Random Spanish vocab at its finest

4 Nov

Here’s a serious linguistic test: take a look at my new Spanish vocab and try to guess what we’ve been studying in my weekly class (all bad translations are my own):

• Pezuña – a hoof

• El colmo de la chineazon n– ‘the pinnacle of being spoiled (pretty sure this is Costa Rica specific)

• De según como se mire – It depends how you look at it

• No es tanto que… sino que… – It’s not so much… as it is…

• Empedernido – something like ‘hard-line’ (adj.)

• Yo discrepo – I disagree (formal)

• Meter la cuchara – Get involved in somebody else’s business (another Ticoismo I think)

• Caballo de Troya – Trojan horse

If you guessed it was an exam prep class focusing on the environment and deforestation in Spain, then well done!

I guess what strikes me here, looking back at my notes, is that students really do learn what the want to learn and not what the teacher sets out to teach. Luckily in my case I take the class with my friend Chris who shares similar views on language learning and with my teacher Fernando who has been receptive to ideas regarding using emergent language.

In the past though, I’ve had classes were the teacher was insistent on presenting and practicing certain structures (usually involving the subjunctive!). In these cases I dutifully did what was asked of me, dropped out of the class, and then learnt some new vocab from my wife, the taxi driver, my bandmates, etc.

As normally happens, reflecting on my Spanish classes gets me to thinking about my own teaching practices and those of the staff here at the school. If I find the set material so dull, surely they do too? And while I know a number of the teachers are creative and open to emergent language and the students’ immediate needs, I’m also equally sure that there are a number of teachers who follow the coursebook from unit 1 to unit 12 without deviation. I shudder to think…


7 Responses to “Random Spanish vocab at its finest”

  1. bealer81 November 6, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    I was just going to add a comment. Then I saw the trackback/pingback thingy-me-bob above. Job done.

    • Ben Naismith November 6, 2011 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks for the comment Adam and I’d be interested to see how your Spanish classes go with the new emphasis.

  2. Rose November 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi Ben, here Rose. I can´t help to laugh a little with this entry of yours -a classic.
    I have always claimed that teaching teachers is the hardest thing on Earth. They know all the tricks… and they know they don´t work and why. There´s really no way teachers can “force” students to learn something specific. As you say, they´ll learn what they want. And that´s the challenge for us teachers. To be able to teach them that, to be able to let go and allow others to learn.

    • Ben Naismith November 15, 2011 at 8:06 am #

      Hi Rose, glad you found the blog. A bit embarassing to have Costa Ricans see my mangled Spanish but never mind…

      • convidartee February 15, 2012 at 12:28 am #

        Not at all!!!! I would think of myself same wise and I am still trying!


  1. Unplugging the Spanish classroom. | Five against one: Teaching against the odds. - November 5, 2011

    […] too hasty in asking my Spanish teacher to go unplugged, until I read this blog from Ben Naismith, https://eltstew.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/random-spanish-vocab-at-its-finest/ He talks about learners learning what they want to and not what is prescribed by the teacher, […]

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