When working with Spanish Junior Cert and Spanish Leaving Cert students on preparing pieces of work – written or oral – I try to bring students input from lots of sources and not just the textbook. However, I do believe there is a moment when, in order for them to be able to express their personalities, you have to let them ask the question ¿Cómo se dice…? and give them pointers and sometimes straight-up translations so that they can produce an authentic description of who they are. The great thing about doing that work with students in class is that you can give them the smallest possible lexical unit – because you know exactly what they don’t know –  and then draw the rest of the surrounding language out of them. This is, of course, where online translation tools fail because they give the student the whole phrase they seek, which the student often transcribes without further thought.

The benefit of giving them language that is more advanced than where they are at the exact moment is that they then have it at their disposal when it comes to further language production or reception.

James’ excellent piece below is a case in point. Bear in mind he is a Form 2 student (Grade 8 in the American system). He uses the imperfect, the lovely llevo …time period + gerund construction, conjunctions, fillers (words like bueno, which means “well”), a number of other structures with the gerund (the -ing form in English, -ando/-iendo in Spanish). To top it all, he’s even translated the title of his favourite song in Spanish (there’s no equivalent for his favourite film in Spanish)!

¿Qué pasatiempos tienes?

Tengo un montón de pasatiempos, por ejemplo me gustan los deportes y escuchar la música. Juego al rugby y al futból gaelico. Llevo ocho años jugando al rugby. Llevo tres años jugando al futból gaelico. Me gustan mis deportes porque son divertidos.

¿Tienes otros pasatiempos?

Bueno, me divierto viendo películas y la tele cuando estoy aburrido, pero paso la mayoría de mi tiempo libre hablando con mis amigos.

Niña leyendo, Sevilla
Niña leyendo, Sevilla

¿Te gusta leer?

La verdad es que no me gusta leer. Prefiero jugar a mis deportes y ver las películas, pero, a veces me gusta la lectura.

¿Qué clase de película prefieres?

Me encantan películas de acción porque son interesantes, pero prefiero comedias porque son graciosas. Mi película preferida se llama Deadpool en inglés.


¿Tocas un instrumento? 

Bola de espejos, RHA Dublín
Bola de espejos, RHA Dublín

Antes tocaba el acordeón pero ahora no lo toco porque no tengo tiempo. En cambio, suelo relajarme escuchando la musíca.

¿Qué tipo de música te gusta escuchar?

Me gusta escuchar música pop porque es agradable. Mi canción preferida se llama Encendido y es de R.Kelly.


  1. Another great post. I totally agree and it gives their work more authenticity. The problem with the books, they can really make them think – that’s it! Freedom is very important when learning a language. You want to be able to say what you want in the most authentic way possible. A machine can never do that!

    1. Thanks for commenting Sandrine 🙂
      Exactly my thoughts! That’s why I think language production time is so valuable in class rather than as homework.

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