Breaking the Language Barrier

Breaking the Language Barrier

Julie Damman

This year, Baxter High School had a major shift in the curriculum when they decided to offer Spanish classes online. From new instructors to different lessons, the Spanish curriculum has posed many challenges for a large portion of Baxter’s students. 

With the events of 2020, students should be no stranger to online classes, so why is this class so difficult? Jocelyn Harder, 10, says “The course being online has certainly been the hardest thing about it.  There hasn’t really been any theme to the units, so it has been hard finding a groove and connections between the vocabulary terms and lessons.  Because of COVID last year and hybrid-learning, I found out that I don’t do well with online classes.” Many students would agree with Harder’s statement about online classes. There are many different ways to learn, but for some learning and understanding, a new concept doesn’t happen easily over a computer screen, especially with a new language. It is extremely difficult to learn correct pronunciation just by listening to an audio recording. Also, there are a handful of students who benefit from one on one instruction from an in-person teacher. The class being online hasn’t been the only obstacle to overcome. Adison Bonney, 9, says “The most difficult thing for me is the fact that we don’t get to re-do any exams. If I could change one thing about the new Spanish curriculum I would allow retakes on the exams.” Tests are worth 20% of a student’s unit grade and after being conditioned for retakes through the SRG grading system, the loss of that privilege is certainly a major adjustment and source of stress for those taking Spanish classes. It forces everyone to have all the new information memorized, and without notes or a second chance, this is a huge change for everyone. For these reasons and others, a large number of students opted out of Spanish for different elective classes. Harder commented “Once I heard the class was online, and after those first few days of struggle, there were definitely temptations to drop out. Ultimately, it was the challenge and the learning skills I would develop from having an online class that kept me going. It also helped that I backed up a couple of lessons and began working where we left off last year.” Harder hasn’t been the only student to power through the struggle. Whether it be for a future job, college applications, or for another reason, a handful of other students have found the determination in them to continue the class for the remainder of the year. 

With new challenges come innovative solutions. With all these changes how can students possibly be successful? Bonney says “Studying with Quizlet and flashcards definitely helps and it may sound cliche but my family helps too. And the fact that all the lessons are organized on one website helps keep me on track.” The expectations of the online curriculum have forced students to explore different methods for studying, and finding that studying rhythm has been a critical factor in the success of Spanish students. In addition to practice, focusing on the positive side of a difficult situation can also improve student success. There may be a lot of challenges, but students have also found surprising benefits from this seemingly difficult class. Harder explains, “This class has surprisingly been somewhat a highlight of my day.  I can just put in my earbuds, listen to my favorite tunes, and power through the lessons. I can also work at my own pace which keeps me busy. I can focus better without a lot of downtime which is also a beneficial aspect of this class.” With all the struggles that students face with having Spanish online, they have found ways to overcome the challenges and make the best of the difficult situation.