Heritage language programs on the rise

Dorothy Villarreal grew up dreaming in Spanish, first in Mexico and later in South Texas, where her family moved when she was six. She excelled in school — in English. But at home life was in Spanish, from the long afternoon chats with her grandparents to the Spanish-language version of Barbie magazines she eagerly awaited each month. She figured she was fluent in both languages.

Then the Harvard University junior spent last summer studying in Mexico and realized just how big the gaps in her Spanish were.

“We were talking about the presidential election, and there was so much I wanted to explain,” Villarreal said. “We’d end up playing a guessing game where I’d speak in English, and my friends, they’d speak back in Spanish to guess what I was saying.”

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