Heritage Language Anxiety in Canadian Post-Secondary Heritage Speakers of Spanish

Date

2023-05-03

Authors

Cervantes, Eloisa

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Abstract

Heritage Language Anxiety (HLA) refers to when anxiety and discomfort regularly occur in an individual during the use of a heritage language (HL). This can arise in post-secondary HL classrooms since learners who mainly acquired their HL in informal settings may find it nerve- wracking to later receive formal instruction in the HL (Torres et al., 2020). There is currently no tool consistently used across studies that is designed to measure classroom HLA, and previous research tends to use scales intended for foreign language learners. These may not be the most appropriate instruments for investigating HLA because they do not consider the academic or social contexts that can shape heritage learners’ anxieties (Jee, 2020; Tallon, 2009). Furthermore, much of the research on Spanish as a Canadian HL is ongoing; contributing to this area of study is valuable for understanding Heritage Spanish and its speakers in Canada, but also for developing conceptualizations of HLA and HLs that are generalizable to more contexts. The current study addresses these issues by presenting data about HLA in 11 Canadian post- secondary heritage learners of Spanish (e.g., anxieties about grammar, speaking, etc.). I remotely administered questionnaires (N = 11) and semi-structured interviews (n = 7) inquiring about participants’ backgrounds and their experiences as heritage learners. Key findings from descriptive statistics and a content analysis indicate that HLA in these speakers does relate to factors that current scales may not recognize, such as writing in the HL or external expectations of HL proficiency. In particular, learners experienced HLA if they felt that their existing knowledge of Spanish was not accepted by others. Participants also discussed social factors such as: the association of Spanish with identity; monolingual language standards; and low access to a Spanish-speaking community while growing up. Based on these findings, I present a preliminary Spanish Classroom HLA Scale alongside the implications for both researchers and practitioners.

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Keywords

heritage languages, heritage language anxiety, Spanish, heritage speakers, language anxiety, post-secondary language learning, heritage language measurement, heritage language education, Spanish in Canada

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