Speaking Spanish to Students

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Luke8Ball, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Jul 28, 2012

    I'll be student-teaching soon in an area that has a substantial population of Hispanic students. I am fluent in Spanish, but will be teaching high-school math in a regular classroom.

    Is it appropriate to occasionally speak to the Hispanic students in Spanish (if I know they speak it), or is it racist/inappropriate?

    Sorry if this is a silly question.
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 28, 2012

    Your school may have a philosophy on this...check first.
     
  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I would keep it English only. And I would not tell the students I speak Spanish - that might come handy later :)
     
  5. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Very clever - I didn't think about this. I may even go out of my way to act clueless ;)
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I wouldn't do it during instruction. A lot of my students have a sort of limited/working knowledge of Spanish. In certain contexts they can speak Spanish, but not usually in an academic context. Although they might know words like lunch, friend, shopping, dinner, family and all the words that go with those sorts of daily activities and happenings, they might not know words like triangle, hypotenuse, product, and calculate. That's why I'd avoid it during instruction.

    One thing to remember is that not all Hispanic/Latino students speak Spanish. It's a complaint I hear often at my own school, where the majority of the students are Hispanic/Latino. Some of them often get letters from the school written in Spanish even though they and their parents don't speak and/or read it. They find it offensive, as though the school believes that everyone whose last name is Ortega or Rodriguez must know Spanish. Don't fall into that trap.

    Finally, some students want to fit in with the rest of the group, to the point where they don't want anything that sets them apart. As sad as it is, it might embarrass some students to be singled out as Spanish speakers.

    Now, if you know that a kid speaks Spanish and likes speaking Spanish, an informal conversation in Spanish in the hallway before or after class seems totally fine, provided that your school doesn't have any sort of policy against this.
     
  7. ecteach

    ecteach Devotee

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    Jul 28, 2012

    I would say it is totally appropriate. I bet they will connect with you a lot better.
     
  8. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Check with your school first. I know one of our teachers got in trouble for speaking Spanish with a student because he was an exchange student and they only wanted him to hear English at school. He was not supposed to speak Spanish at all.

    **I didn't really understand it but it's a good lesson to check with your school!
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    We have a TA at one of the schools, he's Dominican. He speaks Spanish fluently, but no one suspected it, they thought he was African American (he grew up here, so he doesn't have an accent). It was very interesting to hear when he told me what some of the TAs were saying about me :)
    Just imagine students trying to speak Spanish not knowing you understand it. :)
     
  10. sirscience

    sirscience Rookie

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    It's really a tough call. While the intention to use it to build a greater bond and relationship with students is certainly a positive thing, it sets a precedent which can lead to problems. I use to teach in an urban, low income, high school in Los Angeles where all the students were Hispanic or Black. Many (though not all) Hispanic students were fluent in Spanish and the troublemakers, especially when poking fun at some of the Black students, would speak in Spanish, obviously making them feel left out; they couldn't defend what was being said to/about them and often made them more upset. Don't get me wrong, both groups of students poked fun of one another often, but there was a "disadvantage" (not the right word!) when Spanish was being spoken.

    Therefore, I think unless you know that every student in your class is fluent, you should reframe from speaking it during major lessons and class time. While it could help you connect with some/many, it will also isolate others. A colleague of mine who is Latina and fluent in Spanish has a class rule of only speaking English during class so everyone can understand each other.

    Anyway, my two cents!
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I don't speak Spanish in class because it isolates the English-only speakers. I tell the students that I know Spanish so that they're comfortable asking me if they don't know the English word for something (which happens a lot in the earlier grades) and so they know they're not getting away with speaking in Spanish and thinking I can't understand them. Occasionally during "lunch bunch" (part of a reward system I did where I ate lunch with students) I would have Spanish-only groups of kids and I would speak to them in Spanish some. I think it was good for building rapport with the kids, but that was a special scenario where I didn't have anyone in the room who didn't understand Spanish.
     
  12. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I think Spanish could be used to build stronger bonds with students, but it shouldn't be in the classroom. (like others said, during lunch, in hallway, before / after school, recess, etc.) But then you probably want to compensate for these with the English only speakers.


    I had to 'forbid' Spanish in my classes. Most of my students were Latino, and it was already enough when they used Spanish slang, which almost always were gang-related. I could pick those out, but if they were speaking Spanish, I wouldn't have known, and I could have had a fight started right in front of me. So it was mostly a safety issue.

    They only tried a few times, and when I said 'English only', of course some of them questioned / protested. My response was: 'this is a literacy class, so we'll be speaking English only. And, because I don't speak Spanish, any time I hear Spanish, and see you guys laughing like that, I'll automatically assume you're talking about me and it's something inappropriate. So let's not go there.' they totally got it, and didn't try again.
     
  13. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Thanks for all the insight guys. When I posted I meant that if I spoke Spanish, it would be privately (while doing independent practice, outside of class, etc.) - I would never do so in front of the entire class, as that would definitely leave some folks out. I think I'll play it by ear and ask other teachers!
     
  14. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    I like the idea of being able to connect with students by conversing with them in their native language. It goes a long way to show that it's good to embrace your culture and accompanying values. But I agree that you should check with the school on their philosophy. The school where I will be student teaching has a large international student population, and even if I spoke one of their languages, I wouldn't be able to do that during the school day because they have an English-only policy (de jure...but not de facto).
     
  15. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Good idea! :yeahthat:

    I speak Spanish and am given many students who are native Spanish speakers. However, my entire instruction is English only. When I pull small groups, though, I'll pull the students who need primary language support and explain things in Spanish.
     
  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Definitely not in class during instruction. Even at our school, which is a bilingual school, my students may not converse in Spanish during my classes with them (they also have some subjects taught in Spanish by a native Mexican teacher, so they do get to speak in Spanish during some times of the day). This is to help develop oral language and fluency.
     
  17. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Jul 30, 2012

    I wish I spoke Spanish!!! Last year 23 out of my 25 students spoke Spanish fluently and 3 of them had a very, very limited English proficiency. (They were all brand new to the country.) In the classroom there were plenty of children to translate/help each other. I really wish I could speak Spanish to better communicate with the parents. It's hard to go get someone to translate every letter or phone call. I'll admit there was a couple times a student got off without a phone call home they deserved because I just couldn't get around to getting our parent coordinator to call home for me.
     
  18. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Jul 30, 2012

    Whole class instruction, no. Small group, maybe. Check to see how many ESOL students you'll have - it's often suggested that teachers should know a few words of the language to help ESOL students feel more comfortable.
     
  19. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    So my opinions-

    In the USA I had a large population of Hispanics, I never told them I spoke Spanish. But when they cursed or used bad words, I understood and would write them up. Also when I threatened to call parents they wouldn't take me seriously and say things like "my parents don't speak English" I'd just say "that's not a problem". I don't know if they ever truly understood that I am fluent, or if they thought something else. But I never told them, but used my Spanish when needed.

    Now, I work in Costa Rica where almost all my students first language is Spanish. With the little ones (3rd, 4th occasionally 5th) I will translate and sometimes scold in Spanish. But my older students (6th, 7th, 8th) don't have any idea I speak Spanish.

    Problem is for me, once I start in Spanish it's hard for me to remember to switch back to English. So I can start privately with a few kids just talking about the weekend, and then without realizing, go through 15 minutes of class in Spanish.

    I guess the bottom line is you need to feel out your class. If they truly need a few words translated I think that's fine. But once they know you speak Spanish, they'll only want to communicate in Spanish. Which can be detrimental because they take their tests in English.
     
  20. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    I actually have a serious reason the answer should be no.

    A few years ago during a WASC accreditation visit, the accreditation team wanted to have a meeting with the ESL adult students. During the meeting a student asked an aide a question and the aide answered in Spanish. We were dinged by the committee for it because they said bilingual classes were not authorized in California and the class should be conducted in English only. They mentioned it during the end of accredition meeting and put it in the written report.
     
  21. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Again, thanks for all the input y'all. It seems like I'll have to get both a feel for the class and the administration - then I'll make a decision. :)
     
  22. paperlabs

    paperlabs Rookie

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    Jul 31, 2012

    Personally I don't see anything wrong with it, but I know of some parents who did in the 1990's.
    One of these parents visited her child's classroom. Everyone in the class knew English, but the teacher was required to reteach every lesson in Spanish. The parent told us that all the English only students just sat around bored waiting about 30 minutes of the block. She thought the teacher was over-loaded and drew quite a bit of support from other parents to argue against the requirement. Last I checked about 12 years ago, they were still doing it.
     
  23. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

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    Jul 31, 2012

    I don't think it's a good idea. If you are doing some small group instruction during class, that's fine if it's allowed. However, when having personal conversations with students, I wouldn't do it because students may use it against you. For example, if the English students see you having lunch and speaking Spanish with the Spanish speaking students, that can cause some issues. Also, students twist things around all the time, even the good ones. Watch what you say with them, and make sure what you're saying can be verified by others.
     
  24. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    I speak Spanish but I usually don't speak Spanish to my students unless I need to translate for some EL students who may not understand some words. In the rare ocasion that I speak Spanish during a whole class instruction, I make sure I immediatelly translate so that everybody understands what I said.
     

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