The constant refusal of my students to speak Spanish in class got me to the point where I almost barked, "Stop speaking English already!" at two complete strangers at the bus-stop. I have dreams where I come up to people and exhort them to switch to Spanish. Nothing works, however. Students keep thinking that the way to learn to speak Spanish is to discuss Spanish grammar in English.
Today, my level of frustration multiplied by the exhaustion of a sleepless night drove me to ask them directly why they couldn't bring themselves to speak Spanish in a Spanish class.
"Speaking Spanish in class feels kind of weird," a student volunteered. The rest nodded vigorously in agreement.
"Why does it feel weird?" I asked.
"We never had a Spanish teacher who'd speak Spanish in class. It's weird that you speak Spanish all the time," students said in an accusatory tone.
"I kind of like it," said one student in a small voice.
"Aren't you guys taking Spanish because you want to learn to speak it?"
"Yes," they responded.
"So don't you want to try speaking it now that you are in the fourth semester of taking it in college?"
There was an uncomfortable pause.
"I guess so," one student finally said. "But it's still very weird."
Of course, the best thing to do would be to require that all language instructors speak the target language in the classroom at all times. Since that's not likely to happen, we will keep having this problem for years to come.
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