I was raised eating fresh bread, with homemade meals, warm social gatherings and celebrations, I have a strong sense of friends and family, who are worth every sacrifice. When I was young, my dad used to say that I needed to speak more than Catalan and Spanish (both my mother tongues) to have better chances to know the world. My parents made my brother and I take English lessons since we were young, which wasn’t common in my country at that time. Sometimes my father jokes that he regrets this, because now both of his children live far away, my brother in Malta and me in the U.S., and we do not see each other as much as we would love to.
Learning a language and its culture involves getting to know many new things, from the most evident products like the words to name objects, to the most subtle perspectives behind certain behaviors and decisions. Moreover, it allows you to get to know yourself, increases your awareness of different realities, and makes you develop flexibility to adapt to several situations.
When we think about Hispanic culture, immediately we imagine food, music, traditional clothes and dances, etc., and of course, Spanish language. But there is much more to it, and it is actually the most important part, the invisible ideas that we can easily miss. The world is seen and described differently depending on the language chosen because each of the words used have an associated concept, intention and meaning. That is why there are words or expressions that cannot be translated –Google for instance the word “duende” in the context of Flamenco dancing. There are many others words and contexts that cannot be reasonable without having an understanding of the language and culture to which they belong. Some languages have mostly short words (like English); others have word combinations that give a gently rhythmic feeling to the sentences (for example Portuguese or Italian). Some languages are full of descriptive adjectives (like Spanish), and others manage without verb conjugations (like Swahili). Still others use words that mean a whole sentence (like Native American languages). The languages are created as a reflection of the identity of their native speakers. The way we act, and react is different when we are communicating in a specific language. This is where a knowledge of history and literature adds a special value to learning languages and cultures.
I like to introduce poems in Spanish class because the students learn meaning associated to words, which includes both the vocabulary and language structures used, and also how the rhetorical figures are laid out to help the poet’s intention. Learning poems and memorizing them by heart enhances language acquisition, and pronunciation proficiency.
I hope you enjoy the video that are about to watch. To my students, thank you for allowing me to guide you in the incredible journey of learning a language and a culture. I look forward to seeing how much more you can achieve and where the learning path brings us together.
“Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche” – “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” by Chilean Nobel Prize winning writer Pablo Neruda, one of the most prolific, and popular poets during the 20th century. In this piece the author mourns a lost love once had, and idealizes the passion that was felt.
Dr Victoria Alvarez
Dr. Alvarez joined Episcopal in 2010, after teaching at the College Level for five years. She serves as Upper School Spanish Teacher, teaching Spanish IV Honors, AP Spanish Language and Culture, and Spanish IV: Hispanic Culture. Dr Alvarez is the Spanish Exchange Coordinator, and sponsors Spanish Club, and also the Hispanic Honor Society. Dr. Alvarez earned her PhD in Education and Society, and her Masters and Bachelor's degree in Educational Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.