Identity and varieties in the teaching of Spanish


The Spanish language classroom has long been a site of contestation and tensions. In this context, language learners bring individual and group identities and these are met with implicit and explicit social and linguistic classroom norms. Classroom dynamics are known to privilege foreign-ness (Train 2007), elevate standard language ideologies (Martinez and Train, 2020), further colonial projects (Macedo 2019), and reify raciolinguistic hierarchies (Rosa and Flores 2015; Rosa 2019). Recent theoretical insights and transformations in the teaching of Spanish are beginning to shed new light on these dynamics with the potential of unsettling them throughout the Spanish language education ecosystem. This panel seeks to explore the potential of these insights and transformations in changing the face of Spanish language teaching and learning.

Avizia Long and Lauren Schmidt explore the role of perceptions of social and regional dialects in shaping learner identity. Francisco Salgado Robles and Greg Thompson explore the potential of service learning as a means to provide meaningful opportunities for language use and development. Tracy Quan addresses study abroad as a means to foster the development of translingual identities. Together, our panelists explore key educational practices that can contest the raciolinguistically-constructed classroom and contribute to a larger vision of Spanish language education for societal transformation.

The intersection of dialectal variation and L2 learner identities in California Spanish language classrooms

Avizia Long, San José State University & Lauren Schmidt, San Diego State University

Previous research has shown that second language learners’ perceptions of particular social and regional communities and varieties of the target language influence the construction of individual learner identities and, ultimately, language learning outcomes, in study abroad and immersion contexts (George, 2014; Ringer-Hilfinger, 2012; Schmidt, to appear; Trimble, 2013). Learners’ perceptions of target language varieties in the “at home” context (i.e., learning Spanish in the United States) have received less empirical attention (Geeslin & Schmidt, 2015), despite the fact that these perceptions, along with other social factors and individual characteristics and experiences, may shape learner identity and language learning, particularly in regions where local and international varieties of Spanish are present and spoken in the local community.

With this framework in mind, this presentation highlights issues of identity and dialect in Spanish language classrooms in California. Using San José State University and San Diego State University as test sites—representing Northern and Southern California, respectively—questionnaire data were collected and analyzed to understand “who” learners are and how they approach the acquisition of Spanish as it relates to their exposure to and perception of US and other varieties of Spanish. The questionnaire, designed and delivered to first, second, and third year learners using Qualtrics, elicited demographic and background information as well as information about learners’ familiarity with and evaluation of multiple varieties of Spanish. Findings are discussed in relation to identity development and acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in California-based Spanish language classrooms, and specific areas for continued future research are outlined.

Spanish language acquisition in the US through service-learning

Francisco Salgado-Robles, College of Staten Island, CUNY & Greg Thompson, Brigham Young University

Although service learning (SL) shares similarities with other types of experiential learning such as internships, field education, volunteer activities, or community service, it has certain distinct features that make it a valuable tool for the acquisition of Spanish in the US. To represent the distinctions among various types of service programs, Furco (1996) developed an experiential education continuum based in large part off the work of five pedagogy theorists (Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1972; Vygotsky, 1978; Giroux, 1992; McLaren, 1995). Regarding the investigation on the impact of SL on language teaching and learning, the number of studies has increased in the last two decades. However, the majority of this research has been limited to the study of the connection between SL and oral proficiency or SL and target culture (Brown & Thompson, 2018) and to mainly qualitative or mixed methodological approaches.

In this presentation, we will discuss several theoretical models of service learning and connect SL with the acquisition of language competence (Bachman, 1990). We will examine the advantages for second language learners of Spanish of participating in service learning in different Spanish-speaking communities throughout the US. Specifically, we will show how SL within these communities can be used to address the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages established by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL): communication, cultures, communities, connections, and comparisons.

We also explore several models for undergraduate linguistics courses that include a SL component and focus on language variation (Charity et al., 2008). The scarce amount of inquiry on SL and language education and sociolinguistics has explored issues on intercultural competence, critical language, and lexical variation applied to SL, pre-service teacher programs, and language for specific purposes (LSP). We will present the findings from these studies as well as other studies that have used a variety of methodological approaches and assessment tools in SL research (surveys and pre/post questionnaires, interviews and focus groups, observation rating scales and checklists, etc.) to determine the effectiveness this methodology for the acquisition of Spanish in the US.


Fostering Translingual Identities in U.S.-Based Study Abroad Curricula for Spanish

Tracy Quan, University of Colorado, Boulder

U.S.-based study abroad research and programs tend to focus on L2 learners of English backgrounds studying in “exotic monolingual” contexts (Marijuan & Sanz, 2018, p. 9). However, in the case of Spanish, many learners and host communities are better described as multilingual and multicultural (García & Otheguy, 2014). In fact, how multilinguals reflect on and interpret their experiences abroad as they develop Spanish as an L3 or a heritage language has been undertheorized and under prioritized (Tullock & Ortega, 2017). Multilinguals navigate multiple identities, cross linguistic and social boundaries, and employ their entire set of language resources to make meaning--that is, they engage in translingual practice (Canagarajah, 2013) or translanguaging (Li Wei & García, 2013). Those with the capacity and disposition to participate in such interactive practices draw on their translingual identity to do so (Menard-Warwick, 2019). Yet, how does the process of language learning and living elsewhere lead multilinguals to reflect on and potentially reimagine their identities? 

Employing a theoretical framework of translingual practice and translanguaging, this presentation aims to: 1) highlight the rich resources multilinguals draw on to understand their experiences abroad and 2) illustrate how study abroad has the potential to foster and reaffirm translingual and transcultural identities. This presentation discusses two case studies: “Maria”--a Mexican American heritage learner of Spanish in Spain--and “Terry”--a Vietnamese American learner of Spanish in Guatemala. Through thematic analyses of interviews and coursework, the findings illustrate how engaging in translingual practices abroad, either naturalistically or due to the curriculum, facilitates participants’ meta-awareness and critical reflection of their racialized identities, of the minority status of their language practices, and of their cultural backgrounds across sociopolitical contexts. The positive outcomes of both cases argue for a translanguaging approach to study abroad which can be more inclusive and transformative than L2-oriented immersion models.