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Monday, July 9, 2018

Study Abroad

My students here in Barcelona speak English among themselves. And they spend most of their time together, in small or large groups.  They can be attended in English in stores and restaurants. They do have their home stays, though there are two students to each house, and we speak Spanish in class, but the program is only 6 weeks long. I think I was in Spain four months the first time before I began to understand what people were telling me. I had a much more immersive experience.

[I feel embarrassed when I have to switch to Castellano instead of Catalan. Just being able to say bona nit or adeu or fins ara feels satisfying. When I bought a folder in a papeleria I was able to say "blau" instead of "azul' when asked for the color I wanted in Catalan.  I am very proud of a few conversations I had in Portugal in which the entire thing transpired in Portuguese. I am reading a long tedious novel by Saramago in Portuguese.]

It's not really the students' fault. It is very hard to speak in Spanish to people when the common language you have together is English and your Spanish is not so fluent. The group dynamic is so much stronger than the impulse to practice Spanish. Touristic experiences, even with a cultural aim, end up being, well, tourism, not study. The students are not dissatisfied, since they are having fun, but I think we should have some kind of pledge not to speak English, like they do in Middlebury.  

1 comment:

Leslie said...

I have made peace with this in some way. Before I ever went on an immersive experience, I had spent significant time traveling abroad with family, which made immersion a lot easier to do when I did it. Also, Barcelona in summer is not at all auspicious for avoiding English unless you never go anywhere tourists do and consciously avoid English speakers. I think these summer abroad programs of the type you're in are to give students the kind of experience they'd have had outside school if they'd had parents who knew how to do cultural tourism in Europe and who had been able to take them.