Whenever a student requests an Spanish language class in Santiago's Global Institute, they have no idea what they are getting into.
At the beginning of any program students seem to be overwhelmed sending syllabi to their sending schools and counting how many credits will count towards their majors. While all this happens “la Chica”, pseudonym used by the course instructor, gets off her bike and starts getting ready to welcome the new group.
No matter the language level, the learning environment of the Spanish language class has always been inviting and seasoned with variety of pedagogical resources.
From my desk to the classroom, there is a perfect angle which allows me to witness the multiple laughter, anecdotes and role play activities taking place in such a small space.
Since session one, students immerse themselves into the Chilean lifestyle. La Chica opens the lessons with a warm and peaceful hola, ¿Como estan? And then probably, she may narrate a story about a dog getting off a bus that she had seen on her way to CIEE, or her disappointment to have seen la U (popular soccer team) losing against Colo Colo the night before.
Language classes can transform any situation into an instance to develop vocabulary, improve writing skills or review grammar points like the not very good looking subjunctive mood. Paola uses her professional background and personal charm to put together a play that makes students become active actors of their own learning.
Every time I talk to a student about their academic experience a genuine smile covers their face as they tell me “I love my Spanish class, la Chica is great”. Students also value the co-curricular activities organized in this class. For example, the Chilean hot dog cooking lessons, visits to cultural places like the open doors murals and graffiti museum in San Miguel or the Violeta Parra Museum. Students are not only exposed to Chilean culture in this course, but also to social and political milestones of the history of this country, like the visits to memorial sites.
By the end of the program, students do realize the value of having attended a course where language learning becomes the vehicle to jump into culture. This is not a mere language class, but a class which provides meaningful language instruction and great potential to process cultural aspects of Santiago, Chile and the Chileans.