Student Use of Spanish for Commerce
We just got back from a ten day trip to Costa Rica. To say it was a good trip would be an understatement. My colleague and Department Chair John English organized this yearly event. This was his 10th trip to Costa Rica, and he has traveling with students down to a science. I have encouraged him to put together a guide book and try to market it to a company like EF tours or Teacher’s Discovery. I believe a first time traveling teacher would benefit from his organizational procedures and tips.
John requested Alonso Madrigal, Vice-President of Elemento Natural, to be our guide. Alonso has worked with John for the last 5 tours, and I certainly understand why John keeps requesting him. Alonso is great with teens, has an incredible knowledge about the flora and fauna of his country and navigated the administrative components to this tour seamlessly.
There is really so much to share that I will need to write a couple of posts to cover the experience. Today I want to share my excitement upon seeing my students use the language for commerce. Most students were fairly comfortable using expressions of general courtesy from the start. In order to increase their comfort level and challenge them to use the language, John and Alonso organized a scavenger hunt the first afternoon in San José. As a group we walked four or five blocks down to a large market place that sold a wide range of goods from handicrafts to beef. The students organized themselves in groups of 3 to 5 and each group was given an item to find, purchase and bring back to share with the others at dinner time. They were on their own to ask the vendors what the item was (fruit? vegetable? pastry?), where they could buy the item and then to negotiate the purchase. All students found their foods and many of them tried these after eating their typical meal of rice and bean that night. By the end of the scavenger hunt, students were confident enough to shop on their own. A couple of the boys bought soccer jerseys, some of the girls bought some souvenirs for friends, and others bought snacks. Needless to say, the students didn’t really need any help with shopping the rest of the tour.
Depending on where you live a similar experience could be replicated. Cincinnati has several small markets that specialize in traditional Mexican and Central American foods. With the manager’s help, I believe you could create a similar scavenger hunt. The success of the activity would depend on the employees willingness to only use Spanish with the students as they searched for specific items that the store carries.
Do you have other ideas along these lines? Have you tried a field trip to a Hispanic market? Any tips?