Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Two autobiographical graphic novels for the Spanish class

I'd like two introduce two graphic novels that have two of the features that I have considered important in previous posts: they portray personal stories and deal with controversial issues that can lead to discussions and research in our classes. The authors, Cristina Durán and Miguel Ángel Giner, are a couple of artists from Valencia, Spain. They have produced numerous artworks since 1993 in fields such as text books illustration, publicity, comics, etc. at their own art studio.

In 2009 they published their first autobiographical graphic novel, Una posiblidad entre mil (A chance out a thousand). Cristina and Miguel Angel have their first child, Laia, but her life is at risk starting when she was born due to health issues. Their daily routine consists of visiting hospitals, rehabilitation units and doctors. There is only one chance in a thousand for the baby to survive and she fights to grasp it with all her strength, affecting everyone around her with her zest and optimism for life.

The novel follows the authors' physical and emotional trip until Laia starts to go to school. We witness their devastation when they have to assume Laia´s condition that will affect her for the rest of her life. But we also witness their determination to shower their child with love and care through this often harsh journey.


Some  of the the discussion themes in the novel are:
  • Parenthood
  • The integration of handicapped children and the acceptance of the differences
  • The role of family and society
  • The importance of determination to achieve our dreams
La Máquina de Efrén, published in 2012, is the continuation to Una posibilidad entre mil. The graphic novel continues the journey initiated after Laia's birth. Cristina and Miguel Ángel always wanted to have one more member in the family, an adopted child. Both authors tell us the process of getting an adopted girl from Ethiopia. We experience their excitement, their anguish through all the bureaucratic process and the joy of achieving their goal of having one more child in the family. We also witness their trip to an unknown country for them, Ethiopia, and share their respect for a country full of problems but full of dignity too.


As in Una posibilidad entre mil, there are numerous topics to discuss with our students:
  • Parenthood
  • Responsibility
  • Adoption
  • First world versus third world
  • Multiculturalism
  • The right of everyone to happiness

Our students will definitely enjoy following Cristina and Miguel Angel's emotional journey through parenthood, compromise and commitment to their family and values. They will get attached to the characters and will realize about the importance of learning to respect the differences and being able to accept everyone. 

The authors talk about their work together and about adoption in La máquina de Efrén.
The graphic novels' website.
The authors' study website.
Pillada por ti, a free online comic on violence against women by the same authors.
Article in newspaper El Mundo on Una posibilidad entre mil.
First pages La máquina de Efrén
First pages Una posibilidad entre mil

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Short stories by Gabriel García Márquez for

On April 17 Gabriel Garcia Márquez died in Mexico city. Little is left to be said about one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and, more importantly, one of the most read and beloved worldwide.

Naturally, the best we can do with a writer is to read and to enjoy his or her stories. And García Márquez was a master storyteller. He used the power of imagination to write his  realistic yet magical stories. He also could go deep into people´s hearts and show all the power and contradictions of people´s souls. Furthermore, he was a master of the language rivalling that of Borges. 

I am aware of the difficulty of reading a full novel like A Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish in a secondary school. Luckily for us, García Márquez wrote several novellas, that we could use, and many short stories which students in an IB or bilingual Spanish program can fully understand and enjoy. His first short story, La tercera resignación, was published in 1947 and the author continued writing short stories for almost his entire life.

I'd like to introduce 5 of his short stories, although I am sure that many others can be used.

In the book Doce cuentos peregrinos, short stories Espantos de agosto and Me alquilo para soñar
I recall Garcia Marquez explaining what magic realism is in a interview on television. He mentioned that if we say: "vi un burro volando", nobody would ever believe us. However when we can give many details about a magical or unrealistic situation, everyone would believe us no matter how absurd it is. In the interview he said that if he wrote in a novel "vi 276 burros volando", everyone would believe him. Something similar happens in the short story, Espantos de agosto. The main character visits his friend´s house in Tuscany with his family. The old house was built by a member of the nobility during the Renaissance and it is haunted. As a reader I was not impressed. But when the narrator tells us how they visit the 85 bedrooms in the house, I started to believe that such a house must have at least one ghost and probably more.


Me alquilo para soñar
Garcia Marquez also mixes detailed reality with real-life characters with his magical and ironic world in this story. A lady who has been able to foretell the future of her family since childhood is hired by a rich family in Vienna. She was asked to tell them their fortunes through interpreting her dreams. Garcia Marquez meets her in Vienna and she warns the author to leave the city because he was in danger. When her boss dies years later she moves to a house in Portugal from where she can see the whole sea up to the Americas. Then she will meet Garcia Marquez in Spain during Neruda's visit and we realize that her powers are still intact.

Book, Los funerales de la Mamá Grande, Un día de estos
Garcia Marquez liked to portray Latinoamerica as a land where the supernatural is intertwined with every day reality at all levels. But he was also very critical with the social and political situation of his country, Colombia, and by extension of all Latinoamerica. This short story is a good example to explore this with our students.

Book, La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada, the short story Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes.
This short story is another good example of magic realism. The fate and luck of a poor Colombian family changes when they find an old angel after a storm and take him home. The angel becomes a celebrity and people "from all over the world" come to see him. Things get so complicated that even the local priest has to intervene. After many years living in very poor conditions, the strange angel flies away and the family is relieved.

Ladrón de sábado
This is a beautiful story full of irony and humour. Hugo is a thief who only robs houses on the weekends. One weekend he robs Ana´s house, the conductor of his favourite music radio program when she is at home. He feels so comfortable that he decides to spend the weekend with Ana and her daughter, taking advantage that her husband is away on a business trip. Soon, his weekends will be busier than usual.


There are thousands of websites where we can get information about García Márquez' works, his life and his political opinions. I recommend to have a look at these three web sites:
  • El País newspaper published several articles about the author after his death, we can track his life and his works in this article. His life: http://elpais.com/especiales/2014/gabriel-garcia-marquez/
  • Interview to Chilean writer Isabel Allende, also after his death.
  • Conversation between the Nobel Prizes winners García Márquez and Vargas Llosa, which took place in 1967. They discuss about writing, magic realism, Latinoamerica, their literary influences and many other issues.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Online journals on biligualism, CLIL and language teaching

A very good way of learning about new developments in second language teaching is to regularly read online journals. Fortunately, most of them are either free or just require a reasonable fee for teachers and school districts. As I said, it is essential to keep updated in new developments and to learn about experiences in schools all over the world offering CLIL, bilingual and/or second language courses.

The online journals I (try to) follow regularly are the following. I have copied/pasted the excerpts of the aims for your information.

1. Porta Linguorum, Universidad de Granada.
Numbers published: 21 numbers so far. 
Aim: Porta Linguorum is an international inter university journal specialised in foreign language didactics. It aims to publish empirical studies, critical revisions, and theoretical models related to the factors that influence the teaching and learning process.
Free access.

Numbers published: 22
Aim: The goals of Encuentro are didactic and methodological training, together with the development of reflection and classroom research on the part of language teachers. These goals also govern the content of the journal: applied linguistics, language teaching and learning, the presentation of research and innovations, values and interculturality, literature teaching, and related matters.
Free access.

3. Latinamerican journal, Universidad de La Sabana.
Numbers published: 7
Aim: LACIL is a peer-reviewed journal focused on CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), multilingualism, interculturalism, and Call, throughout Latin America and around the world.
Free access.

Numbers published: 76
Aim: The Asian EFL Journal is published monthly and presents information, theories, research, methods and materials related to language acquisition and language learning. 
Free access.

Numbers published: 7
Aim: The ICRJ is an electronic refereed journal which acts as a platform for researchers across the world who work on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Research in this field is often published in a range of journals reflecting different disciplines. The ICRJ attempts to consolidate insights and research findings into a single publication so as to enhance accessibility to those in the field.
Free access.

6. CLIL journal.
Numbers published|: 4
Aim: to provide an easy accessible and high level resource of information for teachers working on or interested in working in CLIL programs.
Subscription required but the journal can be read online for free.
Free access.

Numbers published: 19
Aim: LFE invites submissions of original full-length articles, short articles and book reviews from scholars in the field of languages for specific and professional purposes. This includes areas of discourse analysis, pragmatics, sociology, contrastive analysis, global languages, development and implementation of specialized corpora and software, learning and teaching techniques and methodology, curriculum development, among others.

Numbers published: 18
Aim: The International Journal of Bilingualism (IJB) is an international forum for the dissemination of original research on the linguistic, psychological, http://www.todoele.net/jslt.htmlneurological, and social issues which emerge from language contact. While stressing interdisciplinary links, the focus of the Journal is on the language behaviour of the bi- and multilingual individual.
Subscription required.

Numbers published: 2
Aim: JICB aims at publishing research on language immersion and other types of content-based language education programmes that are subject matter-driven and subject matter-accountable. The journal provides a forum for research on well-established immersion and content-based programmes as well as research on new initiatives within the broad field of content-based language education.
Subscription required

Numbres published: first issue on June 2014
El objetivo principal de la publicación es crear un forro de debate para investigadores y profesores de español de todo el mundo que contribuya al desarrollo y enriquecimiento de un campo en constante crecimiento. En ella se recogerán trabajos teóricos e investigaciones sobre todo lo relacionado con el español como lengua extranjera.
Subscription required.