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…