Spanish from the start

Henry Owens, Staff Writer

The World’s Language department has introduced a new textbook to Spanish classes to increase focus on discussion and presentation and reduce the stress of the courses.

Each chapter of the new textbook, “Gente,” focuses on student projects such as reviewing short films or creating their own products while incorporating vocabulary and grammar, foreign language teacher Daisy Vazquez said.

The general curriculum is also changing to what’s called a “task based approach,” which gets students using the language from the very start, Head of the Language Department Maria del Pilar Valencia said.

“It’s been found through research that language acquisition works better when you actually try to use it,” said Valencia. “That’s why when you go on vacation to a place where they speak the language you are studying, you end up feeling more comfortable and more fluent using the language than when you memorize the rules or vocabulary,” she said.

“The students are working in pairs all the time, doing presentations, and using their skills,” said Vazquez.

The change in textbook in curriculum is in part a result of the intensity of Spanish courses at the school, Valencia said.

“We’ve been thinking about and researching ways that would have kids learning Spanish with the same quality at the same speed but making the experience less demanding and stressful,” she said.

According to Valencia, the “Gente” textbook has been used in Spanish 4 for the past two years as a pilot. This year, the department has started using the book in Spanish 1 and 2 for both the honors and regular track and hopes to extend it to Spanish 3 next school year.

“Transition is not always a comfortable thing, but what we’ve seen in terms of students developing confidence in being able to speak and to use the language with more accuracy and more control is really impressive,” Valencia said.

“There’s been a lot more discussion between peers versus just individual work,” Alexis Fry (10), who is currently taking Spanish 2, said. The new curriculum also seemed to be geared more towards communicating and fluency instead of just learning a few terms, she said.

Andrew Cassino (11), who is enrolled in Spanish 4, has not yet seen any substantial change in the course being more discussion-based, he said. Cassino thinks this would be a positive change, but believes it is too early to tell, he said.