“I took Spanish for four years in high school and all I remember is ‘Hola.’” Why is this a common experience for so many high school and even college graduates? There are several reasons.
- Motivation – If taking a world language in high school is primarily about completing a graduation or college entrance requirement, there will be little inherent motivation to really learn and use the language.
- Age of entry – Most world language learners in a traditional educational setting do not start full-fledged language study until middle or high school, missing the most productive language-learning years.
- Pedagogy – Rote memorization and drills get some linguistic results, but they also convince many students to exit language programs before they have had a chance to taste the beauty of learning about culture and music and food.
How does the SPAN program stand in the gap? If our students and graduates lead by serving in every arena of society we must recognize that many arenas of society are bilingual or international.
- Motivation – At BCA we don’t talk about world language graduation requirements, but rather growth in proficiency. Students are able to chart and measure their own progress with the help of standardized proficiency exams and teacher feedback. The goal is not to “finish a graduation requirement,” but rather to develop conversational proficiency and take that into an immersive language experience.
- Age of entry – Research states that 90 minutes of language instruction over three sessions/week creates the greatest opportunity for long term language retention for the majority of learners when that instruction begins in early elementary years. At BCA we are moving towards meeting this standard in Kindergarten-Fifth grades with a combination of direct instruction and informal conversation practice.
- Pedagogy – Whenever and however possible we bring real-world resources into our classrooms. We learn language skills as we taste flavors, sing songs, and move to the beat of Latin rhythms. We also seek authentic audiences whenever possible, because at the end of the day the greatest source of motivation for learning language are the people who become our friends through that language.
The image of God is present not only in all the people that God has created, but also in the diversity and beauty of the cultures that reflect different aspects of His character. Spanish class is an opportunity to know God better as we learn about people through language.