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Note on the Use of Spanish in the Classroom

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A Note on the Use of Spanish in the ClassroomMost language instructors choose to start using the target language (for us, Spanish) in the classroom right away. Yes, even in the first semester. Yes, even on the first day of class. Why do we do this?Your time in your Spanish classroom is likely different from that in some of your other classes. One of the principle goals of your Spanish class is that you acquire a skill—that of expressing yourself in Spanish. Take a moment to think about how you have mastered certain skills:  How did you learn how to ride a bike? Did your parents make you read a textbook on “Cycling for First Graders” before you hopped on a bike?  How did you learn how to use many of the computer applications you use?Did you take several hours to read a “User’s Manual to Facebook” or an “Instruction Book for Instant Messaging” before sitting down at the computer?  How did you learn how to speak English?Just as you wouldn’t learn how to ride a bike by spending hours reading a book about riding a bike, you will not learn how to express yourself in Spanish simply by reading English explanations about Spanish. Like other skills, you will only improve your ability to communicate in Spanish by practicing the skill—in our case, by speaking and hearing Spanish in class. No matter how many Spanish textbooks you read, the first time you try to express yourself in Spanish will always seem a little scary. I sympathize—I started learning Spanish in a college classroom just like you! For most of you, though, your time in Spanish class is your only opportunity to speak and hear Spanish, and we need to make as effective use of that opportunity as possible. For that reason, our best use of class time is interacting in Spanish as much as possible. Keep these tips in mind as you start trying to speak Spanish: Be willing to take risks. This means being willing to plunge right in, give it your best shot, and TRY to say what you want to say in Spanish. Conquer your shyness. Conquer your fear of making mistakes. You will make mistakes as you try to communicate in class in Spanish. That’s ok! As you hear, read and speak Spanish, your brain will begin to naturally correct these mistakes.  Trust me to use language appropriate for your level. I don’t speak the same Spanish to you as I do to my friends from Central America. Some ofthe “tricks” that we language instructors use to get our point across to ourstudents include the use of: vocabulary and language I know we have studied, cognates (words that sound and are spelled like their English equivalents), hand gestures, repetition, and multiple examples. Also, you should trust me that anything urgent (the day and format of a quiz, for example) I will communicate at least once to you in English. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t understand every single word. If you effortlessly understand everything I say, you should be in a more advanced class. If you only get the gist or “main idea,” you’re doing fine. Participating fully in a language class takes mental effort—if you are truly engaged during Spanish class, you should leave class with your brain feeling a little tired (that’s those language neurons


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