U adds class to help speakers of Spanish

by Elizabeth Cook

In fall, the Spanish department will offer a new class for students who are raised in a Spanish-speaking environment.

The class, Spanish for Heritage Students (SPAN 1054), will help students who grew up speaking the language at home but never formally learned it. It will enhance heritage speakers’ current language skills through developing reading and writing, said Maria Eiffler, a teaching specialist of Spanish and Portuguese, who will teach the class.

There are three main class objectives: to maintain the language the students learned while growing up, expand students’ bilingual skills and for students to learn to use the language in different situations.

This program is offered for only heritage-Spanish speakers, Eiffler said.

“This course was offered 20 years ago, but it did not work, because there were not enough Hispanic students,” she said.

At the University, there are approximately 2,400 Hispanic undergraduate and approximately 1,000 graduate students, Eiffler said.

“This class has come to be because many native speakers never get to formally study the linguistics or grammatical levels,” said Louis Mendoza, Chicano studies chairman.

This class will fill the gap in students’ knowledge and experience, Mendoza said.

“(The class) verifies the language in which they grew up,” he said.

The class came to fruition through a proposal submitted to a committee on undergraduate studies. Faculty members reviewed the proposal and sent it to the College of Liberal Arts, said Fernando Arenas, the Spanish department’s director of undergraduate studies.

The students who will take the class have not learned Spanish in written form, he said.

“They have different linguistical needs,” Arenas said.

Anna Ewart, a University student who is not a heritage speaker, said she approves of the new course.

“The University offers so many classes. This will be another one that will be beneficial for some,” Ewart said.

Christian Betancourt, a University student who was raised in a Spanish-speaking household, said that he would have participated in the class if it had been offered in his first year at the University.

The more traditional route of taking Spanish classes has an advantage for heritage students over other students, because they can already understand the language, he said.

This class is going to engage them and challenge their knowledge in reading, writing and grammar, he said.

“The biggest thing is that (the class) is tailored to improve one side of the language they’re lacking,” he said.