Heritage Spanish Studies

The heritage Spanish language program focuses on the development of multilingual and multicultural literacies through the appreciation and use of the heritage language and on the development of four major types of competencies: Linguistic, communicative, cultural, and metalinguistic. This tailored instruction for Spanish heritage speakers can be effective in preparing them to tackle different work fields.

Heritage speakers have the amazing advantage of being able to navigate among different languages and cultures, and the HSP wants to provide them with the opportunity to embrace these qualities, improve their language skills, and learn from one another.

Students who have grown up speaking both Spanish and English often have linguistic, cognitive and cultural advantages over monolingual speakers of either language, and they may be better prepared to face the challenges of a multilingual and multicultural world. (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.)

Heritage speakers may also find it valuable to learn about other varieties of Spanish. The Spanish speaking world is very large and there are some differences that exist from region to region.

Exploring language differences through assorted media and through classroom interaction is an opportunity to learn from other people’s perspectives. Inclusive learning environments create students that are comfortable with differences and better prepared at confronting challenging issues.

The HSP consists of a sequence of courses that address the specific needs of heritage Spanish language students here at AU. Its objective is to empower students like you to make deliberate use of your existing linguistic resources, and methodically exploit all the developmental advantages they offer. The HSP also provides a curricular and culturally enriched space where students can concurrently share their experience as insiders with students of similar backgrounds. Simply put, this program is about cultural enrichment and empowerment through language experience. Heritage Spanish courses…

  • Include a broad range of contexts in which to use Spanish, including academic and professional contexts.
  • Meet each student at their proficiency level to further develop their language skills for academic and professional purposes.
  • Develop awareness of additional discourse styles and registers that are present in students’ rich backgrounds and experiences.
  • Strengthen formal grammar and vocabulary knowledge as well as reading, writing, and speaking skills for academic and professional settings.
  • Function as intellectual spaces that promote student sharing and appreciation of their cultural and linguistic experiences and aptitudes.
  • Span 321: Heritage Spanish I
  • Span 322: Heritage Spanish II
  • Span 331: Heritage Spanish III - Writing Across Our Cultures

What do I do from here? If you are interested in learning more about this program, or to register in one of our courses, follow this 3-step plan:

Paso 1: What is my first step?

Contact our WLC advisor at wlcprogramadvisor@american.edu so you can see if taking an HSP course is a good fit for your academic goals. Also, check the schedule for the semester to see which course(s) are offered, and when.

Paso 2: Who do I contact to talk about a specific course in the HSP?

Email hsp@american.edu

Paso 3: How do I get placement?

Contact CLEAR at clear@american.edu Subject line: HSP Placement so you can take a placement test to make sure that you join an HSP offering that is right for you.

Spanish Tailored to Fit the Linguistic Talents of Heritage Speakers of Spanish

Hispanic Heritage Mural

Heritage language is a term commonly used for a language spoken at home that is different from the main language spoken in the society. Heritage Spanish students are those who have been raised in Spanish-speaking homes in the United States and schooled, for the most part, in English. Such students form a distinct population within the diverse fabric of our community. Their language learning needs are quite different from the needs of Spanish-speaking students from Latin America and Spain, as well as the language learning needs of students that want to learn Spanish as a second language.

Student Interviews


Student interviews.

So, do you consider yourself a heritage speaker of Spanish? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you understand some Spanish, but it is hard for you to communicate in Spanish the same way you communicate in English?
  • Do you speak some Spanish at home with your parents, abuelitas or other immediate family?
  • Have you studied in the United States since an early age, with most of your formal education conducted in English?
  • Do you seek to learn Spanish not as a foreign language—since you already understand it and speak it—but because you feel you may benefit from formal Spanish training in an academic setting?
  • Do you want to study Spanish to expand your academic language skills, and to (re)connect more deeply to your family’s culture?

If you answered SÍ to some of these questions, learn more with the Action Plan - Tu plan de acción above!

Undergraduate Degrees

Spanish BA Degrees

Spanish Minors

Translation Certificates

Graduate Degrees

For More Information

General Program Info


Director of Heritage Spanish Language Programs

Professor Lilian Baeza-Mendoza

Undergraduate or Graduate Certificate in Spanish Translation

Professor Julia Isaac

See also

Spanish Faculty Directory
AU Abroad