Heritage Language Programs - Spanish

University of Houston

College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Department of Modern and Classical Languages

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Address: 413 Agnes Arnold Hall, Houston, TX 77204-3006

Telephone: (713) 743-3244

Fax: (713) 743-0935

Web address: www.class.uh.edu/mcl/faculty/fairclough

Contact Person: Dr. Marta Fairclough, Assistant Professor, Spanish Linguistics

Email: mfairclough@uh.edu

Telephone: (713) 743-3244

Fax: (713) 743-0935

Type of institution: Research University

Languages/dialects taught: Spanish

• Parallel sequence of beginning, intermediate and advanced courses for heritage learners
• Graduate seminars

o Teaching Spanish to Spanish Speakers
o Research in Heritage Language Education

Program Description

Purposes and goals of the program: The goal of the heritage language track is to build upon the language base that students bring to the classroom and to develop students’ knowledge of academic Spanish.

Type of program: A heritage language track within a foreign language program

Program origin: The program was founded twelve years ago in response to the large number of heritage learners enrolling in Spanish language courses.

Faculty’s and administration’s expectations for the program: Faculty have high expectations for the students in the heritage track.


Countries of origin: 50% of students are from Mexico. The others are from the United States, Central and South America.

Total student enrollment: 200 per semester

Age of students: The majority of students are between 18 and 30 years old.

How the program identifies heritage speakers: Self identification

How the program determines the language background and language proficiency of students:
• Background questionnaire
• Placement Test
• Oral Interview

Percentage of students who continue to study the heritage language after completing the program: Unknown

Students’ attitudes toward the language varieties they speak: Many U.S. born students have negative feelings about their Spanish proficiency.


Number of faculty in the program: 5

Languages in which faculty members are proficient: Spanish and English

Proficiency level: Superior level in Spanish is required

Credentials: M.A. and Ph.D.

Professional development opportunities for faculty members: The director of the heritage language program offers training and guidance to the faculty.

Professional development opportunities faculty members need:
• Training in teaching methods,
• information on sociolinguistics
• information on U.S. Spanish


Total contact hours per week: 3

Times per week: 3

Student grouping: Students are grouped into beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses.

Language skills

Skills developed by the program:
• Listening
• Speaking
• Reading
• Writing

Levels of language proficiency reached by the end of the program: Most students reach the advanced level.


Aspects of culture taught:
• History
• Customs
• Songs
• Literature

Content courses offered for heritage speakers: Business and translation

Kind of student identity fostered by program: Bicultural identity


Methodologies and instructional strategies used in the program:
• Contrastive analysis between Standard Spanish and various dialects
• Translation


• Mosaicos (Prentice Hall)
• Conozcamonos (Heinle)
• Palabra Abierta (Houghton Mifflin)

Technology used for instruction:
• Language Lab
• Internet


Assessments used to evaluate students’ progress:
• Weekly quizzes
• Chapter tests
• Mid-term tests
• Final exams
• University developed tests

Opportunities for using the heritage language and developing cultural knowledge outside the program: Students are able to use their language skills and cultural knowledge in the community.

What the program has in place

Types of financial support the program receives: Institutional support

Desired assistance or collaboration for program from other entities: Outside grants

System for graduating students and granting credit: Course credits are awarded

Faculty research on heritage language issues: Both faculty and graduate students conduct research on Spanish as a heritage language.

Special challenges

Challenges the program has experienced: Placement is the biggest challenge.

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