“ 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)?
The questions in the title of this blog always run through my head as the beginning of each school year approaches. Many of us try to guess what topics, readings and or activities would attract our students. But why don’t we stop guessing and start asking? What has worked for me in the past is creating a survey and giving it to my students at the beginning and at the end of each school year. Like this, I find out what their interests are and I try to incorporate them into their curriculum.
The first year I gave my students a survey it was by projecting 4-5 questions on a power point slide, but now with google sheets, everything is much easier! You can give your students the survey and within seconds you will have your results! This is a powerful tool to use in your classroom if you want to really incorporate your students’ interests when creating materials for the classroom. Here is a link to a survey I created to use for these purposes:
Heritage Spanish Survey
Feel free to use it :) Also, here are some of the topics my students suggested should be included in a heritage Spanish curriculum:
Hasta la vista,
As a child, I remember most of my teachers pronouncing my first name correctly. Nancy. It's not a difficult name to pronounce. But, when it came to my last name it was like opening a Kinder Surprise egg; you didn't know what was going to come out of the teacher's mouth. My last name is Dominguez. Some pronounced it like Domingo, Dominique, you name it. When I was younger I just ignored it. However, when I got to high school it started bothering me. How hard can it be to pronounce Do-mín-guez. And why was it okay for my name to be mispronounced but Michael Roberts got all his syllables pronounced correctly? My name is who I am. My name defines my identity. My name is Nancy Domínguez.
Have you ever lived a similar experience ? I'm sure your students have. As a Heritage Spanish teacher I discussed this topic frequently with my students. Through these conversations I found that they too have lived similar experiences. They dislike when people mispronounce their names but sometimes they are to shy to speak up. The way I approached this was by exposing them to literature, videos and different activities that made them research the roots of their names and the importance it has on the formation of their identity.
Here are some of the activities I used. I hope they are of help in your classroom if this topic ever comes up ( I hope it does):
I hope this is helpful! Please feel free to comment and add any other activities and or resources you have utilized for this topic.