Teaching and learning a second language is much more than verb conjugations

Denise Hatcher

Deniste Hatcher, Associate Professor of Spanish

Denise Hatcher, Associate Professor of Spanish, is making a case for how learning a second language is linked to  being a better learner. She recently shared her thoughts with colleagues during the Aurora University Faculty Teaching and Research Symposium.

“I know that everyone didn’t have a positive experience learning a second language, and so I wanted to inform my colleagues how second language teaching has changed,” said Hatcher.
“I think all teachers can benefit from ‘reframing,’ an idea described by author Dave Burgess in which students form new opinions about subject matter. Reframing helps break down the negative associations that people might have with different subjects.”

Hatcher explained that her teaching methods help to reframe how some people may perceive learning a second language. She shared that in addition to courses that focused on teaching language, the AU Spanish curriculum includes studying culture, interpersonal skills and metacognitive strategies.

“One of the reasons I became a second language teacher is because of the variety of learning experiences I had in my own second language classrooms as a student,” said Hatcher. “Most second language classrooms are not lecture-based since they involve vocabulary and vocabulary building skills as well as grammar and culture. I believe it is important that students are active participants in their own learning, and so I do activities such as having students stand up to ‘earn their seats’ by completing such tasks as translating a vocabulary word orally and then writing it on the board before sitting.

“I think some of the activities in Spanish class can help develop better students,” said Hatcher. “One thing I do is teach students to learn how they best learn—for example, how do they learn vocabulary? I encourage them to be creative and make flashcards, lists, draw pictures, write definitions and sentences, and use computer aids. Many second language learning teaching techniques are shared by English as a second language and bilingual education teachers as well because all of these educators are trying to complete the same task: teach reading, writing, speaking and listening language skills.”

Hatcher added that there is an understanding among her colleagues that learning Spanish is a wonderful way for AU students to set themselves apart when they begin to look for jobs. This past fall two of her Spanish students were offered jobs before they had even completed their student teaching. Both students credited Spanish with making the difference.

To learn more about the Spanish program, visit aurora.edu/spanish.