Teaching Spanish

December 18, 2012

I studied Spanish in school, from seventh grade through twelfth.  It was a pretty good program, I think, and part of that was because the foreign language department hired native speakers.  Some of the native-speaking Spanish teachers for the upper levels of instruction didn’t speak English all that well, but for those levels, it didn’t much matter since within the class, only Spanish was spoken anyway.  (The only problem I remember was when we learned something like the subjunctive and were trying to understand its equivalent in English — we would have to suggest possible equivalents and the teacher would agree or not.)

I was thinking about this in light of the shootings in Newtown, CT and participating in on-line discussions about our reaction to them.  I have come to wonder how my perspective is of immediate help.  I feel a little like someone who doesn’t speak the language in which the discussion is occurring.

On the one hand, I can take the position that others will help guide the discussion and our national reaction, others who speak the language of the discussion and especially others who structurally have positions of influence.  They can reach people.  But when I hear much of what they say, I am concerned.  So much of it sounds short-sighted to me — understandable but short-sighted.  I start thinking that to navigate the world in this language, people cultivate certain ways of seeing, of interacting, of getting along, and that they don’t develop ways of seeing a bigger picture.  I am not sure how to bridge the gap directly, between what they see and what I see.

Maybe it’s not helpful to try.  Maybe just speaking my perspective on the topic, and in general advocating things that foster developing self-awareness and listening, are what’s helpful — in the long run.  Maybe the most I can expect are tiny shifts now and then from small changes at a different level, not sea changes at the surface.  I know I’m only part of a whole, that everybody has a role to play, that all I should be doing is playing my own.


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