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U.S. Latinos’ Use of Written Spanish: Realities and Aspirations

In: Heritage Language Journal
Author:
Laura CallahanThe City College of New York

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This paper reports on an investigation of writing in Spanish in the lives of U.S. Latinos. Twenty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with informants recruited from among students and former students of high school and college Spanish courses. The interviews were transcribed and coded for concepts and emergent themes (Rubin & Rubin, 2005; Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). Some themes that emerged relate to what U.S. Latinos do with written Spanish and what they would like to be able to do; other themes include classroom experiences, extra-academic avenues of acquisition, the social position of varieties of Spanish, language maintenance, and intergenerational loss. Themes were grouped into four categories: Spanish language maintenance and loss, issues of prescriptivism, the experience of writing in Spanish, and current and planned uses for written Spanish. The results reflect some common patterns in objectives for and obstacles to using written Spanish. The experiences and insights will be of interest to those who are involved in the disciplines of heritage language education and language maintenance in Spanish, in particular at the college level, as well as to individuals concerned with hiring biliterate professionals.

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