“ Pero mamá, ¡no cabo en el carro!” “ ¿No cabo? ¡Así no se dice! ¡No puedo creer que no sepas hablar español bien con ese nopal en la frente!!”
Students in our Heritage Spanish classroom have lived a similar experience to the one above at least once in their life. They constantly get corrected and are expected to speak proper Spanish. If they don’t, then they aren’t Latinos. How can you BE Latino and not speak Spanish? What a shame! The worst part is that it’s parents and family members that make these comments not knowing the consequences they can have on the formation of the student's’ identity. As teachers, we have to find a way to better communicate with parents in order for them to understand WHY their student doesn’t speak ‘proper’ Spanish. See, in most cases, heritage speakers only have exposure to the heritage language at home. Heritage learners are ,for the most part, educated in a monolingual setting which limits the formal contexts in which they can use their heritage language. So then, why do we expect them to speak the same as a native speaker of Spanish?
When creating our curriculum, we need to keep this idea in mind. More than likely, our students aren’t going to leave our heritage Spanish program writing and speaking like Cervantes or Octavio Paz. The reality is that many of our students are going to be hesitant to speak Spanish. We need to help them fall in love with their heritage language and culture. The linguistic goals for our program should be centered around our students’ needs. Why do they need or want to speak the language? But, how can we do this? How can we help our students reach their full potential in their heritage language? Here are some suggestions which include strategies I have used in my classroom and/or that I have seen or read about:
What other advice would you give or add on to this list to help other educators in heritage Spanish field? Do you agree or disagree with the idea that one has to speak Spanish to be Latino (this is a hot topic you can discuss with your students)?