Every year hundreds of students who really have no intention of ever leaving the continental United States (except maybe one week a year at a Cancun resort) / interacting with the large Spanish-speaking population of United States finds itself clearing the final hurdle between them and that nice Ways of Learning check mark on DegreeWorks: Spanish 201. Constantly shocked to be asked to put more than 10% brain power in this class, AT professors and leaders consider themselves lucky when students string a complete sentence together. However, for all the students who normally complain about how they could never use the Spanish they use in their daily lives, the Spanish Department has cooked up a new curriculum.
“Normally after the personality traits unit, we go straight to future plans and goals, like what you want to be when you grow up,” said Sally Shoots, 24, AT for 201. “But this year, my teacher handed me a new unit: Expressing deep grief and suffering in this seemingly apocalyptic time.
In a survey of 201 current students, it seems the Spanish department may have been onto something – while morale is down, when asked ‘How well is this subject apply to your life?” The average student response was 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “most applicable”.
“When I told my roommate to go to my grandfather’s funeral, I was able to talk about how I was ‘sufriendo el duelo’ [grieving] en español,” said ’25 student Lila Erickson. “She didn’t know what I was saying, but I was glad I had the words to express myself.”
Some students noted the morbidity of the pictures that accompanied the Quizlets they found to study vocabulary terms. “I didn’t expect the painting ‘The Scream’ to appear, but I will say it fits perfectly with the term ‘existential crisis’ – although who really needs that hint given that it’s is a namesake,” Shoots said.
For others, this new unit has actually turned out to totally change their outlook on language learning and their commitment to Spanish. “Nunca había pensado que tenía un futuro con español,” said fellow student James Jenkins, ’24. “Pero este capítulo ha cambiado mi punto de vista–ahora, veo que el idioma ofrece otras 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 these changing times by teaching students how to talk about the overwhelming despair we all feel has been a huge success. Congratulation !