Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Spanish For Native Speakers College Classes Increase

Latinos raised in Spanish-speaking homes but not formally schooled in Spanish are often caught in a bind when they want to strengthen their language schools in college.

Spanish classes for non-native speakers may not be the best fit, so programs that address the needs of “heritage” speakers are increasingly popping up. As the Latino student population ages, Spanish for Spanish speakers classes could grow in popularity throughout the country.

The Associated Press reports on the trend, noting that it is still developing. Such students may have strong conversation skills, but experience challenges with reading and writing in Spanish, for example.

Harvard and the University of Miami are two examples of institutions that have special classes for such “heritage” speakers.

The AP article describes one student, Dorothy Villarreal, who realized the gaps in her Spanish when she studied abroad in Mexico.

“We were talking about the presidential election, and there was so much I wanted to explain,” Villarreal told the AP. “We’d end up playing a guessing game where I’d speak in English, and my friends, they’d speak back in Spanish to guess what I was saying.”

She is now enrolled in the Harvard heritage language class.

Additionally, the National Heritage Language Resource Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, tracks research on such programs and works on developing effective ways to teach heritage learners. The U.S. Department of Education funds the center. The center could be a possible resource for reporters.

There already are signs of the future demand for such courses. Growing numbers of school districts are using AP Spanish and Language classes with native Spanish-speaking students beginning as early as middle school.

The number of Spanish speakers residing within the United States isn’t dropping any time soon. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Spanish is the most common language other than in English spoken in homes, even among people who are not Hispanic.

Pew said that according to 2011 American Community Survey Census figures, about 37.6 million people ages five and older speak Spanish in the home.

Related Links:

- “Heritage language programs on the rise,” Associated Press.

- National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA.
- “Speaking Spanish Declining Among Latinos in the U.S.” CNN.

- “Spanish is the Most Spoken non-English Language in U.S. Homes, Even Among non-Hispanics,” Pew Research Center.