by Daniel Manders, International Studies
The First Four Weeks
The beginning weeks of Spanish 1010 are very similar to classes offered in high school. You learn basic greetings like Hola, como te llamas?, and Como estas?, verb conjugations, different pronouns, the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries…basically everything that a high school Spanish class would cover but in a much shorter time span.
Even though there will be some differences to each instructors teaching style, there are numerous similarities between the classes. Spanish 1010 will have the same syllabus in each class.
If you’re ever absent it would be possible to find out what was covered in class, as well as the homework, from any student in 1010
How it is taught: In Spanish. Only Spanish.
That’s right, there will be little to no English in the entire semester except when needed or towards the end of a class as a recap. But don’t panic or change languages (since it’s the same for all of them).
When a language is taught in this way, it helps you associate different concepts and objects directly with the language. This teaches you to think in the language and skip a step of trying to translate everything into English, then translate your response back into Spanish. The idea is to immerse you in the language, as if you were in a place that spoke only Spanish. Your textbook will be in Spanish and English though, so you can always review the information before class to prevent yourself from getting lost in class (which is a good idea anyway!)
The use of immersion, also called the Communicative Process, will be different depending on the class. Some teachers will speak in very complete Spanish sentences, using phrases that you may not know, but verbally emphasize phrases that you are learning. This method will help you learn more phrases faster, but a lot of students may get lost. Other teachers will use phrases that you should know (from studying your textbooks), but add in a few new words (which are explained in class).
Some instructors will show internet videos, like a Spanish news station or a short video that showcases a country that speaks the language. The majority of the videos you will watch will be made by the company that edited the textbooks. These are not necessarily bad, but they do have the depth of a puddle. They only cover basic information in Spanish that beginning students can understand, but if you want to know more about what you are studying you may want to ask your professor for more resources. They are pretty knowledgeable about these countries and many have spent quite some time in them, or are natives of a Spanish-speaking nation.
Your classroom may also use computer programs, such as an online flash dressing room where students will say what kind of clothing to put on the model, a few games that involve describing different famous people from a list and then the class guessing who it is, and simple group activities like creating a trip itinerary or creating a restaurant menu.
Tips for Success
This section will give tips on what to expect in Spanish classes, outside of class homework expectations, some ideas on practicing Spanish, and preparing for exams.
What your Teachers want to see:
Participating in class
Do assigned readings before class
Be in the ‘mindset’ of speaking Spanish
“Forget your pride – don’t be afraid to make mistakes, open your mouth and just get it out.”
Christian Greaser, Spanish 1010 instructor and graduate assistant
There is a lot more to each class than book work. Some activities you might encounter are:
Create a Restaurant Menu
Plan a Vacation
Give a Presentation – A major project at the end of the semester.
In groups of two, one person is the coach and one is the boxer. Starting off with a verb, such as hablar, the boxer will begin conjugating the verb. Every time he or she conjugates it right, the person gets a ‘hit.’ If the conjugation is wrong, then the coach ducks and the boxer ‘misses.’
The format of these will vary greatly, but the gist is that a student (or the rest of the class) describes a subject, such as a person, and everyone else (or the student) guesses what it is.
Since classes also introduce Spanish culture, your teachers will show multiple videos. Some videos are live TV, such as a news broadcast, but most of the time they will come from your workbooks video archives.
Outside of Class
150 word journals that are assigned every week to week and a half. Starting topics will be about what you did during the week, but some teachers may have you write about different topics, such as write short story about going to the beach, later in the semester.
A book full of exercises that you will purchase from the Book Store. Expect to fill out 15-20 pages every week from it.
*Even though this may sound like a lot, if you spend about 20-30 min each night on the assignments they will be much less onerous.
Ways to Practice Spanish
Communicate with other people and talk to yourself in Spanish
Telenovelas – Spanish Soap Operas
Spanish TV Channel
Online Websites (Like these)
International Clubs or Activities
“Try to use the language in everyday life as much as possible. Watch Spanish movies, listen to music… using it is probably the best thing you can do.”
Danielle Wolf, Spanish Major and Language Lab assistant
How to get that A
Be there for review days
before each test your teacher will review the chapter you just covered, so this is a great opportunity to have any questions you have answered.
Create a study group
Gather a few students from your class, or from other classes, decide on a time and place, then meet up there and talk about Spanish. Very simple and very effective, studying in a group like this gives you a chance to interact in Spanish and reinforce what you have learned.
Talk to your professor
They do more than just talk at the front of the classroom. Your professor knows a great deal about this subject and will be more than willing to help you if you go to office hours for a brief chat on what you’re struggling with or get advice on what you can do to improve.
Review your homework
You basically have the answers to the test when you receive your corrected work. These assignments cover all the grammar and vocabulary that you need to know for the exam and with your teacher’s pen marks you are getting a huge boost in how well you can do on the test.
These are a bit trickier than the written exam, but there is no need to stress over it if you keep these things in mind:
What is it?
You and a partner will receive a list of potential topics before the exam. Topics can vary from a conversation on what there is to do on campus, talking about your family, or planning a vacation. 10 min before the exam you will be given a topic from the list originally given to you. You will have five minutes for the oral exam, with the main criterion for grading coming from utilizing what you have learned and making it sound natural.
How to be ready
Meet up with your partner – very crucial step, since both of your grades depend on your combined performance. You should do this at the very least two to three times before the exam, but more is better.
Make a script
Since you have a list of potential topics, brainstorm and write these scenarios.
Find an audience
This can be anyone, but having someone watch helps lessen how nervous you will feel since you will have practice talking in front of someone (and your audience can see whether or not you look comfortable speaking in Spanish, or provide input if they understand Spanish)
Throw away the script
Now that you have practiced and got a basic idea of what you need to know, it’s time to be rid of that piece of paper. With that gone, start your conversation again but don’t worry about making it like what you wrote down; improvise if you do not remember the exact question or answer. Doing this will help make your conversation more natural, and the script won’t be there when you take the exam anyways.
“Just try. You may feel silly, everyone does, but if you just try speaking Spanish it will come out a lot easier than you think it will. And everyone’s learning, especially in your classes. The only one who’s fluent is the teacher, so you’re not going to sound dumb to anyone else. It’s trying that improves you, not sitting there in silence. Since it is a spoken language, in order to learn it you have to speak it.”
Lindsey Miller, a Spanish and Psychology Major
This guide was composed of information provided by Xuan-Xabier Huynh and Christian Greaser, whose classes and interviews provided great information and aid for Spanish students, as well as interviews with Danielle Wolfe and Lindsey Miller.