Tag Archives: Spanish language

Reflections on the topic “reading comprehension“

Reading

Reflections on the topic “reading comprehension“

Today, we attach, without doubt, a great deal of importance to the reading comprehension. Reading is to introduce the human being into the world which has been created by the human being himself; into this system of devised letters whose goal is communication. This world communicates, broadcasts knowledge, experience, instructions and much more; it broadcasts messages. The script and the reading make also possible that this world created by the human being presents itself to us in several languages. And every language means a new “reality” and a new culture. So, the access to a new language turns at the same time into an access to a “universe” of knowledge, point of views and culture. In order to be able to grasp all these things, you do not only have to be able to read (in the sense of recognizing and of the ability to reproduce phonemes), but you have also to be able to “read well”. This means that you have to be able to understand the meaning of what is written as well as the idea behind the text.

The reading comprehension is a part of the communicative skills. It is very important because a large number of the texts which you have to read and understand are essential for the life with a language. As for the second languages (L2) or rather the foreign languages (LE), the effective comprehension is very important because on the one hand, it can concern the reading of literal texts, but on the other hand also the comprehension of important information as for example the of arrival and departure times on a timetable. Here, you can distinguish between reading for pleasure and reading out of necessity. The reading can also be crucial for the comprehension of culture.

The typical exercises which are given to develop this skill are especially texts which the students have to read in order to receive certain information from them. But when one is choosing the texts,  it is important to take the level which the students have into consideration. The exercises train in general the reading process, the comprehension of the current text as well as the ability to discern and to filter out certain elements. The texts are often used as a premise to confront the students with yet unknown contents of grammar. For example, new verb forms are introduced in the text. These texts can belong to the genre of the “realia”, so they can be taken directly from the reality. But they can also be adapted or even exactly written for this specific purpose. In this context, it is important that the teacher choose the texts with pedagogical farsightedness because his choice will determine whether the students are successful or not. That is the reason why the choice will also decide indirectly on the value of this teaching unit per se.

Beyond that, it is absolutely important for the teaching and for the comprehension that the texts are interesting and attractive for the students. Besides, they have to be exactly adapted to the needs and the insecurity of the students. In this way, they will work more effectively with the text and they will be more motivated. And apropos of nothing, they will develop their linguistic abilities.

To travel with the Spanish language (Language holidays)

To travel with the Spanish language (Language holidays)

For tourists, it seems to become more and more attractive to do a language course during a journey in a foreign country. This is a good opportunity to combine on the one hand fun,  relaxation, the beach and the sea as well as big cities of this world with the learning of a language on the other hand. If you do so, the learning process will happen in the culture and the environment in which the language is resident. According to many theories to language teaching, this context, in which the courses take place, is optimal for language acquisition. You say also immersion. Here, the students get authentic and realistic stimuli. You could say that this is the perfect symbiosis of language teaching and language acquisition. On the one hand, you participate quite normally on a theoretic course, as you would also do, if you were in your native country. But the language courses in foreign countries are even better adapted to the current needs of the tourists. On the other hand, you live in the language because you do all the other activities except for the lessons in the foreign language, too. You can even assume that you do still more activities during the holidays than in everyday life, because, for example, you have to deal very often with the service sector. In this context, language teaching is the first point I have mentioned, and language acquisition the second.

In the holidays, you have very close contact with the language, because it is outside the language lessons omnipresent. Contrary to that, in the native country, the “Spanish world” confines to the course. So, in the latter case, you do not profit from the unlimited contact with the Spanish language in contrast to the first case. If you live together with a Spanish family in the holidays, the difference is even still stronger.

But it also depends very much on the choice of the holiday country, because the student gets to know the dialect of the region. He encounters both the special intonation and the regional culture. The student has to deal with the Spanish language as it is used on TV, on the radio, in the literature and in the street. While doing so, he will also hear the colloquial language and the slang. Depending on the personal linguistic level, this can be a great opportunity to experience with your own eyes the differences in the mode of expression. Then, it becomes evident how much the people’s mode of expression depends on their age or on the job they do. But you always have to remember, how extensive the Spanish-speaking world is and how complex its cultural reality is. The language always reflects of course also this cultural wealth.

Another important aspect of a language course in a foreign country is the fact that you often are in multilingual and multinational classes. So, the majority of the classmates comes from many different nations, what represents a unique and enriching opportunity. This is not only a great experience regarding the culture, but it also forces to talk in Spanish because the Spanish language is the only tool to make oneself understood and it is available to everyone. You  cannot avoid to train and to cultivate constantly your linguistic competences. That is why such a language holiday is also a good thing regarding the idiomatic view.

You can conclude that such a language holiday represents not only a great alternative to any other holiday plans, but it is also an incomparable possibility for the student to train his linguistic skills in a natural way. Besides, you can show yourself like this that you are able to live in another culture and language. All of this make the language holiday an experience which enriches your life in the professional as well as in the personal field.

The importance of the pronunciation

The importance of the pronunciation

Why does Spaniards have the impression that a not-native speaker has a higher linguistic level, if he has a good, natural pronunciation? In this question, you can find the key to the importance of the acquisition of a natural pronunciation.

At the moment, there are surely many controversial discussions on the question if grammar is more or less neglected in language teaching or if one should pay more attention to a few types of exercises because of their importance for the acquisition of communicative competences. But what nobody would deny is the fact that the pronunciation is more and more excluded from the lessons, that it represents one of the most marginalized competences. Today, everyone seems to agree with this point of view, but only a few people do something to change that. Of course, it is true that some schools stipulate topics, which have to be treated in a limited period of time. Because of that, the pronunciation suffers in many classes, because there is not that much time to deal with it intensively.

Spanish is a language which is very syllable-oriented, and that is why it demands a considered, not theoretical learning of phonetics, especially for students from a country of which the language differs a lot from Spanish. In the latter, the rhythm of the language is characterized by the syllables. That means that you have to pronounce every syllable in every word. In this respect, the Spanish language differs from other languages, for example from English, which is accent-oriented; the accents of the words are here important for the rhythm, their syllables not that much. The most plausible example for the phenomenon just mentioned is the difference in pronunciation between Spanish and English: In English, there are syllables which you virtually never pronounce – you have the impression that the intonation curve is falling -, whereas in Spanish, you have to pronounce all the syllables in order to not change the meaning of what has been said. For this reason, in the Spanish lessons, we have to treat tasks which deal with questions of the phonetics and which work with this characteristic aspect of language.

Beyond that, it is important to become aware of the application-oriented value of the pronunciation in a language like Spanish. The student has to keep in mind that the tone of voice is more higher and that the Spaniards make clear with it the intentions in a conversation. Besides completely phonetic elements, others like gestures, the expressions on the faces as well as other nonverbal aspects play a big role. They emphasize the meaning of what has been said.

Now, let’s return to the question from the beginning: Why do you equate good pronunciation with a good linguistic knowledge? – Because without a good pronunciation and a feeling for the phonetics, the learning process is not completed, even if all the other linguistic competences are very well developed. For this reason, it is important to further this ability from the beginning, so that the progress will take place as quickly as in the field of other skills. The students who achieve a higher level in the field of pronunciation are able to give the person they are talking to a better idea of their linguistic knowledge. In addition to that, the nonverbal and situational factors are, of course, also important. If you keep all of that in mind, the student will achieve a good linguistic level and he will be able to manage everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world.