Dual Language Teachers Study Abroad in Spain

IMG_6431Summer Study Abroad in Spain for Dual Language Teachers:
What we learned about teaching Spanish?

Proposed and Written by:

Ana M. Hernández, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Multilingual and Multicultural Education
School of Education, CSUSM

Lourdes Shahamiri, M.A.
Catalog and Curriculum Coordinator
Academic Affairs/Academic Programs, CSUSM

For the past two years, 24 dual language teachers, bilingual teacher candidates and recent CSUSM graduates interested in bilingual education have integrated into Spanish life, language, and culture for a two-week stay at the University of Valladolid (UVa), Spain to broaden their didactic knowledge of the Spanish language in La Formación de Profesores de Español Como Lengua Extranjera under the guidance of CA State University San Marcos faculty lead, Dr. Ana Hernández, and co-coordinator, Lourdes Shahamiri. Classes ran Monday-Friday, with intensive methodology lessons by Valladolid faculty, followed by cultural activities and field trips.

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The Splendor of Castilla and León

More than 60% of Spain’s entire heritage sites are in this region: 112 historic sites, 400 museums, 500 castles, and 12 cathedrals with the largest concentration of Romanesque art in the world. This is the birthplace of the Castilian language and classical literature such as El Cantar del Mio Cid, Don Quixote, and Don Juan Tenorio, amongst its many famous writers. Furthermore, the Duero River is home to the famous viticulture region known as the Ribera del Duero with more than 400 bodegas, where monks began winemaking over 2,000 years ago. At center stage is Valladolid, which once served as the capital of the Castilian court of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II. UVa is one of the oldest and largest universities in Spain founded in the 13th century. In the Miguel Delibes Campus is El Centro de Idiomas, which provided the learning setting for our teachers. 

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Living and Learning with Families

The varied range of experiences provided a unique understanding of family traditions in ways that highlighted the similarities and diversity across language and culture. Teachers selected homestay accommodations to easily match host families. Accommodations with families were near the university with three home-cooked meals a day and weekly laundry services. Eliseo Higinio, 3rd grade DL teacher commented,

My host, Ma Julie, was very attentive, caring, and made sure to explain common terms, phrases and activities. These phrases served as building blocks in our phraseology course. During our lunch and dinner conversations Ma Julie made sure to clarify any misconceptions to avoid misunderstandings. I was thankful for her wisdom.

Gastronomia Española

Mornings started with café con leche y pan tostado or tortilla española. After classes, we enjoyed la comida between 2:30-4:00 PM with un primero y segundo plato that ranged from gazpacho, ensaladas, pasta o verduras with a pairing of fish, meat or poultry. Foods are cooked in their natural flavors with olive oil and salt, basically no spices. Tapas o pinchos are typically enjoyed at outdoor cafes or bars with dinner starting around 9:00 PM. Desserts finish la comida o cena with an assortment of coffees – corto, largo, manchado, cappuccino and our favorite “el bombón” – a sweetly crafted espresso with condensed milk and cream. Although families provided meals daily, teachers could opt to dine out or venture on a day trip. 

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Courses for Teachers of Spanish – Formación de profesores de español

After classes, teachers participated in guided tours to museums, homes of famous writers (Cervantes, Zorrilla), taller de flamenco and guided excursions to Santillana del Mar, Santander and Castillo de Peñafiel. Santillana is a medieval village with its cobblestone streets and picturesque buildings and family palaces. Santander is off the Cantabria Coast with sandy beaches leading to the Magdalena Palace and spectacular peninsula. Castillo Peñafiel, built in 1013, is home to the Museo Provincial del Vino.

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Centro de Idiomas – Cursos de español

         Fraseologia y enseñanza del español taught us the importance of idiomatic expressions, their historical/religious contexts, and their linguistic variations. It reaffirmed the beauty of Spanish and the wide acceptance in Spain of its language variety amongst world speakers, particularly Latinos.  How often do you use idiomatic expressions when you speak Spanish? This is part of the language development for native and second language speakers. Phrases such as, “estar en la nubes, en un dos por tres, ser uña y carne, poner el grito en el cielo, estoy hasta el tope” are part of our day-to-day colloquialisms that unite all varieties of Spanish, whether you live in Spain, Latin America or the United States. Third grade DL teacher, Anayeli Sánchez, commented,

Before this course, I had not considered the phraseology aspect of language, as it determines mastery of a language by the learner’s ability to use the regional phrases. I think this is a piece that is often missed in our classrooms. Professors mentioned the large amount of time that should be spent on structuring scenarios for students to practice oral language, before reading and writing. My biggest takeaway was the need for oral language.

These forms of communicative competence add color, spice and purpose to our daily use of language and distinguish high levels of proficiency among speakers. Surprisingly, these features of the language are bound by syntax, registers, functions, and cultural spaces. They signify the linguistic discourse of speakers as effective indicators of precise and resourceful communication tied to cultural knowledge.  Every culture and country has its own distinct phraseology with historical and religious connotations, local customs, and lifestyles.

Centro de Idiomas: Clase de usos y normas del español 

         La corrección de errores en el aula de español presented theory and strategies of error correction, basically knowing “when, why, how, where and what” to correct in oral and written communication as students learn Spanish.  We classified errors students tend to produce, and distinguished the difference between interlanguage and fossilized errors in oral/written expression. These strategies seem useful in teaching English Language Development and in noting our own errors and linguistic competence as native Spanish speakers. For example, When should you interrupt/not interrupt your students to recast an utterance? Which errors are more/less important to correct in an essay? What are the advantages and disadvantages of error correction techniques? As Dayana Ramírez Maravilla, Kindergarten DL teacher explains,

Aprendí que se debe establecer una forma de corregir errores en la que el alumno y el profesor estén de acuerdo, y puedan comprender con facilidad. Podemos ayudarle al alumno ver los errores como un crecimiento, no como una deficiencia. Estableciendo una manera consistente de corregir errores es algo sumamente importante para el alumno, como para el profesor.

         El español coloquial provided foundations for oral language development using conversational situations, oral protocols and non verbal communication in formal/informal contexts. The course highlighted the attributes in oral communication, registers and varieties of Spanish in colloquial contexts, purpose, and spaces of discourse. María Paredes, 5th grade DL teacher stated,

Creo que al incorporar frases del español coloquial podría crear más interés con los estudiantes. Debemos crear espacios donde su propia cultura, raíces, países y conocimientos tengan un lugar especial. Por esta razón, mi plan es de investigar más de dónde vienen mis alumnos y que compartan su idioma coloquial.

         Connotación, denotación y emoción: ¿Qué significan las palabras? analyzed student motivation to learn a language in communicative and academic situations that are either real situations or fictitious in nature (texts, literature). We explored how students determine their own level of linguistic competence and achievement, as they may limit or excel their acquisition based on personal investments. According to Daffne Villalobos, 3rd grade DL teacher,

Professor Pérez argued that teachers tend to give students a list of vocabulary words with pictures to memorize, but in reality none of those words will be ever used by students. He recommended to ‘stop and think’ about the type of vocabulary we are teaching and whether it will play a significant impact on the daily lives of the students… I am now more motivated than ever to create activities in which students can comprehend more significantly the meaning of words and their usage.

         Uso de normas en español provided the parameters to identify the different dialectical varieties and characteristics of Spanish learned in Spain and Latin America and how that distinguishes the linguistic modalities, language status and phonological and morphological changes with each generation and modern use of language. Wendy Zendejas, 5th grade DL teacher discussed,

After dissecting the nuances of the Spanish in phonemic transformations known as “el seseo” o “yeísmos” which is the norm in many of our contexts, I wanted to know – What variation of Spanish should we teach? And I realized that the answer is found in our students’ contexts and purpose for learning.

         El desarrollo de las cuatro destrezas en el aula de español: estrategias y recursos focused on communicative language strategies and the didactic sequences of speaking, listening, reading and writing, including the typologies of text and discourse in written and aural expression.

Contacto de lenguajes en el contexto del español en los Estados Unidos explored code-switching, mock Spanish, and the use of Spanglish within the sociocultural and sociopolitical functions of its speakers, using music, lyrics and videos to analyze the intent and use of the language, contexts, and communities.

We also enriched our experiences through the perspectives of our classmates from Spain, Russia, China, Italy, Canada, Mexico, India, Cuba and the USA, who teach Spanish to varied cultures, contexts, grade levels, and modismos en su salsa. We concluded our courses with a ceremony at UVa’s Palacio de Santa Cruz.  Teacher received certificates with the university seal. Instructors, host families, administrators, and the press attended the function. After the course ended, teachers continued their personal travels through Spain or other international cities as Paris, London, Lisbon, Rome or Casablanca! That is the beauty of already being in Europe. 

Importance and Significance of the Study Abroad Program

Teachers learned useful techniques to teach Spanish through communicative approaches. Understanding error correction strategies, universal uses and norms of the language, the richness of Spanish variations, and the use of Spanish in the US provided teachers with the academic and communicative tools to develop high levels of language instruction with their students. The homestay accommodations provided opportunities to learn about Spain’s society and culture from family traditions, histories and diversity. The cultural visits enhanced their understanding of Spain’s history and the important status of Spanish varieties across global communities.

During our stay, we did not feel belittled or undervalued for our Latino heritage, dialects or Spanglish, we were welcomed and respected for our varied experiences, cultures and linguistic identities in all aspects of our courses and travels throughout Spain, more so than in our own country. There was an immense appreciation for immigrants and the diversity of languages and cultures as if we were united through our human experiences – more similar than different, a lens for admiration through a just and true understanding of our multiple and complex identities – un verdadero mosaico cultural.  DL Maestra Zendejas added,

With all the complexities that seemed to plague the teaching of Spanish, one thing rang true; Spanish is alive, thriving and serving as a unifying thread for people. New generations of students enter our dual immersion classrooms and exit as bilingual citizens. These bilingual citizens will have the capacity to build the connections that have the power to shift paradigms, debunk stereotypes and win hearts all over the Spanish speaking world.

Register for Summer 2020

Teachers, teacher candidates and recent graduates interested in attending the July 11-25, 2020 Formación de profesores de español at the University of Valladolid, Spain, please register through the Office of Global Education at CA State University San Marcos (CSUSM) at https://www.csusm.edu/global/studyabroad/spanish_for_teachers_valladolid.html or contact Dr. Ana Hernández, Associate Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education at ahernand@csusm.edu. You can earn 3 units from CSUSM during your study abroad for an additional minimal charge.

Grounded in the School of Education and CSUSM’s Mission/Vision Statements is the belief that higher education exists to serve the educational needs of the local, regional, and global communities by transforming education and inspiring reflective teaching and learning. Liliana De La Portilla, 3rd grade DL teacher stated,

I came back to the states happy and eager to share my experiences with my team and students. Participating in this program was one of my best decisions! A combination of learning inside and outside the classroom really enhanced my vision as a dual teacher about culture, language, customs and respect. I am highly recommending the program to my colleagues.

We invite you to join us next year!

Learn more about how to be part of this program!


Marilyn Huerta
College of Education, Health & Human Services
mhuerta@csusm.edu