<Gabriela Ferrante :: Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires
METHODOLOGY

Communicative Approach

The methodology I employ in class is the Communicative Approach or CLT (Communicative Language Learning). The goal of the Communicative approach is to teach students to communicate in the language they are learning, to develop fluency.

 

The Communicative Approach was born in the 1970's. Before the 70's second language acquisition focused on grammar competence. The problem with classes that focus on grammar is that one can master the rules of sentence formation and still not be able to speak in that language; grammar competence is an important dimension of the language learning but clearly not all.

 

Some details about the lessons.

For the reasons stated above, the lessons I teach focus on conversation: most of the lesson will be spent practicing conversation through simply holding a dialogue with me. And while engaged in dialogue students will do half the speaking at least, ideally 60%. These proportions are important because the only way to develop fluency is to practice speaking. The more you talk in class, the better. The lessons are very unlike the teacher-fronted lesson. While we are practicing conversation I take note (and actually take notes) of what areas of grammar need to be strengthened and what vocabulary needs to be practiced. Then I provide carefully chosen grammar and vocabulary work-sheets.

 

Though I am fluent in English, during the lesson I speak only Spanish, and I encourage students to speak only Spanish. I don't use English to translate concepts. This method, though harder at the beginning, has better results in the long run. Learning Spanish through Spanish is the quickest method even for beginners. Bear in mind that when children are learning their mother tongue they don't have a second language as a point of reference. The idea is also to train students in the classroom for survival in the real world, for instance for those occasions when students will meet Spanish speakers that don't speak any other languages.

 

To prepare students better for the real world the classroom has to mirror the real world as closely as possible. But thanks to the dynamics of the one-on-one (or small group) classes, I take this technique to the extreme and I hold classes IN the world: a class can take place, for instance, at a ticket office. If you need to buy boat tickets to go to Uruguay we can take advantage of that opportunity and use it for class; we first practice the dialogue in class through role-play, then we go to the ticket office where you can talk to the salesperson yourself in Spanish to purchase the tickets (don't worry, I will be there monitoring in case you need me.)

 

CURRICULUM AND MATERIALS

Beginner-Intermediate:

Students work with a text book, additional grammar worksheets, and actual newspaper or magazine articles. I also use worksheets with the history of the landmarks and historic cafes we might have vis-ited. In addition, after every ten hours of class, I write an exercise to practice vocabulary with the words that have come up in conversation. These exercises are tailor made for each student with his/her own vocabulary. And finally we can also work with recipes of typical Argentine dishes. This exercise includes a cooking class (all in Spanish!) and an after-class get together when we eat what we have cooked.

 

Advanced:

More advanced students will work with the above plus novels of Argentine writers: Borges, Sabato, or Latin American authors such as Garcia Marquez or Spanish writers like Garcia Lorca and Cervantes (ex-tracts of Don Quixote), Rosa Montero, etc.; Tango lyrics, extracts of Mafalda (famous Argentine car-toon character); YouTube videos in Spanish with transcripts; worksheets with Argentine history or the lives of famous Argentine figures, for instance Eva Peron or Tita Merello (if you are interested in Tan-go).

 

If a specific area of expertise is needed, such as the language of business, finance, or politics, those areas will be targeted and supported by supplemental materials. Expect to take work home after class and practice before the next session.

 

LOCATION:

At the student's convenience, I prefer holding part of the classes at varying locations within Buenos Aires. For instance: 50 per cent of the classes can be held at the student's place of residence, 50% at different locations in Buenos Aires. If preferred all the classes can be held at your apartment or hotel. You pick the combination that suits you best. Past locations have included historic cafes, museums, restaurants, ticket offices, supermarkets, etc. Using real-world locations has two advantages: it allows students to see more of our beautiful city and it gives students a chance to practice their Spanish with their Instructor in actual situations. For example, classes held in a restaurant support the introduction of restaurant and food vocabulary, a familiarization with typical Argentine cuisine, and a lesson on how to formulate simple requests. Further, I have found that by holding classes in these environments I can help a student to conquer any shyness or natural hesitation when using an unfamiliar language.