Teaching Spanish as a heritage language in Northeastern United States: Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia

Lacorte, M., Gironzetti, E., and Canabal-Torres, E. 2020. “Teaching Spanish as a heritage language in Northeastern United States: Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia.” In F. Salgado-Robles and E. M. Lamboy (Eds.), Spanish across Domains in the United States: Education, Public Spaces, and Social Media (pp. 94-120). Boston: Brill.



In this essay, we analyze the educational contexts for Spanish heritage language learners (HLLs) in the Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia (DC-MD-VA) metro area, a geographical region that has traditionally received little attention in our field despite having the 12th-largest Latino population in the country, as per the 2016 American Communities Survey (US Census, 2016). More specifically, we first provide a demographical, socioeconomic, and linguistic overview of the Latino community in the area. Second, we describe some of the key institutional, curricular, and pedagogical characteristics of Spanish programs for HLLs in community-based organizations, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions. Drawing upon these characteristics, we lay out several considerations regarding current and future Spanish as a heritage language (SHL) programs in the DC-MD-VA Metro area. These suggestions are organized around three central themes: (a) validating and incorporating the varieties of Spanish spoken by Latino students into courses designed for HLLs while also addressing the implicit linguistics ideologies among students and teachers; (b) reshaping course offerings beyond specific periods, geographical areas and/or renowned authors; and (c) involving HLLs in coalitions or alliances with community partners, institutions, and agencies in community-based initiatives.