By Olga Imbaquingo – Special for El Tiempo Latino
The idea of the newspaper in the classroom is not new, but it is great if, thanks to the news, chronicles, reports and interviews, you learn a new language, in this case Spanish.
From the mailbox next to a bus stop or from the stalls in a market or a library, El Tiempo Latino has been infiltrating, in the good sense of the word, the classroom and the portfolio of students’ homework.
En el aula is the source of news about the Hispanic community, the showcase full of new words; and, the source of phrases, characters and stories for those who are already more advanced.
Two experiences exemplify the influence of El Tiempo Latino in the classroom. The most recent is “Spanish in our community”, an online teaching program from Montgomery College; and the other is the teaching plan of the Spanish Literacy Center (CENAES).
The two schemes share the same desire: that their students, in the first case professionals and retirees; and, in the second, workers, they join the group of 600 million people who speak the language, with which the great Spanish poet, Miguel Hernández, wrote “Elegía Segunda” and the Cuban Silvio Rodríguez, made it a song.
Nick Olcott, actor, director, screenwriter, started studying Spanish three years ago because there is a Latino community in Maryland that he wants to know more about. “From the beginning, El Tiempo Latino was important to my learning, I would go to the stores in my neighborhood and if I found it, I would take it. I started reading it and discovered that it was very useful, because I find out what is happening in my community and in my country ”.
Olcott, who is retired as an assistant director of the University of Maryland Opera, tried to learn Spanish from newspapers in other countries, but got lost in acronyms, dialects, names, and subjects he knew nothing about. He went to Montevideo for four months and also became disoriented between local expressions and elitist language. And what about radio and television? Better not to insist “they speak very fast,” he says.
With El Tiempo Latino you know what and who you are talking about.
“The style is clear and understandable. As it should reach a wide audience, from different countries, social classes and levels of education, it is written in non-specialized Spanish and without dialects, which is why I find it useful and easy to construct grammar. It is wonderful to learn Spanish by informing me of what is going on around me ”, says Olcott.
That is one of the reasons why Rosanne Skirble, teacher of the program “Spanish in our community” made El Tiempo Latino an indispensable component in teaching.
In his classes, more emphasis is placed on dialogue than on the rigor of syntax or semantics.
“Our goal is to get to know the community better, it is not a grammar class. In the first hour we use the newspaper to generate a conversation about a staged topic ”.
The second hour they chat with a Hispanic guest, it can be a poet, a nurse, a folklorist, theater people or a defender of immigrants; many of the guests leave from reading the news published by El Tiempo Latino. “It is important to meet other people, the newspaper has served me for that purpose,” says Skirble.
The students have the task of attending the classes, for now virtual, with the digital reading of an article in Spanish from the Washington Post and another from El Tiempo Latino. Skirble encourages them to talk about what they have read to raise the quality of the conversation.
When Skirble created the Spanish Club, his students met at the Long Branch Public Library in Silver Spring. In that center of knowledge, El Tiempo Latino had a guaranteed attendance. Skirble students could use a headline, a story, or an advertisement.
That face-to-face learning program was closed due to the pandemic.
It all started, she says, with the fact that the Latino population contributes 20% of the flour in Montgomery County’s demographic pie, while an estimated one million Hispanics live in the metropolitan area. Skirble found that El Tiempo Latino had the most cultural information, news, education, health and notices.
That is why he asked that his copies always be in the library for his Spanish Club classes. When the opportunity to teach this language arrived at Montgomery College, the displacement of El Tiempo Latino, as one of the resources to learn Spanish, was assured.
Also guaranteed is your presence in the CENAES Spanish literacy program. It is useful for beginners to cut out letters and vowels and form the alphabet. That is what Juana López did. “I collected letters from the newspaper, compared them with others and memorized.
‘Yes I can, yes I can’ he would say to me and yes I could, thanks to the patience of the teacher Sonia and Don Mario ”. Before Spanish, she only spoke Mam, an aboriginal Mayan language from her country, Guatemala.
In 2003, Mario Gamboa, director of CENAES, began to teach Spanish classes with just a blackboard, a pair of scissors and El Tiempo Latino as a pedagogical resource. “We cut out the headlines, we separated the letters. Actually, the newspaper was my first tool in the first months ”.
Still at least once a month they cut out and identify words; read short sentences, identify capital letters, punctuation marks, and spellings. In the third step they read and analyze a short story. “For that the newspaper serves us, to communicate and educate. CENAES thanks El Tiempo Latino for their unconditional support ”.
From the side of the shore of those who already defend themselves with Spanish, Olcott has another reading of what El Tiempo Latino is for. “During the elections, for example, the newspaper offered a perspective that we gringos find incomprehensible, that many Latinos voted for Trump. His articles helped me understand that Latinos are not monolithic and that not everyone is concerned about the problems of immigrants ”.