The Davidsonian

Spanish Language Learning for the Real World

Every year, hundreds of students who really never intend to leave the continental United States (except for maybe a week a year at a Cancún resort)/interact with the sizable Spanish-speaking population within the United States find themselves falling over the last hurdle between them and that beautiful Ways of Learning checkmark on DegreeWorks: Spanish 201. Consistently shocked to find themselves asked to put in more than 10% brain power to this class, professors and AT leaders count themselves lucky when students string a full sentence together. However, for all the students who normally complain about the way in which they would never be able to use the Spanish they’re using in their daily lives, the Spanish department has been cooking up a new curriculum. 

“Normally, after the personality trait unit, we move straight into future plans and goals, like what you want to be when you grow up,” said Sally Shoots, ‘24, an AT for 201. “But this year, my professor handed me a new unit: Expressing Deep Grief and Suffering in this Seemingly-Apocalyptic Time.” 

When polling current 201 students, it seems that the Spanish department might’ve been on to something–while morale is way down, when asked “How applicable is this topic to your life?”, the average student response was a 4.5 on a scale from 1-5, 5 being “most applicable.” 

“When telling my roommate about having to go to my grandpa’s funeral, I was able to talk about how I was ‘sufriendo el duelo’ [grieving] en español,” student Lila Erickson ‘25 said. “She didn’t know what I was saying, but I was glad I had the words to express myself.”

Some students did note the morbidity of the images that were going along with the Quizlets they found to study the vocab terms. “I wasn’t anticipating ‘The Scream’ painting to show up, but I will say it pairs pretty perfectly with the term ‘crisis existencial’–although who really needs that hint considering it’s a homonym,” Shoots said. 

For others, this new unit has actually proven to totally change their outlook on language learning and commitment to Spanish. “Nunca había pensado que tenía un futuro con español,” said another student, James Jenkins, ‘24. “Pero este capítulo ha cambiado mi punto de vista–ahora, veo que el idioma ofrece otras formas de expresarme y tocar a la emoción profunda que siento en mi espíritu.”  

It seems that the Spanish department’s attempt to keep itself current and applicable in changing times through teaching students how to talk about the overwhelming despair we all feel has been a huge success. ¡Felicitaciones!

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