University of New Mexico

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University of New Mexico

The Sabine Ulibarrí Spanish as a Heritage Language program is one of the longest-running SHL programs in the country with preliminary implementations that date back to the 1960s. Notable sociolinguist Garland Bills was hired to UNM in 1969 to work on a placement exam for the SHL program. As would be expected, findings and concepts from the field of sociolinguistics have been incorporated into our SUSHL program. One of the distinguishing characteristics of our program is that we serve beginning-level learners  who wish to regain their heritage language. Often, these beginners have extensive receptive skills that can be polished as they turn them into productive skills. Aside from lower-division courses that serve beginners and intermediate-level learners, we also offer writing and topics courses as introductions to upper-division studies. 

Part of our mission is to promote the appreciation of the speech communities from which our learners hail and foster a critical awareness of the positionality of the varieties of Spanish spoken by these communities. Consequently, we attempt to convey that “Grandma is always right” in all levels and that there are sociopolitical ideologies that come in to play if one attempts to correct her usage of community forms. At the same time, we attempt to empower our students through a focus on academic Spanish that increases with each level. 

With beginning students our motto is that they should be best at what they experience the most in our highly bilingual state and city: conversing about themselves, their daily lives, their weekends and family plans, gossip, and narrating events. 

While maintaining an appreciation for community varieties, in the later levels we work on developing more formal writing in a variety of genres and focus on sociopolitical content that will raise the heritage learners’ awareness of their sociolinguistic circumstances.