Awareness of Racial Diversity in the Spanish-Speaking World Among L2 Spanish Speakers

Laurel Abreu, University of Southern Mississippi


For more than 30 years, foreign language instructors have considered approaches to teaching their students about Afro‐Latin cultures, yet little research appears to address students' actual awareness of these populations. Using a photo ratings survey, the present study explored the perceptions of postsecondary second language learners and their instructors concerning native Spanish speakers' physical appearance. The mean ratings assigned by the student participants to 24 photos were analyzed in conjunction with the following independent variables: first language, place of origin, race, gender, age, course level, contact with Spanish outside the classroom, having Spanish‐speaking friends or family, and travel to Spanish‐speaking countries. In addition, both students' and instructors' answers to open‐ended questions about native speaker characteristics were analyzed. Results indicated the importance for learners of having contact with Spanish outside the classroom, whether through exposure to media or encounters with Spanish speakers. Implications and suggestions are described for inclusive culture teaching.