It is imperative that educators understand the current state of heritage language education because many locations have experienced large increases in their heritage language populations in recent years. This study reports on the findings of a statewide survey of secondary Spanish teachers in Utah regarding the instruction of Spanish heritage language students. Their perspectives give insight into Spanish Heritage Language (SHL) education in both traditional Spanish foreign language and heritage language classes. The information gathered describes the availability of specialized courses, the prevalence of SHL students in Spanish classes, and these students' backgrounds. It also describes the characteristics of Spanish teachers in terms of their beliefs and attitudes related to teaching SHL students and their preparation for doing so. Other issues considered include placement, materials, creating specialized classes, instructional approaches and accommodations, areas of emphasis, and teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of both their traditional and specialized Spanish classes in meeting SHL students' needs. Results indicate that specialized classes are not yet widely available in Utah, many teachers lack training to work with SHL students, and SHL students come from a variety of backgrounds. In traditional Spanish classes, teachers use many approaches to accommodate SHL students, and their schools have a variety of experiences in attempting to create specialized classes. Teachers of specialized Spanish classes report that their schools vary in whether or not they offer classes that are differentiated by levels, and that their classes' principal objectives typically include literacy and grammar. These teachers also typically perceive that their Spanish classes are more effective in meeting SHL students' needs than do teachers of traditional Spanish classes. In addition, this study includes many recommendations to improve Spanish heritage language instruction.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





heritage language, Spanish, secondary schools, Utah, teacher education, Spanish for Native Speakers