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Spanish for native speakers conference set for Aug. 13-15

New Mexico State University's Fifth Annual Conference on Teaching Spanish to Native Speakers, the only conference of its kind in the United States, is set for Aug. 13-15.


The event will be held at Las Cruces' Best Western Mesilla Valley Inn. The public is invited to attend for a registration fee of $40 at the door. Sessions will begin at 8 a.m.

Conference co-chairs are Cecilia Rodriguez Pino and Patricia MacGregor-Mendoza of NMSU's languages and linguistics department. The conference, they said, is not only for teachers and administrators, but for parents and relatives, too.

"Spanish language maintenance is a critical issue, not only for communication with monolingual speakers, but also for students whose future professions will require bilingual skills," Rodriguez Pino said.

Hispanics will be the largest minority in the United States by 2001, she noted.

Conference presenters will represent NMSU, area schools and universities from as far away as Maryland and British Columbia, Canada.

Saturday's noon keynote speaker is Ana Roca, a Spanish professor from Florida International University. Her topic is "Looking Ahead: Population, Approaches and Policies in Teaching Spanish as a Heritage Language." Her 1999 textbook, "Nuevos Mundos," describes successful college classroom activities for native Spanish speakers.

Award-winning poet Francisco Alarcon of the University of California-Davis, will participate in the conference, and his bilingual children's poetry picture books will be for sale. His book, "Laughing Tomatoes," received the Pura Belpre Honor Award from the American Library Association and the National Parenting Publications Gold Medal Award.

Also on the program are Annabelle Martinez of MacArthur Elementary School, who will discuss how elementary students acquire bilingual literacy skills, and NMSU Professor Ricardo Aguilar, who will give a talk about the cultural role of oral histories titled "Herencia Viva: Las Historias Orales y La Comunidad Latina."

Other presenters will discuss writing processes, technology, implementing native speakers programs in schools, heritage language schools, stories of linguistic repression in Southwest schools, reading-writing connections, teaching Spanish literature, and language and the law.

A session titled "Siembra y Cosecha: Ensayo y Poesia por Alumnos Hispanohablantes," will feature Gadsden High School students reciting their creative work.