Heritage Speakers Programs


Heritage speaker programs present language study of a “world” or “foreign language” to learners with a family heritage in that language. Here are some key points about heritage language study:

    • HL students have acquired nearly 90% of the phonological system of a prestige dialect of their ancestral language.
    • HL students may feel an attachment or comfort level in a specific dialect of a language and uncomfortable or disassociated with other dialects.
    • HL students have acquired 80-90% of the grammatical rules.
    • HL students have acquired extensive vocabularies but the vocabulary may be limited to their sociocultural domain.
    • HL students are most familiar with the sociolinguistic rules that govern the choice of interaction with family and their social domain.

“Teaching the Speakers: Heritage Language Learners and the Classroom” by Dr. M. Harrison presented at Texas Language Center Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, April 9, 2011.


  • If no opportunity exists to create a course specifically for heritage speakers, instruction must be differentiated for these students.
  • Be respectful of student experience and encourage active sharing of this experience while encouraging students to explore unfamiliar aspects of the culture of the heritage language.
  • Use authentic materials from a variety of cultures.
  • Use a communicative method of teaching that reinforces student expertise while building grammar skill.

Resource Organizations and Documents:

Curriculum Models:

Learning Sites:

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning

The purpose of this site is to let Spanish-speaking Texans speak for themselves so that we can learn from them about the ways that they use their language. You will find links to videos of Spanish speakers from Texas with comments about the language you’ll hear and why it takes the form that it does.

Updated March 5, 2023 11:06pm