it seems like in teaching any subject area that the biggest struggle is always answering 'why do i need to learn this?' this seems especially true in foreign languages, and for me, spanish. students get a lot of spanish input and discussion in the class, but odds are they will never hear spanish (or care to) outside of class. i'm just wondering if there are good ideas out there to help kids understand that spanish soon will be an everyday language in the united states and that it is vital to learn it.

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In our small city in Virginia, this is no problem since about a third of our students are from Spanish-speaking families (a development that has occurred in the last 10 years). For me (as a French and Esperanto teacher) language is all about communication, so I suggest connecting your students to native speakers through local/regional Spanish newspapers, Spanish television (Univision is now #1 in the Nielsen ratings for 18-34 year olds), and by inviting guest speakers. Tech-wise, try putting out some YouTube requests to get Spanish speakers to say hi to your class, or download Spanish music and videos from iTunes to enjoy with your class. The sky is the limit for foreign language classes in our interconnected world, and Spanish speakers are the third largest language group on the Internet. Good luck!
What about Skyping another class where Spanish is the main language? Could be in another country (see my interview with Chris Craft in the music section of the front page on "Skyping Peru").

Also do a Google search on the "Flat Classroom" project that Victoria Davis and Julie Lindsay did between kids in the state of Georgia and kids in Bangladesh.
I'm following this discussion with interest. I teach Spanish to primary school children (aged 4-11) and the joy is they don't (yet!) question why they are learning it! They have had email contact with a school in Spain and enjoyed seeing the photos of a different school with palm trees outside it, and finding out things about life for their Spanish counterparts. This year, we're looking for a new school for a link using Web2.0 and hopefully this will give them another perspective. The great thing for me is that they all associate Spanish with doing fun things as I'm the one who ran the link, writes about it on the school website and lets them do 'fun' things using ICT and stuff.
Long may their enthusiasm continue!
I did some research to present to my students at the beginning of the year. I don't mind sharing what I pulled together. I just compiled everything on the ever popular power point, but all of the info is current. Let me know...
Hello Amy,

I would be interested in your powerpoint. Thanks.
I want that powerpoint as well.
I would really be interested in see your research and how you approached making foriegn language relevant to those that you teach or how you found it relevant for yourself.

Good question and you speak to all teachers, irregardless of whether they be foreign language teachers or not. Why?

Well, you are voicing the need for relevancy in the classroom, real world application and experience. Web 2.0 is exactly about that - if enacted, planned and used properly in the classroom.

So I think that what you have to do is to really motivate your students with lots of "real" world materials and interaction. Start a dialogue with a spanish class (on my site, there are some members who would jump at this, though they teach English in Spanish speaking schools). Use the plethora of Spanish songs, artists to motivate (kids are crazy about song and its the best way to learn language. Learn about karaoke in the classroom and I use the karafun player and produce my own songs, you can too! click karaoke).

You might want to do a geography lesson about where Spanish is spoken and different dialects. Voicethread would be a great way. Put up a map and have students comment about each Spanish country. Short or long entry.

I would also say that you should bring in Spanish speakers from the community, into your classroom. Lots around, especially seniors - they love doing this. Keep it real! There are lots of language exchange applications on the web. is cool and I think they will stop being beta soon and for everyone. You might also look at ola yabla, they have lots of free videos with translations. Students can watch at home...

So much more. I have the same challenges teaching English in a non immersive context. I just look for ways to keep them motivated and through interactive lessons, they get how it will be a valuable asset.

Hi Matt,
I sympathise. I teach Mandarin Chinese in a very small farming community in rural Victoria, Australia and often get this question from kids - and have had it implied from some parents as well. I just try to make the classes as fun for the kids as possible, but I also tell them that even though it may seem like a long way off in the future, I would put money on the fact that through their career they will have something to do with China in some way and the fact that you can say 'hello' or 'thank you' in Chinese will put you a whole step ahead of someone who can't. Well, that would be a reply I'd give older kids, say from Gr 6 up. Thankfully, like Lisa said, the little ones aren't questioning why they're doing it so much. It's so difficult for our kids to really understand concepts about the future though.
I hope you'd had some luck!
the biggest way to do this is to make it relevant to them. authentic resources (video, audio, periodicals) bring spanish to their doorstep. if you create your lesson plans around these resources students will crave for more. current events is a quick, easy way to get started.
I agree with Christopher. Bring real-world Spanish to them. Make it relevant with the Internet, Spanish movies, music is also great. I, for example type the words on a power point while my students listen to a certain song. I choose songs that use certain grammatical constructions that I will be teaching in the future. This is very helpful/useful because when I teach the grammar, I simply remind them of the lyrics of the song and they understand it better.
A few times a year, my students and I check out, type in French and a location. We are always amazed at the number and variety of jobs available that require French in our state (Virginia) and across the country. I did the same thing when I taught Spanish. Then I would follow it up with stories of students who went on to use the language in some of the most unexpected ways-including some of my 'worst' students-one who married a girl from Cuba and another who went in the Navy and got stationed in Spain-even a little Spanish helped and made him quite popular when he went out with his fellow sailors!



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