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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spanish heritage language learners in Canadian high school Spanish classes : negotiating ethnolinguistic identities and ideologies Abdi, Klara


Many young people today are growing up with two or more languages. The development of their heritage language (HL) plays a role in the learners’ intellectual development, cultural identification, and family and HL community relations. Growing numbers of students are thus choosing to enrol in high school or post-secondary language classes for their HL development, posing challenges for teachers who generally have to teach them alongside other (non-HL) “foreign language” (FL) students. Although this area of research, particularly in relation to the teaching of Spanish in the United States, is growing, few studies have looked at the interactions of HL and FL students in mixed classes at the high school level in Canada or elsewhere. This ethnographic case study investigated the interactions and positionings of Spanish HL (SHL) students in intermediate high school Spanish FL (SFL) classes. Three classes were observed over a six-month period and interviews were conducted with all participating students and teachers. One class was then chosen for in-depth analysis for this thesis. The goal of the study was to analyse the nature of the interactions of SHL and SFL students in order to provide insights into how best to accommodate various types of students in one language course. The study found that the SHL students were positioned in various ways depending on the instructional (whole class or group) setting and the nature of the students’ relationships to those they were working with. Their various types and levels of language expertise was one factor in how they were perceived, with greater oral expertise at times making their cultural heritage more salient to their teacher and classmates. The SHL students’ ages and social group affiliations were also important factors affecting their status in class. In fact, their ages or particular groups of friends were sometimes found to be greater factors in how their classmates and teacher perceived them than their language expertise. The study offers new insights into the complex nature of teaching SHL and SFL students in one class at the high school level and offers implications for pedagogy, theory and future research.

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