The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective

The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective

Photo credit: Sonia Balasch Creative Commons License

From the Editor: This is a guest post about a new set of openly licensed activities “The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective”, by Sonia Balasch (Eastern Mennonite University), Alexia D. Vikis, Lisa M. Rabin, and Colleen A. Sweet (George Mason University).

This virtual space offers free access to nine original lessons that are oriented towards the teaching and enrichment of intermediate-level students of Spanish. Each lesson consists of readings that are written in Spanish and short, communicative activities. In its totality, these materials or open-access educational resources call upon critical thinking through eight themes closely tied to the Spanish-speaking world.

Coordinate with license agreements for open-source educational resources (identified in English as OER, or open educational resources), teachers and students are welcome to make use of these materials. Even more important, we hope that the adoption of these shared lessons can serve as a point of departure for enriched classroom discussions on Spanish-language culture, especially in the United States where Spanish has a long historical presence and exists in myriad, dynamic sociolinguistic contexts.

Spanish co-exists with other native languages in three continents (America, Africa and Europe). Whether officially accounted for or not, the many different voices and sociolinguistic histories of Spanish reverberate and move audaciously across the vast geography of the Americas. In The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective we cover such diverse themes as:

  • The history, varieties and current profile of Spanish in the United States
  • The Spanish-language press in the United States
  • Youth’s courageous resistance to entrenched dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Latin America
  • The encounter of Catholicism and other religious traditions in Latin America
  • The overwhelming force of globalization in the Latin American regions
  • The mass media as vehicles of power and resistance
  • The long history of Latinx in the United States
  • The contrapuntal relationship of country and city in the modern context

All of the lessons of The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective have been successfully tested in two courses of intermediate Spanish (Spanish in Context I and Spanish in Context II) that are taught at George Mason University’s main campus in Fairfax, Virginia. Lessons for these courses were grouped in two sections, as the following diagram shows.

The lessons of group 1 formed the backbone of the course Spanish in Context I, while those of group 2 sustained the course Spanish in Context II. However, because each lesson was created independently, they may be put to use in the ways in which teachers themselves find them beneficial to their classes. In the end, the key goal of these lessons is to engage with themes that are rarely covered in intermediate courses of Spanish that we teach in the United States. In the best of all cases, students and teachers will build fruitfully on the critical perspectives that they are exposed to in The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective.

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