The Collegian
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

LALIS department will introduce new tracks for Spanish heritage speakers

<p>The courtyard of the Carole Weinstein International Center.&nbsp;</p>

The courtyard of the Carole Weinstein International Center. 

The Department of Latin American, Latino and Iberian Studies will offer two separate tracks and a new course for Spanish heritage speakers who are pursuing a LALIS major, beginning in the fall of 2020.

The first track would require students to take LAIS 221, a lower 300-level course and then the new course created for heritage speakers, said David Giancaspro, assistant Spanish professor. The new course, Spanish for Heritage Speakers, will have its own course number — LAIS 310 — on BannerWeb, Giancaspro said.

This route is tailored to heritage speakers who would benefit from learning grammatical structures and gaining comfort with their speaking skills, said David Giancaspro, assistant Spanish professor.  

The second track goes straight to LAIS 310, followed by units over the 310 level. Both tracks have a total of 9.5 credits required for completion of the major, Giancaspro said. 

Giancaspro will assign students their tracks on a case-by-case basis by accessing placement test scores and holding in-person meetings. 

This past fall, the LALIS department offered Spanish for Heritage Speakers as a selected topics course, with the class focusing on topics of identity, community and issues that affect Spanish heritage speakers, Giancaspro said. 

First-year Jasmin Portillo took the class in the fall and found it useful, she said.

"In my high school, all the Spanish classes were mainly for non-native speakers, so it’d be all stuff that I already knew," Portillo said. “I felt like with this heritage-speaker track there was a way for me to develop Spanish writing skills." 

Senior Alexis Aviles, a heritage speaker, took her first LALIS course, Spanish Writing Workshop, her freshman year to improve her Spanish writing skills, which she said had been at an elementary level.

“I just really developed my writing skills in Spanish and just felt proud of my work,” Aviles said.

Heritage speakers each have different levels of fluency in their verbal, written and comprehension skills. Thus, the heritage speaker class is different from other language classes offered at UR, because students from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of skill levels are in one class, Giancaspro said. The result is that students focus on their personal growth and learning from each other, he said. 

The make-up of the classroom in the heritage speaker course has also affected Giancaspro's teaching method.

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"Every day when I am planning a lesson I am not thinking, 'The point of today’s lesson is x grammar point," he said. "The grammar is being taught, or being practiced ... via interesting conversations about things that are relevant."

Aviles said she supported the concept of tracks within the LALIS major for heritage Spanish speakers.

“I think the separate tracks to my knowledge seems like a great idea just so that people can get customized experiences, because for me I really needed that basic grammar," she said. "I needed that basic writing, but for people who have that already and want to learn more intricate, more nuanced things, they should be able to and have a faculty that supports them.” 

The LALIS major will continue adapting to the needs of heritage speakers, Giancaspro said. 

“I really want to talk to as many heritage speakers on campus as I can and then figure out what it is that you want out of classes," Giancaspro said. "'What can I help you with? What can our department help out with? And I’m trying to have that conversation as much as possible every opportunity that I have for that.” 

Contact news writer Brianna Silva at

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