Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Spanish in Context 6:1 (2009), 69-84; doi: 1010.1075/sic.6.1.05vel Copyright © 2009 John Benjamins Publishing Company. Used by permission.


This study examines the beliefs held by a group of adult Spanish-English bilinguals from El Paso, Texas, regarding the vitality of Spanish in their community and the ways in which their own experience of being bilingual on the US-Mexico border has influenced their perceptions of the benefits and costs of fostering Spanish development in their children. Results show that parents’ positive attitudes toward Spanish did not translate into the investment of time and resources to foster Spanish development in their children nor, ultimately, into the use of Spanish by their children. Households where the mother perceived herself as having an active role in her children’s linguistic development and where she perceived both Spanish and a bilingual/biethnic identity as desirable for her children’s future were also households where children were expected to speak Spanish at home and where more opportunities for linguistic development were present. The author argues that these beliefs must be understood as a consequence of the underlying tensions present in the community, where intense linguistic and interethnic contact takes place every day.