Two Divergent Views of Language Teaching in the U.S.

Exploring Ideological and Applied Meanings in Spanish and Portuguese



Language ideologies, Modern Language Association, Spanish, Portuguese


This article explores two influential positions regarding the appropriate contemporary agenda for foreign language teaching (FLT) at the college level: firstly, the humanities and literature-centered viewpoint of the Modern Languages Association (MLA); secondly, that of the Spanish for Native Speakers (SNS) movement. The two models diverge as philosophies and value-systems, centering respectively on the intellectual primacy of language itself versus language as a medium for the educational engagement of social justice. Beyond Spanish, the MLA-SNS dichotomy illustrates tensions which obtain to varying degrees with most FLs, and in the cross-disciplinary relations between humanities and social sciences. The background includes two key developments: (i), qualitatively, the evolution of FLT methodology debates towards social issues and stakeholder identities, first in TESOL and then in Spanish as a Heritage Language (SHL); (ii), quantitatively, the long-term decline in FLT enrollments. Prospective agends for Spanish, in terms of teh SNS and MLA frameworks, demographics, and other considerations aer compared and contrasted. The divergent circumstances for Portuguese provide a separate counterpoint, and potentially a third way, marked by cross-disciplinary eclecticism rather than language-centric or stakeholder-centric values.

Author Biography

Piers Armstrong, School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts

Piers Armstrong (PhD in Romance Literature and Linguistics, UCLA) is a Brazilianist and a Latin American generalist, with a broad base in language instruction, cultural and literary studies and critical thinking. He has taught various combinations of Portuguese, Spanish and French language and literatures, and general ed humanities courses on topics ranging from the social history of the Americas to the aesthetics of pop music, at UCLA, USC, Dartmouth College, UC Irvine and Cal State LA, and in Brazil.