Las Vegas, N.M. – A New Mexico Highlands University Spanish professor published a research study that sheds new light on Hispanic parents raising bilingual children in the United States.
Spanish professor Edgar Vargas Blanco’s paper, “Linguistic Attitudes of Parents in Colombian and Mexican Families in Houston,” is published in Forma y Función, a scholarly journal from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
“The research I published explores how the linguistic attitudes of parents contribute to the preservation or loss of the Spanish language,” Vargas Blanco said. “My major finding is that parents from Colombia and Mexico who reveal a strong cultural identity are much more likely to convey positive feelings regarding Spanish and Hispanic cultural identity to their children.
“These parents tend to promote Spanish language learning at home by finding strategies to engage their children to use the language, like purchasing Spanish games and music. They also take their children to cultural events and travel to Spanish-speaking countries,” Vargas Blanco said.
He said that conversely, if the parent’s attitude is more negative towards their cultural identity they are much less likely to make an effort to transmit Spanish to their children.
The participants for Vargas Blanco’s research were recruited in Houston where he said there is a large Hispanic community. His research tools included individual and group interviews.
Vargas Blanco said that there are other factors that affect the parent’s attitudes such as the community where they live.
“In general, when parents live in a predominantly Hispanic community, there’s more of a need to teach their children Spanish so they can communicate with their neighbors and experience some cultural traditions,” Vargas Blanco said.
He said that when Hispanic children start school in a monolingual school environment, it can negatively change their attitudes towards learning their heritage language.
Vargas Blanco will present a related research study at the Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics at Queens College/City University of New York April 4 – 7.
Vargas Blanco joined the Highlands University faculty in 2016 and taught previously at the University of Houston and University of Texas at El Paso, among other colleges. He earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics from the University of Houston.
At Highlands, Vargas Blanco directs the Language Learning Center. He teaches courses such as introductory and intermediate Spanish, Advanced Translation, and Hispanic Linguistics.
“In my teaching, I want my students to become passionate about the Hispanic culture, which helps motivate them to learn the Spanish language and become bilingual communicators,” said Vargas Blanco, who is a native of Colombia.
Vargas Blanco is the faculty mentor for the Hispanic Culture and Language Association at Highlands.