Buenas tardes, good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the first lesson in this exciting new venture, GCSE Spanish, for Hackney teachers, by Hackney teachers. There is also a GCSE French course, at Clapton Girls’ Technology College on Tuesday evenings at the same time, if any colleagues might be interested.
We have various starting points in Spanish, ranging from beginning from scratch to some colleagues who have been learning Spanish for some time and are quite confident. The goal of the course is to let anyone taking it achieve GCSE in one or two years – your choice – and to do this by taking advantage of two important strengths:
Teachers’ professional understanding of learning and teaching methods
Our advanced literacy skills, which will make writing in Spanish relatively straightforward – in Spanish, what you say is pretty much what you write – vowels are simple, there are very few silent letters, and fewer double letters than in English.
Our understanding of teaching and learning is being helped by recent brain research, which shows that language is learned by building networks of connections between brain cells, individually and in groups, which are reinforced by practice. The more we learn, the more these networks are extended, and the faster they operate. As we learn our first language, this process occurs in our family and surroundings every waking hour. With a new language, they need some raw material to get started on, and some linguists have helpfully referred to these as chunks. Chunks are bits and pieces of language that we learn or pick up – Mañana, tomorrow, is a common one in Spanish – but that tend to be self-contained, and don’t on their own allow us to say what we mean. Networks, which are focused on verbs, do this. So, this evening – Buenas tardes is the way the Spanish say both good afternoon and good evening – we’re going to look at some chunks, and introduce our first networks, based on telling the time, and on the Spanish word for I have, tengo.
I’ll try to ensure from the start that everyone understands whatever we do. The links between brain cells that I’ve been talking about are the physical manifestation of understanding, and, as my late friend Michel Thomas put it, “What you understand, you don’t forget.”
But before we start, I’d like everyone to cast their mind over the Spanish they’ve already done – you may have had time to fill in the sheet I sent round – and see if you can find a partner – un amigo, or una amiga – Spanish divides nouns into masculine and feminine, and helpfully, masculine words often end in o, and feminine in a - to learn with. It’s probably best not to do this entirely at random – you may have a friend you’d like to work with or, you may be a more advanced student who would like to work with someone in a similar position. You don’t have to decide now, but is there anyone who’d see themselves as an advanced student? Who might see themselves as intermediate? Who’s a beginner? Well, now you know who you are – we’ll take just a minute or two to see if anyone wants to swap contact details now – or you can leave it. I do recommend having un amigo or una amiga. By the way, could you please just indicate if you personally would be una amiga? Muy bien – that’s very good. We’ll hear a lot of that. And also of this on – excelente – you’ll notice that it has a single l, and an extra e. Straightforward – virtually an English word. This link has lots more like that - http://www.language-learning-advisor.com/learn-spanish-cognates.html It downloads as an excel file which I emailed to people last week. If you’ve had a chance to have a look at it, I hope you were pleased at how much Spanish you already knew. If not, don’t worry – we’ll come back to this issue quite often.
But, of course, there is a cloud to this silver lining. Spanish, like English, grew out of war and the resulting clash of cultures. We were invaded in 1066 by the Normans, and for 300 years English was flooded with French. This is why we spell table t-a-b-l-e - say the word in French and you can hear the l before the e - and why the baby Jesus in the Christmas story was laid in a manger – animals eat from these. Spain was invaded by Moors, who left behind the Alhambra, with its stunning architecture and tiles – have a look at the OU programme if you ever have the chance – but also a lot of words of non-Latin, mostly Arabic origin that are not easy for us to learn. They are very common, though, and I suggest building up a collection of a few words a week and practising by going over them in your mind.
Here a couple
Izquierda left fortunately, derecha, right, is closer to our word direct
Please learn them for next week.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve arranged for the Learning Trust to buy us all a textbook. It’s not an old-fashioned textbook, though. You’ll have seen that it has a CD with much of the material in it. It starts at P12, though, and those of us who are beginners will need to do some basic work before starting the CD. It is, though, likely to be useful to intermediate and more advanced people, and tackles what I see as the only serious obstacle we have to overcome in this course – that is, speed. Spanish people don’t take so many shortcuts in pronunciation as speakers of some languages, including English. But to our ear, they seem to speak quickly, and to do GCSE, we need to be able to handle this. The good news, is that we only have to tackle this full speed language across a relatively small range of topics, and that we can practise these as much as we like beforehand. Just the same, my experience of teaching and learning French and German as well as Spanish tells me that we won’t understand language at full pelt until we know its parts, and that means going slowly at first.
So, to begin with some chunks.
At this stage I have a series of posters that I’ve downloaded from www.schoolslinks.com, covering numbers, days, colours, months. I’m attaching the ones I’m likely to use to this email. You may have better for this – when I use them, I scroll to the section of the file that has numbers to 10, colours, etc, on one sheet. I sing days to Frère Jacques, months to Hickory Dickory Dock.
These are chunks. As soon as we begin to combine them, we move into networks. An example is telling the time. (I teach telling the time next, using a large clock.)
As we said a moment ago, Spanish divides nouns into masculine and feminine. Una hora is … feminine. Spanish people, like most of us, enjoy taking short cuts, and for one o’clock they just say Es la una. Once we move to two o’clock, we have more than one hour, so we have to put it into the plural – Son las dos. So we go round – son las tres, etc. Spanish for and is y. To add a half, Es la una y media – son las dos y media etc. Go round clock.. Do same with y cuarto. Then menos cuarto. Note menos, and minus. (If everyone knows time it can be skipped, but I think most won’t be sure of it). Please could everyone learn numbers to thirty for next week, and we’ll finish time then.
Time is a simple network – probably the simplest, though it has as many variations as there are minutes in the day. Most networks revolve around combinations of verb and subject, and the variations are virtually infinite. Our first verb network uses tengo – I have. A nice shortcut here – the subject is included in the verb, as it is with most Spanish verbs. Here is the start of our Spanish Network.
Use Clicker 5 Spanish intro (attached). Remind them that Clicker is in all primary schools, and that I’ll email them the grids for practice. Model one or two sentences with it, and have people look away from board and jot them down. Easy. Then intro + negative. Just put No at the start. Also easy.
Then a reminder that as we learn a new language, we are learning new ways of saying things. For example, Spanish people usually put the colour of something after the noun rather than before it. Clicker grid with Spanish colours 1.
And they use tengo to say things that we say differently, such as to be hungry or cold. Demonstrate using Clicker Tengo grid.
Once we have the basic ideas of subject and verb, masculine and feminine, and a language that is basically written the way it is spoken, we have a the basis of an understanding of Spanish, and the route from here to GCSE should be straightforward – we have to elaborate, of course, and speed up, but across a fairly narrow field of language.
We’ll do more on verb networks next week, but I have just a couple of points to finish off with. Each verb in Spanish has a name, just one word, that is known as the infinitive. The infinitive of tengo is tener. Infinitives in Spanish always end in r – most often ar, but also ir and er. To make the infinitive in English, we have to add an extra, small word – to. Michel Thomas says that the best way to indentify a verb in English is to see whether we can add to to it. This works most of the time. We can say to give, for example, but not to table or to red.
The final point is that Spanish has two verbs for to be. Ser basically indicates a permanent state, and estar something more temporary. So we might say Soy Inglés from ser, but estoy enfermo, I am ill. We´ll have plenty of time to practise this, but for the moment I´d like us to sing a little song that will help us with Ser. As we sing it, I´d like everyone to point, with whole hand please, to others like this. You’ll need a partner.
To Nice One, Cyril
Soy (point to self, one hand), eres (point to a partner, one hand) es (point to someone else, a third person, one hand), repeat twice with pointing
Somos (big, inclusive gesture, indicating we all are) , sois (point to two other people, partner and another) son (point to at least two people, not including partner.
Take questions. Recommend studying textbook and cognates. BBC website Spanish for fun. More on verbs next week.