Latino Studies Teaching Spanish
L.J. Randolph
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0273


Teaching Spanish in US schools is informed not only by theories of language learning and acquisition but also by the intersections of various sociopolitical and sociocultural language ideologies. (See the separate Oxford Bibliographies articles Spanish in the United States and Spanglish for additional perspectives on this topic.) The unique status and history of Spanish in the United States combined with the historical and present experiences of people who speak the language have set Spanish apart from other non-English languages typically taught as “second,” “foreign,” or “additional” languages in the United States. Thus, research in teaching Spanish has delved into broad concepts like language acquisition, pedagogy, and programming while also accounting for certain contextual factors that uniquely apply to Spanish. For example, owing to a history of linguistic discrimination, heritage speakers of Spanish may not have the same level of access or success in developing their proficiency when compared with second-language learners. This stems in part from the fact that programming, instruction, and research in Spanish acquisition and pedagogy have historically centered on the contexts and processes in which non-heritage, nonnative second language learners have learned the language. This linguistic exclusion led to the development of heritage-language education as a subfield since the turn of the 21st century. Program development has also been an important line of inquiry. At the K–12 level, common program models include a variety of immersion programs, foreign language at the elementary school (FLES) programs, foreign language exploratory (FLEX) programs, and traditional, sequenced language course tracks. At the postsecondary level, in addition to sequenced language courses, specialized Spanish courses for specific professions and purposes are becoming more popular. Researchers have also been concerned with innovative approaches to community engagement and study abroad. Research in this arena has recognized the status of Spanish as a local language throughout many communities in the United States and has addressed the many opportunities students of Spanish have to engage in mutual endeavors that bridge the gap between institutions and communities. As the field continues to evolve, there is a strong trend toward justice-oriented learning as well as innovative approaches to programming using technological and community resources. Scholarship in this area borrows from interdisciplinary research being conducted in the fields of education and applied linguistics. This bibliography concentrates on key foundational texts in language acquisition and pedagogy as well as texts that reflect the evolution and current direction of the field. It should be noted that much of the seminal scholarship that is relevant to the teaching of Spanish has more broadly examined the teaching of languages in general. This bibliography reflects this trend of the research by including works that do not focus exclusively on Spanish but that are still useful for understanding and researching the topic of “Teaching Spanish.”

Language Acquisition and Ideologies

The teaching and learning of languages are cognitive and social processes that are also informed by historical, sociopolitical, and cultural factors. Lafford and Salaberry 2003 addresses the fundamentals of applied linguistics as it relates to the acquisition of Spanish as an additional language. The follow-up text, Salaberry and Lafford 2006, unpacks how those linguistic foundations might be enacted in the classroom. Long 2015 provides additional insight on how the principles of second language acquisition can be enacted through task-based instruction, and Byrum 1997 offers a framework for how the learning of intercultural communicative competence is related to language acquisition. In addition, there are several texts that look at the historical development of Spanish education in the United States. Heining-Boynton 2014 presents a general historical overview, while Leeman 2007 and Train 2007 examine the history and evolution of the teaching of Spanish through a more critical lens. Finally, there are texts that focus on the unique sociopolitical and sociolinguistic realities of teaching Spanish. Dumitrescu and Piña-Rosales 2013 highlights many of the ways that language acquisition, teaching, and policy are connected. Pascual y Cabo and Prada 2018 offers specific suggestions for ideological and programmatic shifts. Rosa 2019 presents raciolinguistics as a framework for understanding how race and identity affect various ideologies relating to speakers and learners of Spanish.

  • Byrum, Michael. Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters, 1997.

    Unpacks the concept of intercultural communicative competence (ICC)—a foundational framework for understanding intersections of culture, language, and communication in language teaching and learning. Outlines a model for ICC focusing on relevant attitudes, knowledge, and skills of the “intercultural speaker.” Specific chapters address objectives, curriculum, and assessment.

  • Dumitrescu, Domnita, and Gerardo Piña-Rosales. El español en los Estados Unidos: E Pluribus Unum? Enfoques multidisciplinarios. New York: Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española, 2013.

    Chapters examine a variety of issues related to the teaching of Spanish, including language acquisition, language ideologies, educational politics, and the teaching of Spanish to heritage-language learners.

  • Heining-Boynton, Audrey. “Teaching Spanish preK–16 in the US: Then, Now, and in the Future.” Journal of Spanish Language Teaching 1.2 (2014): 137–153.

    DOI: 10.1080/23247797.2014.970359

    Gives a historical overview of the teaching of Spanish in the United States from the 1800s to the 21st century, dealing with policies, methods, and the development of standards.

  • Lafford, Barbara A., and Rafael Salaberry, eds. Spanish Second Language Acquisition: State of the Science. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

    Presents an overview of language acquisition research as applied to Spanish. Chapters address linguistic topics such as phonology and syntax, theoretical perspectives, and teaching methodologies.

  • Leeman, Jennifer. “The Value of Spanish: Shifting Ideologies in United States Language Teaching.” ADFL Bulletin 38.1–2 (2007): 32–39.

    DOI: 10.1632/adfl.38.1.32

    A critical analysis of the evolution of teaching Spanish in the United States since the early 19th century. Focuses specifically on how a variety of sociopolitical and sociolinguistic ideologies have uniquely affected the Spanish language throughout history.

  • Long, Mike. Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

    Makes the case for and outlines how successful task-based language learning can be implemented for second-language learners. Addresses theoretical underpinnings, task design, resource selection, methodologies, assessment, and program evaluation.

  • Pascual y Cabo, Diego, and Josh Prada. “Redefining Spanish Teaching and Learning in the United States.” Foreign Language Annals 51.3 (2018): 533–547.

    DOI: 10.1111/flan.12355

    The authors address what they call “conflicting” educational goals with the teaching of Spanish as both a heritage and foreign language, given current sociocultural and sociopolitical realities. They offer several strategies for shifting dominant language ideologies and incorporating more flexible and inclusive pedagogies.

  • Rosa, Jonathan. Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190634728.001.0001

    Examines the intersections of race and identity as they relate to the social construction of various sociolinguistic and sociocultural identities. The groundbreaking findings of this text inform the teaching of Spanish language and cultures as well as the understanding of various facets of Latinx identity.

  • Salaberry, Rafael, and Barbara A. Lafford, eds. The Art of Teaching Spanish: Second Language Acquisition from Research to Praxis. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006.

    A collection of theoretical and practice-oriented chapters exploring how research in second-language acquisition informs various facets of the teaching of Spanish, such as curriculum design, program models, and assessment. Works well as a companion text to Spanish Second Language Acquisition: State of the Science.

  • Train, Robert. “‘Real Spanish’: Historical Perspectives on the Ideological Construction of a (Foreign) Language.” Critical Inquiry in Language Studies 4.2–3 (2007): 207–235.

    DOI: 10.1080/15427580701389672

    Critiques ideological constructions that have informed the perceived legitimacy of various varieties of Spanish. In particular, Train unpacks and deconstructs the notions of (non)nativeness and (non)standardness when applied to the teaching and learning of Spanish.

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