Ideology and identity in Spanish heritage language classroom discursive practices




Showstack, Rachel Elizabeth

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study addresses how bilingual students and instructors construct and negotiate discourses about language and language-related social positions through different kinds language use in and outside the heritage language (HL) classroom. The project focuses on one group of students who took an entry-level Spanish HL course in 2010. Data include ethnographic observations and video recordings of class sessions throughout the semester, filmed interviews with the students and the instructor, observations and recordings of students’ language use in social contexts outside of class, course materials, and writings produced by the students for the class. The study takes the perspective that identities and ideologies are dynamic and embodied within the repeated, purposeful types of interaction in which people engage in their daily lives, and can be constructed, contested and negotiated using a variety of meaning-making resources (Bucholtz and Hall 2004b, Young 2009). The analysis takes an ethnographic approach (Blommaert 2005) and draws from the linguistic anthropological notion of language ideologies (Kroskrity 2004), a sociolinguistic approach to stance (Jaffe 2009b), and narrative analysis (De Fina 2003). The study data show that when orienting toward the pedagogical objective of acquiring grammar and vocabulary, the students and the instructor represent institutional ideologies, such as the notion of a superior ‘standard’ variety of Spanish, and construct relations of authority with respect to these discourses through resources such as repair and epistemic stance. The instructor displays a complex set of stances in the classroom, mediating between an authoritative role associated with her institutional position on the one hand and a stance of alignment with the students on the other. Reflecting the instructors’ stancetaking, the students negotiate their orientation to the institutional context on a moment-to-moment basis in classroom interaction. They ascribe expert and novice roles to each other through resources such as repair, but they do not always claim the roles ascribed to them by their co-participants. Although the expert/novice stances displayed by the students reflect an ideal monolingual identity ascribed by the instructor and an over-simplified view of language characteristic of traditional language instruction, the students challenge these institutional discourses through linguistic performance and the reframing of other voices. In other moments of interaction, the students and the instructor orient toward the goal of alignment, reflecting discursive practices from outside of the classroom, and institutional ideologies appear to be less relevant. When interacting with Spanish-speaking family members and co-workers outside of the classroom, the students use language in creative ways to construct identities that conflict with the monolingual identity ascribed within the institution. However, while they demonstrate competence in constructing these identities in contexts that are familiar to them, some students express concerns about how others will perceive them when they use language in less familiar contexts. Many of the students view the HL courses as an important stepping-stone toward full participation in Spanish-speaking communities outside of their hometowns and immediate families. The conclusions discuss a disconnect between pedagogical practices and the discursive practices in which the students participate in their daily lives and hope to participate in the future, and end with a proposal for HL teaching that addresses these differences.



LCSH Subject Headings