Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (2014) doi: 10.1080/01434632.2014.934373


Copyright © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


This article presents the results of an analysis of reported interlocutors in Spanish in a group of heritage speakers (HS), in three communities of the US Midwest. Participants were college-aged bilinguals developing their own personal and professional networks outside the direct influence of their parents. Responses are compared with those from two control groups: college-aged native speakers (NS) and college-aged second-language learners (L2). Seventy-seven per cent of HS reported speaking primarily in Spanish with 4–5 interlocutors on the week of the study. HS and NS reported more interactions in Spanish with older relatives, and more interactions with peers outside their family. Little to no interactions in Spanish were reported by either group with speakers younger than themselves. L2 participants reported more interactions with younger individuals. Sixty-nine per cent of all interlocutors reported by HS were their relatives. The mother was the most common relative with whom participants reported speaking in Spanish. This suggests that the previously documented importance of the mother for intergenerational transmission of a minority language extends into young adulthood by providing opportunities for use and motivation for maintenance.