"You're Not Latino, You're American": Heritage Learners of Spanish Navigate Issues of Cultural Identity in Higher Education
- College Student Affairs Journal
- Southern Association for College Student Affairs
- Volume 36, Number 1, Spring 2018
- pp. 17-31
- Additional Information
Institutions of higher education are increasingly offering heritage language courses to support the varied linguistic and cultural backgrounds of incoming students given the rapid increase in the percentage of students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds attending college in the United States. Recent research on heritage language learning has centered primarily on concrete linguistic outcomes or the motivation of students. In contrast, this study explores the experiences of heritage language learners in higher education, with a particular focus on the intersection of linguistic diversity and cultural identity. The experiences of four women who studied Spanish as a heritage language while attending college are of focus in this study. Through semi-structured interviews, these participants shared their experiences as heritage language learners navigating issues of cultural identity while attending college. The thematic findings included participants highlighting heritage language and its role in identity development as well as feelings of alienation and discrimination in higher education. It is hoped that the experiences of these students can better inform faculty and college student affairs personnel about issues facing a growing population of linguistically- and culturally-diverse students in higher education in the United States.