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Spanish Heritage Language Programs: A Snapshot of Current Programs in the Southwestern United States

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Abstract: This article reports the results of an investigation into current Spanish heritage language (SHL) course offerings and their content in 4-year public and private universities in the American Southwest. Prior research has indicated that the number of language departments in the United States offering SHL courses remains small (18 and 17.8%, respectively). The data collection consisted of a survey method carried out through an extensive Web search and follow-up communications with all universities with Hispanic populations of at least 5% in the region. The findings showed a prevalence of SHL programs in the region, although there remained an uneven distribution throughout the Southwest as reported earlier in nationwide or local studies, with a great discrepancy between the low availability of programs in certain areas and a higher accumulation of programs in others. This distribution was, however, significantly proportionate to the size of the Hispanic population in the various universities. In addition, existing SHL programs were limited with respect to their instructional goals and the types of students they accommodated in their courses. This study encourages reflection on how to best serve the pedagogical needs of the growing population of SHL learners and incorporate insights from SHL research findings into SHL programs.

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