Ya veras! Gold

Para Profesores

Native Spanish Speakers

In the best of all possible worlds, schools would have two Spanish language tracks—one for monolingual speakers of English and another for native speakers of Spanish. The reality, as teachers nationwide know, is that many schools typically enroll native speakers in the same language classes as non-native learners of Spanish. What can you do if you find yourself in this situation? Although ¡Ya verás! Gold was created to teach Spanish as a foreign language to non-native speakers of Spanish, it includes, as described earlier in this Teacher's Guide, three resources designed to address the special needs of Hispanic students who may be enrolled in your classes: The Placement Test for Spanish-Speaking Students, the Workbook for Spanish-Speaking Students along with its Answer Key, and distinctively boxed Spanish for Spanish Speakers marginal annotations throughout the Teacher's Editions.

Who are Native Speakers?

Native Spanish speakers is a broad term used to refer to the full spectrum of Hispanic students who have either grown up in or immigrated to the United States. Some of these students may well have learned to speak and understand Spanish at home, but may have never received formal instruction in reading or writing. Others may have learned to understand Spanish from hearing it used in their homes or immediate environments by family, family friends, and people in their communities, but have not cultivated their own speaking, reading or writing abilities. Some may be able to understand, speak, and read Spanish, but have not developed writing skills. Still others may have had very limited exposure to Spanish in their homes, depending on their families' attitudes toward maintaining the language and the number of generations the family has been in the United States. In addition, although there are areas in the United States where Hispanics of the same geographical origin have settled and continue to live over generations, it is not uncommon for other areas to be populated by Spanish-speakers from diverse heritages and from locations where different varieties of Spanish are used. Clearly, native speakers of Spanish are far from uniform in either the linguistic skills or the regional varieties of the language they bring to the classroom.

The first order of business is to capitalize on the linguistic skills these students already bring to the classroom. If students already speak and comprehend Spanish, but lack competencies in reading and writing, they will need instruction in those skills. One focus should be teaching students how Spanish is expressed in the written mode. Contrary to general belief, Spanish is not as phonetic as people think—it is not written just the way it sounds. While it may be more phonetic than English or French, it is far from what linguists would term a phonetic language.

Another area that can be addressed to improve literacy is reading instruction. ¡Ya verás! Gold incorporates a number of reading activities that reflect the latest research in this area. Hispanic students in modern language classes generally already read English, for they have most likely been educated in American schools. (Students who are not yet literate in English should be in ESL classes rather than modern language classes.) However, as reading research has shown, the transfer of reading skills from one language to another is far from automatic. Because students need support when learning to read any language, special attention should be paid to having Spanish speaking students go through all of the activities that accompany the readings in ¡Ya verás! Gold.

Who are Native Speakers?

Although many Hispanic students already speak Spanish, it may not be the variety of language that is taught in the typical classroom. In sociolinguistic terms, people in this group are termed diglossic. This means that while one language is used for all formal or what are termed "high" functions, another is used in all informal or "low" functions. Among many Hispanics in the United States, English is generally considered appropriate for formal exchanges (political rallies, business meetings, announcements, sermons, lectures, classrooms, etc.), and Spanish is used in informal situations within the home and among other members of the speech community. Because of this, many Spanish-speaking students have seldom had the opportunity to hear Spanish as it is used for the high or formal functions of the language, except perhaps for radio and television where available. Having had few models for the high or formal register of the language, their skills in this aspect of Spanish have remained underdeveloped. In light of this, it is important that part of the classroom learning of these students involves becoming aware of varied language registers and getting acquainted with formal and academic Spanish.

Most Spanish-speaking students can expand their range of functions in Spanish. The Spanish that they speak is not wrong. The only mistake they may make is to use the particular variety of Spanish they know in an inappropriate social situation. However, many people, including members of the Spanish teaching profession, often refer to what these students speak as "dialect," a term that can convey connotations of substandard, even defective. In fact, any variety of a language is technically a dialect, even the educated standard. Again, drawing from the field of sociolinguistics, everyone speaks a dialect. The tremendous concern over "correct" speech is explicable only when the social functions of dialects are considered, even though it can be shown that no dialect is inherently better or worse than another. It is necessary for students to be able to command educated varieties of speech if they wish to be able to hold certain kinds of jobs. However, any attempt to teach a standard dialect to a nonstandard speaker needs to take into account the social reasons that explain why people speak the way they do.

With regard to listening, most students, even those whose families have been in the United States for three or four generations and who may have weak speaking skills, will be able to understand spoken Spanish. What they need to work on is exposure to the variety of ways that Spanish is spoken. As all Spanish teachers know, there are a number of ways to speak Spanish correctly. A Spaniard does not sound like a Chilean, nor a Bolivian like a Mexican, nor a Puerto Rican like an Argentine. The listening activities of the ¡Ya verás! Gold student texts, textbook cassettes/CDs, laboratory programs, videos, and CD-ROMs have been created with this in mind. Spanish-speaking students hear the language as it is spoken in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. This not only exposes them to a wide range of language varieties and registers; it also validates for them the very existence of language variation and instills them with pride in the richness of their heritage language.

Finally, since Spanish-speaking students are not beginning from ground zero, it is up to you, as teachers, to meet them where they are and take them as far as you can. Always endeavor to be sensitive to how they express themselves, for while it may be inappropriate to use certain vocabulary words and expressions in the classroom, it may be completely appropriate to do so within their speech community. Rather than "fixing" how they speak and write Spanish, it is up to you to capitalize on the linguistic strengths they bring to your classroom and help them increase their range of linguistic functions.