Spanish Helps Bridge Cultural Divides

On Thursday, April 13, the ¡Adelante! American youth group of the Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) and Ms. Adriana Rodriguez, the Children & Youth Program Director for SCOW, visited Ms. Angela Weston’s AP Spanish Language & Culture class. This group consisted of Wallingford public high schoolers on their spring break. During class time, they participated in two activities. First, Choate students and ¡Adelante! students were paired and given the opportunity to rotate through partners “speed-dating style.” Each pair was given an envelope with conversation starters in Spanish. After this, the group travelled outside to participate in a “barometer activity,” in which they responded to “would you rather” questions presented in Spanish. The class concluded with a group picture.

This collaboration, which was immersive academically and culturally, allowed the AP class to fulfill requirements set by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).  The ACTFL sets national standards for language learning, including interpersonal (i.e. conversation), interpretational and presentational communication, cultures (relating to cultural practices and products to perspectives), connections, comparisons (language & cultural) and communities (outside the classroom and lifelong learning).  Ms. Weston said, “This activity is directly related to essentially all of these standards.”

However, the meeting accomplished more than just goals set by the ACTFL. Throughout the meeting, Choate students were able to engage in a cultural exchange, deepening their understanding of Spanish language and culture while getting to know the greater Wallingford community.

Imad Rizvi ’18, an AP Spanish student, commented, “In terms of cultural differences, one of the activities was a type of game that was like ‘would you rather.’ There were two options for each question, and you had to go to the side you thought was better. The activity showed that a lot of us had the same ideas and values. We also had a list of different questions to ask each other. One difference I noticed is that a lot of them had jobs during the school year, which the vast majority of Choate students do not.”

Regarding student reactions, Ms. Weston said, “Students on both sides reacted very positively to this activity both last year and now. It was joyful to see them laugh together and to hear them negotiating conversation in Spanish while explaining their worlds to each other.”

Not only was Ms. Weston thrilled to see her students grow as Spanish speakers and Wallingford community members, but students were also excited about this opportunity. Alyssa Zhou ’17, another AP Spanish student, said, “We talked in Spanish about our lives and opinions. It’s weird because those students from ¡Adelante! live here in Wallingford too ­­— really sweet and smart people — and yet we don’t know them at all. I would love another class like it. Instead of lectures and assessments, it was really just about practicing Spanish with kids our age in a very interactive manner.”

Although these encounters have a lot to offer to both the Choate students and the ¡Adelante! students, scheduling conflicts do not allow for regular visits. Ms. Weston lamented, “The AP Spanish Language & Culture course requires our students to periodically converse with Spanish-speaking members of our CRH community. But the logistics of our students’ schedules make it difficult for them to get to know the local community.”

This was the second annual meeting between Choate AP Spanish students and ¡Adelante! students. Hopefully there will be many more that strengthen the Spanish skills of the Choate students and the bond between Choate and Wallingford at large.

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