Spanish heritage language learners in the U.S. : issues & support in elementary, secondary & post-secondary education
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Spanish heritage language learners are a growing population of students in the United States (U.S.). The 2015 Census Bureau states that 17.6% of the U.S. population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, and the Hispanic population is projected to grow 86% between now and the year 2050. Hispanic children constitute 25% of the U.S. population of children, and 13.1% of residents of the U.S. age five and older speak Spanish at home. This paper discusses some of the issues faced by heritage language learners, and some of the programs that are offered to these students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. It is argued that dual language programs support heritage language learners in elementary and secondary education, as their goals promote bilingualism, biliteracy and biculturalism, and they, therefore, help maintain the heritage language. In post-secondary education, colleges and universities are now offering Spanish heritage language tracks to serve these language learners who have different linguistic and academic needs than other Spanish as a second language learners.