Opinion

Current Spanish classes prove too impractical

In high school, I took French with no practical reason other than that it sounded sexy. When I got to college and found out that I’d need to spend three semesters taking a foreign language, I knew I’d need to have a solid foundation of Spanish if I wanted to get hired anywhere. So I enrolled. And then I suffered.

After three semesters of conjugating verbs in my sleep and seeing a tutor every week (who ended up having to take on the job of therapist as well), I still can’t speak more than a few sentences in Spanish. Somehow I ended up with a part-time job in the city, but my coworkers have to run to the rescue whenever they see someone talking at me.

The University of Miami needs to provide a “Spanish in the Workplace” course for students who would like to live as competent individuals in Miami and succeed in obtaining any job that requires bilingual conversation.

Learning Spanish at UM when you know nothing other than “el bano, por favor” (bathroom, please) on day one is a lot like immediately performing a surgery when you’ve only ever played the board game version of Operation.

How is it that I somewhat know how to talk about a hole in the ozone layer (el agujero en la capa de ozono) or tell you that my aunt needs ointment and has pneumonia, and yet I have no idea how to tell my customers that we don’t allow drinks beyond the front desk?

I begin my stumblings with “Hola, sorry mi espanol es muy malo, pero…” My textbook is stained with tears and coffee. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never, ever be able to just switch into the subjunctive tense in speech.

I need a course that will teach me conversational Spanish, not expect me to write essays after sitting wide-eyed through just a few lectures during which I had no idea what was said.

I want to be tested on situations that will actually happen, like helping a customer at a retail store or restaurant. This type of oral exam will force me to remember what I’m supposed to say on the job, and I might even comprehend it after a while, rather than just memorize the sounds.

Instead, in Spanish 211 I was asked to act out the role of someone who is learning the different parts of a car, while another person charaded driving, and I don’t remember any of these vocab words now – I don’t even know my car parts in English.

I am not suggesting that Spanish isn’t necessary outside of the workplace. It is. But, some people are excellent at learning languages, and some aren’t, so for those of us who fall into the latter category, a “Spanish in the Workplace” course that could be taken as the third class after 101 and 102, or as an elective credit, would be extremely beneficial.

 

Hunter Wright is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.

 
April 23, 2014

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Hunter Wright


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