Spanish 4, being an optional but high-level class, consisted of only a few students, and thus ended up a small and intimate experience this year. We learned language through communication and repetition, speaking as much Spanish as possible. In class, we read three books in Spanish and discussed them, learning about Latin culture and stories as we learned the language. Short descriptions of the books and our learning experience can be found below.
We began reading this book in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, and continued diving into it even after the month had passed. This book detailed the "impactful lives" and significant contributions of multiple famous Latinos, from baseball star Roberto Clemente to Argentinian activist Azucena Villaflor.
Before reading this book, the class got together to brainstorm a list of significant and famous Latinos we knew about, and we mostly came up with celebrities and singers. I appreciated the chance to learn more about activists who fought for change and equal rights, both in our country and in others.
Everyone in this class was thrilled to enter this unit and learn more about the queen of Tejano music! The book we read, written at an intermediate level of Spanish, detailed the life and death of musical legend Selena Quintanilla and her family. As we moved through the book, we also listened to and translated a few of Selena's most iconic songs.
The most impactful part of this unit, to me, was learning about what life is/was like for Mexican-Americans both now and in Selena's time. They were (and sometimes still are) torn between two cultures, constantly looking to find an identity that others would recognize and respect; I had no idea this struggle had been taking place. It made me realize how important the growing diversity in media is to our culture. Sometimes racism works in much more subtle ways, and even just seeing someone they relate to on TV can boost someone's self-confidence and sense of belonging. This is why Selena was such an icon to countless Latin-Americans, and it's why the push for inclusivity in art and culture is much more important than I'd previously thought.
Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha
This book was perhaps the most difficult we read this year, in terms of both content and language used. It tells the story of a young man and his life with the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang on the streets of Los Angeles. Written by an anonymous author, the story's events are fictional, but based on true stories from gang members. As we read, we learned about the real history and impact of the gang on today's world. We also learned a little more about the people behind it- many who are desperate immigrants with nowhere else to turn.
Before this unit, I didn't know much at all about gangs or how they worked. Upon learning more, I was struck by the fact that this gang formed in the middle of a US city- in response to the oppressive circumstances that immigrants found there. Many politicians today think the immigrants themselves are the problem, but MS-13 only formed because we, as a nation, failed to protect people. This country is only going to improve when we start paying attention to and taking care of everyone, no matter their status or skin color. MS-13 and its legacy of hate still stands as a painful reminder of this.
I feel that this year of Spanish class has been the most valuable to me yet- I've learned more about the language and the culture surrounding it than I ever have before. Although, for a while, I did develop an unfortunate habit of showing up to class a few minutes late, I fully cherished the time I spent in class having casual (and sometimes serious!) conversations in Spanish! More and more, I find myself able to communicate with greater ease. Once, communicating in mostly Spanish for the entire class period seemed impossible to me- but after Spanish 4, it became the norm.
I've always had a talent for language and communication, and, although it's a lofty goal, I would someday like to become bilingual. I've even considered career paths that involve Spanish fluency, like teaching English to transfer students or students in foreign countries. To do so, I have to be sure I don't lose the skills I have- I have to find ways to keep fresh over the summer and in the coming years. Although no higher-level Spanish is offered at Animas, I might consider taking an extracurricular class or concurrent enrollment at the Fort next year.
Those are all just possibilities right now, however, and at this moment I am only grateful for how far I've come. One of my biggest obstacles in learning and speaking this language is my own insecurity, and our supportive classroom environment helped me start moving past that. I know there will be a lot more to struggle with going forward, but I feel very well-equipped!
(Jenny- Muchas gracias! Tenga un verano muy bien!)