Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Accent-Uating Rules and Relationships: Motivations, Attitudes, and Goals in a Spanish for Native Speakers Class

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Accent-Uating Rules and Relationships: Motivations, Attitudes, and Goals in a Spanish for Native Speakers Class

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This study examines the motivations, attitudes, and goals of a Spanish for native speakers (SNS) class at a large Midwestern university over a semester, using questionnaires, student interviews, classroom observation, and instructor interviews as data sources. It presents results from four students who participated in the data collection, but focuses primarily on the experiences of one student. Students enrolled in the course for both academic and personal reasons. Their goals included improvement of writing skills and mastery of orthographic accents and other grammar/spelling aspects of Spanish. Throughout the semester, they demonstrated positive attitudes and reported improvement in their Spanish. Furthermore, the development of their skills led them to reevaluate their relationship with language in general and Spanish in particular.

Key words: attitudes, case study, goals, motivation, Spanish for native speakers (SNS)

Language: Spanish

Introduction

U.S. censuses have shown that the Hispanic/Latino population has grown steadily over recent decades and that this trend seems likely to continue through the first half of the 21st century (Guzrnan, 2001; U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). These changing demographics are affecting the use of Spanish in this country. After English, Spanish is the language most widely used in the home (Colombi & Roca, 2003; Shin & Bruno, 2003). One element of this trend is that some children born in the United States acquire Spanish because of its use in the home or with relatives and community members. These speakers, referred to as heritage speakers, are called heritage learners when they enroll in a Spanish class.1 A wide variety of people are included in this definition. Beckstead and Toribio (2003), Colombi and Roca (2003), and Rodriguez Pino (1997) have noted that heritage learners can occupy any place on a continuum ranging from receptive bilinguals to immigrant students dominant in Spanish. Heritage learners have differing levels of literacy in Spanish (Lewelling, Kreeft Peyton, & Winke, 2001; Rodríguez Pino, 1997). They come from various ethnic backgrounds and speak different dialects of Spanish, some of which have been stigmatized because they are not prestige or standard varieties (e.g., Lewelling et al., 2001; Riegelhaupt & Carrasco, 2000; Valdés, 1981).

Research (e.g., Krashen, 1998) indicates that it is crucial to help heritage learners maintain their heritage language. Although there is evidence that Hispanics/Latinos have maintained Spanish longer than previous immigrant groups have maintained their languages (e.g., Alba, Logan, Lutz, & Stults, 2002, in regard to Cuban Americans and Mexican Americans; Grosjean, 1982), there is also evidence of language shift among this population (e.g., Bills, 1997; Krashen, 1998, 2000). Cho (2000) documented positive consequences of heritage language maintenance: Participants with high proficiency in Korean reported better relationships with heritage language speakers and saw their language skills as a resource for society that would also benefit their careers. Indeed, heritage language development has been associated with academic success (e.g., García-Vázquez, Vázquez, López, & Ward, 1997; Krashen, 1998) and slightly improved occupational status (Krashen, 1998). Krashen (1998) also posits that heritage language development would be good for the U.S. economy and balance of trade. Conversely, Cho (2000) and Cho and Krashen (1998) observed negative consequences of heritage language loss, including problems communicating with parents, grandparents, other members of the heritage language community, and speakers of the heritage language who live outside of the United States. The lowproficiency speakers who did not report problems communicating in the heritage language were those who avoided contact with Korean speakers (Cho, 2000). Cho and Krashen (1998) described heritage language education as a good investment at individual and societal levels because it provides for strong parent-child communication. …

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