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Why Offer Spanish for Native Speakers Courses?

Increase in Hispanic population in NC
In the fall of 2002, close to 68,000 Spanish speakers attended North Carolina’s schools, but many do not have literacy skills in their native language. If they are limited English proficient, they receive instruction in English as a Second Language, but few receive instruction in their native/heritage language.

Different language learner needs
Heritage language speakers are raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken and possess a level of foreign language competence that far exceeds the level of typical students in foreign language courses. They have already attained some oral proficiency and internalized basic grammatical structures. Although they speak and understand the language, many heritage language learners have difficulty reading and writing Spanish; therefore, their language needs differ vastly from those of their peers learning Spanish for the first time.

High dropout rate
Students have been conditioned to believe that being Hispanic is a liability in the U.S. school system (Scarlera, 1994-1999). In 1996, the average NAEP scores of Hispanic students age 17 were well below those of their white peers in reading, mathematics, and science. Documented evidence shows that minorities who feel no connection to the school because their language and culture are not valued have a high dropout rate. "The dropout rate for Latinos is much higher than for other groups. In 1998, 30% of all Latino were dropouts, whereas the dropout rate was 14% for African Americans and 8% for whites. The high Latino dropout rate is partly attributable to the relatively greater dropout rate for Hispanic immigrants: 44%, as compared with 21% of the U.S. born" ("Latinos in School: Some Facts and Findings", ERIC Digest, Number 162, February 2001).

What Are the Benefits?

Graduation Requirements
Enrollment in and successful completion of Spanish for Native Speakers I and II meets the North Carolina high school course requirements for credit, as well as minimum course requirements for admission to the UNC system.

Transfer of literacy skills
Research has demonstrated the need for students to develop not only their oral skills, but also their literacy skills in Spanish. Students who are literate in their first language learn English more quickly and easily. Students who develop literacy skills in Spanish enhance their English literacy development, thus helping with academic achievement in English and other disciplines.

Reduction of dropout rates
Many heritage language learners deal with issues of identity. They feel at odds with English and with their own language and culture. By establishing or re-establishing some connections to the language and culture of the home, schools can develop in students a sense of worth and validation. By doing so, heritage language learners will be more likely to participate in school and in the mainstream culture" (Wang, and Green, 2001).

Preserving home language and culture is an asset, which should be fostered
Students who have retained the ability to communicate well with their parents and grandparents develop a strong sense of well-being. Furthermore, speaking, reading and writing another language will be an invaluable resource to them and to society.

Who Can Take Spanish for Native Speakers?

Students who are raised in a home where Spanish is spoken and who possess receptive (comprehension) and productive (speaking) skills in the language can take Spanish for Native Speakers. These students may be immigrants with limited literacy due to limited schooling or first- or second-generation heritage speakers who are bilingual in Spanish and English, with limited literacy skills in Spanish.

Who Can Teach Spanish for Native Speakers?

Teachers who are native speakers and/or teachers of Spanish with advanced or superior proficiency can be assigned to teach Spanish for Native Speakers courses. They must have a high degree of proficiency in Spanish and extensive knowledge about first and second language acquisition. They must understand that the teaching of Spanish as a heritage language is different from the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language, and so must be trained in appropriate methodology.

Are There Instructional Materials?

A North Carolina Spanish for Native Speakers Curriculum, Levels I and II was developed and piloted during the 2002-2003 school year. This document was revised and edited for inclusion in the 2004 Second Language Standard Course of Study and has now been incorporated into the World Language Essential Standards within Dual & Heritage Language programs. The materials and resources published as an implementation guide will be realigned to the new standards in the Instructional Toolkit information for the scheduled implementation starting in the 2012-2013 academic year.Please go to the Spanish for Native Speakers/Heritage Language Programs homepage at for more information.

Whom Should I Contact If I Have Questions?

Contact the Department of Public instruction - K-12 Program Areas
Christie Lynch Ebert, Section Chief at 919.807.3856 or
Ann Marie Gunter, World Languages Consultant at 919.807.3865 or