Friday, April 17, 2009

Parody of Spanish Community Service Learning?

by Ann Abbott

Spanish instructors and students alike can relate to this video--the simple vocabulary, repetition, exaggerated enunciation and gestures, realia and use of pictures. It made me laugh a lot.

It also made me wonder, what would a parody of our Spanish community-based learning courses look like?

  • Instead of asking "Where is the bomb?" the police would ask, "Where is your partner? You can't do this activity without a partner!"
  • They find the partner and bring him into the interrogation room. The jefe comes in and instead of asking "¿Qué hora es?" he says, "¿Qué hiciste en la comunidad esta semana? Interview your partner to find out what he did in the community this week. You have three minutes!" Then, "Now, tell your partner one way in which your work was the same as his, and one way in which it was different. Two minutes!"
  • Then, instead of asking if they want agua, una hamburguesa or una piña, the police say, "You need to do a reflective essay now. Do you want paper and pencil? A computer and Compass? A webcam and YouTube?"

On a more serious note, my favorite moment in the video is when el jefe asks, "¿Qué hora es?" It's a hilarious moment that shows the absurdity of many things we do in language teaching. There is a clock on the wall; the question is asked just to make the students practice the forms he has taught, he already knows the answer.

That may seem like something that only happens in introductory courses, but it's not. Do we ask questions that we already know the answer to? Or do we ask questions that we already know what we want students to answer?

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook recently: "Great quote from Gerald Graff's "Our Undemocratic Curriculum" (Profession 2007 128) from_Clueless in Academe_. A student is asked after graduating in English if she ended up with a clearer understanding of the major issues; her response: 'The assumption seemed to be that if I was any good I 'already' knew what those issues were and why they mattered. I couldn't ask, since I didn't want to look dumb.'"

I'm sure we've all been guilty of making our students feel like that at times. But it's a real danger in Spanish community-based learning classes because our students have so much information that we don't have--they're the ones who are in the community every week, on the ground. We really have to open up and open our ears to them.

(Thanks for sharing this link, Marisa.)

1 comment:

  1. Just to let you know the "¿Qué hora es?" reference goes back in time to
    The SNL Soap Opera "¿Qué hora es?"

    When I first saw this soap opera it made me think about the ways in which language is sometimes taught out of context.