Spanish class

Spanish writing for fluent speakers of Spanish

Taught by Helen Eby, who has not been able to stay away from either English or Spanish in her entire life. She graduated as a teacher of English and Spanish in Argentina.

Cost See registration page for updated options.
 Duration Course duration: full academic year. A language skill can’t be taught in a few weeks. This course requires consistent attendance.
Prerequisites Participants are expected to have a high level of  Spanish oral language proficiency. They will be expected to participate in reading assignments to improve their writing skills. Bilingual employees and Certified and Qualified interpreters are welcome to take this course.
Target students Literate: this is not a literacy primer. Students…

  • have either gone through high school in the US and learned Spanish by speaking it at home or by immersion, or
  • have completed 6th grade in Mexico and want to improve their Spanish reading and writing skills. We were talking about this yesterday, with a couple of people at the site. One of them said, “Bueno, los que terminaron la preparatoria en México hablan mucho mejor. Usan palabras más finas, como camioneta en lugar de troca… Me gustaría aprender. Mis padres pensaban que no valía la pena que yo siga estudiando después de 6.° grado porque no pensaban que era muy inteligente.” (Well, people who have finished High School in Mexico speak much better. They use more elegant words, like “camioneta” instead of “troca”… I would love to learn. My parents thought it wasn’t worth it for me to study after elementary school because they didn’t think I was very smart.”)
  • Want to improve their reading and writing skills. This will, in turn, improve their ability to handle complex texts in the workplace, read material about medical and legal topics originally written in Spanish, and help them to write with less grammar and spelling mistakes when required to do so at work.

My latest “Spanish not spoken here”, from a sign on the admissions desk at a hospital:

English “Spanish” Problems
Photo ID Foto Identificasion
Should be:
Documento de identidad con fotografía
Spelling, capitalization, and word for word translation. This is English with Spanish words.
Insurance Verification Verificasion de Aseguranza
Should be:
Tarjeta de seguro médico
* Problems with spelling and capitalization.
* Problems identifying how the message is normally expressed in Spanish.
* Change “aseguranza” to “seguro médico”. Aseguranza is commonly used to refer to medical insurance in Spanish in the United States, but many recent immigrants will not recognize that term.

How does this kind of sign happen? It might start with a conversation like this:

“Hey, Maria, you speak Spanish. Please write this out for me in Spanish.”

“Well, I speak Spanish but I never actually studied it… so I can’t really do that.”

“Oh, come on! It’s part of your job! That’s why we hired you as a bilingual employee!”

Why did Maria not ever study Spanish?  Here is what several people have told me.

  • “I went to a class for Spanish speakers. The teacher couldn’t carry out a conversation in Spanish, so I left.”
  • “I signed up for a Spanish class, but I didn’t fit well with the first year students. I already knew how to greet people and count. But I didn’t fit with the third year students either. I didn’t know the spelling and the grammar.”
  • “I gave up on learning Spanish in school and took French instead. Learning Spanish from a teacher who doesn’t speak it well didn’t work.”

So, how will this course be different?

  • We will use materials written originally in Spanish: curriculum for high school students in countries where Spanish is the dominant language.
  • We will not make any assumptions about what people know and don’t know. We will correct things as needed, not starting with preconceptions about what “heritage speakers” need to fix.
  • I grew up in Argentina and graduated as a teacher of English and Spanish for Argentine students, grades 1 to 7. I know how Spanish should be taught in that context.
  • As reference materials, we will use monolingual Spanish dictionaries and well-written reference books designed for monolingual Spanish speakers.

Early in the course, students may take the ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test as a diagnostic tool. They may also take it at the end of the course. This will help them see their progress in an objective way, and will help them tell their supervisors, “Well, this is what I can actually do in Spanish. I am taking a class to improve my skills. For now, please hire a professional translator to write that sign for you or our business will give an unprofessional impression.”

No textbooks are required for this class. Participants will work with written material assigned in each class.

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