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Guidelines for Spanish Heritage and Native Speakers

Heritage Speaker

The term heritage speaker refers to second or third generation immigrants raised in a natural environment where Spanish was spoken in addition to English. Typically, heritage language learners do not receive formal instruction in the home language until later in life (high-school or college) but have good oral skills. This, however, is not always the case and there is a wide range of proficiency variability across the bilingual continuum. The criterion of what constitutes a heritage language learner is based entirely on previous linguistic background (exposure to the family language during early childhood or adolescence – generally before the age of 15) and not on ethnic or cultural background. Students who immigrate to the United States past the age of 15 typically have a fully developed native grammatical system, and are recommended to enroll in any 300 or 400 content language courses (SPA 301, 302, 350, 401, 402, 403, 404 and 405), not in elementary or intermediate courses. Given that heritage speakers have different learning needs (how to write effectively, difficulty with sociolinguistic and cultural aspects of the heritage language, difficulty with specific advanced grammatical topics), SPA 350* addresses these needs.

Placement Procedure:

Students exposed to Spanish in a natural setting before the age of 15 during early childhood or adolescence, and who self-identify as heritage language learners will be kindly recommended to contact the Spanish Faculty for assessment before he/she enrolls in regular Spanish language courses. This is regardless of their level of proficiency in Spanish or language of instruction in high school. Based on the results of the assessment, the Spanish Program will recommend placement in either SPA 350 (Spanish Composition) or in lower levels of Spanish instruction (SPA 101, 102, 201 or 202.) Students placed in SPA 350 should continue on SPA 301 or 302 the following semester if they are interested in completing a Major or Minor in Spanish. Similarly, students placed in lower-level language course should complete the regular language sequence (SPA 101-SPA 405) if they decide to Major or Minor in Spanish.

Questions and Concerns:

Any questions or concerns regarding to the Spanish Heritage Language Speaker should be sent to any Spanish Faculty.


Heritage speaker students who have earned a "B" or better in Spanish 350, 301 and 302 at USF may transcribe credits for Spanish 101,102, 201 and 202 without additional testing. Those students who have extensive prior learning experiences and wish to begin their Spanish studies at the 300 level should contact the Spanish Faculty, unless they have credit for Spanish 101 through 202 through a College Board Advanced Placement Exam in Spanish Language or have those credits transferred from another university.