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Auteur: Marta FAIRCLOUGH

Co-Auteur(s): Flavia BELPOLITI, University of Houston, United States of America

Emerging Literacy in Spanish among Hispanic Heritage Language University Students in the United States: A Pilot Study

Abstract/Résumé: A few researchers have studied the written discourse of Spanish heritage language learners in the U.S., focusing mainly on the students’ path to advanced literacy (e.g., Achugar & Colombi, 2008; Colombi 1997, 2006, 2009). Guided by Halliday’s (1989) Systemic Functional framework, these publications analyzed specific lexical, grammatical and discourse-semantic indices of language development that allow learners to move from colloquial registers to more formal styles (Colombi & Harrington, 2012). Along the same path, the purpose of this pilot study is to describe the emerging writing skills in Spanish among bilingual English/Spanish students at a large public university in the Southwestern United States. The essays used in the study are part of an online placement and credit exam that includes discrete items (lexical recognition, dictation, partial translation, grammar, verb production) as well as open-ended activities (listening and speaking/reading and writing). All incoming students have to take the exam before enrolling in the Spanish Heritage Language Program in the Department of Hispanic Studies. This study will analyze several aspects of the essays written over the past two years by students that placed at the lower end of the language ability continuum. Since most of these students are receptive bilinguals who usually had little or no exposure to the formal study of their home language, this type of exploratory study will complement previous research and provide valuable information to the profession about the learning needs of this student population.