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The University of Southampton

SPAN3004 Barrios and Borders: Language and Identity amongst US Latinos

Module Overview

The module will introduce the main theoretical ideas of language and identity alongside tracing the historical, social and linguistic background to the presence of the so-called Latinos in the US. Issues of language policies in general and those affecting Spanish in the US in particular will be covered. The different Latino communities will be examined in turn and contrasted with the homogenising gloss they are typically given by non-Latinos in US society. We will examine how far Latinos have come to accept and conform to this external image. We will also see whether the highly marginalised and underprivileged status generally associated with the Latino communities might be changing. We will ask what political power the community can assert. The module will look at the situation of Spanish in this community – its vitality, transmission to new generations, forms compared with other varieties of Spanish and, in particular, the phenomenon of codeswitching and of Spanglish. We will ask what wider role the Latino example plays. What is its social, cultural and linguistic impact both in the US and globally? What trends in migration patterns, particularly that of the ‘returning’ migrant may have implications globally?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The ambiguous meaning of identity labels such as ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’
  • The demographic, sociocultural and linguistic profile of the US Latinos
  • The historical context of Hispanic migration patterns and settlement in the US
  • The vitality of Spanish in the US – in terms of intergenerational transmission, public use, codeswitching, presence in the education system, and in the media
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the perception of ‘threat’ (‘hispanophobia’) felt by non-Hispanic US citizens and the counter movements such as English Only
  • Analyse the hybridity and/or homogenisation imposed from outside on the diverse Hispanic communities (‘chiquitisation’)
  • Assess the impact of the Latino community on contemporary US society and culture and in the Spanish-speaking world. Do Latinos have a voice? Is it a Spanish language voice?
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work in small groups for independent study
  • Summarise and synthesise material in order to transmit it to fellow students in class
  • Identify and focus on relevant information and ideas in a very wide range of materials in English and Spanish
  • Evaluate information and discussion from a range of media (written texts, TV programmes, songs and music, interviews)
  • Listen and learn from fellow students
  • Take part in a structured debate, working in a team to synthesise evidence and present a convincing argument
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand and analyse codeswitching in immigrant communities by investigating the particular example of Spanglish
  • Use and contrast the Spanish of US Latinos with other varieties of Spanish
  • Be knowledgeable about language legislation in the US
  • Discuss the phenomenon of ‘hyphenated’ identity (Mexican-American, Cuban-American, etc.)


• Language and nation • Migration and identity • Language policy and language politics • Bilingual education • Language, identity and the media • Cultural representations of Latinos (Assessed presentations) • The Latino Vote in contemporary US elections • Languages in contact: crossing borders, bilingualism and codeswitching • The future: Spanish in the US, standard languages, global languages

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • A weekly double period seminar which will be structured through a ‘snowballing’ method. Students will begin with discussions in small groups and then ‘cascade’ their findings (usually by answering guiding questions) eventually to the whole group with some facilitating from the lecturer. • Students will be expected to organise themselves into small working groups to undertake independent research on short specified topics from week to week. Learning activities include: • The use of a very wide range of materials from standard texts in academic books and journals, to novels and poetry, videos, satellite TV, press coverage, recorded interviews, social media, and dance and music. • There will be regular weekly presentations and discussions with the focus of student-led seminars and learning. • Students may be asked to carry out independent or group fieldwork (interviews, recordings, observation, etc.)

Preparation for scheduled sessions90
Wider reading or practice12
Follow-up work12
Completion of assessment task12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

General. Key texts required for weekly seminar preparation are all digitised and available using the Library’s Digital Course Collection. Supplementary readings are available in hard copy in the Reserve Collection at Avenue Campus as well as a wider collection at Hartley Library. Links to websites and other online resources are provided on the module Blackboard site.



MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary 15%
Essay  (3500 words) 45%
Group presentation 30%
Participation 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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