Learning with an Attitude?!: Heritage and L2 Students’ Language Attitudes Toward Spanish Language Varieties in the Advanced Mixed Class

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The present study aims to gain deeper insights into language attitudes in the educational context while contributing to the emerging field of advanced mixed, second language and heritage language (HL)

The present study aims to gain deeper insights into language attitudes in the educational context while contributing to the emerging field of advanced mixed, second language and heritage language (HL) courses. Considering that the majority of heritage language learners (HLLs) and second language learners (L2s) in the United States (US) are enrolled in mixed classrooms (Beaudrie, 2012; Carreira, 2016a, 2016b), the study of language attitudes regarding monolingual varieties, bilingual varieties, and L2 varieties is crucial to inform pedagogical best practices that serve both types of learners. Additionally, by analyzing the language attitudes of both types of students toward these three Spanish language varieties, this study demonstrates the importance of incorporating linguistic variation into the classroom to address the linguistic hierarchies that exist in such a context. Thus, the results are relevant to the fields of sociolinguistics, L2 and HL pedagogy.

The study employs matched-guise tasks at two points during the semester, as well as end-term semi-structured interviews. As different linguistic components of a language trigger different attitudes, the findings show that native-like phonetic and phonological features of Spanish speakers afford positive attitudes, as do a formal lexicon and academic register. However, morphosyntactic features do not have any effect on forming an individual’s language attitudes.

To illustrate, the results of the matched-guise tasks show that native and HL varieties were generally evaluated positively, while L2 varieties were evaluated negatively. Interviews revealed native-like accent and pronunciation as the detrimental cause of negative attitudes toward the L2 variety. In contrast to the phonetic/phonological evaluations made by participants, both HLLs and L2s did agree that L2s speak a “proper” and “professional” Spanish. Furthermore, heritage Spanish was described as the “least formal” and “incorrect” Spanish variety in comparison to the L2 variety due to dominant stereotypes and ideologies and the incorporation of lexical characteristics of US Spanish.

Based on these findings, this study has the potential to make an invaluable contribution to understanding how language attitudes and instructional practices in the classroom context intersect with a social justice movement to improve mixed courses in a social, critical, and conscious way.