A friend of mine would tell me about the book club he was in at a local independent bookstore. A book in Spanish was selected and the discussion of it would take place in Spanish. I attended the other night. I had not read the book but that did not prevent me from jumping in with my carefully considered opinions……
The consideration was not about the topic but about how I was going to say it in Spanish. I usually have trouble in conversations, not paying attention for thinking about what I want to say. But adding to that trying to recall vocabulary and how it fits in with grammar, all the collocations, how to form clauses, etc.
That is a good argument for communicative teaching. While I believe it is a superior way to teach languages, I myself came out of the old school, finding grammar quite fascinating. Spanish was one of the first languages I “studied”. So I still have a tendency to think about how I’m going to say it. Spanish is the language I am most fluent in now. French was such until recently; while limited, my French is still fluent as displayed recently when I taught it for 5 weeks. This is because I had a girlfriend in high school who did not speak English. About the same time I worked with a judo instructor who I got a job for teaching my school’s judo club and he needed an interpreter, having just arrived from France. To this day, despite two years of typical instruction in high school, my knowledge of French grammar is not as good as that of other languages I’ve worked on.
So I was very happy to discover that I was able to understand everybody, especially nice since the regional varieties represented were Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Chilean, Argentine, and Mexican. The level of conversation was pitched right for me since all participants were educated and the topic was cultured. In fact, several commented that when they go ’home’ they are out of the loop, using out-of-date slang, etc.
I think I would recommend this to those who want to bump up their level of fluency. I know tons of Spanish grammar, some vocabulary (interestingly, my Russian vocabulary is the largest but I seldom speak it, so I am not fluent), and am around it a lot. Nevertheless, to enter into conversations is just not something I often do. I take advantage of service people and others who do not speak English (very common here in Arizona) by imposing my Spanish on them. They are appreciative. I need it just now because I am taking an exam, a stringent one, in Spanish next month. I am sure I will continue attending the book club afterwards and will report on it.