Every student in our program is required to take an advanced Spanish language course. This includes students like me, who are already fluent in Spanish. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and completed my education until the first half of 7th grade there. After doing so I moved to New York where I learned English, however I only spoke Spanish at home. In college I continued my language education by taking three semesters of high level Spanish. For other students they have a similar experience where the first language they have come in contact with is Spanish. Since we’re all fully fluent in Spanish you might be wondering why this class is also required of us and what we learn there.
The class is officially titled Advanced Spanish Language Studies for Heritage Speakers’. The thing about Spanish is that as a result of colonization, it is officially the language of 20 different countries today. Additionally, over 572 million people speak it worldwide. Now we can’t imagine that all those people speak the same Spanish. We all have different dialects, styles, and even different words for the same thing. So, how can you teach Spanish to a group of 12 students that come from all different backgrounds? What Spanish do we learn? Many would think that there is only one correct Spanish. Afterall the first official grammar book of any of the Romance languages was Antonio de Nebrija’s Spanish grammar book. After this, there’s been tons of changes and updates to the grammar book and the Spanish dictionary. However, not even the Real Academia de Español could tell my mother that she’s wrong.
In the end, we learn the Spanish rules and complexities of the Spanish language as dictated by the Real Academia. We learn that what we are studying is simply a way to go about speaking the language. Studying any language is a good exercise for the brain, even if it’s a derivative of your own. Also, we do amazing activities that make learning fun and exciting. This is one of my favorite classes because of how we learn. While learning how to put on accents on words, we also watch TedTalks on how some orthographic rules in our current language rules need change. We listen to the use of verb conjugation from current music bands. I love how we’re able to talk about which verbs are in imperfect tense while acknowledging that language rules can be used as a tool for oppression. Additionally, we learn about Spain, its politics, the gossip in the royal family, and how to make up our own words. And most recently all the students are doing presentations on autonomous communities in Spain. My presentation on La Rioja is this week! Every day I learn more and more about the intricacies of language, how it evolves, and where my mother tongue lies in the beautiful spectrum of the Spanish language.
P.S. Miguel is an awesome teacher and always wears cool shirts. No day is a regular day, every button down is a work of art.
Mayeline Peña, student blogger primavera 2020