Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Beatriz Lado

Committee Members

José del Valle

Miki Makihara

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Anthropology | Discourse and Text Linguistics | Linguistic Anthropology | Modern Languages | Social Justice | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Linguistics


Spanish, heritage language, critical pedagogy, higher education, language ideologies, language maintenance


When the Spanish-language skills of heritage Spanish learners are disparaged in an academic environment, these learners are at high risk of abandoning further study of Spanish and shifting entirely to English. This dissertation uses mixed qualitative and quantitative research methods, including thematic and discourse analysis, to investigate the language ideologies of instructors and students of Spanish as a heritage language (SHL) and the effects of those ideologies on students’ experiences in SHL college courses. It builds on earlier research on language ideologies in the post-secondary heritage language context (e.g., Carreira, 2011; Loza, 2017; Valdés et al., 2003). I find that certain kinds of student-instructor interactions, and many of the learning materials used in SHL courses overtly or covertly assert the supremacy of standard or academic Spanish and delegitimize colloquial and contact-influenced varieties, and therefore the linguistic knowledge that students bring to the classroom. By naturalizing the standard language, this also implicitly erases the operation of power in language. Rather than empowering students or encouraging them to value the forms of language they bring to the classroom, many SHL classes marginalize US Spanish by discursively constructing students’ language as inherently less valuable than prestige varieties. I contrast these delegitimizing practices with critical approaches to heritage language pedagogy, finding that student investment and engagement is greater in courses that use a critical approach to support students’ multilingualism. The dissertation concludes with pedagogical recommendations for encouraging language maintenance and growing SHL learners’ self-esteem and self-confidence as Spanish speakers.