Wednesday 3 Feb, 2016

Madrid: The Original Spanish Classroom

Casey is a Social Media Manager at EF Educational Tours. Her family has lived in New York, Thailand and Turkey. She once ate bugs in China and insists they’re not that bad.

Mastering a foreign language in any capacity is never easy. It requires intensive work to develop speaking, reading, listening and writing skill sets simultaneously. It takes humility. It takes patience and practice. It takes grit. And above all else, it takes sheer determination.

To complicate matters, language is inherently tied to culture. Things like verb conjugations can illustrate how a population thinks, while idioms reflect how they uniquely interpret the day to day. And as American schools increasingly ask their language teachers to create full language immersion experiences in the classroom, and provide authentic examples of how that language is spoken today, these are the kinds of nuances that language teachers must master in order to raise their students’ linguistic command.ACTFL

Doing this in silo, in a country that doesn’t necessarily speak a teacher’s target language, can be extremely difficult. To address this, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), in collaboration with EF Educational Tours, has piloted a unique, international professional learning experience for teachers – the Crossing Borders program. Through immersive travel experiences to target-language countries, this series will focus on strengthening teachers’ linguistic proficiency and cultural competencies, inspiring them to foster their students’ global curiosity through language study.Spain_Madrid_Royal Place 2

The pilot tour, an immersion trip to Madrid, is geared toward Spanish teachers who want to document their language development. Prior to traveling to Madrid, these teachers will participate in an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), a globally standardized assessment of functional speaking ability, to identify specific areas of language proficiency to improve on as they travel. Beyond a teacher’s own professional development, the OPI is a fantastic tool for a teacher to bring back to their own classrooms as a tool to help their students raise their ability in a target language, and learn narrative techniques for self-expression.

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While on tour, Spanish language teachers will experience all that Madrid has to offer – whether enjoying warm churros in a café on the Gran Via, discovering the Museo del Prado, or rambling through the Royal Palace of Madrid – while participating in culturally rich experiences like school visits and language development workshops. All of this is intended to help them grow their own fluency, and prepare them to transform their foreign language curriculum when they return home.

“We are hoping that these language teachers will improve their language skills and become more confident teaching in the target language – Spanish in this case,” said George Stewart, Director of Education at EF Education First. “Towards those ends, they will become more conversant with current idiomatic phrases, socio-cultural trends – things like fashion, education and business – as well as become adept at using the OPI method to help their students become more conversationally fluent. Not only do these programs offer a powerful learning and professional development experience, they also represent a rare opportunity for each teacher to expand their own professional network among like-minded language teachers.”

Interested in participating in this opportunity? Visit eftours.com/actflprogram.