We made it! Well, some of us did. Of the 19 or so people that were originally enrolled in class, I would say at least 14 of us made it to the final exam…and 11 to the after-party, which was hosted in the classroom next door. The party featured Catalan music (e.g. Manel and Txarango), pa amb tomàquet, fuet, red wine, tiramisu (!!), and other goodies.
80 hours. That’s how long I spent with these people. We didn’t spend every single hour studying Catalan. We spent half an hour a day talking in the hall-or, the cafeteria with the speediest coffee server alive- in Catalan (or English) on our breaks. We spent quite a few hours on cultural outings, which I generally found quite interesting-the Catalan parliament, L’Insitut d’Estudis Catalans (basically, where they decide what’s a word and what’s not, among many other things), El Museu de la Historia de Catalunya (which is rather politically charged-impossible to leave there feeling ambivalent about the situation of Catalunya in the world)…etc etc. We also took our time on activities, sometimes spending 20 or 30 minutes in extended conversation with our peers. That is a luxury I don’t have with my students in our 50 minute classes. I learned a lot about new places to find good material in Catalan, I learned how to put together some big pieces of grammar that were missing in my head, and I feel ready and inspired to learn more. I am very very pleased with the course (and pleased that I passed the final exam!)
Things I’ve learned in this course that I’d like to apply to my own teaching:
-Stick to the target language. Because we were a group of global citizens, there was no “easy” translation to be offered (besides, maybe, Spanish…but, not everyone spoke Spanish). As a result, Anna, our profe, had to explain everything in Catalan and believe it or not, we all figured it out. This is what they teach you in language pedagogy courses, but it is hard to put into practice when the easy way out is just to translate for your students. But, now that I’ve seen a full immersion classroom really work, I am going to implement it!
-Don’t rush! In my class, I often have a series of short activities so as not to lose the students’ attention. In Anna’s class, our activities were often longer and more detailed; instead of asking 5 questions for students to answer, she’d ask 10; instead of a 3 minute partner chat, she’d have a 10 minute partner chat. The longer time periods felt weird at first, but they turned out to be some of the most effective ways to get us to mimic real life conversations, which I hope last more than 3 minutes. I approve.
-Get into other resources! Usually, at the end of the semester, I provide my students with a “continue learning” info sheet with some helpful websites. I think I’d like to do this at the beginning of the semester to let them see new things asap.
-Circulate meaningfully. Every teacher worth her salt circulates the classroom. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m actually doing things. Anna was very attentive, corrected us unflinchingly (no need to sugar coat when things are wrong; you’ll be wrong a lot in language classes. Just figure it out and move on!), and made sure we all were learning on our own levels. I’d like to try putting into practice some of these strategies and not just teaching the mid-low range student, but teaching each student according to their levels, giving students more options to choose between more rote practice and more challenging practice.
-Change partners. Enough said. You learn different things from different people.
All in all, two thumbs up!
Preparing the goodies. Music videos in the background
Doing what we do best: chatting. S. (British in blue), C. (fellow US grad-student), J. (Brazil, recently moved here for her Catalan hubbalicious), A. (Andaloo with long gray hair and hilarious expressions).
The few. The proud. The partiers! (Anna is furthest right).
Might as well study with a view. Walking up so many stairs is good for something!