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THE PERSONAL ESSAY AND ACADEMIC WRITING PROFICIENCY IN SPANISH HERITAGE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

Abstract

Traditionally, Spanish Heritage Language (HL) university courses focus on developing advanced literacy skills in order to equip students with broader writing repertoires as a way of complementing the level of Spanish oral command that they already bring into the classroom. Building on the fundamental interconnectedness of language use and the social context, previous research has used Systemic Functional Linguistics (Colombi, 2003, 2006) as well as other explicit writing strategies (Potowski, 2010) as tools for the development of academic writing. These have been used to analyze and teach a variety of common academic genres such as reports, critical analyses, and the expository and argumentative essay in the Spanish HL classroom. Little work has been done, however, to analyze the academic role of the personal essay as a functional component of courses for HL speakers at the university level. SLA researchers such as Pavlenko and Lantolf (2000) have advocated for the use of ‘first-person narratives’ as a legitimate complement to more observational/experimental and traditional research methodologies. They indirectly echo what psychology scholar Pennebaker (1990, 2004) calls the ‘reconstruction of self,’ that is, the reconstruction through writing of life experiences that represent some level of significance to the language learner, who is, above all, deeply situated in social activity. Drawing on Gee’s Discourse Theory (1999) and other scholarly research in New Literacy Studies, this paper suggests that the functional incorporation of journaling and the personal essay as academic practices can inform the teaching of advanced literacy in the HL classroom. The article brings into the foreground the concept of advanced literacy not as merely the mastery of traditional academic registers, but also as a reconstructive social tool necessary for the incorporation of the HL voice, which I suggest is crucial in heritage language development.

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Reznicek-Parrado, L. M., (2014) “THE PERSONAL ESSAY AND ACADEMIC WRITING PROFICIENCY IN SPANISH HERITAGE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT”, Journal of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching 21, p.71-83.

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Lina M. Reznicek-Parrado (University of California, Davis)

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