Jennifer Leeman

Jennifer Leeman

Jennifer Leeman

Director of the Graduate Certificate in Spanish Heritage Language Education


Spanish: Spanish in the US; heritage language education; critical, antiracist language teaching; ethnicity, race, and language in censuses; language and social justice

Jennifer Leeman’s research and teaching focus on the sociopolitics of language, with particular attention to multilingualism, Spanish in the US, and the teaching of Spanish as a heritage language. Her work is interdisciplinary and employs the theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches of critical applied linguistics and sociolinguistics while also engaging the fields of education, Latinx studies, language policy, and linguistic anthropology.

Leeman has published extensively on the interplay of ideologies of language, race and nation in the US, the racialization of Spanish and Latinxs in the US, multilingual language policy and politics, heritage language education, and critical pedagogical approaches to teaching Spanish. Her scholarship encompasses both theoretically-oriented research as well as studies applying theoretical insights to specific policy concerns and practical problems, including heritage language education, curriculum and pedagogy; multilingual survey design and administration; and census questions on language, race and ethnicity.

In addition to her academic appointment, Leeman also worked for almost a decade as Research Sociolinguist in the US Census Bureau's Center for Survey Measurement, where she conducted research and provided guidance on linguistic and sociolinguistic issues related to multilingual data collection, such as language access, translation procedures and Spanish-language survey questions on language, ethnicity and race. Currently she serves as a senior expert on the international advisory board of Diversity beyond Migration Background – New Categories for Anti-Discrimination Data, a research network funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). 

Leeman is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Association of Applied Linguistics as well as the editorial boards of the journals Language PolicyLinguistic Landscape, Spanish as a Heritage Language, and Spanish in Context. 

She also serves as Director of Mason's online Graduate Certificate in Spanish Heritage Language Education, which launched in Fall 2021.

Current Research

I'm currently researching the construction and invisibilization of Latinx/o/as and Latin Americans in European censuses, conducting a study on language attitudes and ethnoracial identities in study abroad, authoring a chapter on the sociopolitics of language in the US, and working on several projects related to critical, anti-racist pedagogies in Spanish heritage language education.

Selected Publications


Leeman, J. & Fuller, J. (2021) Hablar español en Estados Unidos: La sociopolítica del lenguaje. Multilingual Matters.

Fuller, J. & Leeman, J. (2020) Speaking Spanish in the US: The Sociopolitics of Language. Multilingual Matters.

Recent articles and chapters

Leeman, J. (To appear). (In)visible identities and inequities: The construction of Latinidad in European censuses. In R. Marquez Reiter & A. Patiño-Santos (Eds.), Language practices and processes among Latin Americans in Europe. Routledge.

Leeman, J. and Showstack, R. (2022). The sociolinguistics of heritage language education. In K. Geeslin, (Ed.) Handbook of Second Language Acquisition and Sociolinguistics, New York: Routledge. 328-340.

Leeman, J. & Driver, M. (2021) Heritage speakers of Spanish and study abroad: Shifting identities in new contexts. In R. Pozzi, T. Quan, & C. Escalante (Eds.) Heritage Speakers of Spanish and Study Abroad. New York: Routledge, 141-159.

Leeman, J. & Serafini, E. J. (2021). “It’s Not Fair”: Discourses of Deficit, Equity, and Effort in Mixed Heritage and Second Language Spanish Classes. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 20:6, 425-439.

Leeman, J. (2020). The nexus of academic knowledge, political agendas and self-identification in census ethnoracial classification. Language, Culture and Society (2)1 92-99.

Leeman, J.  (2020). Los datos censales en el estudio del multilingüismo y la migración: Cuestiones ideológicas y consecuencias epistémicas. Iberoromania. 2020(91): 77-92.

Leeman, J. (2019). Measured multilingualism: Census language questions in Canada and the US. In T. Ricento. Language Politics and Policies: Perspectives from Canada and the United States. (114-134). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leeman, J. (2018). Becoming Hispanic: The negotiation of ethnoracial identity in U.S. census interviews.Latino Studies 16(4), 432-460.

Leeman, J. (2018). It’s all about English: The interplay of monolingual ideologies, language policies and the US Census Bureau’s statistics on multilingualism. The International Journal of the Sociology of Language, (252) 21-43. 

Leeman, J. (2018). Critical language awareness in SHL: Challenging the linguistic subordination of US Latinxs. In K. Potowski (Ed.) Handbook of Spanish as a Minority/Heritage Language (pp. 345-358). New York: Routledge.

Leeman. J. (2018). Questioning the Language Questions: Federal Policy and the Evaluation of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics on Language. Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2018-11). U.S. Census Bureau.

Leeman, J. (2017). Censuses and large-scale surveys in language research. In K. A. King, Y.-J. Lai, & S. May (Eds.), Research Methods in Language and Education. Cham: Springer. 83–97.

Leeman, J. & Serafini, E. (2016). Sociolinguistics and heritage language education: A model for critical translingual competence. In Marta Fairclough and Sara Beaudrie (Ed.s) Innovative Strategies for Heritage Language Teaching. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. 56-79.

Leeman, J. (2016) La clasificación de los latinos y latinas en la historia del censo de los Estados Unidos: la racialización oficial de la lengua española.In José Del Valle (ed.) La historia política del español. Madrid: Editorial Aluvión. 354-379.

Leeman, J. (2015). Identity and heritage language education in the United States. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. 35. 100–119.

(Additional publications available for download at


Courses Taught

(Recent offerings)

SPAN 315 Spanish for Heritage Speakers

SPAN 323 The Sociopolitics of Multilingualism in Spain

FRLN 385 Multilingualism, Identity, and Power
SPAN 385 Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
SPAN 430 Spanish in the US
SPAN 502 Hispanic Sociolinguistics

SPAN 570 Language Politics and Policy

FRLN 575 Heritage Language Education


BA (Spanish) University of Pennsylvania
MA (Hispanic Civilization) New York University in Madrid
MAT (TESOL & Bilingual Education) Georgetown University
PhD (Hispanic Linguistics) Georgetown University