By Lucía Rodriguez.
It is the first day of classes, day 1, or even day 0 because it is a day when we have not started the program yet. That day we introduced ourselves. That day we met.
That day we are full of expectations and questions. Not questions about Spanish, questions, concerns about the other. I, the teacher, about the student, and he or she, about me.
Will you like me? Will you like our classes? Will you be curious, interested, and responsible? Will it be nice? Will I understand him? Will you understand me? Will he have a family? What will your job be? Has he traveled a lot? Will you know other languages?
We have a lot of questions on our minds on the first day of a language class. We know it will be a long-term relationship and a personal relationship; in which we discover each other day by day. What is important is that we are there for each other, doing our best; giving up fear, shame, the idea of failure, entering an unknown path with a stranger.
I swear it is like a blind love date, but instead of going to a restaurant, we find ourselves in a classroom, sometimes virtual. It is worse than blind dating, because before we make a coexistence contract for more than this first meeting.
In this article, I want to share with you two of our strategies. That way, the first date will leave you with the taste of waiting for the second, the third, and the fourth.
First, you will know that the important thing is not the goal itself. I mean, to be fluid. From the beginning, the important thing is your progress in the moment, hence our name: Perfect Present. Spanish-In-Action.
1. We greet you with a smile and say: Buenos días Brittany. Bienvenida. Let’s assume that it is an individual course. However, it is a similar routine when a group. We see that your empathic smile also expresses your first question, what is Bienvenida? You don’t know what that it means, but you feel welcome. The first lesson begins: the language is to know it, but above all, it is to feel it.
2. We let you know you are the protagonist. How do you feel? We ask you in your language and open a space to introduce yourself in your language. While we emphatically reinforce your adjectives by saying them in Spanish. Excited, nervous, happy are just a few.
3. Introducing myself is the next moment. I say my name, I write it, I ask you to repeat it. And I let you know maybe it is the word in Spanish that you use the most in this course; because you can interrupt me, ask me, ask me for something, call me,as many times as they want. I tell them where I am from, what my family is like, and what things I like. Between Spanish and their language, generally English, which is our most frequent language of mediation. I write some words on the board so that they have the reference and identify it soon. Venezuela is always there. Linguistics, theater, literature, and family, are topics also unavoidable.
4. I ask you to tell me about yourself. And likewise, I am reinforcing your ideas with words that I repeat in Spanish. I also write them on the whiteboard. There is a quick connection when you see that by introducing yourself in your language, if you learn a minimum of vocabulary, you will be able to introduce yourself in Spanish. Work, dog, walking, traveling is frequent in that first conversation.
5. We confess our expectations. We do it basically to continue falling in love with the dynamics and recognizing that it is possible to learn and speak Spanish from day one. We play the I WAIT game. I write a list of what I expect and what he or she expects. We take turns. I generally say: enjoy, teach, learn, give, receive, be punctual, be creative. Generally, they say (in English and I write it in Spanish): learn, speak, enjoy. And I ask: Be punctual? Do homework? Practice? They learn vocabulary. Also, between the two of us, we leave expectations and rules clear and written in Spanish.
Then I tell them that we are going to get to know the program a bit. As our promise and belief is to speak Spanish from day one, I offer a pictogram with Spanish phrases. A pictogram of our publishing house Difusión, which we love, and which we attach here in case you want to use it too.
We do a regular practice.I speak so fast to provoke the question: Can you speak slower, please? Or, I speak so low to provoke the question: Can you speak louder, please?
From that moment, every time they want to ask for something, I guide them to go to the pictogram and do it with the appropriate phrase, in Spanish.Yes, they are speaking Spanish, although we also use English many times. The idea begins to be sown from day one that English is just a stick, a welcome intruder. Without doubt the host is the Spanish. It already welcomes us to a classroom that simulates a new world.
There is no way that our first date, our first Spanish class, is not one of trust, appreciation, and respect. First of many.
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