Practice the Spanish Basics

December 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Learning Spanish and Bilingualism

O.k. I don’t LOVE this, but it is kind of cool to be able to click on the words all in one place to hear the pronunciation. It is a little strange using children’s voices. And we do not use ordinal numbers for the dates of the month in Spanish – maybe in Spain they do. But it is good practice for the ordinal numbers nonetheless.  I think this is definitely from Spain, but you can still use it to practice some of the basics. For a really intensive, interactive workshop, contact us; we go over this content and more!

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Speaking in Tongues – Award-Winning Documentary

December 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Learning Spanish and Bilingualism

“Speaking in Tongues” is an award-winning documentary that documents the journey of four children on their quest to become bilingual. Jason is a first-generation Mexican American whose family embraces bilingualism as the key to full participation in the land of opportunity. Durrell is an African American kindergartner whose mother hopes that learning Mandarin will be a way out of economic uncertainty and into possibility. Kelly is a Chinese-American recapturing the Cantonese her parents sacrificed to become American. And Julian is a Caucasian eighth grader eager to expand his horizons and become a good world citizen.

The film begins with an ordinary first day of public school kindergarten– except that the teacher speaks only Chinese. Most of her primarily White and Asian American students look confused but curious; a few nod accordingly. They are all in a language immersion class, where, from day one, they will receive 90% of their instruction in Cantonese. Remarkably, their school will test first in English and math among their district’s 76 elementary schools.

While the kids grow in ease and skill with their second tnogue, the grownups argue about the issues surrounding bilingual language education, citing tax burdens, but Durrell’s uncle praises bilingualism, citing the needs of the global economy. Jason becomes the first in his family to read, write, and graduate elementary school; however, at a school enrollment fair, a Latino father asks where his daughter can learn more English. At another school meeting, an angry Chinese dad says, “We are in America! We need English!”

 The heated debate over bilingual education usually takes place in courtrooms, at academic conferences and in editorial missives. At its most vitriolic the “English only” camp skews toward xenophobia and racism, while the opposition at times sounds utopian themes of American global economic resurgence with the aid of multilingual classrooms. Often neglected in this discourse is the firsthand experience of students, an oversight that veteran documentarians Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider beautifully rectify with their latest effort. Closely following four very different local public-schoolers through an academic year, they draw on subtle nuances of the kids’ stories to illustrate the complex shades and permutations of bilingual schooling.
Two children are placed in immersion programs to retain their native tongues while learning English, and the other two are in the reverse situation. Their parents list both familiar and surprising reasons for enrolling their children, but each remains a strong proponent of the programs despite criticism from extended family, friends and a loud chorus of English-only activists. Even while dismissing common barbs, the families must confront unique challenges both humorous and serious. With San Francisco becoming the first city to mandate access to bilingual opportunities for all public schoolchildren, this thought-provoking documentary could hardly be timelier.   




SPEAKING IN TONGUES TRAILER from PatchWorks Films on Vimeo.

Ilya Tovbis
San Francisco International Film Festival

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How NOT To Be the Ugly American When Traveling

December 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Learning Spanish and Bilingualism


Sustainable travel means acting as a conscientious tourist, careful with the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit. Two overlapping components of sustainable travel are ecotourism and ethical tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)( defines ecotourism as respon­sible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. TIES suggests that ecotourists follow these principles: 

  • Minimize environmental impact
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation and for local people
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates
  • Support international human rights and labor agreements

While much of the focus of ecotourism is about reducing im­pacts on the natural environment, ethical tourism concentrates on ways to preserve and enhance local economies and communities, re­gardless of location. You can embrace ethical tourism by staying at a locally owned hotel, shopping at a store that employs local workers and sells locally produced goods, and hiring a local guide whenever possible. Some other things to take into account are dress (in many countries, modest dress is important), behavior (asking permission before entering sacred places, for example), taking photos or video (always be sensitive and ask first), paying a fair price (not engaging in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs or short-changing on tips), and being careful about what you purchase (never buy crafts that may have been made from protected or endangered animals).

Responsible Travel ( is another good source of sustainable travel ideas. They even feature a carbon calculator on the site where travelers can calculate the carbon emissions from their flights and consider offsetting them by investing in carbon-reducing initiatives around the world.

–Taken from The Language Educator, October 2009, pages 16-17.

Habla Language Services’ Spanish immersion program to Costa Rica is ecofriendly. We really on locals for housing, cultural trips, and wherever else possible. Check out our page to find out more about learning Spanish in Costa Rica this summer!

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Living and Learning the Language

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Learning Spanish and Bilingualism

This article was featured in the October 2009 edition of the Language Educator. It is by Janine Erickson, the President of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. She advocates for travel to a country where the target language is spoken to really live and learn it. Keep this in mind when considering our trip to Costa Rica in August 2010. Come join in the language and cultural learning experience!

“Learning a foreign language is by far the most culturally enriching prospect available in our education system. Traveling to a country that speaks that particular language opens our eyes to the world. Using the language in the country where it is spoken, being understood, and blending in with the people and culture of that country are all experiences that are truly priceless!

Few experiences in life rival the academic, career, intercultural, personal, and social benefits of studying abroad. Struc­tured foreign travel and study in another country can provide many extraordinary opportunities and prepare us for the demands of the 21st century in our increasingly multicultural world. The chance to fine tune indispensable skills through language immersion; to experience a country’s vibrant history, art, and culture; and to develop a fresh perspective of the modern world are some of the greatest benefits of a travel/study abroad experience.

In today’s competitive job market, foreign travel experience on a resume can speak volumes. Both outside and within the education field, employers value qualities such as willingness and readiness to adapt to new environments, an ability to look at a project or situation from different perspectives, an understanding of diverse cultures, and an ability to take risks. Distinctive personal characteristics such as independence, flexibility, and adaptability are developed and expanded through study abroad experiences.

Foreign travel experiences also have a positive impact on globalizing the teaching of world languages. To enhance the delivery of a complete world language study program, language teachers at all levels must have strong proficiency in the language and knowledge of the culture in addition to professional teaching skills. Given the importance in today’s standards-based curricula, brief foreign visits are a practical answer to the higher proficiency expectations placed on world language teachers today.

As one of its 10 federal legislative priorities, ACTFL endorses immersion and language study abroad as a key compo­nent of a well articulated and continuous sequence of language study. In a position statement regarding Study Abroad and International and Community Experience (May 2007), ACTFL asserts that going beyond our borders is critical for all Americans but essential for teachers of languages. The statement further adds that an immersion experience that focuses primarily on measurable linguistic and cultural gains should be a requirement of language teacher preparation programs. Furthermore, ACTFL encourages language programs at all levels to secure financial support and seek international interac­tion between students and teachers abroad, participate in exchange programs, and design service learning opportunities for students to connect with other cultures in their own communities.

Understanding the relationship between language, culture, and society in the teaching process is indispensable. Living the language through a study abroad program develops increased self-confidence in using the target language, helps us better understand our own cultural values and beliefs, influences interactions with people from different cultures, and reinforces our work as world language educators as it opens the doors to new ideas and philosophies.

Although you have just begun your school year, it is not too soon to include a study abroad experience as part of your professional development plan for next summer! Read what your colleagues have to say about their own experiences abroad and its impact on their approach to language teaching in the “So You Say” section in this issue of The Language Educator on page 56.

There is so much we can learn from the world around us. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take advantage of any opportunities for extended study in a country where the language you teach is spoken natively. It will change your life and add to your teaching experience by shaping your own cultural identity and your view of the world. You will no doubt find yourself a more effective intercultural leader in our increasingly interconnected society.” -Janine Erickson, the Language Educator, October 2009, page 7.

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Texting in español

December 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Learning Spanish and Bilingualism

R U 1 of those peeps who ♥ text shortcuts? How do U do it in spansh? Click here to find out!

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