Spanish Language Summer Session Promises to be Quite a Trip!

For language students that need to brush up on their Spanish before traveling abroad, CMC has just the ticket “Spanish 33: Intermediate Spanish” taught by Nicole Altamirano, assistant professor in CMC’s Modern Languages department.

The six-week course will hone students’ four basic language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) while emphasizing oral communication, as the class explores various aspects of Hispanic cultures through news clips and articles, movies, music videos, telenovelas and more.

Professor Altamirano says “the sterile environment of the classroom can turn students off from learning a language when, in fact, it should be a dynamic and interactive experience.” That’s one reason why she has supplemented the class with a variety of interesting field trips, including excursions to an authentic paleter?a, the Museum of Latin American Art, a Mexican supermarket, the LA Film Festival, a Basque restaurant and a Mexican wrestling match.

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CMC: What on Earth is to be learned at a Mexican wrestling match one of your potential field trips?

Altamirano:Sporting events are performances of cultural identity. By spending a couple hours at a Chivas USA soccer match, another potential field trip, the students will be more immersed in Hispanic culture than your average college student in Canc?n for a week on spring break. While la lucha libre has filtered into American pop-culture consciousness through the Jack Black film, Nacho Libre, a series on MTV2 and even the Cartoon Network, as well as a recent Xbox video game, the sociopolitical undertones are lost on most American spectators. Though everyone can enjoy the high drama of an epic battle between good and evil, the average American knows little about the sport beyond the kitsch factor. In fact, as the students will discover, at play in la lucha libre (literally, “free struggle”) are the contradictions that lie at the heart of what it means to be Mexican.

CMC: If there were one aspect of Hispanic culture that you could impart to non-Hispanics, what would that be?

Altamirano: The short answer is naps for adults. When I moved to Spain I quickly became aware that there people work to live. Too often in the United States we live to work, to the detriment of our well being. Spaniards are great at enjoying life.

CMC: Give us a rundown on the contents of your dream Hispanic meal.

Altamirano: It would be Peruvian, starting off with ceviche with the mandatory side of impossibly large (to Americans) fried corn kernels, along with papa a la huanca?na, a potato appetizer of creamy cheesy spicy goodness from my father’s home town. For the main course, the classic lomo saltado, perhaps best characterized as a beef stir fry with French fries. For dessert, alfajores, powdered sugar-laced short-bread cookies united by a layer of dulce de leche. And to drink: chicha morada, a purple corn beverage that has been described by a student of mine as tasting like Christmas.

CMC: What is your favorite place to visit in Spain or Latin America?

Altamirano:Lately it’s Mexico City. Don’t believe the hype. It is perfectly safe provided that you are smart and pay attention to your surroundings. I’ve been twice so far and have yet to do everything I wanted to do there. It has more museums than any other city in the world, according to the Mexican government, pyramids left and right, and it’s a great jumping-off point from which to explore other areas of Mexico. And the tacos there are the best I’ve ever had.

CMC: We have a sneaking suspicion that you must be a fan of Cervantes?

Altamirano: At the risk of sounding trite I will admit that I have never read a novel in English or Spanish that surpasses Don Quixote. It is as brilliant and timely today as it was 400 years ago.

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This is the fourth in a series of stories about CMC faculty teaching during the 2011 Summer Session. For additional information on this course, please visit Professor Altamirano’s profile page for contact information and office hours.

CMC’s 2011 Summer Session begins May 23rd and will offer both three- and six-week courses, all taught by CMC faculty. A full listing of course offerings will be available on the Summer Session Website.