Professor seeks to remedy Spanish ‘cultural connections’

Muriel Almeida/Contributing Writer


After reshaping the Spanish Heritage Language program at the University, Dr. Marisa Filgueras-Gomez an Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics, is bringing students closer to their Hispanic roots.

Filgueras-Gomez felt that many students are losing touch with their Hispanic culture, so she recreated the program to be centered around the cultural connections students create within their background, other peers and their community.

The program focuses on intermediate and advanced courses that teach students how to communicate, read and write in Spanish in addition to involving them in relevant Hispanic topics, such as presentations, to secure future national and global connections.

Since starting the Spanish Heritage Language program Filgueras-Gomez said that students are able to expand their cultural Hispanic roots by speaking and learning its literacy regardless of their previous level of Spanish knowledge. Even though she’s made plenty of changes, she said she continues to make arrangements to ensure students explore and thrive within their heritage through the courses it provides.  

Throughout her research for redesigning course content within the program, Filgueras-Gomez has restructured and implemented many different studies which she said has helped her understand what is working for her, the students and what needs to progress to make the program more successful.

“I am also investigating the possible impact of these courses in promoting cultural sensitivity, identity building and linguistic security,” said Filgueras-Gomez.

                                      Dr. Filgueras-Gomez (front left) with Spanish Heritage Language program students

For her, one of the biggest hardships in the program was that students were not signing up for the advanced courses and therefore caused the class to be dropped and be taught online.

“Many students have signed up for the intermediate course, many of them are eager to learn, especially Cuban students, but soon get discouraged because they think their language is bad,” said Filgueras-Gomez, “so I try hard to get rid of the bad stigmas.”

With Latinos making up 67 percent of the population at FIU, Filgueras-Gomez works hard to help students have a full connection with their heritage and also applies those techniques into their future careers. One of the programs goals: Not only to be bilingual but biliterate.

Senior and journalism student, Alejandra Chamorro, started the program two years ago and has enjoyed learning more about not only her own culture but other Hispanic students’ cultures as well.

“I did it to be in touch with my Heritage and not to get mixed up in the ‘American’ way and lose part of who I was,” said Chamorro to Student Media.

Being raised in Puerto Rico, Chamorro recalls when Hurricane Maria hit her hometown which caused her to realize how many Puerto Ricans were coming to FIU to earn an education they lacked and how important it was for her to see FIU give them the opportunity to do so.

Part of the Spanish Heritage Language program is for them to involve students within the class by presenting significant Hispanic issues relevant to FIU, Miami culture and the Latino population.

“… It was interesting to see how Spanish can be so different depending on our slang,” said Chamorro to Student Media, “it was fun seeing the whole Latin Community come together in one class.”

The Spanish Heritage Language program is incorporating everything they know and what they have learned to provide students with the most important methods to ensure students are learning inside and outside of class in addition to exploring their culture even further.

“We want students to be proud of what [they] know,” said Dr.Filgueras-Gomez.


Images courtesy of Spanish Heritage Language FIU instagram.

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