This post features the recent research of Dr. Greg Thompson, Spanish and Portuguese Department
One of the challenges in learning a foreign language, especially in the first years, is communicating with native speakers of the target language. Given the limited contact that many foreign language students have with native speakers of that language, they are often ill-prepared when they need to communicate outside of the confines of the classroom. Greg Thompson and Rob Martinsen of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese have been working to help first and second year students engage in conversations with native speakers.
In their research, they have been working to connect students in first and second year Spanish with native Spanish speakers via a variety of programs available on the Internet to improve language skills and cultural understanding as part of a traditional face-to-face language course. Through the incorporation of a mix of structured and unstructured interactions, Greg and Rob have been able to inspire students not only to learn the language and culture but actually get to know individuals from the cultures being studied through synchronous conversations about topics that they are studying in class. Students’ experiences and learning in these online interactions with native speakers have helped them make friends with and contact people from all over the Spanish-speaking world. Students’ reflections have supported the inclusion of this type of interaction in the language classroom.
- “Spanish seems more realistic now, instead of a made-up way to communicate badly.”
- “It made the experience more real. As I heard others struggling to speak my language, I realized what I sounded like as I spoke theirs, and it made me want to really know how to speak correctly.”
The research from this project is currently being written up and will be published in the coming months with hopes of encouraging other language programs to bring language learners together.