Friday, November 27, 2009

"Un Momento. Is That Written with a "C," a "Z" or an "S?"

by Ann Abbott

Recent conversations with some of my community partners have convinced me even more that our students need as much practice as possible with Hispanic names. When they are doing their community service learning (CSL) work, they simply make too many mistakes. That can create all sorts of problems, especially when filing names. And while students may not think that filing is a valuable use of their time, it is in fact invaluable to the people who need to access those files at a moment's notice, for vital tasks.

Although there are many reasons that students might make mistakes with Hispanic names, right now I'd like to focus on possible confusions between the similar sounds of "s," "z" and "c" in Spanish.

On the telephone, or even in person, how would you know if a person's name was Velázquez, Velásquez or Velásques? All three are possible. What about Macías or Masías? I have seen both.

There's only one way to know: Ask! Even if you think you know, ask.

"¿Se escribe con 's'? ¿No? ¿Cómo se escribe?"

This classroom activity should help your students. Be sure that they focus on the strategy of getting the right spelling, not just memorizing how some names are spelled. Remember, there are often variations!

1. Choose 6-8 names from this list and read them out loud to your students. Ask them to write them down. (These are all names of people that I know or have seen, although not necessarily in these combinations.)
  • Horacio Salazar
  • Saúl Esquivel Meza
  • Zenobia Vásquez González
  • Azucena Ortiz-Díaz
  • Nicolás Luis Reyes Fragoso
  • Rosalinda Enríquez Verzal
  • César Arturo Ponce Vélez
  • José Luis Chávez Valdez
  • Zanya Solís Várgas
  • Bianca Paíz
  • Isaac Cruz Péres
  • Criseida María Solorzano Torres
  • Zanya Garza García
  • Ezequiel Zubía Lópes

2. Tell students to ask you strategic questions to confirm the spelling of the names they are not sure of. They cannot ask "¿Cómo se escribe el #2?"

3. Give the students the correct spellings and check how many they got right.

4. Besides "z," "s" and "c," what other letters might cause confusion when writing down names? What strategies can you use to make sure you spell them correctly?

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