Current Approaches to Orthography Instruction for Spanish Heritage Learners: an Analysis of Intermediate and Advanced Textbooks

Clara Burgo, Loyola University Chicago

Author Posting. © Clara Burgo, 2015. This article is posted here by permission of the author for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Normas, Volume 5, 2015,


As it is well known, heritage learners of Spanish have an advantage on oral production and aural comprehension over L2 learners. However, due to their lack of formal instruction in Spanish, their linguistic weaknesses lie on their literacy skills (reading and writing). In terms of writing skills, students mainly struggle with orthography issues (accentuation and spelling) and larger literacy skills (e.g. developing a thesis or organizing ideas). However, there is an important gap in the literature regarding orthographic acquisition since most of the research in the field on focus on form instruction has predominantly been on grammar acquisition (Anderson, 2008; Montrul and Bowles, 2008; Potowski, 2005, among others). In fact, despite the increasing amount of textbooks addressed to this student population with an emphasis on the writing process, to my knowledge there has not been a study on the current approaches of Spanish heritage learners’ textbooks for orthography instruction. After analyzing four popular textbooks for Spanish heritage, it can be deduced that the lack of research on this area perpetuates the maintenance of traditional non-communicative explicit instruction of orthography through drills after an explicit explanation of the rules of both accentuation and spelling but new textbooks shed some light towards the implementation of focus on form teaching techniques commonly used in the L2 classroom such as input-output activities.