“What we learn with pleasure we never forget” -Alfred Mercier
The following is an essay by Shayla, an 8th grade student at IACS.
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget” (Alfred Mercier), and the way I’ve learned Spanish has and will help me do just that. For the last three years, I have been learning Spanish in the interactive ways of OWL. Every day we get into class and form a circle to practice vocabulary. Then we use different activities to learn new vocabulary from different topics. I’ve always had a lot of fun learning Spanish, and the way I’ve learned it has helped me excel through the levels. My goal for this year has been an Intermediate-Mid, meaning I can ask questions on a wide variety of topics, create with the language, and comfortably navigate many social situations. Intermediate-Mid text type involves strings of sentences, some connected and some complex (multi-claused). The function of Intermediate-Mid speakers is that they can create with language to express their own meaning. This means that your language is not just vocabulary that you strung together, but actually changing words to fit the appropriate context and to express yourself. Intermediate-Mids have quantity of language (elaborate and expansive), and can ask a variety of questions. They also can speak and write on a variety of topics with quantity and quality of language. They can discuss some advanced level topics (stories, unexpected topics) but typically don’t sustain a fluent level within them. Lastly, Intermediate-Mid speakers can be understood by sympathetic native speakers. I have met my goal of an Intermediate-Mid because of my text type, function, range of topics, and the people who can understand me.
The writing in my writing prompts and my language in my interviews show that I am an Intermediate-Mid speaker. One example of my language level is an excerpt from my eighth grade quarter four writing prompt, “El parte de el Tech que me gusta mucho son los ‘shops’. Cada otro semana en el año de escuela, Shawsheen tiene muchos opciones por una categoria que tu puedes probar una trabajo en el futuro” (8WP Q4). Roughly translated, I wrote, “The part of the Tech that I really like are the shops. Every other week in the school year, Shawsheen has many options for a category that you can try for work in the future”. I was trying to explain the “Shop” concept at my high school, Shawsheen Tech, where every other week has an interactive work-like environment where you can essentially try out a job’s functions and see if it’s the field you want to go into. I explained it mostly fluently and in simple and complex sentences. Strings of simple and complex sentences are common for Intermediate-Mid speakers. Another example of my language level is my eighth grade quarter four interview. For one part, I was explaining that I didn’t really get to know one of our Costa Rican family’s daughters because of how busy she was, even though I did have time for a few card games. It meets the criteria because it includes a group of simple and complex sentences in it. This shows that I am meeting the requirements of my goal for this year. The more vocabulary I learn and the more transitions I’m able to use when I’m speaking and writing help improve my text type, allowing me to take the words that I know and combine them in ways that flow and make sense. This is how I speak and write now but in sixth grade, my first year of Spanish, I was simply focused on the general vocabulary that might or might not have been useful to me at the time. The longest set of phrases I had were things like “Spanish class funny” or “I tired” when they’re translated to English. Now that I’ve been participating in the Spanish program for three years, my text type shows that I am an Intermediate-Mid Spanish speaker.
My text type isn’t the only thing that shows my level, my language function also shows my proficiency through my eighth grade writing prompts. In one of them, I wrote, “El primera vez, el decisión cousa me mucho estrés porque me gusta los dos escuelas mucho, pero IACS tiene algunas de mi amigos mejores. En el fin, yo puedo salir, y es difícil. Yo no quiero salir mi amigos…” (WP8 Q4). This excerpt from my eighth grade quarter four writing prompt shows how I was able to create with the language, and use strings of sentences when I was creating with it. This quote also shows how my transitions within and between different sentences have improved, and it helps me keep a better general flow when I’m writing and speaking. Throughout this writing prompt, I wrote two entire pages on one topic, my high school plans. I was able to elaborate and really dive into more details throughout, expanding in places that I wouldn’t have been able to in the past. My sentences don’t only flow better in each one, but they’re all connected together to form a paragraph of sorts instead of jumbled up phrases. Also, in my interviews, specifically the two from eighth grade, I have been able to skip over the questions portion of the interview because Profe always says that she knows I am perfectly capable of asking questions. In the start of Spanish, I wasn’t able to use the language for much more than communicating my age, name, favorite color, etc. Now I am able to ask questions about others, navigate social situations, and even comfortably communicate in Spanish environments for nine days. My language function has grown throughout my three years in the Spanish program at IACS.
My portfolio doesn’t only show my Spanish function while I’m writing and speaking, but it also shows how my topic range has expanded with more quantity and quality than in the past. In my writing prompt from quarter three of eighth grade, I wrote about a made up situation where I was “Babysitting one of Profe’s children” and explaining to her how he got hurt and that it wasn’t a big deal. Later in my writing, I wrote about the different ways my family uses technology at home. Even though I didn’t write a lot about the babysitting situation, I got my point across and included the information I needed to provide. Also, in the technology portion, I was able to write at at least a page and a half of information that expands on the general usage and opinion of technology in my family. Both prompts I wrote about showed either topics’ quality and/or quantity. Another example is in my first eighth grade writing prompt. I was able to cover a range of topics including questions for someone I don’t know, the description of a project we were working on in ELA, and describing Halloween to someone who has never heard of it before. This prompt shows my diversity of subjects and how I am able to speak and write on a number of different topics. In my last interview of eighth grade (about 8:30-11:10 minutes), Profe and I were doing a roleplay for a complicated situation to explore my level of Spanish speaking. The situation was that I missed my flight home from Mexico or some other Spanish speaking country, and I needed to explain to the person at the desk that I need a ride home. There were many different variables I needed to bring up including where I need a flight to, the flight not being until the next day, actually finding a flight later that night, and communicating my motion sickness and why I need an aisle seat on the plane. In the end, I got my plane ticket for an extra $100 fee, but I think I would’ve been able to communicate well enough to get home had it been a real situation. This also isn’t a common situation to be in, and since I was able to talk my way through it shows how adaptable I can make my language for any given scenario. Being able to talk in Spanish with diversity is a skill I have picked up over the years. I am able to go past listing things and answer questions that have more than a simple or few-worded answer. I can expand on things that I couldn’t in the past and I’m able to talk about so much more now. The reach of my topics have grown to achieve Intermediate-Mid standards.
What is a language worth if no one can understand you? I can be understood by sympathetic native speakers as an Intermediate-Mid should. Over April break, I went to Costa Rica with a handful of other students to learn Costa Rican culture, expand my Spanish speaking skills, and to have a good time. It was an incredible experience, and I learned so much Spanish as well as information about Costa Rica’s nature, people, and culture. I lived and communicated with my Costa Rican family for seven days straight, and my classmates for nine. Being in Costa Rica gave me a chance to hear natives speak the language I am learning, allowing me to pick up on grammar and pronunciation that I had been misusing or hadn’t learned yet. While I was there, I was able to communicate with everyone from the people in the airports to the guides when we were zip lining. Costa Rica really helped me put Spanish in perspective with life. If I hadn’t gone, my Spanish wouldn’t be as fluent, nor would I have had so many chances to learn new things and experiment with the language. Grammar is really important for communicating in a language. My improved grammar has helped me communicate more clearly and more completely than I could in sixth grade when I started. Being able to connect words and phrases I know into strings of sentences that other people can understand makes me feel almost like a native speaker myself. From lists to paragraphs, I have grown clearer and stronger in my Spanish skills, and can even be understood by native speakers.
The people who can understand me, my text type, function, and range of topics prove that I have met my goal of an Intermediate-Mid Spanish speaker. My participation, mistakes, and communication in the Spanish classroom have helped me grow and improve through levels and levels of Spanish proficiency in my three years in the program. I have learned from my mistakes through communicating and participating in the classroom whenever I can. I always make my questions heard and usually benefit from hearing the answers. Immersion and practice have helped me grow. Unfortunately, the high school I am going to next year doesn’t have a built in Spanish program, so I will be taking an afterschool class to ensure that I don’t lose the skills I’ve built up and that they continue to grow throughout my life.