Module 1 Lesson 3

Using Sociolinguistics in the HLL Classroom

Definitions and Terms

In this section, you will be able to:

  • Define what is sociolinguistics
  • Identify the benefits that sociolinguistic content can bring to the SHL classroom
  • Identify specific sociolinguistic terms that can be incorporated in the SHL classroom

One of the ways that we can support our students in their development in the Spanish language is to incorporate sociolinguistic content within the classroom. In the following clip, Dr. Esteban Hernández will define the field of sociolinguistics.

Video: Definitions of sociolinguistics

The following are definitions for sociolinguistics:

“The term field of sociolinguistics is broadly defined as the study of the social aspects of language as well as the interaction of language with social, cultural, and political structures and phenomenon.” (Leeman and Serafini 2016:56)

“La sociolingüística es una disciplina que abarca una gama amplísima de intereses relacionados con el estudio de una o más lenguas en su entorno social.” (Silvia-Corvalán 2017:1)

“An all-encompassing definition for the domain of inquiry of sociolinguistics is the interaction between language, culture, and society. Depending on the focus, virtually any study of language implicates a social connection because without this human component language itself would not exist.” (Tagliamonte 2012:1)

As we see the definitions of sociolinguistics, the question to ask now is: What benefit will sociolinguistics bring to the classroom? What questions can sociolinguistics help answer? Dr. Hernández will discuss some of the questions that sociolinguistics can aid in answering.

Video: What questions can sociolinguistics help answer?

As we see that sociolinguistics can help answer questions that are relevant to the Spanish as a heritage language (SHL) classroom, Dr. Hernández shows and defines the various sociolinguistics terms that should make part of our class and that can be useful for students to know as well.

Video: Sociolinguistic Terms to Use in the SHL Classroom

These sociolinguistic terms can be used in the SHL classroom because they can support students in their metalinguistic thinking, as they are developing language awareness. In the following section, we will make connections between sociolinguistic content and our students.

Making Connections between Sociolinguistic Content and our Students

In this section you will be able to:

  • Identify sociolinguistic topics that can be explored and discussed in the SHL classroom
  • Explain the purpose of teaching heritage student different Spanish language varieties

The previous sections have shown the sociolinguistic terms that can be incorporated in our classrooms. Introducing sociolinguistic content can open opportunities to engage in certain topics or discussions as students connect this content to the realities of language. In the following section, Dr. Hernández discusses prestige in the Spanish language.

Video: Prestige in the Spanish Language

Students are to be aware that there is prestige in certain varieties of languages, which can change according to the context (e.g. at home with family, job interview, etc.). In the field of linguistics, prestige can be labelled as:

  1. Overt prestige (prestigio abierto): prestige usually attributed to the standard; can be seen as the variety that is “correct” and carries favor by a group of individuals
  2. Covert prestige (prestigio encubierto): prestige ascribed to non-standard varieties. Small groups of speakers can favor certain linguistic varieties usually without the users’ awareness.

In the following video segment, Dr. Hernández discusses the topic of language choice and repercussions.

Video: Language Choice and Repercussions

These are topics that can be discussed with students in the classroom. As educators, we can use sociolinguistic content to support our heritage students. In the following video segment, Dr. Belpoliti and Dr. Hernández discuss the purpose for having these discussions with our students.

Video: Creating Multi-dialectal Students

As students engage in various contexts, we desire that HLLs gain more ability to be able to effectively and appropriately access and engage within different registers. Their variety is valuable and valid. The goal is to add to their repertoire so they have more abilities and opportunities in the Spanish language.

In the following section, we will see elements in classroom planning with consideration of the sociolinguistic elements we have explored within these lessons as well as the previous lessons.

Sociolinguistics in Classroom Planning

In this section you will be able to:

  • Identify elements of the SHL that should be considered in classroom planning
  • Identify seven goals to implement in the SHL classroom

In the past modules, we have explored sociolinguistic terms and topics that can help our students as they are interacting with the heritage language. The exposure and discussion of these topics will be activating the metalinguistic element in our students due to stimulating awareness of the language use itself.

In the following video segment, Dr. Hernández will be discussing the different elements or areas that are incorporated with the SHL classroom, which includes metalinguistic as one of them.

Video: General Elements in Class Preparation

Dr. Hernández identifies linguistic, metalinguistic, theoretical, and methodological elements as components that SHL instructors should process and think through as we plan our courses. Once we establish this framework, we can then consider other and more specific elements in our classroom.

In the following video segment, Dr. Herández explores the various components that need to be considered. Notice how this classroom preparation starts with abstract ideologies (e.g. approach) which then dictate the more concrete and physical elements (e.g. design).

Video: Approaches and Design

There are many elements to consider with planning a language course. As SHL instructors, we want to develop classroom goals that will benefit our students. What are the specific goals that should be part of our classroom?

In the following video segment, Dr. Hernández discusses the seven goals that should create the essence of our SHL classrooms.

Video: Goals in Teaching SHL

According to Valdés (1995, 1997) and Aparicio (1997), there are goals that should make up our SHL classrooms:

  1. Spanish language maintenance
  2. Acquisition of academic Spanish
  3. Expansion of bilingual range
  4. Transfer of literary skills
  5. Stimulate academic potential
  6. Encourage positive attitudes toward the heritage language and culture
  7. Develop cultural awareness

Consider the following questions:

  • How many of the goals are about developing metalinguistic skills?
    How many are more about linguistic skills?
  • What are ways to develop the linguistic and metalinguistic simultaneously?
  • Can you think of specific activities that can help develop these goals?

Review questions:

Sample Activities

In this section, you will be shown different sample activities that involve elements discussed in this module.

As you view the activities, consider the following questions:

  • What elements are incorporated (e.g. linguistic, metalinguistic, etc.)?
  • What sociolinguistic elements or topics can be discussed?
  • How can I use this with my students?

View the activities here

Video: Sample Activity Analysis

It is a valuable practice to have students have autonomy in their learning as they are the ones to discuss and create their own conclusions. Students can be guided, but it is student-led learning that creates meaningful connections.

Lesson 3 References

  • Aparicio, Francis. 1997. La enseñanza del español para hispanohablantes y la pedagogía multicultural. En Colombi, Cecilia M. y Francisco X. Alarcón (eds.), La enseñanza del español a hispanohablantes: Praxis y teoría, 233-256. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Leman, Jennifer y Ellen Serafini. 2016. Sociolinguistics for heritage language educators and students. En Marta Fairclough y Sara M. Beaudrie (eds.), Innovative strategies for heritage language teaching. A practical guide for the classroom. 56-79. Washington, DC.: Georgetown University Press.
  • Silva-Corvalán. 2001. Sociolingüística y pragmática del español. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Tagliamonte, Sali. 2006. Analysing sociolinguitic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Valdés, Guadalupe. 1995. The teaching of minority languages as academic subjects: Pedagogical and theoretical challenges. Modern Language Journal 79, 299-328.
  • Valdés, Guadalupe. 1997. The teaching of Spanish to bilingual Spanish-speaking students: Outstanding issues and unanswered questions. En Colombi, Cecilia M. y Francisco X. Alarcón (eds.), La enseñanza del español a hispanohablantes: Praxis y teoría, 8-44. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Module 1 Conclusions

This module intended to explore the current data and statistics that will help inform language educators of heritage Spanish of their students. While the Hispanic population is growing, it is important to consider that student ability with the Spanish language will most likely be at a beginner or intermediate level. However, these levels of proficiency in the heritage student are not equivalent to the second language learner counterpart.

Due to living in the context of the United States, heritage students are exposed to a social discourse that may differ from the positive discourse advocated in the classroom. There is a need to acknowledge the existence of this tension and further support students in their ability to manage such tension in their lives.

As mentioned before, heritage language learners (HLLs) differ greatly from second language learners (L2Ls) as there are differences in cultural affiliation and linguistic ability. The personal tie with the language in terms of affiliation and identity are some of the cultural characteristics that separate the HLL from the L2L. Since there are various elements regarding the HLL, there have been various proposed models and definitions.

Using sociolinguistic content in the SHL classroom can be a beneficial tool to incorporate as it informs the language within its social context. Such content and topics can be discussed with students as they are to develop metalinguistic practices in learning. These are all elements to consider in classroom planning in order to determine approach and design. SHL educators should also incorporate the seven goals within the language classroom. Using sociolinguistics is a way to enhance students’ learning as they gain more autonomy in their language learning.

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