High school heritage learners of Spanish: An investigation of language attitudes
AdvisorSchulz, Renate A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study explored language attitudes of high-school-level heritage learners of Spanish. Five varieties of Spanish and English, namely, standard Mexican, non-native and local Southern Arizona Spanish, code-switching, and Chicano-accented English were presented to heritage learners using audio-recorded voice samples. Evaluations were recorded on semantic differential scales designed to reflect two distinct attitude dimensions, solidarity and socio-intellectual status/prestige. In addition to quantifying language attitudes, the study attempted to establish correlations with demographic factors. Demographic surveys and student interviews further yielded information to develop a current description of heritage learners in a formal, classroom setting. Teacher interviews provided insights into program structure and teacher preparation. The ultimate pedagogical goal of this investigation was to define implications for heritage language instruction and for the preparation of teachers for this relatively new, yet growing field. A total of 238 students from programs for Spanish heritage learners in ten schools encompassing four districts, public and private, took part in the study. Structure and practices of heritage programs were found to differ widely, with teachers exercising considerable discretion over curriculum. Students were found to be 90% recently arrived or second-generation students of Mexican, mostly Sonoran, background. Students expressed largely instrumental motivation for their pursuit of Spanish in school and 85% planned to pursue higher education. Results indicate significant differences in students' attitudes between the normative and vernacular language varieties tested. In this academic setting, students' attitudes reflected a distinct preference for more standard varieties. The English test variety was ranked below these and above the vernaculars. Student-participants also showed sensitivity to fine distinctions in register and style. Gender of both speaker and listener were shown to affect language attitudes. Students' habits of language use, in particular the extent of outside reading and radio listening in Spanish, were significantly correlated with more positive language attitudes toward standard varieties. These habits also correlated with higher proficiency levels. These results engendered three salient implications for teaching and teacher preparation: the need to enhance students' outside reading and listening habits, the need to extend students' familiarity with divergent speech styles, the necessary inclusion of sociolinguistic underpinnings in teacher preparation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching