Sara M. Beaudrie
Arizona State University
This first-of-its-kind book represents a significant contribution to the field of heritage languages and, most crucially, is an invaluable resource for Spanish heritage language (SHL) students and teachers. Elena Foulis and Stacey Alex have put together an innovative textbook for Spanish heritage learners, which thoughtfully reflects our current understandings about Spanish heritage language teaching and learning in the United States. This book also importantly provides unique insights into the growing population of SHL learners in the Midwest.
An SHL learner is a student who has grown up surrounded by Spanish at home or in their community in a context where the dominant language is English. The United States has witnessed a tremendous increase in speakers of Spanish and other minority languages. As of 2017, almost 67 million individuals, or 1 in 5, speak a language other than English at home. This population has been steadily increasing for the last three decades, doubling since 1990 and nearly tripling since 1980. Spanish speakers account for a high proportion of that growth, reaching nearly 41 million in 2017. The Midwest of the United States is no exception. There were over 55 million Hispanics in 2014, an increase of 5 million in only four years from 2010. Of all the states in the region, Ohio has had the fastest growth during that time.
Similarly, the Hispanic student population in higher education has grown steadily over the last four decades, from 383,800 (13%) in the Fall of 1976 to 3,540,600 (23.0%) in the Fall of 2017 (NCES, 2018). Not surprisingly, SHL programs in the Midwest are expanding as much as in other regions of the United States with as many as 20 out of 54, or 37%, of four-year universities offering specially-designed language courses for these learners, comparable with national average of 40% (Beaudrie, 2012).
SHL programs seek to provide meaningful language learning experiences for those SHL learners who want to reconnect with their linguistic and cultural heritage. As research shows, heritage languages are lost rapidly after two or three immigrant generations (Potowski, 2010). In these classes, students are able to regain or further develop their heritage language proficiency as well as increase their sense of personal identity, self-pride, and connectedness to their cultural heritage, families, and communities (Li & Duff, 2008). The broad goals of SHL education are to promote language maintenance; expand students’ bilingual capabilities; promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity; help learners develop positive attitudes, and help bridge the achievement gap between minority and majority student populations (see Beaudrie, Ducar, Potowski, 2014).
In order to achieve those goals, research suggests that heritage learners benefit from materials that are personally and culturally relevant (i.e.: Beaudrie, Ducar, Relaño-Pastor, 2009; Parra, 2013). This is one of the reasons why this book represents a significant contribution to heritage studies in the Midwest; it is the first of its kind in presenting a compilation of readings, media, and audio materials that are authentic and tailored for students in the region.
Foulis and Alex’s book also presents highly engaging topics such as issues related to students in higher education, language use in the family and community, local festivals, and family histories. Each chapter begins with clearly articulated set of objectives, followed by a diverse series of engaging and authentic materials and activities. Each listening or reading activity is accompanied by pre- and post-comprehension questions as well as grammar and vocabulary assignments. The chapter ends with a project, following the pedagogical framework of project-based learning. This pedagogical approach is ideal for the heritage language classroom as it is a student-centered approach that fosters students’ autonomy, engagement, collaboration, communication, and self-reflection within real-world practices. Most importantly, it facilitates the use of differentiated instruction and assessment (Carreira & Hitchins Chik, 2018), which are also crucial to attend to the diverse linguistic and cultural needs of heritage learners. Additionally, this book utilizes place-based learning as it main source for reading and audio-visual materials, which is yet another resource to engage students and make learning more relevant. Place-based learning uses the students’ communities as one of the primary sources for learning while exploring themes in the classroom that are rooted in relevant local needs and issues.
At the turn of the 21st century, a growing number of researchers, practitioners, community members, and students are fighting to preserve our country’s rich linguistic resources through heritage language education. This timely book is an outstanding effort to contribute towards successful SHL teaching and learning experiences in the region and is an invaluable resource for teachers and students alike. The innovative, research-based approaches adopted for the design of this book will certainly prove to be beneficial to enhance student learning. I am also sure that teachers will highly appreciate the great work that the authors undertook for this project and the delightful collection of classroom-friendly materials.
Beaudrie, S. (2012). Research on university-based Spanish heritage language programs in the United States: The current state of affairs. In S. Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage language in the United States: State of the field (pp. 203–221). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C. & Relaño-Pastor, A. M. (2009). Curricular perspectives in the heritage language context: Assessing culture and identity. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 22(2), 157–174.
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C., & Potowski, K. (2014). Heritage language teaching: Research and practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Carreira, M., & Hitchins Chik, C. (2018). Differentiated teaching: A primer for heritage and mixed classes. In K. Potowski (Ed.), The handbook of Spanish as a heritage/minority language. New York: Routledge.
Li, D., & Duff, P. (2008). Issues in Chinese heritage language education and research at the postsecondary level. In A. W. He & Y. Xiao (Eds.), Chinese as a heritage language: Fostering rooted world citizenry (pp. 13–36). Honolulu: National Foreign Language Resource Center, University of Hawaii.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2018). Table 306.10. Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of enrollment, sex, attendance status, and race/ethnicity or nonresident alien status of student: Selected years, 1976 through 2017. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Parra, M. L. (2013). Expanding language and cultural competence in advanced heritage- and
foreign-language learners through community engagement and work with the Arts. Heritage Language Journal, 10(2), http://www.heritagelanguages.org/
Potowski, K. (2010). Language diversity in the USA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.