"I used to only speak Spanish": An analysis of heritage language maintenance through the languaging and literacy practices of four Spanish heritage speakers

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Heritage language speakers, those who have or claim a connection with the language of their ancestors, have become a group of interest in the United States, especially since programs to serve this population were initiated four decades ago thanks to the advocacy of grassroots organizations. Still, the reach of those programs is minimal and the lack of federal policies providing educational services for this group are harming the chances for heritage speakers of developing and maintaining proficiency in their home languages. For so long the policies and practices in the education field in the United States restricted the use of home languages at school in hopes that children would acquire literacy skills in English more effectively. Such policies reflect the dominant discourses enacted by the mainstream in the U.S., where language ideologies are characterized for emphasizing anglonormativity, monolingualism, and the use of a monoglossic lens. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the factors that affect heritage language maintenance among Spanish heritage speakers, by looking at the support, or lack thereof, that they receive at home, at school, and in their community for the development of their heritage language. This study analyzed the thoughts and practices of four adolescent Spanish heritage speakers using a language identity framework that focused on how sociocultural factors affect their investment into maintaining their heritage language. Key findings point to positive perceptions about the heritage language and parents' engagement in teaching or reading in that language as key contributions to language maintenance.

Heritage language, Heritage speakers, Language ideologies, Language identity, Language investment, Language maintenance