Module 1 Lesson 1

The Social Context of our Students

Statistics and Data

At the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Recall data regarding the Hispanic population
  • Recall data regarding the level of Spanish language ability amongst Hispanics

Planning content and implementing effective strategies with the heritage language learner can be a daunting task. One of the ways that we can gain a better understanding of the social reality of our students is to take a look at the national level. In the following video segment, Dr. Belpoliti shares data on the current state of Hispanics on the national scale of the United States.

Video: Hispanics in the US

The Hispanic population has grown to about 60 million people. The other significant piece of data is that although Mexico continues to be the most prominent country of origin for the Hispanic population, we must acknowledge that there is a growing diversity. Our students can come from different Spanish-speaking countries.

Question: How diverse is your heritage language learner
community? Is this diversity recognized and valued in the classroom?

This is data we see on a national scale. In the following video segment, we will explore some data about Hispanics within the field of education.

Video: Hispanic Trends

Within the field of education as teachers we are serving and supporting our students. However, the Hispanic graduation rate is still lower than the national average. Now, let’s consider some data related to the Spanish language itself. What level or ability of Spanish can our students have? What levels have you seen in your classroom?

Video: Spanish Speaker Trends

Review questions:

Social Discourse outside and inside the Classroom

In this section you will be able to:

  • Describe differences in needs between heritage language learners and second language learners

In the previous section, we viewed data that can bring insight to the students we see in our classrooms as well as their abilities. As teachers, we desire to support our students as well as let them see their heritage language in a positive light. The issue is that our positive discourse in the classroom can greatly differ from the social discourse they face outside of the classroom.

Dr. Belpoliti will discuss the concept of language-as-a-threat in the case of the Spanish language in the United States.

Take a moment to look at the following reports and/or videos:

Relevant Links:

Video: Spanish-as-a-threat Ideology

Question: What are the effects of the ideological representation of ‘Spanish-as-a-threat’ in children & young Latinos’ identity, community ascription, and self-regard? And the effects in our classrooms? What strategies would you implement to discuss these cases
with your students?

Since the heritage language is an element tied directly to the students’ identity, there is a need to support our students socio-affectively.

Video: Socio-Affective Support

Heritage students differ from second language learners because the language itself is directly tied to the students identity. This connection of language and identity does demand careful and meaningful socio-affective support. In this case, there is a need to not only support heritage students linguistically, but also socio-affectively. This situation is different for second language learners who may not have such a critical tie to the language in terms of identity and origin.


“Statistics and Data” section

“Social Discourse outside and inside the Classroom” section

  • Fuller, J. & Leeman, J. (2020) Speaking Spanish in the US, 2nd. ed. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Leeman, J. (2015). Heritage Language Education and Identity in the United States. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 35, 100-119. doi:10.1017/S0267190514000245
  • Martínez, G. (2012). Policy and Planning Research for Spanish as a Heritage Language: From Language Rights to Linguistic Resources. In S. M. Beaudrie & M. Fairclough (Eds.), Spanish as a heritage language in the United States: The State of the Field (pp. 439–60). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
  • Showstack, R. (2017) Stancetaking and Language Ideologies in Heritage Language Learner Classroom Discourse. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 16 (5), 271-284.


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