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Heritage Track



students studying in classroom

The Spanish Heritage Language (SHL) Program offers courses for individuals who grew up in Spanish-speaking environments and are able to communicate, to some extent, in more than one language. Some students are immigrants who have recently arrived in the US and have had extensive schooling in their native countries. Others are first, second, or third generation bilinguals whose abilities in the heritage language vary widely. While some are highly proficient in Spanish, others only possess basic speaking and listening skills, or merely understand the language.

To serve these different individuals’ needs, the Spanish Heritage Language Program was developed as an independent track at the University of Houston. SHL courses are specifically designed to use the student’s preexisting contact with Spanish.

The MAIN GOAL of this Program is to develop academic language skills through materials and activities specifically designed for Spanish heritage students. These classroom activities focus on developing oral and written abilities in a variety of formal and informal contexts. In addition, each course incorporates specific materials and projects to develop greater familiarity with U.S. Hispanic cultures.

These courses cover all levels of abilities: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced. Students who have successfully completed the intermediate level in this program will fulfill the foreign language requirement and are encouraged to enroll in more advanced classes. The Hispanic Department offers a variety of undergraduate-level classes that includes linguistics, literature and cultural topics. For more information on Spanish Minor and Major visit the Spanish Undergraduate Program.

In order to enroll in any of the classes offered students must take the Heritage Placement Exam.

Dr. Fairclough

Director of the Heritage Language Program
Marta Fairclough Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics
Office: 440 AH


Course Offering:

The following courses are taught on Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. (Before registration please check the semester course listing.) Enrollment is subject to Placement

Elementary SPAN 1507

Designed for students from a Spanish-speaking background. Literacy development in Spanish with emphasis on vocabulary. Intensive reading, writing, and speaking.
Prerequisites: Placement by exam or by Director of Basic Language Program

Intermediate SPAN 2307 

This course is designed for Hispanic students and other students from a Spanish-speaking background. Main goals of this class are developing basic skills in reading and writing in Spanish, advancing knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary, improving orthography with emphasis on the use of written accent and developing a greater familiarity with U.S. Hispanic culture.
Prerequisites:1507 or placement exam

SPAN 2308 

This course is a continuation of SPAN 2307. Main goals of this class are developing skills in reading and writing advanced texts in Spanish, advancing knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary, improving orthography with emphasis on the use of written accent and developing a greater familiarity with U.S. Hispanic culture.
Prerequisites:2307 or placement exam

Advanced SPAN 3307 

This course is designed to continue expanding oral skills in Spanish. Special emphasis is given to pronunciation, diction, and elocution as well as discourse presentation. Students work involves research and reading on specific topics which will be the basis to compose and deliver academic and professional presentations.
Prerequisites: 2308  

SPAN 3308 

This course is designed to continue developing and expanding writing skills in Spanish. Special emphasis is given to active grammar, textual production, and critical thinking for writing in academic and professional settings. Students work involves research, reading, composing, writing and proof reading different type of essays.
Prerequisites: 2308 or placement exam


Student in the Language Acquisition Center

UH Spanish Language Heritage Learners Placement and Credit Exam – OVERVIEW

Based on performance, students may be placed in Spanish 1507, 2307, 2308, 3308, or higher, and may earn up to 12 credit hours in Spanish.

The exam takes up to two hours and consists of several sections on vocabulary, dictation, grammar, reading comprehension and writing an essay

Who should take the test?

If you answer YES to one or more of the following statements, you need to take the Placement-Credit Exam for Spanish Heritage Learners: 

  • When I was a child, Spanish was spoken in my home
  • I lived in a Spanish-speaking country for two years or longer
  • My first language was Spanish (or both Spanish and English)
  • I speak Spanish, or both Spanish and English with family and friends
  • My parents and/or grandparents often speak to me in Spanish

Important Note:  Students cannot enroll in any Language Program (Second Language or Heritage Language) if they have not taken the Placement Exam required in each track. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in being dropped from the class.

Test-takers information

  • Students must present I.D. at test time
  • Register online. Students only need to register once, no confirmation will be given.
  • A $15.00 payment is required for administering test. 

Place and dates

  • Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 3:30pm.
  • Duration: up to two hours
  • Location: University Testing Services Center. Student Services Building, Second Floor.


  • The results will be available immediately for lower level courses, and 7 - 10 business days for higher level courses.
  • The results will expire after two years from the day that the exam was taken.
  • The exam can only be re-taken after 6 months from the day that the exam was taken for the first time.
  • Students eligible to earn credits from the exam (i. e., placed into 2307 or higher)  need to contact Debra Frazier at

I am not a Heritage Learner….

The Department of Hispanic Studies offers the Spanish as a Second Language Program for non-native and non-heritage Spanish speakers. Students who have taken Spanish in high school need to take the Spanish Placement Exam at the UH Testing Center. (For more information please call 713-743-5444 or visit University Testing Services)

Resources and Materials

Course textbooks (Please consult your instructor before purchasing books)

SPAN 1507

Vistas Spanish Program for Higher Education: Cuaderno para hispanohablantes (4th edition.)

(Vol.  1  and 2)

ISBN 978-1-61857-291-2
Vista Higher Learning  Vistas Spanish Program for Higher Education book cover
SPAN 2307

Vistas Spanish Program for Higher Education: Cuaderno para hispanohablantes (4th edition.)

(Vol.  1  and 2)

ISBN 978-1-61857-291-2
Vista Higher Learning  Spanish for Heritage Learners - book cover
SPAN 2308

Vistas Spanish Program for Higher Education: Cuaderno para hispanohablantes (4th edition.)

(Vol. 2 only)

ISBN 978-1-61857-288-2
Vista Higher Learning
SPAN 3308

Composición, proceso y síntesis (5th edition.)

McGraw-Hill Composicion, proceso y sintesis - book cover

Manual de Gramática ( 4th edition.)

Heinle  Manual de Gramatica - book cover


General Information on Heritage Languages

Student Perspectives: Comments from our Students in Heritage Classes

  • At first I was not thrilled about being in a “heritage learners” class because I thought it would be too hard. I wanted elementary Spanish (for non heritage learners) but I am happy I was placed in this class because it pushed me and catered to my needs as a heritage learner.
  • By learning Spanish in the HSP, I am now able to communicate better with Houston’s majority. After taking Spanish courses at UH, I now have more opportunities in the job market. My job gave me a raise because I speak two languages.
  • This class exceeded my expectations. I received a lot more from this course than I anticipated.
  • I enjoyed being able to speak Spanish without the criticism that may come outside of school. It is a comfortable environment to speak the language.
  • Growing up you are pulled in different directions. You are American, so you need to be American, but you are also something else. You are Latino. Knowing and understanding Spanish is a powerful identity tool. Sometimes we have identity crisis episodes and it is comforting to know that the ability to speak the Spanish language is something that cannot be taken away.
  • Thank you so much for everything. I enjoyed your class and never felt helpless. I was intimidated the first day of class, but now I have found respect for the Spanish language. I appreciate this course. I will never forget my experience.
  • I feel more competent speaking Spanish. I feel as if a window that had been closed for a long time is now open again. I am rediscovering myself through Spanish.
  • This program is educational, engaging and challenging. Perhaps the best aspect of all (most proper for college level learning) is the oral and written presentation, which is an effective exercise in practicing Spanish.
  • I have learned so much, not just from the professor, but from the other students in the class from diverse backgrounds.