sophistication, and (c) lexical variation in both in-person and online settings. Findings revealed that lexical density and lexical sophistication were similar in both groups. However, the online group had higher levels of lexical variation throughout their essays. We conclude that online tutoring is an effective alternative to face-to-face tutoring, showing no disadvantages in terms of students’ lexical richness and offering a significant advantage with respect to lexical variation. Finally, we offer suggestions for HS tutor training in an online setting.
... This growth of SA has coincided with the increased presence and recognition of heritage language learners (HLLs) in Spanish classrooms (Torres & Turner, 2017), as well as a heightened attention to socio-affective and identity concerns throughout applied linguistics (e.g., Block, 2009;. Together, this has led researchers to explore questions of identity in Spanish heritage language (SHL) courses and materials (e.g., Parra, 2016;Showstack, 2018). More recently, scholars have also turned to the study of Spanish HLLs and identity in SA contexts, the focus of the current chapter. ...
Book
"Heritage Speakers of Spanish and Study Abroad" is an edited volume that provides emerging research on heritage speakers of Spanish in immersion contexts in theoretical, empirical, and programmatic terms. This edited collection seeks to expand our understanding of heritage speakers of Spanish by incorporating research on their linguistic, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic development during and after a sojourn abroad, by discussing the complexities of their identity formation and negotiation during immersive stays, and by highlighting programmatic innovations that could be leveraged to better serve diverse learners in study abroad contexts. This volume advances the fields of both heritage language education and research on immersion study in a variety of ways, and will be of interest to scholars of applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, and educational linguistics, especially those interested in study abroad programming and Spanish for heritage speakers.
Article
Research on heritage languages (HL) in the United States consistently demonstrated that they are lost beyond two or three generations, resulting in significant linguistic and cultural losses at the individual, familial, community, and national levels. In an effort to reverse this loss, practitioners and researchers in HL education strive to provide meaningful learning experiences for those language learners who want to reconnect with their linguistic and cultural heritage. This chapter seeks to provide an overview of HL programmatic practices in postsecondary institutions as well as innovative curricular practices emerging from current research in HL education. This chapter’s main contribution is to offer practitioners, researchers, and administrators with a review of state-of-the-art curricular and programmatic options for university-level HL learners, including innovations, achievements, current challenges, and future directions.
Article
This paper proposes an identity theory of Chinese as a Heritage Language (hereafter CHL) development, based on the characteristics of the Chinese as a Heritage Language learner and drawing insights from Language Socialization, Second Language Acquisition, and Conversation Analysis. It posits that CHL development takes place in a three-dimensional framework with intersecting planes of time, space, and identity. Temporally, CHL development recontextualizes the past, transforms the present and precontextualizes the future. As such, it fosters rooted world citizenry with appreciation of and competence in Chinese language and culture. Spatially, it transforms local, independent communities into global, interdependent communities. A learner’s CHL development depends on the degree to which s/he is able to find continuity and coherence in multiple communicative and social worlds in time and space and to develop hybrid, situated identities and stances.
Book
The author clarifies the nature of expertise in language teaching, its development, and how teachers employ it. This book is the first detailed study of what expertise in language teaching consists of and how it develops in language teachers. Exploring the classroom practices of her subjects in four illuminating case studies, Tsui succeeds in clarifying the nature of expertise in language teaching, the factors that shape and influence its development, and how teachers employ their expertise in teaching. In the process, the author critically examines an extensive literature on teacher cognition and shows how teachers' theories, knowledge, experience, and goals shape their classroom practices and their ability to move from novice to expert.