“Peruvian teachers’ ideologies about standard Spanish: preliminary results”

de los Heros, Susana

University of Rhode Island, United States of America


Even though standard Spanish is not clearly defined, it is generally accepted that there is a standard variety of Spanish which can be found in grammars, dictionaries and is spoken only by knowledgeable speakers. People’s perceptions, conceptualizations and definitions of what standard Spanish is are part of language ideologies. It is important to study language ideologies because these can affect language educational policies and teaching practices. For example, due to ideologies teachers may neglect or even marginalize students of perceived non-standard varieties in their classrooms.

Here, I will discuss the preliminary results on teachers’ ideologies of standard Spanish, i.e. the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that educators have about the use and value of standard Spanish and other Spanish varieties spoken in Peru.

The sample consisted of 83 high school and college teachers. The school teachers work in public schools where there is a high concentration of non-native Spanish speakers.

To collect information about language ideologies the researchers used variety of methods. First, subjects were asked to complete the first part of a two-part questionnaire with a total of 12 items (specifically developed for this task). Second, the subjects viewed a documentary about Spanish. Following the film, the subjects were asked to complete part two of the questionnaire. Finally, the subjects discussed the use and value of different varieties of Spanish in society in focus groups.

The main purpose of the questionnaire was to determine what people’s perceptions about standard Spanish and regional varieties was (i.e. if they think standard Spanish exists, and if so, to define it and determine who uses it). Then, they watched the documentary Los Castellanos del Perú ‘Spanish varieties in Peru’ which promotes language awareness on multiculturalism and language variation and diversity. Then, the second set of questions was administered in order to see whether their reactions towards regional varieties changed after viewing the film. The intent was to determine if teachers’ views would become more tolerant of language variation after viewing the film. Finally, teachers were asked to discuss these topics in focus groups in a less open ended way.

To better frame the discussion, I will review language ideologies as related to education (Siegel 2006) and also the debate about standard Spanish in particular (del Valle and Stheeman 2004). I will then present a preliminary view on teachers’ ideologies about standard Spanish. These results show that many teachers are not sure of what standard Spanish is, but still believe it exists. Also shows teachers believe students should learn standard Spanish because they think dialects of Spanish do not promote communication.

- Siegel, J. (2006). Language ideologies and education of speakers of marginalized language varieties: adopting a critical awareness approach. Language and Education (17) 157-174.
- Valle (del), J. & Stheeman, L. G. (2004). La batalla del idioma. Madrid: Vervuert.

Session: Paper session
Ideology 1
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 13