Spanish program in need of ayuda

IB and AP students know the feeling well. It’s finals season and you’ve worked hard all year to maintain your grades. You did all the journals, solved all the equations, and wrote all the essays. It’s finally about to end. And, while you feel comfortable with your grade in most classes, there is one that you just can’t help stressing over. The one class where your final really matters. The one class you dread every day and every night: Spanish… French…or German.
Whichever language it is, the sentiment is almost universal. Foreign language classes suck. But why is that? Our foreign language department is full of compassionate, dedicated, and good teachers. Yet, people still hate the classes. The truth is, the curriculum itself needs a revamp. Otherwise, students will never truly enjoy and benefit from learning a second language.
The foreign language program at CHS is infamously difficult. In fact, a huge population of students drop out as soon as their two required years are finished, despite what most four-year colleges and universities recommend. As it turns out, for many students, the class is just so difficult that it’s just not worth it. Why risk a GPA drop when you could just opt out? But that shouldn’t be the general attitude. A successful program would breed curiosity and interest in the chosen language and culture.
The reason it doesn’t is pretty simple; the classes are too hard. The IB/AP Spanish final from First Semester is a prime example. The average student received a low C, barely a passing grade. For many, the outcome was much worse. In the days that followed, grades dropped and so did students’ hopes. At that moment, students felt that, no matter how hard they worked, it just wasn’t possible to receive an A. No person will enjoy a class that constantly demotivates them by invalidating their intelligence or work.
As such, either the tests need to become easier or the curriculum needs to become more effective. Language classes should prioritize speaking and listening, rather than insignificant exams on the dreaded subjunctive tense. A model for a new Spanish class would likely look like Maestra Suárez’s 0-period AP/IB Spanish class. Throughout the Second Semester, Suárez has implemented a curriculum that engages students with group projects that test speaking skills. She encourages students to be creative and interact with each other and the results have been wildly successful. Performance on the IB students’ Internal Oral, a 10-minute speaking assessment, is clear evidence. A majority of her students received comparatively high scores between 6 and 7 on a grading scale out of 7 points. Her class has also moved away from VHL central and standard testing. In Suárez’s class, remembering that there’s an accent in a word doesn’t matter more than understanding what the word means, how it should be used, or even its pronunciation.
Actually speaking the language in class would make foreign language classes more popular. The IB program at CHS has been trying unsuccessfully for years to implement a second-year class of IB Spanish. Unfortunately, no one wants to take it. A large-scale overhaul of our foreign language curriculum could change this. After all, a more fun and engaging program would better be able to ignite students’ passion for the subject.
Moreover, an easier and more interactive foreign language program would encourage more kids to complete all four years, which would massively help their college aspirations. No student should miss out on a great opportunity because of the subjunctive tense. Or because they just can’t remember the spelling of “krankenhaus”. Or because they just can’t stand to do another VHL.
We should get to enjoy our foreign language classes. We should get to enjoy all the incredible cultures around the world. Spanish, French, or German can be your favorite class. Maestra Suárez proved it. So, let’s change it.