Intermediate Spanish in Summer Session

Spanish 33 will polish the students’ receptive skills (listening / reading) as well as the productive skills (speaking / writing). Professor Carlos Gonzales will work with students to review grammar; focusing on mastering forms and uses of verbs through oral communication activities. Brief readings from major Hispanic authors and discussions on traditional and current issues will introduce students to Latin American and Spanish history and culture. The readings will be complemented by viewing and listening to TV clipscommercial, news and shows, feature movies and documentaries, and music videos and songs. Potential fieldtrips include mural viewings, excursions to the Museum of Latin American Art, a soccer game, and a Peruvian restaurant.

CMC: What aspect of the Spanish language do English-speaking students struggle with the most?

Gonzales: The aspect that I consider less easy to master is writing. This skill requires a great investment of time and patience, qualities that are not usually found in university life. One of the reasons why it seems to take more time is that the mistakes which are made become more obvious and frequent when they are written downthey are perpetuated in the piece of papera characteristic that does not occur in oral language. As soon as words leave your mouth, they are gone with the wind.

CMC: What are some of the advantages of taking this class in the summer over taking it during the school year? Can students get more out of it?

Gonzales: Summer Session presents several advantages. First, students are more exposed to the target language with less periods of interruption between classes. Second, classes themselves are more personalized. CMC prides itself on having a professor/student ratio of 1:18 in most classes. Language classes during Summer Session fluctuate between 6-10 students. It is like having a personal tutor for each class period. Fieldtrips, excursions, etc. done outside of class time and outside the classroom are more effective and relaxed because they take place in a natural atmospherelike a soccer gameand are not as rigid as instruction that takes place in the traditional classroom; moreover, the activities are not organized by a campus club or organization. The most attractive advantage is the class requierement for language can be completed in 6 weeks instead of a whole semester and frees up your schedule during a regular semester.

CMC: How does studying history and culture specifically help in learning the language?

Gonzales:When we talk about historical events or cultural subtleties in the Hispanic world we obviously do it in Spanish, using the proper terms not just in their chronological and idiosyncratic context, but with the required linguistic strength as well. We learn not just vocabulary wordsthat is isolated wordsbut above all we use phrases and conjugations showing the connotations in the mother tongue. For instance, if we are discussing about the Cuban Revolution o el “cebiche”, we first locate the words in the corresponding linguistic context in order to approach them in their historical, chonological, spatial, or gastronomical context.

CMC: Will students be able to comprehend the Spanish TV news, movies, and music without much difficulty after taking Spanish 33?

Gonzales: The student that takes this class has already developed a basic / intermediate level of competency. Classroom instruction will polish those skills that the student is trying to master and will perfect those that are already at an optimal level.
Exposure to audio or audiovisual activities is conducive to gaining a familiarity with the language and its subtletiesi.e. idiomatic expressionsand understanding the accents of the various Spanish-speaking regions in a natural context. The purpose of the TV news, the movies and listening to songs is to equip the student with the daily and social background in the target language. Moreso, the songsas well as the news and moviesafford the student the opportunity to understand social and cultural aspects of Hispanic countries. The difficulties will decrease andin some caseswill even disappear if the student enthusiastically and consistently takes notes, asks questions, and uses the class activities and other real-life situations to practice.

CMC: Most students at CMC, though many would love to, often find it difficult to fit a foreign language class into their schedule once they are done with their General Education language requirement. What do you think is the best/most effective way to maintain foreign language skills without taking any extra classes?

Gonzales: The Hispanic population of California has given rise to local Spanish TV stations that are models of the correct use of the language. That is why one of the suggestions I give to my language students at the beginning of each semester is to watch the news. The advantage of the news is that the difficulty that you may encounter by watching a soap opera or a moviebecause of the unfamiliar accents or the intonations full of histrionic emotionare minimized. If one considers that the anchorman has studied to read the news in a clear fashion, it makes sense that the news would be more easily understood by one who is learning a language. Another advantage is that the student is already familiar with much of what is happening enabling him to concentrate on language production, its verbal context, and semantic use and not on the news itself.
Fortunately, the Spanish language to which the student is exposed here in California is not forced nor artificial as it can be in other states, areas or regions of the United States. One other suggestion I give my students is to visit the Hispanic businesses and storesthat are found here in abundanceas this gives the student the opportunity to practice the language: a grocery store or a swapmeet visitwill provide a bargaining experienceor eating in a Hispanic cuisine restaurant will provide countless contexts for spontaneous oral production. But it is imperative that the student take the initiative and make the effort to create those kinds of situations.
For those that do not have the money nor the transportation to go to a store or to eat at a restaurant, most of the 5C’s offer what is known as the “Mesas Hispanas” (Hispanic Table) during the regular semesters. There, the studentsduring lunchtime, 12:00 pm can practice the language in a more relaxed, friendly and jovial setting without all the classroom seriousness and rigor. And what it is even better, even students who are not enrolled in a language class can attend. For instance, CMC offers the Hispanic Tables every Tuesday and Thursday at Collins and Pomona College holds them at Oldenborg Center from Monday to Friday.