María Luisa ParraDegrees: M.A. and P.hD. in Hispanic Lingusitics, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos y Literarios, México, D.F. B.A. in Psychology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F.

Research Interests: Spanish as a heritage language and Pedagogy, Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy; Child Language Development and Bilingualism; Latino Families and Immigration; Immigration and Education

Dr. María Luisa Parra has a B.A. in Psychology, a Ph.D in Hispanics Linguistics and thirteen years of experience in the fields of Second Language Acquisition and Child Bilingual Development. She has taught Spanish Language and Culture at Boston University and in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, where she is currently Senior Preceptor and course head of Spanish Aa, Spanish Ab and Spanish 59 "Spanish and the Community".

She is pioneering the first Spanish course for Latino students at Harvard (Spanish 35) and, along with Prof. Elvira DiFabio, she is the recipient of a Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) grant to develop a methodology to incorporate visual arts into language classes and collaborate with Harvard Art Museums.

She also has broad experience working closely with immigrant families and children. She was coordinator of the Home-School Connection Program at the Elliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University where she looked at the various ways in which parents and teachers supported transitions, school adaptation and academic success. In 2008 she continued and expanded her work as a post doctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Education working with Mexican and African American children attending East Palo Alto public schools. Based on an ecological theoretical model, Dr. Parra's work focuses on how parents and teachers impact bilingual development through daily interactions.

A native Spanish speaker from Mexico City, and a mother of two bilingual and bicultural boys, Dr. Parra has always been fascinated by the complexities and joys of bilingual development. She enjoys working with parents, teachers and  pediatricians in training who seek to understand and enhance the road to multilingualism.

Dr. Parra is also co-director with Prof. Davíd Carrasco of the Graduate Commons Program, Harvard University.

Book reviews

Parra Velasco, M.L. Rev. of Francisco Lorenzo, Fernando Trujillo & José Manuel Vez. 2011. Educación Bilingüe: Integración de contenidos y segundas lenguas, Madrid, Editorial Síntesis, 323 pp. ISBN: 978-84-975672-68. En Lingüística, Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de América Latina, ALFAL, 29 (1), 239-244. Available atº-29-1

Parra Velasco, M.L. Rev. of Kim Potowski and Jason Rothman (eds.). Bilingual Youth: Spanish in English-speaking societies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. vi + 371 pp. (Studies in Bilingualism, 42). To appear in Spanish in Context, 10.3.

Recent Presentations

On pedagogy

“La enseñanza del español a hablantes de herencia: ¿herramienta de comunicación u objeto de conocimiento?Invitation to participate in the Seminar “Obstáculos epistemológicos en la enseñanza de filosofía de la ciencia.” Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. August, 2012. Available at:

“Spanish in the Community: Building bridges between second language learners, heritage speakers, and the Latino community.” Invited presentation at the Sixth Heritage Language Research Institute, UCLA, June, 2012.

Parra Velasco, M.L., Liander, J., Muñoz, C. “Spanish in the Community”: An “inter-active” language course. Session presented at the Annual Convention of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages, ACTFL. Denver, CO. November, 2011.

On bilingualism and Spanish langauge maintenance

"Shaping the bilingual advantages from early ages: for whom, when and how?" Invited presentation at the Seventh Heritage Language Research Institute:
Heritage Speakers and the Advantages of Bilingualism. University of Illinois at Chicago. June 17-21, 2013.

"Apoyar el español en casa: una propuesta para padres y maestros a partir de narrativas infantiles de niños de primaria." Invited presentation at the 14º Encuentro de adquisición y desarrollo del lenguaje, Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos Literarios, El Colegio de México. México,D.F. Octobre 18th and 19th, 2012.

"What does it mean to speak Spanglish?" Invited by the "Ask Big Questions Discussion Series" from the Ethnic Studies Program. Harvard University. Mather House. September 27th, 2012.                       

“Inside the beginning: The family ecology of Heritage Speakers Heritage and language maintenance.” Poster presented at the 5th Summer Heritage Language Research Institute, UCLA. June, 2011.

"Doing/Being Bilingual: Understanding our bilingual children and students" Invited talk to the Juntos Art and Literature Festival, El Paso Public Library, El Paso, Texas. May 20-21, 2011.                                                                          

Symposiums organized at Harvard

Symposium “Applying Innovative & Effective Pedagogy for Spanish Heritage Speakers in the classroom”. Held at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, May, 2012.

Symposium “Developing Pedagogical Resources for Spanish Heritage Speakers”. Held at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, April 2011.


For Teachers

“La enseñanza del español a hablantes de herencia: teoría y práctica,” Conducted workshop for 30 Spanish teachers. Invited by Instituto Cervantes-Boston University, May, 2012.

For Parents

"Making sense of our lives at Harvard: The roadmap for Family, Jobs and Languages in a Foreign Land." Talk organized by the Graduate Commons Program. Meet the Scholar Series for Peabody Terrace residents. December, 2011.                                                                                                                          

“The role of Parents and Teachers raising multilingual children” for parents from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds." Invited by Lex of America, Arligton Lecture Series, October 2010.