Empowering Learners of Spanish

Empowering Learners of Spanish

From the Editor: This is a guest post about a new set of openly licensed activities “Empowering Learners of Spanish”, by Claudia Holguín Mendoza, Robert L. Davis, Julie Weise (University of Oregon) and Munia Cabal Jiménez (Western Illinois University).

We want to share with students and educators the Empowering Learners of Spanish project from Romance Languages at the University of Oregon. This collection of activities based on Critical Pedagogies developed in the Spanish as a Heritage Language program at the University of Oregon, serves to introduce students to a range of concepts in sociolinguistics and critical inquiry into language ideologies.

The activities are written in both English and Spanish, and resources are also in both languages. Working in two languages will allow students to reproduce the linguistic practices of bilinguals. Heritage learners of Spanish should find these practices familiar, and students learning Spanish as a second language will benefit from the scaffolding of using some English. Language development for both profiles of students can be enhanced with the techniques of “intercomprehension”, outlined in the “Guide to intercomprehension” in the resource section in the INDEX.

Instructors can decide what language(s) students should use to participate and respond (Spanish, English, Spanglish), depending on their local context, student level, and course objectives. We have developed these units and resources for teaching this content in regular Spanish language programs, including Spanish as a Heritage Language courses, and any other content course where Spanish is relevant! In fact, the first unit that we developed El corrido “El deportado”, has the purpose of supporting the teaching of Spanish to the understanding of primary texts in a course on History of Latinx in the Americas. This class is taught in our History department; it is not a language class per se, but students have made gains in proficiency by working in two languages. Moreover, content-based materials within a language program or elsewhere on campus become an opportunity for students to engage in debating the relationships between language, ideology, power, and the association of discourse and sociocultural change. Ultimately, this type of curriculum fosters the development of Critical Language Awareness regarding language practices in communities of Spanish speakers, particularly in the US.

One of our main objectives in the Empowering Learners of Spanish project is to provide students with opportunities to participate in current sociopolitical debates. We include several elements already presented in interdisciplinary critical pedagogies of language and discourse. In this manner, this initiative fits within curricular models that integrate language learning with critical studies in culture and discourse. Heritage and L2 students are able to engage with material that emphasizes language variation, social dynamics of language use, and the historical contexts that generate them. This content makes the ELS initiative particularly relevant and motivating to Spanish Heritage learners.

This project has been supported by a generous grant from the College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of Oregon.

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