Code-Switching Among Heritage Spanish Speakers

Attitudes, Practices, and Pedagogical Implications



code-switching, bilingualism, heritage Spanish speakers, language attitudes, linguistic identity


Code-switching is perhaps one of the most salient linguistic practices among Spanish-English bilinguals in the U.S., and therefore widely investigated. (Bailey 2000; Kern 2019; Lipski 2014). While code-switching is typically associated with bilinguals who are highly proficient in two languages (Balukas & Koops 2014; Benevento & Dietrich 2015; Poplack 1980; Rangel et al. 2015), it is crucial to also highlight the code-switching practices of bilinguals who may have unequal levels of proficiency in each language, such as in the case of some heritage language (HL) learners. The present study examines socio-pragmatic functions of code-switching among heritage learners of Spanish. Using data from questionnaires and interviews, this study looks at instances of and attitudes towards code-switching. Findings indicate that code-switching was generally viewed favorably among participants, and commonly practiced by most of the participants in a variety of social contexts. Interview data also suggests that code-switching serves various socio-pragmatic functions for participants. Given the double stigma attached to both code-switching (Rangel et. al 2015) and to Spanish in the U.S. (Showstack 2012)—which often informs HL pedagogy—it is crucial to examine this linguistic practice in the context of HL learners in the U.S. in order to give code-switching a more prominent place and offer further legitimization of this practice, both in and outside the classroom.

Author Biography

Farah Ali, DePauw University

Farah Ali is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.  Her fields of research include sociolinguistics as well as second and heritage language acquisition. Focusing primarily on Spanish, Catalan, and Arabic, her research is grounded in using qualitative and sociolinguistic approaches to examine the relationship between language and identity in multilingual contexts. She is particularly interested in examining how this relationship is constructed among migrant communities. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Spanish in Context, Sociolinguistic Studies, and Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada. She is also the author of the book, Multilingualism and Gendered Immigrant Identity: Perspectives from Catalonia (Multilingual Matters).