Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Making Spanish lessons fun


PAINTING: Camp assistant, Ruthy Albornoz helps children at the camp with a craft project. —Photos: STEPHEN DOOBAY

Mark Fraser


CRAFT: Children followed instructions in Spanish and made clocks to indicate the time given.

Mark Fraser

Given our close geographical proximity to Venezuela, there are still many Trinidadians and Tobagonians who cannot speak Spanish. 

“Hola” — “hello”, “Buenos dias” — “good morning” and “me llamo” — “my name is” ... are common Spanish greetings many people learnt at school. However while some words are easy to recall, conversationally many people often find themselves struggling to communicate with someone from a Spanish-speaking country.

Nekeisha Marshall after having successfully passed through Trinidad’s secondary school Spanish-and-French learning system found that she was in a similar situation. The focus, she noted while there was more on theory of language learning and not practical. She felt that it was time for something to be done.

Marshall made it her goal to become the leading provider of one of the most important skills in language learning: oral communication. She founded the Foreign Language Development Association (FLADA) in 2012 with her first event, the Kids Spanish Funics Camp. The association was however, officially established in 2013.

With the aim for citizens in Trinidad and Tobago to become bilingual, Marshall wanted to show that learning a foreign language can be fun. As the founder and executive director of FLADA, Marshall along with her team gives children the opportunity to learn the theory as well as the practical side of Spanish. 

Located at #9 Hamilton Street, Woodbrook, behind One Woodbrook Place, the camp is now in its second year and caters to children between three years old and ten years old.

Marshall said, “Hosting camps with native and partial native speakers are the fastest way to get children actively engaging with the Castilian language because they pick up the language from the speakers as they present the language within specific contexts during the camp. This model is the same as if one of us was learning English from our parents after birth it is through the same contextual references that we first learn language communication.”

Since back in 2003 it has been a dream of Marshall’s to pursue languages and business. “The purpose of the camp is to show children that learning Spanish can be fun and they can actually learn to speak the language in the correct context as opposed to just learning grammar from the book. Children learn the basic useful grammatical structures during the day and then in the afternoon they do a presentation, in Spanish of course, of what they learnt i.e. The theme of the day.”

“We also bring culture into the camp where children learn to make Hispanic finger foods step by step in Spanish for example mazapan, a Colombian sweet and arepa, a typical Spanish food. As we plan the camp in the last two weeks of August the children also get to explore the topic of “My Country” in commemoration of Trinidad’s Independence. All the activities incorporate learning Spanish through fun games, songs, arts and craft showing the children how to apply the language,” Marshall said.

Marshall also noted that some of the academic themes at the camp have been focused on teaching and reinforcing numbers, colours, animals, shapes, parts of the body, fruits, instruments, professions and food. 

“I think it is imperative that as a country we form bilingual citizens. The world has become a much smaller place to conduct business. Simply take a look in the grocery of the amount of Spanish products in the isles. Knowing that a country prospers through international trade we need to expand our reach and services to Latin America. Transacting business with Latin Americans in their native tongue facilitates smoother business relationships. Once one understands what is needed in the future then it is easy to see that the second language learning process should start when children are young.”

“Overall each camp is a stepping stone for participants to acquire Spanish communication with a principal focus on oral communication. FLADA this year also hosted a secondary school camp called Camp Latino and then Kids Spanish Funics Camp... ¡Olé! with preschool and primary school children,” Marshall said.

The Kids Spanish Funics Camp began August 19 and ended August 30.

For more information about how to register your child for the next cycle, send an e-mail to spanishfunics@gmail.com.