Preparándonos para 2019
It’s been more than 35 years ago since I started teaching Spanish to foreigners in Peru. Looking back at those days teaching in Peru, and in the U.S., I can identify many scenarios where the teaching-learning experience of Spanish is similar. In almost all of these situations many institutions see the student as the client and the curriculum, the technology and the materials are the center of the instruction, but the student is not seen as a person with human needs.
In my opinion, we have overlooked the human element in learning. This human component children experience when they first start learning how to communicate with their parents, from the day they are born, to the day when they attend school. In certain way we missed the natural way to learn a language.
If we have the opportunity to observe a one-year-old boy or girl (even a newborn baby) as they talk with mom and dad, we will see; they repeat, they imitate, they are relaxed. They don’t mind making mistakes, they laugh, they cry, they feel good and they build up confidence. They trust, and from there, they start speaking and communicating. These interactions are important and the reinforcement coming from negative and positive experiences is vital for the continuous growing of vocabulary and ways of communicating.
This blog is not meant to be the forum for all descriptions, reflections and thoughts applied in each class at Rojas Spanish. However, allow me to mention only a few.
- Spanish as language is a human experience. Those years when I was teaching in language schools, most of the instruction demanded we follow a curriculum, explain grammar, work in groups and role-play the structures and expressions taught in class.Any student who has gone through a setting like this is familiar with the introductory placement test, which would determine the level of proficiency and class a student should attend. Practicing introductions, learning the classifications of verbs ar/er/ir, long lists of irregular verbs with rules and exceptions. This is a class centered in the material but not in the student as a person.Don’t get me wrong, there are good classes out there and there are students who can learn in this way. However, in order to be fair to everyone who dream to speak Spanish, many students find this format of study frustrating and end up “tirando la toalla”, which is an expression in Spanish that means, giving up. This is not fair. It is not a student problem; it’s an approach problem. It is necessary to bring the human experience to class. Work with the sounds (the phonetics) and the vocabulary in a way we Hispanics learned our own vocabulary. Internalize patterns and ways of expression in the way Hispanics do, apply Spanish to our daily activities in life.
- Nobody is too old to learn Spanish. I have heard a lot how children can learn a language easier than adults. When I hear this, I work to encourage adult students there is nothing further from the truth. What I have observed in children is they trust the guidance of their parents. Adults prefer to rationalize. The “law” (a.k.a. grammar) is so important to adults and gives us the confidence we are speaking “properly”. With this method, we are set-up to fail, because there is an incredible effort in memorizing rather than internalizing the language.
At Rojas Spanish I work hard to provide instruction for the human side of the language. With my method, we develop friendships and long-term relationship in learning, to the point in which you can communicate with confidence in Spanish.
Additionally, at Rojas Spanish, age is of no concern. No matter what the reason is for you wanting to learn Spanish, every class is designed for students of all ages. Senior to young adult, everyone will be kept motivated and maintain a commitment.
I frequently tell my students frustration can lead to discouragement, and discouragement is your worst enemy in learning a language.
These are just a few thoughts regarding our teaching approach at Rojas Spanish, “let me teach you Spanish in the way we Hispanics teach our kids”.
Todos son bienvenidos.