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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"A" received a very short email in Spanish with at least 8 mistakes

I don't know what to do with a common problem: the senior level Spanish major who does not yet know enough Spanish to graduate without being embarrassment to himself. The email is a good example because

1) It is a written communication, so it cannot be chalked up to a case of common mistakes in oral production.

2) The errors are pervasive, with an average of more than two in each sentence, and are not subtle ones.

In oral production, I notice students without basic correctness in pronunciation.

In reading, I notice that students could not recognize the form of the verb matad, were unfamiliar with the "quien pudiera" construction, still had not grasp of subjunctive.

Some students are very good: near-native accents, or at the least generally decent pronunciation; idiomatic speech and good vocabulary. A good Spanish major is very, very good. A bad one is awful (though usually a lovely person in most other respects).

The gateway courses tend to be at a lower level. There is no gateway to graduation, where the student has to meet a certain standard to have the degree.


5 comments:

Vance Maverick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spanish prof said...

Same situation here. I have the impression it happens at most universities. At least at universities not located in cities/states with a high density of Hispanic population. It would be interested to see if the language skills of non-native Spanish majors is better in universities located in California, Florida, Texas, etc...

Jonathan said...

Yes. Studying in California as I did there was an idea that you had to compete with native speakers.

Clarissa said...

We have a gateway to graduation which is a course where students work on their own and have to produce a research paper in the language of instruction and then defend it, again, in the language of instruction in front of the entire department (obviously, not everybody shows up.) It's a great system because it tests all the major language skills, and students can see how much (or how little) they have achieved in the program.

profacero said...

We need a capstone like that. But nationwide this seems to be a real problem now. Most recent guest here was from quite good place, Kansas level at least, and said students there can barely speak Spanish, you cannot assign a novel, and so on.

I did not have this problem on West Coast but that was years ago now, and I think things may have changed. I do NOT think all current versions of communicative language teaching help.