In my early years of teaching, it was not common practice to use authentic texts to teach Spanish. I supported the belief that these resources were too difficult for students to understand and that even showing them to my students would cause an uproar of statements that, to them, affirmed the idea that learning a second language was just “too hard.” I wasn’t very bothered at the time, as few of these resources were available, because, yes, I taught many years before the internet arrived.
Thankfully, this has all changed now that authentic text, audio, and video resources abound, and they are now considered an essential tool for the acquisition of language and culture. Research now shows that “language education continues to confirm the benefits of exposing learners to culturally authentic texts to support overall language learning and the development of interpretive skills,” (Bacon, 1992). In short, the use of authentic resources:
- Empowers students to interact with the real world,
- Provides a direct connection to target language culture,
- Provides real-world input needed for acquisition, and
- Helps students experience the language and unit objectives through the lens of materials in the target culture.
As students progress along the proficiency continuum, authentic resources take on the task of engaging learners in more advanced linguistic and cultural experiences. They discuss and debate life lessons and analyze perspectives and points of view for films, literature, and commentaries. On the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, students are asked to interpret authentic oral and written narratives to complete an argumentative essay.
Vista’s Imagina, Español sin barreras, created for intermediate learners, gives students access to a wealth of theme-related, curated, authentic resources with opportunities to engage in thought-provoking discussions. Authentic short films by award-winning Hispanic filmmakers are followed by literary excerpts from diverse genres written by renowned Hispanic authors. Authentic cultural narratives, videos, and dramatic photos enhance a unit’s theme, calling upon students to analyze, synthesize, and provide solutions.
Current authentic text, audio, and video can be found in the accompanying online resource News and Cultural Updates. Organized by AP themes, these updates immerse students in relevant issues affecting the Spanish-speaking world and ask them to reflect on and discuss cultural comparisons.
Authentic texts are no longer the exception in the instruction of language and culture. They have now become the norm. As stated in Reenacting the Work of Language Instruction: High-Leverage Teaching Practices by Glisan and Donato, “Meaningful target language use can only exist within interesting contexts and engaging topics which culturally relevant authentic texts provide.“ Thankfully, they are now ours for the asking.
Learn more about Imagina!
By Elizabeth Sacco
Also read: Phonics, Fluency, and Vocabulary: Expanding to the Next Level
Engagement Strategies for World Language Classes: Understanding What Works and Why