In our Spanish classes, we speak completely in Spanish. We don’t even say como se dice [English word] en español?
A veces, when we’re walking around town during class, one or more of the trainees will break out some English in conversations amongst ourselves. We always get the look from our profe. I understand that immersion and constant practice are the best (or only?) ways to learn a language, and that it’s easy to use your first lesson as a crutch if given the chance, but after 6 hours a day of Spanish class, I’m exhausted.
So how do you learn new vocabulary if all of your classes are based on a communicative, Spanish-only approach? And when you can’t just give an English word and ask for a translation into Spanish?
Here are a couple of real life examples:
Last week, I was telling a story about going to the park. It had started to rain, and everyone crowded under the gazebo. But how do you say “gazebo” in Spanish? I’d never used the word before (and for the record, I couldn’t remember “gazebo” in English either.) Anyway, I tried to explain that it was kind of a building, that it had a roof and floor but no walls, that it was at the very center of the park and protected us from the rain, etc. Eventually, I learned the word kiosko.
This week, I was explaining family Christmas traditions, and I wanted to say that my mom doesn’t like giving money as gifts because she likes to wrap things to put under the tree. I got halfway through the sentence before I realized that I don’t know the word “wrap.”
So I mimed and said something to the effect of, “when I have a box and I put paper on it.” The palabra I was looking for was envolver. Envolver un regalo.
I can’t really imagine learning Spanish this way if you have no prior Spanish background, but it works okay for us.