Hannah’s Language Acquisition Experience in a Desk-Free Classroom

By Hannah, 8th Grade

“I stood in the circle with gleaming eyes and an anxious smile wondering what brilliant  things we would do today in Spanish class.” That is how I feel everyday when I walk into our Spanish classroom. I leave my English at the door and emerge to a whole new language. The way we learn Spanish is unlike anything you have ever heard of. We don’t have desks, or books, or a boring teacher standing at the front of the classroom. We have circles, and games, and a teacher that is actually excited to teach you. On a normal day in Spanish class we all walk in and stand in a circle. Then, someone leads the vocabulary and we do our actions that go along with it. In my opinion the [desk-free] classroom is all about movement. No one wants to stand in the same place all class bored and not participating. Profe makes us move between each activity, usually we move like our favorite animal or something else creative. Next, we learn something new or watch a video, etc. Then we do an activity involving that, and finally we stand in a circle to review. Some days we have to write about the topic in our notebooks too. Normal classes read and write, we do all that but make it fun and engaging. That is why I love the [desk-free] classroom so much. In the [Desk-Free] classroom we have a few goals to lead us on the right path and help us to improve our proficiency.

            In my opinion the most important goal for the [Desk-Free] classroom is to stay in Spanish 100% of the time. This is the goal that I struggle with the most, sometimes you feel the urge to break out and talk to your friend in English. Don’t. Speaking in English will keep you from reaching a higher proficiency. You can’t get better at Spanish if you’re not even attempting to speak it. When I first started Spanish in 6th grade I was overwhelmed. Senora wasn’t holding back or speaking English, so I was confused. Since I didn’t know many words, when I couldn’t find the word in Spanish I would use English. As the year went on I spoke less and less English because I learned more and more Spanish. Don’t hold back and break your Spanish stride. If you speak Spanish the whole time you get more practice so you can reach the next proficiency level. Even though this goal is hard to do, it is the most important and will make you improve quickly.

        Another goal that will help you get to the next level in Spanish is, to not be afraid of the environment and to take risks. I know its scary when you walk in the first day and no one is speaking the language you know. You might be afraid to talk, but you have to. I have made plenty mistakes in class and it only made me better. For example, instead of saying I was embarrassed, I said I was pregnant. Sure, people laughed and I felt embarrassed, but from then on I knew the word embarrassed. If you’re confused it’s ok to not talk for a little and listen. If you feel really stuck I encourage you to ask the teacher or use actions to convey your point. [Spanish] is supposed to be a friendly environment. By not being afraid to speak, you speak more often. By speaking more often you will improve your proficiency. If you ever feel really scared just remember that everyone else has or will make the same mistake as you. Get clarification now so you can improve. In class I notice that the people who aren’t afraid to talk and make mistakes improve faster and are some of the stronger speakers in the class.

          The final goal that will help you improve your proficiency level in class is inferring and using circumlocution. Circumlocution is when you don’t know a word so you use the words you do know to explain it. I used this a lot when I did my Spanish videos because it is so helpful. If you learn circumlocution you are able to say whatever you want to say without getting stuck. This will improve your proficiency level because you will be able to survive on your own. This also helps to avoid awkward pauses because you always have a backup plan. Often when we are writing in our notebooks I will describe a word to prove that I want to know in Spanish. Circumlocution is a tool that I used in 6th grade and still use today. I infer when my teacher gives directions or introduces a new topic. I listen to the words I do know and infer the meaning of what she is saying. This is more of a listening skill you can use if you are confused. If someone says a sentence I jumble up the words in my head and decipher the ones I know to understand. This helps when you are first starting because some words in Spanish sound similar in English. I don’t infer as much today as I did when I first started, but it really does help. These two tools will help you get to the next level because you will speak more and learn more along the way.

     In conclusion I have used all these goals to improve my proficiency level in Spanish class. Right now I would say I am emerging Intermediate low already. I speak in strings of sentences all the time. Not only are there a lot of sentences but they are complex. I am very comfortable with the language and I can easily have day to day conversations. My all time goal for Spanish was to be comfortable speaking it and it has taken me a long time but I am comfortable now. I have even tried speaking it outside of school at restaurants and to strangers that I meet. I will be put to the ultimate test in Costa Rica in April when I will be speaking Spanish for nine days in another country. I applied all my goals to get the the level that I am today. I try to speak in all Spanish in class so I can learn more and get more comfortable speaking it. I am not afraid to speak and make mistakes because I have already made so many. Anyone in my class will tell you that I am very loud and social. Although it doesn’t help me in my other classes, it makes me a strong leader in my class. I always try to help my peers and be a leader in activities. I circumlocute all the time when I can’t think of the word I want to say. I don’t do it as often this year because I already know many words but it is a great tool. I infer when Profe is giving directions for an activity because she uses words I am unfamiliar with. I am so grateful that I got to have three years in the [IACS Spanish Program] community. I have flourished in Spanish class and I am so proud of how far I have come. My proficiency level has gone up each year and I intend for it to keep going up. I would be nowhere without Profe’s amazing teaching and the tools and goals the [Spanish] classroom offers you.