Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Spanish for Non-Spanish Speakers Workshop–A Success!

When I decided to teach a one day “Spanish for Non-Spanish Speakers Workshop: What Every Georgia Educator Should Know” I worried  that it might be a bait and switch: would those in attendance think they could learn Spanish in one day? Would the workshop title be misleading and encourage what I now refer to as “The Dorification of Spanish Language Learning in the U.S.”?  Spanish language learning isn’t what the Nick Jr. program, “Dora the Explorer” makes it out to be –to (re)learn a second language one needs much more than a few token words that are repeated and translated regularly.  We English speakers in the US have many advantages  for becoming proficient in Spanish (including cognates, Roman alphabet, similar word order structure, many opportunities for authentic exposure to Spanish) vs. other languages that share much less in terms of scripts and structures such as Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Polish, Arabic.   But I never want to deceive eager Spanish learners that the process will be easy, fast, or straightforward.  What on earth could I teach about the Spanish language in a day that would feel satisfying and meaningful?

My students and co-planners spent many weeks considering the possibilities for the workshop with an emphasis on including lessons on language learning processes–how does an adult English speaking American begin to tackle meaningful, communicative Spanish language acquisition without becoming quickly overwhelmed? What about learning a second language also includes learning a second culture and a second/third/fourth perspective on what constitutes “normal” in every context–from dining to primary school learning to driving a vehicle, child rearing, or deciding upon a time to meet for lunch.  Normal is in the eye of the cultural beholder.

The day we spent together was exhiliarating–filled with many more than the “7 words a day” that one typically can acquire! We immersed, we greeted, we dined, we danced, we cut and strung [papel picado], we played [lóteria, trivia] and won–it was a full, busy day that enriched workshop attendees and facilitators alike.  Thank you to all who came–especially those in attendance from the far corners of our state!  We will announce the spring workshop date shortly and look forward to what happens next.  There is a common toast in Mexico: Pa[ra] arriba, Pa’bajo, Pa’centro, Pa’ dentro–raising a glass of “agua de Jamaica” to the group–up, down, to the middle, to the inside!  The day, like the delicious hibiscus drink, has gone inside to stay and percolate many ideas for more Spanish to come!

 

Spanish in a day–no way.  Spanish for every Georgia educator–absolutely!

One response to “Spanish for Non-Spanish Speakers Workshop–A Success!

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