Teaching Written Accent Marks to Spanish as a Heritage Language Learners

Main Article Content

Mary Hudgens Henderson


Accent marks are one of the top reasons why heritage language learners of Spanish decide to study the language formally, yet many SHL instructors struggle to teach accent marks in a comprehensible way and there is a dearth of pedagogical research in this area. This paper presents a discovery-learning method of teaching written accent marks to HL learners that is student-centered and allows students to deduce the rules of accentuation from linguistic data. A step-by-step approach is explained along with tips for building background knowledge, implementation, and differentiation. The relationship between oral proficiency, reading proficiency, phonological awareness and morphological awareness are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

Article Details

En Acción
Author Biography

Mary Hudgens Henderson, Winona State University

Assistant Professor

Department of Global Studies and World Languages


Beaudrie, S. (2007). La adquisición del acento ortográfico en la clase de español como segunda lengua. Hispania, 90(4), 809-823. doi:10.2307/20063614

Beaudrie, S.M. (2012). A corpus-based study on the misspellings of Spanish heritage learners and their implications for teaching. (2012). Linguistics and Education., 23(1), 135–144.

Beaudrie, S.M. (2017). The Teaching and Learning of Spelling in the Spanish Heritage Language Classroom: Mastering Written Accent Marks. Hispania 100(4), 596-611. doi:10.1353/hpn.2017.0101.

Carreira, M. (2002). When phonological limitations compromise literacy: A connectionist approach to enhancing the phonological competence of heritage language speakers of Spanish.” In J. Hammadou Sullivan (Ed.), Literacy and the Second Language Learner (pp. 239-260). IAP.

Carreira, M., & Kagan, O. (2011). Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for teaching, curriculum design, and professional development. Foreign Language Annals, 44, 40–64.

Colantoni, L., Cuza, A. & Mazzaro, N. (2016). Task-related effects in the prosody of Spanish heritage speakers and long-term immigrants. In M. Armstrong, N. Henriksen, and M. del Mar Vanrell (Eds.), Interdisciplinary Approaches to Intonational Grammar in Ibero-Romance Intonation (pp. 1-24). John Benjamins.

Davies, M. (2006). A frequency dictionary of Spanish: Core vocabulary for learners. Routledge.

Denton, C.A., Hasbrouk, J.E., Weaver L.R., & Riccio, C.A. (2000). What do we know about phonological awareness in Spanish? Reading Psychology, 21, 335-352.

Durán-Cerda, D. (2008). Strengthening "La identidad" in the Heritage Learner Classroom: Pedagogical Approaches. Hispania, 91(1), 42-51.

Elola, I. & Mikulski, A. (2013), Revisions in real time: Spanish heritage language learners' writing processes in English and Spanish. Foreign Language Annals, 46, 646-660. doi:10.1111/flan.12053

Escamilla, K. (1999). Teaching Literacy in Spanish. In R. DeVillar & J. Tinajero (Eds.), The Power of Two Languages 2000 (pp. 126-141). McMillan/McGraw-Hill.

Gatti, A. & O’Neill, T. (2018). Writing proficiency profiles of heritage learners of Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. Foreign Language Annals, 51, 719–737.

Hedgcock, J., & Lefkowitz, N. (2016). Differentiating Heritage and Foreign Language Learners of Spanish: Needs, Perceptions, and Expectations. Applied Language Learning, 26(1), 1-38.

Kim, J. Y. (2015). Perception and production of Spanish lexical stress by Spanish heritage speakers and English L2 learners of Spanish. Selected Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology, 106-128.

Leeman, J. & Serafini, E. (2016). Sociolinguistics for Heritage Language Educators and Students: A Model for Critical Translingual Competence. In M. Fairclough and S. M. Beaudrie (Eds.), Innovative Strategies for Heritage Language Teaching (pp. 56-79). Georgetown University Press.

Llombart-Huesca, A. (2017). Spanish Heritage Language Learners: Let’s Not Avoid Metalinguistic Knowledge. Hispania, 100(5), 277–78.

Llombart-Huesca, A. (2018). Understanding the Spelling Errors of Spanish Heritage Language Learners. Hispania 101(2), 211–23.

Llombart-Huesca, A. (2019). Phonological Awareness and Spelling of Spanish Vowels in Spanish Heritage Language Learners. Hispanic Studies Review, 4(1), 80-97.

Lowther Pereira, K. (2015). Developing Critical Language Awareness via Service-Learning for Spanish Heritage Speakers. Heritage Language Journal, 12(2), 159-185.

Marqués, S. (2012). La lengua que heredamos: Curso de español para bilingues, 7th ed. John Wiley.

Mikulski, A. M. (2006). Accent-uating Rules and Relationships: Motivations, Attitudes, and Goals in a Spanish for Native Speakers Class. Foreign Language Annals, 39(4), 660–682. https://doi-org.wsuproxy.mnpals.net/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2006.tb02282.x

Ocal, T., and Ehri, L. (2017). Spelling ability in college students predicted by decoding, print exposure, and vocabulary. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 47, 58–74. doi: 10.1080/10790195.2016.1219242

Potowski, K. (2015). Conversaciones escritas: Lectura y redacción en contexto, 2nd ed. John Wiley.

Pyun, D. & A. Lee-Smith. (2011): Reducing Korean heritage language learners’ orthographic errors: The contribution of online and in-class dictation and form-focused instruction. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 24(2):141-158, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07908318.2011.582952.

Robles-Puente, S. (2014). Prosody in contact: Spanish in Los Angeles. Doctoral dissertation. University of Southern California.

Romanelli, S. & Menegotto, A. (2014). ¿Sordos al acento? La percepción de acento contrastivo de estudiantes angloparlantes de españo. Signos ELE, 8, 1851-4863.

Romanelli, S., Menegotto, A. C. & Smyth, R. (2015). Stress perception: Effects of training and a study abroad program for L1 English late learners of Spanish. Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 1(2), 181–210.

Ronquest, R. & Rao, R. (2018). Heritage Spanish phonetics and phonology. In Kim Potowski (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Spanish as a Heritage Language (pp. 164-177). Routledge.

Russell, B.D. & Kuriscak, L.M. (2015). High School Spanish Teachers’ Attitudes and Practices Toward Spanish Heritage Language Learners. Foreign Language Annals, 48(3): 413–433.

Sánchez Avendaño, C. (2008). La enseñanza de la ortografía en Costa Rica: De las reglas fonodependientes a las reglas rentables y al planteamiento grafológico. Revista Educación, 32(2), 97-114.

Shin, N. & Hudgens Henderson, M. (2017). A sociolinguistic approach to teaching Spanish grammatical structures. Foreign Language Annals, 50(1), 195-213. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12249

Svinicki, M. D. (1998). A theoretical foundation for discovery learning. Advances in Physiology Education, 20(1), 4-7.

Torres, K. M., Arrastia-Chisholm, M. C., & Tackett, S. (2020). Perceptions of Writing Anxiety and Self-Efficacy Among Spanish Heritage Language Learners. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 19(1), 84–98. https://doi-org.wsuproxy.mnpals.net/10.1177/1538192718775175

Urria, A. (1988). Una experiencia pedagógica sobre ortografía acentual. Lectura y Vida, 9, 10–16.