Language maintenance and use in south Florida Hispanic university students: Do educational programs matter?

Deborah Judith Hasson, Florida International University


This study examined the long-term effects of bilingual education/ESOL instruction on Hispanic university students' subsequent Spanish language maintenance using sociolinguistic methodology as its framework. The study investigated whether or not Hispanic university students who had participated in bilingual or ESOL classes in their elementary schooling maintained Spanish as young adults. Maintenance included using Spanish in their personal and professional lives and demonstrating written competence in Spanish, as well as whether subjects considered themselves to be bilingual, how they rated their ability in different skill areas for the two languages, and if they exhibited positive attitudes toward language and education as compared to Hispanic students who had experienced an all English classroom situation. A Language and Education Survey was developed to collect data pertaining to these areas. A convenience sample of 202 Hispanic undergraduate university students enrolled in education classes at Florida International University during the 2000–2001 academic year participated in the study. Subjects were grouped according to the type of program they had experienced at the elementary school level, Bilingual/ESOL and All English. Statistically significant differences were found between the groups in subjects' self-ratings of their abilities in speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension. No statistically significant differences were found with respect to the continuation of Spanish language study at the secondary school or college levels although there was a significant difference in number of semesters for those who planned to do so. In language use, there were statistically significant differences overall as there were in the personal domain, but none were found in the professional domain; nor were there any statistically significant differences between the groups with respect to attitudes regarding education and language. There were statistically significant differences between the two groups for communicative competence in written Spanish. These statistically significant findings in language ability, language use and written communicative competence indicated that Hispanic university students who were enrolled in bilingual programs/ESOL in their earlier schooling did maintain Spanish as their native language as compared to Hispanic students who did not participate in such programs.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Hasson, Deborah Judith, "Language maintenance and use in south Florida Hispanic university students: Do educational programs matter?" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3006858.