Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Entries for FAQs –Bilingual/ Heritage speakers’ courses

Q: Who can register for courses designed for bilingual/heritage speakers?

A: These courses are designed for Spanish heritage speakers. A heritage speaker, also called a heritage language learner, is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in their daily life. Some students may have full oral fluency and literacy in the heritage language; others may have full oral fluency, but their written literacy was not developed because they were usually schooled in English. Another group of students -- typically third- or fourth-generation -- can speak to a limited degree but have difficulty expressing themselves on a wide range of topics. Heritage speakers usually present a wide knowledge about their cultural heritage and a less thorough knowledge about other Spanish speaking countries.

Q: If I am a bilingual/heritage speaker, how do I register for one of the bilingual courses?

A: If you consider yourself a bilingual/heritage speaker, you can register for SPN 604. There is no pre-requisite and no test is required. A heritage speaker may skip SPN 604 and register for SPN 612 if he/she has taken 610D (non-heritage track). If you have questions, speak with our academic advisor, Liz Hastings.  

Q: Is the content of the bilingual classes more challenging than the content in traditional courses?

A: The bilingual courses are different but not harder, because they are specifically designed to fulfill the particular needs of a bilingual student.

Q: If I grew up in a bilingual home and I already speak perfect Spanish, why should I register in a bilingual course?

A: Speaking is not the only skill undergraduate students must develop and master. Bilingual courses cover various aspects of the language (e.g. stylistics, register, metalinguistic awareness) that are highly beneficial in the development of superior language competence, but are often not included in traditional Spanish courses for non-heritage speakers.

Q: If I know how to write in Spanish because my elementary teacher/ parents/ friends taught me how to do it, should I still register in a bilingual course?

A: It is very common for bilingual students to think that they already know how to speak and write because Spanish is written the way it sounds. This is not always the case and more often than not you will find yourself stopping and thinking about the right spelling of a particular word. For example “ va a hacer” is not the same as “ va a ser” or “vaser” (which is net even a word). Another common example is “vez” and “ves” which might sound the same but have totally different meanings. In short, writing is a skill that requires long-term practice.