Response to this post:
“At one point in my career, a colleague who taught Spanish 3, and taught her students lots and lots of verb tenses. However, when her students went on to the next level, not only did they not really know the conjugations, more importantly, they did not really understand how to use the various tenses in context.
Additionally, the colleague in question spoke a lot of Spanish (a native Spanish speaker), but, most of the time, it was not comprehensible to the students.
MY question: How to repair the aforementioned, when the students come to you in Spanish 4? I hope to get some good feedback and suggestions. Thank you in advance for considering my question.”
I doubt we will ever be free of the grammar kings and queens. They do not read research which in the most conservative aka legacy realms does not advocate teaching the structural features of L2 as a way of teaching/learning L2. Besides, it would be a career altering shift to drop the drumbeat of tense modification and accent rules and simply engage the students in L2. And we must be tolerant b/c it is indeed frightening to imagine classroom control and grading without the support of grammatical scaffolding.
So what can you do? I’ll repeat my experience on taking over a third year Latin class whose students were all top-of-the-line academically. I came in speaking Latin, much to their consternation, but as they realized I wasn’t suddenly going to ask them to conjugate a deponent verb in the future perfect subjunctive, they relaxed. One even dropped the class b/c she didn’t think it would be rigorous enough (her dad was the state superintendent of education ).
BUT, as we kept reading stories and talking about them, they began saying, “Oh, that’s what that’s for.” You see, they had learned the grammar but , as you put it, they did not know how to use the various tenses in context. Multiply that by declined nouns and adjectives, John McWhorter’s “bristling morphology”, and you can see it was quite an accomplishment but also quite useless. NOW, as I spoke to them about what was happening in the stories, they heard and saw how the grammar features were used for communication and wound up loving the class.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for these students is to demonstrate to them that Spanish is not an academic subject to be “got through” but a means of communicating stories, anecdotes, jokes, a means of teasing, having fun, inviting, scolding, directing, informing, describing, and so on. Lots of humor helps. As you do that, maybe all the grammar they studied will fall into place and make sense. One guy who had gone on a mission for his church and had studied German mightily said that one day a while after arriving in Austria, he stepped out of his apartment, looked up at the sky, and suddenly German made sense. You might be that trigger.