Students in higher-level Spanish classes strive toward more than just good grades. With fluency in mind, many students embrace the challenge of extending their second language skills beyond the classroom.
Leesville offers Latin, French, and Spanish—with both Spanish and Latin offered at the A.P. level (French is not). Latin, though, is a “dead” language, and has not been widely spoken since the fall of Rome. Spanish, on the other hand, is the official language in twenty-one countries and an estimated 500 million people speak it worldwide.
At Leesville, the Spanish department focuses on enabling students to apply Spanish to more than just tests.
The goals of honors and A.P. Spanish classes (levels 3-A.P) are to educate students about Spanish culture and expose them to a “Spanish-only” environment.
Ms. Weber, Spanish teacher, said, “I always tell my students that if they travel they should go alone. If they go with a friend, they’ll be more likely to speak English.”
This idea is also applied to the classroom. By prohibiting the use of English, a student’s Spanish skills are strengthened.
Mr. Ross, Spanish teacher, agrees. “Even if our students don’t know the exact word, they’re comfortable enough speaking to talk around it. They can describe it, or give enough detail so a native can figure out what they’re trying to say.”
The ability to communicate effectively with native speakers is not the only benefit of taking a high level Spanish. According to Ross, by the end of Spanish 4, a student is close to knowing the majority of grammar rules—some of which even cause confusion for natives.
Lili Lopez, junior, is an A.P Spanish student. “I have definitely learned a lot about grammar and word meanings that I did not know as a native. It’s the little things like that that make AP Spanish worthwhile—even if you are a native.”
For primarily English speaking students, A.P. and higher level Spanish provides an opportunity to expand their grasp on the language.
Kate Schuler, senior, has traveled to Spain and Costa Rica, and plans to visit Peru this summer. Schuler believes that her A.P. Spanish class allowed her to more fully enjoy her experience.
“By taking A.P. Spanish, I was able to speak about more complex things than just how to get to the bathroom.”
High level Spanish lessons allowed Schuler to become more involved in her trip, and more able to interact with the people around her despite a language barrier.
Complete fluency, however, cannot be solely achieved in the safety of a classroom.
Lopez said, “You definitely cannot get the same experience in a desk that you can in a Spanish speaking city. You can’t experience the same richness culture-wise, and you won’t become fluent, no matter how much you learn and talk in class.”
Mr. Ross supports Lopez.
“If a student wants to be fluent, there needs to be some kind of immersion. In class, most kids struggle because they’re trying to think of the perfect way to say something before they speak. If they travel, they’re forced to be constantly speaking, even if it isn’t perfect—and that cements their lessons.”
I traveled to France over the summer and stayed with a family for a month. Since freshman year, I took French I-III honors but it was still very hard at first. My family was very understanding and very patient with my constantly asking what something was or how to pronnounce something correctly. By the last week that I was there, I was having full conversations with their neighbors! I definately learned a lot while I was over there and strongly suggest to anyone in a foreign language class to consider an opportunity like that.