Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer vacation (after the flood)

It has been a hard school year for me. I have been doing a job that is quite different from what I had in mind in 2012 but every cloud has its silver lining, todo tiene su lado bueno. I have learned a lot, even enjoying different challenges along the way.

For everybody who has kept up with the news, the flood waters in Calgary have finally receded! I hope everyone is safe and can go back home as soon as possible! I understand how it feels because we are still evacuated ourselves! Anyway, I am going on holiday in a few days and will be visiting my family and friends in Spain. I plan to charge  my batteries so I won´t post new entries until most likely the end of August.

I´ll take my homework with me though. These are some topics I want to spend time reflecting about so new ideas and new energy can be posted in the new school year. I would like to:
  • spend some time redesigning the blog´s layout.
  • explore the expansion of my blog and ideas through social media, something I have been delaying for some time.
  • catch up with some literary novelties. There are three books I look forward to having the time to read because they can be a good resource for my Spanish classes: Yo soy el cero by Luis Balbuena, Las nueve cifras y el cambiante cero by Bernardo Recamán and La estrategia del parásito by César Mallorquí. I am sure new titles will pile up on my desk soon.
  • catch up with some articles on bilingual education and CLIL. I have neglected this part in the blog in the last months and I want to make sure that the blog is a good tool to learn more about bilingual education and CLIL.
  • watch some films in Spanish I missed in the last two years. I am particularly interested in some of the last Mexican films such as: Heli, La jaula de oro and Nosotros los nobles.
The original plan is to have new materials and ideas to start the school year with plenty to write about in the blog.

I look forward to your visits, comments, and support and wish everyone a wonderful, restful summer! See you in August!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Approaches to bilingual education in European countries

The blog mantained by Pilar Torres is a great source of information about second language acquisition, bilingual programs, CLI, cooperative projects and much more. Her posts have been featured on my blog before and it won't be the last!

The Centro de Profesores in Cordoba, Spain, where Pilar is an advisor, has recently organized a Study Visit called "The ABC of Plurilingualism in Andalusia". The Study Visits programme, for education and vocational training specialists and decision makers, "is an initiative of the European Commision's Directorate-General for Education and Culture. Its objective is to support policy development and cooperation at European level in lifelong learning, notably in the context of the Lisbon process and the education and training agenda 2020 (E&T2020), as well as the Bologna and Copenhagen processes and their successors." (Source: Directorate-General for Education and Culture's website)
Experts involved in bilingual programs from 11 European countries took part in the Study Visit and learnt first hand about the bilingual programs in Andalusia, Spain. They also introduced the language and bilingual programs in their respective countries. Twelve presentations are available online that portray different realities and ways of implementing bilingual programs. Ireland's experiences are particularly interesting, efforts are aimed at increasing the knowledge and daily use of their native language, Gaelic Irish, in the battle against the dominance of English. Another interesting case is Hungary and their goal to preserve Hungarian minority cultures in such as Romania or Slovakia.  The twelve presentations show a different scenario but with in many cases similar challenges ahead.

report by Pilar Torres about the rationale behind bilingual programs and their implementation in Andalusia is available in the same post. I have mentioned in previous posts that the approach to bilingual programs in that Spanish province is very thorough. I highly recommend you to read the whole report to fully understand the work that they've done in the last 20 years. Some of the strong points of the bilingual programs in Andalusia are the following:
  • The existence of a log term program that goes from kindergarten to the last year of secondary education.
  • It is a program open to all students and there are not prerequisites to start the program.
  • The concept of multilingualism : students are encouraged to take another language outside the two working languages in the bilingual program. This concept of multilingualism is even more obvious with the launching of bilingual programs in not so popular languages in Spain such as Chinese or Portuguese.
  • Collaboration with other countries is encouraged so students can get a dual diploma at the end of the some of the bilingual programs (French and soon Chinese).
  • The use of language assistants as key resource for students and teachers.
  • The compromise of initial and continuous training for the teachers working in the bilingual programs.
  • The establishment of an international teacher network to create quality resources available online.
  • The placement of a bilingual program coordinator in every school.
  • Schools normally use a CLIL approach when implementing bilingual programs.
The program's strengths are obvious but there are also challenges ahead such as how to integrate students with learning disabilities in a bilingual program, or how to create attainable, rigorous benchmarks for all the students. And we should not forget the effects of the crisis in programs like the language assistants or the in-service programs for teachers.

All the participants in the Study Visit agreed to present closing remarks with proposal and ideas to better face the challenges for the future. We can certainly learn a lot from their challenges because we face many similar ones too. We should continue to build the foundation of this kind of international collaboration to improve the quality of our bilingual programs.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A publicity campaign for the Spanish class: Football!

I have just read an article in the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, about a publicity company and the campaigns they have been creating for the football team Atlético de Madrid. In the article we find some interesting points about the rationale behind the commercials that the creators mention:
  • Publicity has to be part of entertaining
  • The football team does not pay to show the commercials on TV or in the Internet, they are shown through social networking websites and they become very popular.
  • The campaign speaks about a way of understanding life and about feelings. Supporting this team means something else, to be part of a group who share the same sentiments. But these sentiments are often not happy ones as the commercials often depict supporters suffering at their team's defeats.
  • The creators would only advertise for the team they love.
1. Papá, ¿por qué somos del Atleti?, 2005. Supporting a team means to transmit this passion to our children. Even if they don´t understand the reasons at first. When the team was not doing so well, its fans were still with it.

2. Me mata, me da la vida, 2006. We can change jobs, careers, give up smoking and, even giving a pass to a glass of wine. Yet, we can never abandon our football team. This is lasting love.

3. Commercial in Europe. After many years struggling in the Spanish league, even in the second division, Atlético de Madrid gets a position that allows them to play European championships. At that time, 2008-9, a unit of Spanish blue helmets was posted in Kosovo. Naturally, you not only transmit your passion for your football team to your children and everyone you meet, even new friends who know about fate and bad luck much more than any football team (below).

4. Spot Inmigrante, 2008. The commercials have proven very popular because the writers use material that viewers can relate to and reflect the social situations of the times. When immigrants came to Spain, they were encouraged to become fans of this football team, a team that welcomes everyone and to share the same great passion and pride that makes the team. It is very interesting how the life of these immigrants is portrayed.  

5. Commercial Crisis, 2012. And the crisis again. But supporting this team will give you strength to cope with everything. You not only support the team, you share its principles and spirit.

This campaign series is a good tool that documents the changes in Spain over the last few years as one new commercial is filmed each year. They are also good at showing what being part of a football team means in some cultures. Its meaning goes further than sport. These commercials are also linguistically very interesting to work in a class, especially commercial numbers 2 and 4. And there is always the possibility of trying to find more, this is just a selection of commercials.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Commercials in Spanish at El Sol

Living in Canada and having limited access to Spanish speaking TV channels have "forced" me to look for alternative ways of finding interesting resources in Spanish for our classes. A website I visit  regularly to keep updated about commercials in Spanish is El SolFestival Iberoamericano de la comunicación publicitaria. The festival started in 1986 and has been growing steadily since then, from 290 spots to over 2,500 in the 2013 edition. All Spanish speaking countries, USA included, have presence in the festival and since 2003,  Portuguese ones were also featured.
In the website we get information about 2013 finalists and this year´s winners. The awards are organized in several categories and 3 awards are given in each of them. There is also a repository with all the winners since 1990, which can serve as a great wealth of resource for our classes.
I am going to spend some time going through all of 2013 winners but having a look at the finalists I could not help but revere at the  two commercials from Argentina new film festival in Hollywood, 2012. Again, as in the commercial from 2009 that I introduced before, the campaign is full of  humour and irony. Again the authors play to everyone's need for belonging to a group. The Argentinian cinema is different from Hollywood productions because Argentinians can portray the feelings and emotions of a different society in very accurate ways. Even viewers used to Hollywood-style cinema can identify with the characters and find these commercials refreshing. 

1. Happy ending?

2. Tough guys, Argentinian version.

The Argentinian cinema is so good that we need to rush to watch it before other cultures copy and adapt these brilliant ideas.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Commercial campaigns for the Spanish class

A good resource for the Spanish class is to use some of the commercials produced by non-profit organizations or government campaigns. In the case of non-profit organizations, their campaigns are aimed at raising awareness about the situation in third world countries, the problems children encounter in situations of social exclusion or the need to give a step forward and help to make our world more sustainable, just to give a few examples.

Other campaigns we can use are the ones created by provincial or national governments again trying to promote healthy habits among citizens such as avoiding drug abuse. Other campaigns may target fundraising for humanitarian causes. 

As we can see the topics are very interesting and deal with issues that affect our students directly. We can use these commercials to target students' research and analytical skills as well as bring awareness to current issues affecting our society and the world. I am going to introduce 4 commercials that can be used in Bilingual or IB classes.

1. Government campaign against drug consumption by Ministerio de Sanidad in Spain. While the numerous anti-drug campaigns indicate that substance abuse amongst young people continues to be a serious issue, these commercials are also educational linguistically.

2. Campaign to raise Internet safety awareness. Campaign from a provincial government in Spain points out the dangers of putting too much personal information on the web. Once our profile is on the web, it belongs to everyone.

3. Campaign by Acción sontra el hambre. This is a simple but powerful advertisement with a beautiful message. Hunger is a huge problem in today´s world. It seems the children are the smartest here, hinting that world hunger can actually be solved quite easily. Perhaps this is some "food for thought" for adults!

4. Campaign UNICEF`. An interesting presentation regarding child hunger. It tells us how we can help much by giving little. We can do some work with our students using "cumplir años" and "cumplir días".

The campaigns created by non-profit organizations and governments can be a powerful resource in our Spanish classes. The language is simple enough to use in the lower grades. They also deal with current issues that affect us all and with topics which can be introduced in other subject areas.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Commercials: Reflecting the crisis

In this post I am going to revisit an old topic: the current economical crisis in Spain. I have already introduced resources which will give students a foundational understanding of the situation. I am interested to see how this crisis is affecting all levels of society and mainly common people. It is also making citizens lose faith in their leaders and institutions. According to reports, the country's morale is at one of the lowest in the country's history.

I have also introduced commercials before. They are one of my favourite resources for the class because they usually give us a lot of information about a country, a society and the historical moment they were produced. In a time when everything seems bleak, Spanish companies have capitalized on "feel good" commercials that boast and celebrate the many successes of Spanish people in various fields as a way to sell their products. Obviously, the companies are masters of psychology and an increasing amount of Spanish viewers find themselves being able to relate to these televised vignettes. While these stories are used to boost business, I think they have made a difference in society by helping viewers feel things in a more positive light.
The first commercial I'd like to introduce is from a food company, Campofrío. In 2011, they produced a commercial with some of the most popular Spanish comedians. It proved very popular and a sequel was made the following year. For a Spanish class, the second commercial produced in 2012 "El curriculum de todos", (everyone's curriculum) is more useful. One of the comedians from the prequel decides to write a list of greatest achievements by Spanish people in history. He is helped by lots of popular and anonymous people along the way. Together, they mention the Nobel prizes, the Oscars in Hollywood, the campaigns of organ donors and many more. It gives a lot of cultural information for a Spanish class.

Few things have given more grieve to Spanish people than the Spanish national football team. The expression: "jugamos como nunca y perdimos como siempre" (we played like never before and we lost like always) has been repeated again and again any time there was a major international championship... until 2008. This year was the hay days for Spanish sports. It is no wonder that in many different commercials popular companies try to remind everyone in Spain how good we can be. It seems this is the main message: Spanish, we are good, buy our product. They neither describe the product nor even mention what it is: everyone knows the brands behind them.
In the first commercial NBA player Gasol,  football world champion, Iniesta, and tennis star, Nadal, go through the last successes by Spanish sportspeople in the last years. The commercials ends with a powerful slogan: in these times of darkness, everyone of us still can be the light for our country.

In the second commercial a narrator is talking about some of the Spanish national sins: no work ethics, individualism,  lack of planning while we watch anonymous citizens trying to prove the opposite. Then it is some of the most famous Spanish sportspeople who appear in the commercial while the narrator continues talking about the fate of the country, just able to be the last in the line. Then the slogan: there is one Spain admired by the world. Sport is like this. It is not clear what they try to sell... well the newspaper behind the commercial is very popular.

Another company goes one step further: it is the football world champions who applaud and recognize the achievements of prestigious scientists, architects but also of normal people who work hard to do better in their lives. The slogan tries also to be encouraging: because we not only play football well. Everyone needs to be given the credit they deserve.

These are commercials that speak to our self-esteem, sense of achievement and confidence. The companies seem to be sure that people will buy their product by talking to our sentiments rather than to our reasoning. These commercials are a reflection of the situation in Spain but they try to find the positive side of the crisis and give some hope to people, even if only it is to make us buy more. I think that they can be a good tool for bilingual and IB classes. We can use them to talk about the situation in Spain, understand a bit more about the culture and get to know some famous sportspeople. They also can be a good tool to analyse commercials and their components.