Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Virtual Groundbreaking for Spanish Sí

Spanish Sí has been a brainchild for years. We are now a reality. Launched in 2008, Spanish Sí is a small business providing classes, tutoring and translation in Northwest Indiana.

The organization offers reasonably-priced Spanish classes for individuals and small groups, from beginners through advanced, and available to all ages. Specializing in classes geared for the student's unique needs, Señora Fields' classes have been designed in the past for groups of clergy, homeschoolers, business executives, international relations professionals, medical professionals, beginning translators, and journalists--to name a few.

Señora Sarah Fields has ten years' experience teaching Spanish to various ages, ranging from 6 months to 93 years. She holds an earned doctorate in Spanish literature from Columbia University, and has studied and taught language in Texas, Chicago, New York, Barcelona, and Indiana. Señora Fields also provides translation services--to be used sparingly, because, eventually, she will urge you to begin to learn the language yourself, of course.

People sense a need for learning a second language from any age. The US public schools generally provide a four-year window during high school to study language at the cost of the taxpayers, and some students have the privilege of continuing their linguistic education in a college classroom or study abroad setting. Prior to those two windows, few chances are made available to study another language.

This approach does not mesh with the studies done by psycholinguistics researchers, who have demonstrated that language learning begins in utero, and that prior to birth babies can identify the sounds that are unique to their own mother tongue. Learning a second language, in cultures where the majority of the population is bilingual, trilingual, or more, starts from birth.

Some of the Spanish Sí classes are for mixed ages. Sometimes educators are puzzled about this approach. How will pre-readers and readers work in the same room? I contend that those of us who were raised monolingual all learned our native language in a multi-age setting, among peers and mentors of mixed abilities, in the odd but Divinely designed unit of the family. If you trust your first language skills, why not try learning a second language in a similar setting?

Sometimes colleagues comment on the pictures on the Spanish Sí website ( Why are there no classroom pictures? Those comments come from people who did not learn to speak English in a classroom. Perhaps those critics did learn a great deal of Spanish grammar in school setting, and that is a good thing. But immersion-style classes, which are proven to be most effective and most efficient in teaching language thoroughly and well, require the use of the whole planet of vocabulary sets, many of which are hard to discover and explore in a classroom. We do what we can to recreate the real world indoors. And sometimes, learning Spanish takes us outside.

Some students prefer to meet in a coffee shop. One student learned Spanish while inviting Señora Fields to provide company and language skills on errands, grocery shopping, exercise jaunts, and field trips. Some families prefer to hold classes in their homes, while many churches provide an ideal setting, whether in a classroom or the church nursery.

A dear friend who now teaches at Princeton taught herself Italian while growing up in Eastern Europe. She learned from a dictionary. Now she is teaching literature in the Ivy League. I have students ask often if they can learn Spanish from tapes or CDs, such as Rosetta Stone. I always respond that, while I have never personally met anyone who spoke a language well and said they learned from an audio program, I do not exclude the possibility from the realm of verisimilitude. Yes, I believe it is possible.

Welcome to the Spanish Sí blog, dedicated to promoting the learning of Spanish as a second language. Bienvenidos... and stay a while for the tertulia (table talk). We're glad you're with us.

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