Spanish Summer Language Institute

I will be presenting a poster at the annual ACTFL conference this November titled “Somatic Dialogues: Teaching Foreign Language and Culture Through Immersion”. Click here to access the presentation proposal: ACTFL Presentation Somatic Dialogues

Click here to view the official webpage including proposed Events, Cultural Activities, Lessons, Photos and Videos from the 2012 Spanish Summer Language Institute at North Georgia College.

Related posts by topic:

Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop

Music Activities

Soccer Activities

Cooking Activities

PRAGDA Film Festival Summer 2012

(Click here for more about Film Festival and Film Festival Event Promotion and Teaching Materials)

Cultural Studies in the SLI Curriculum

The following is a summary from my NGC Spanish Summer Language Institute Blog that addresses how I incorporated the film festival into our program curriculum this summer.  Please feel free to visit and explore the blog page for the Film Screenings and related pages from the SLI program.  Some pages are still “under construction” at present.  The students truly enjoyed the experience and it was an opportunity to view a style of film that many of them were unfamiliar with.  My personal favorite was La Yuma– through our discussion of the film, the students came to a better understanding of the protagonist’s struggle and many identified with her laborious physical training and admired her dedication to her boxing dream.  It is always my aim to introduce thought-provoking texts that challenge student assumptions about cultural otherness in the courses that I teach.  The festival offered a superb repertoire for discussions of this nature this summer.


This summer the Spanish Summer Language Institute received a partial grant to hold a Spanish Film Festival featuring 5 contemporary films from Spain and Latin America. This series was made possible with the support of Pragda, the Secretary of State Culture of Spain, and its Program for Cultural Cooperation with United States Universities in collaboration with the North Georgia College 2012 Spanish Summer Language Institute and the Department of Modern Languages.

The experience presented my students with the opportunity to reflect critically on their standard viewing practices and the way that mainstream Hollywood films portray reality.  During our Thursday afternoon meeting of the MLAN 1950 L (Applications in Modern Languages) class, I prepared the students to discuss general themes from the films with a worksheet that introduced the film context, related vocabulary, and questions to draw their attention to general and particular aspects of the film narrative and cinematography.  After screening the films on Thursday evening, we would begin our Friday morning class with a discussion of the film*.  During the discussion, students were encouraged to draw on their own lives and experience as they reflected on the film’s themes, using concrete examples to guide their commentary and discussion of similarities and differences between their own lives and the struggles faced by the films’ protagonists.  Students were aware that they were not to make generalizations about a nation or culture based on the film.  Over the weekend, students were to write a 200-word review of the film to be published on their class blog. The majority of the SLI students said that they enjoyed the opportunity to watch and review films that did not adhere to mainstream Hollywood narrative frameworks and aesthetics and provided insight into the different socio-cultural contexts in which the films were made.  The series included films from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Spain, and Argentina. They explored themes of cultural fusion in music, the struggle for empowerment and autonomy in a context of poverty, artistic collaboration and issues raised by mental health problems.

*This discussion hour was the only class time conducted in both English and Spanish.  According to recent research, allowing students to compare and contrast cultural differences in the L1 allows them to express a more complex understanding and appreciation of these differences.  An advanced understanding and appreciation of cultural differences has been shown to increase L2 Learner ability to engage and interact with native speakers during a future study-abroad experience (ACTFL Annals Spring 2012).

Ethnographic Interview Project
Developing Intercultural Communicative Competence in the Spanish Language Classroom Through Ethnographic Interviews
This Summer the Spanish SLI students had personal access to iPad 2 devices in order to complete 2 Ethnographic Interview projects that would develop program participants Intercultural Communicative Competency skills and prepare them to interact with native speakers during a future Study Abroad experience.  The project was selected among other proposals from NG faculty for this award by the North Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence.  Through this experience the SLI students had the opportunity to engage in dialogue and create friendships with native speakers among the NG International Student population and collaborating faculty members.  It was a rewarding and enriching experience for all involved.  I have included the project proposal and links to related teaching materials below.

 Background and Review of Literature

This project proposal is designed to directly support the Spanish Summer Language Institute (SSLI) curriculum by providing a framework for exercises oriented toward student development of Intercultural Communicative Competency. In addition to fulfilling the requirements for Spanish 1001 (Beginning Spanish Language and Culture), Spanish 1002 (Intermediate Spanish Language and Culture), and MLAN 1950L (Applications in Modern Languages), the SSLI program curriculum is designed to create an on-campus immersion experience lead by Spanish faculty and native speakers that will prepare students to adapt and integrate themselves in the host culture of a Spanish speaking country during a future Study Abroad experience.  This project combines Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) through blogging, Facebook, teleconferencing, and online messaging with Face-To-Face (FTF) interaction with native speakers through cultural activities and Ethnographic Interviews to provide SSLI students with a framework for critical reflection on cultural similarities and differences and through intercultural dialogues with native Spanish speakers.

These methods were inspired by research published in the most recent edition of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Foreign Language Annals (Vol. 45 N. 1, Spring 2012) that elaborate a Project-Based Learning (PBL) methodology that fosters Second Language (L2) student development of Intercultural Communicative Competency (ICC) (Lee, Lina “Engaging Study Abroad Students in Intercultural Learning Through Blogging and Ethnographic Interviews” 7-21).  ICC refers to the ability to reflect critically on the similarities and differences that characterize the L2 student’s culture and the cultures of the language studied and learn to understand and appreciate intercultural experiences and cultural differences.  Through reflective Blogging and Ethnographic Interview assignments during the semester abroad, a group of L2 Study Abroad students in Spain compared and contrasted the unique perspectives and worldview of native speakers with their own, which resulted in a high level of intercultural communicative proficiency among the group. The students demonstrated increased confidence in speaking the target language and an in-depth understanding of the host country’s culture, which helped them adapt to cultural differences and integrate themselves in the local culture during the Study Abroad semester.

The methods outlined in Lee’s study are easily adapted to the SSLI on-campus immersion experience lead by faculty and native Spanish speakers.  During the SSLI, students will engage in experiential learning through performative music and theater activities, sports events, and preparation of traditional foods and celebrations lead by faculty and native speakers.  Faculty and native speaker presenters are encouraged to draw on their own lives and perspectives in their instruction.  The SSLI students are thus provided with opportunities to engage in authentic cultural experiences that they may subsequently reflect on in their blogs and to interview native speakers.


1. Internet access, personal Blogger and YouTube Account

2. Ipad video camera to record Ethnographic Interviews and footage from cultural events

3. Video editing software (I-movie or similar)


1. CMC- Students will design a personal Blog where they will write 3 weekly entries of 150-200 words, reflecting on Spanish culture and current events as studied and experienced in class and through online tools and assignments.  Video footage and relevant clips or links from the Internet should accompany these reflective entries.

2. FTF- Students will conduct 2 Ethnographic Interviews with a native Spanish speaker that elaborates an aspect of culture that has piqued the student’s interest.  The interview should last a minimum of 20 minutes.  Ethnographic Interviewing techniques will be rehearsed in class so that students will be appropriately trained to “ask probing questions to build on what the informant has said until the topic is exhausted” (Lee 18).  Two afternoon classes will be spent rehearsing and preparing interviewers through role-play exercises and guided questions.  Before this class meeting, students must request an interview with a native speaker and have made an appointment with the interviewee.  The interview must be filmed with a a video camera, transcribed, and uploaded to the blog by the following Monday morning.

3. Synthesis- Students will prepare a Midterm and Final project that compiles interview clips, images, and video footage from cultural events and activities on campus.  Students should provide a narration that elaborates their original perspective on an aspect of culture studied during the semester and how their understanding evolved through interviews with native speakers and research, reflecting finally on the similarities and differences in perspectives and how learning more about this aspect of culture might prevent misunderstanding during a Study Abroad experience.  The project must be uploaded on the student blog and will be hyperlinked on a Class Blog run by the professor.

4. Learning Outcomes- Throughout this process, SSLI students will be presented with many examples of potential cultural misunderstanding and the communicative tools necessary to inquire, assess, and understand different cultural perspectives through dialogue.  The Ethnographic Interview process will refine the SSLI students’ ability to engage in conversation as well as help them adapt to cultural differences and integrate themselves in the local culture during the Study Abroad semester.

Proposed Time to be Spent

5-6 hours per project (1 hour in-class and dedicated to interview preparation, 1 hour lab guidance through technology tools, 1 hour sharing and presenting in class spread out over 4 days, 3 hours review and feedback to students)

Links to pdf files Ethnographic Interview Project Descriptions and Grading Rubrics

Ethnographic Interview #1

Grading Form Interview #1

Ethnographic Interview #2

Grading Form Interview #2

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