University of Oregon

« All Profiles

University of Oregon

The Spanish Heritage Language Program (SHL) is an initiative of the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon to meet the educational goals of students for whom Spanish is a birthright language.

The SHL Program is designed specifically for Spanish heritage language learners, students who have a personal, familial, or community connection to Spanish. It is comprised of a variety of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels taught by a diverse cross-section of University of Oregon faculty.

The mission of the Spanish Heritage Language Program is…

  • to value and develop Spanish language proficiency, particularly for students who grew up in a Spanish-speaking household or community;
  • to recognize, validate, and study the Spanish language as it is used in the US context, as well as the emerging phenomenon of English-Spanish bilingualism, with a focus on the use of code-switching and different types of borrowings as widespread linguistic phenomena in the US;
  • to give students the opportunity to build upon their existing linguistic and cultural knowledge and experiences; and
  • to create meaningful connections with local Spanish-speaking communities, acknowledging how languages are used and shaped both inside and outside academia.

We strive to accomplish this by…

  • meeting students’ professional, intellectual, and affective needs as heritage learners, based on the conviction that language and identity are deeply intertwined;
  • exploring topics related to students’ cultural backgrounds;
  • recovering or expanding students’ heritage linguistic abilities in both oral and written expression; and
  • engaging students in collaborative intercultural learning both inside and outside the classroom.

We believe that language is a social phenomenon and as such necessarily includes variation due to the constant movement of peoples and social changes over time. Thus, we must approach language study in a way that transcends linguistic hierarchies and assumptions of linguistic accuracy based on the native-speaker paradigm. This native-speaker paradigm ignores the realities of linguistic variation based on identity and social context; it operates under the faulty assumption that there is one correct way to speak a language, and that there are “native” speakers who speak this “standard” form and second language learners who are acquiring it.

The Spanish Heritage Language faculty at the UO affirm our ethical and pedagogical imperative to study Spanish not as an object independent of its speakers and their sociopolitical realities, but as a living, evolving vehicle of communication across many nations and cultures that is intimately tied to the identities and intellectual agency of its speakers.