Spanish heritage language students are a growing population in our language classrooms. These learners vary from the non-heritage ones in that they come to the language classroom with a set of skills and cultural wealth. As language teachers we are faced with the question of how to best aid these students in further developing their language skills.
We propose that a key aspect to keep in mind is that Spanish heritage language speakers can often perceive their language proficiency or skills to be lacking, even when they are advanced. This shapes their learning and experiences in the language classroom. Typically, they cannot pinpoint what skills they need to develop, but they have a profound sense that something doesn’t quite fit, and might never do so. Whether those sentiments are accurate or not, we should not discount them, because it is the lens through which they will approach the classroom experience.
As part of an interactive exhibit for Hispanic Heritage month, we asked participants to anonymously complete the sentence My Spanish…/Mi español… In this paper we explore the replies that were shared, and what they show us about these learners. We will propose best practices about how to address these perceptions in the classroom, and use them to create a sense of belonging. We aim to create awareness of the needs of these students, the richness that they bring to their classroom, and how to value their language skills.
Chair: Olga Padilla-Falto