Date of this Version
Published in International Journal of Bilingualism (2015), 13 pp. Published online before print July 23, 2015, doi: 10.1177/1367006915596377
Aims and objectives: This paper explores one dimension of language maintenance among college-aged heritage speakers of Spanish (HSS) in three communities of the U.S. Midwest. The aim was to understand whether Spanish was relevant at a point in life in which they were developing their own networks away from their families. Research questions: Were reading and writing in Spanish relevant for the participants? Did they use Spanish when on social media? Did they text in Spanish? Was Spanish relevant for them when consuming content on electronic media?
Methodology: This analysis is part of a larger study on HSS in communities of recent Latino settlement. Respondents participated in an oral interview and responded to an online survey.
Data and analysis: Results presented here come from a study designed to gather data on reported interlocutors, reading and writing, electronic media consumption, and social media use. Respondents were 71 HSS between the ages of 19 and 29. Results were compared with two control groups: 23 L2 speakers and 24 native speakers attending the same schools. Higher relevance was assumed when an event was reported closest to the moment of response. Reading and writing were classified as school, personal interest, employment, other. Relevance as related to social media, music, and internet use was determined by reported frequency.
Findings: Highest relevance was reported for texting and listening to music; lowest was reported for consumption of internet content. Results for texting, social media and personal interest reading/ writing suggest that for these speakers Spanish was viable for accrual of bonding social capital. Reading/writing reports suggest that for many, Spanish was also viable to attain specific academic goals. Environmental pressures to shift are evidenced in the uses not (or barely) reported: reading/ writing related to work, religion and daily living, and consumption of internet content.
Originality: This paper focuses on maintenance of relevance of a heritage language in the first stage of adult life.
Implications: Results suggest that in using Spanish, respondents were not bound by physical context or immediate availability of interlocutors, but by their perceptions of viability.