Fall 2001

SPAN 451: Advanced Oral Spanish

This class meets from August 28 to October 11
Rei Berroa
215E Thompson Hall
Office hours: T W R 15:00-16:00
Krug Hall 209 / T&R 16:30 - 19:10
Tel (703) 993-1241   Tel (703) 993 1245

Rubén Benítez & Paul Smith, Hablando seriamente (Textos y pretextos para conversar y discutir). Third edition. Upper Saddle River [NJ]: Prentice Hall, 2001
_________. The Oxford Spanish Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, latest edition.
Raymond H. Pierson, Guide to Spanish Idioms/Guía de modismos españoles. Lincolnwood: NTC, 1985.
Noble/LaCasa, Complete Handbook of Spanish Verbs. Lincolnwood: NTC, 1990. [Recommended]


The objective of this course is the students' high proficiency at all levels of language use, especially at the colloquial level, as well as on topics of daily conversation and current interest such as art, culture, politics, health, sport, family, and social life. This  will be reached through constant class discussion and daily oral reports. To this aim, the class period is going to be divided into three segments:

1. Warming up: Every day, upon arrival to class, students will be required to move freely around their classmates, greeting everyone, looking for a spontaneous subject for conversation in Spanish, and sharing the idiomatic expressions they have learned at home prior to coming to class (and there will be plenty of them).

2. Report: Every day students will have to report to the rest of the class on the status of their research on a subject previously selected under the supervision of the instructor and on which they will become specialists during this course.  This report could include general news about one or more issues, the government and politics of a region or country, issues related to research in the sciences or humanities, etc., but it should always include a segment on culture.

3. Checkup: Discussion with the professor and other classmates about the assignments for that day. The readings assigned will be selected mainly from the textbook, but also from books, the web, newspapers, etc.

No notes will be allowed during reports and presentations. All assignments must be done at home, so that classroom time should be reserved for oral work. We all should make a commitment to speak only Spanish in the classroom and devote a minimum of 30 minutes a day to speak the language on days we don't meet. Besides the Midterm and Final Exams [see dates ahead], you will be evaluated every day on the areas mentioned above and on every presentation you make in class.


You must be exposed to Spanish and use the language in order to learn it.   So you really want to be in class and benefit from it. Class discussions, presentations, and activities provide the kind of interaction in Spanish that you cannot get at home. For this reason, there is no substitution for attendance. If you are not in class because you are sick or for any other "valid" reason, I am very sorry, but the reality is that you were not in class and you missed all the goodies that come with being physically in the classroom. So you are expected to attend all classes and be on time. If you arrive late, you are disruptive and you may also miss some important information that cannot be repeated every time a student is late. Even if you are sick and cannot come to school, you are still responsible for all material covered in class. Keep in mind that irregular attendance will severely affect your learning process and, consequently, your final grade in this course. Make sure you get the phone number and e-mail address of two classmates.

The Midterm Exam (around September 18) will consist of a 10-minute presentation to the rest of the class. Be prepared for questions after your report (another 10 minutes). This conversation will be recorded so that after your presentation you will be required to listen to it and correct the mistakes you made. The Final Exam (October 11) will consist of a 20-minute group presentation to the rest of the class. [See below for more information on this issue.]
Progress made by students in this class will be evaluated by the following percentage:
Daily presentations: 30%
Active participation in discussions: 30% 
Midterm: 20%
Final: 20%

Participation and class preparation

Participation means active involvement in the class. Students are encouraged to contribute in class discussions and are required to speak only Spanish.

The participation grade includes:

  • your contribution to regular class sessions, group activities and all other discussions;
  • the grades of all daily assignments;
  • your cooperation and leadership in group and pair work;
  • your respect and attitude towards your peers and the class.
In order for you to actively participate in class, you need to read the material assigned for each class and do the activities assigned by the instructor.  Some writing assignments, mainly to show signs of knowing the idiomatic expressions, will be collected regularly.  Homework submitted for correction has to be written legibly [preferably, typed double-spaced].  Late assignments will not be accepted.

Individual (a) and Group (b) Presentation 

Besides daily presentations, there will be two major presentations in this class:  a) the midterm, which will be an individual effort; and b) the final, which will be a group enterprise. The Midterm will consist of an oral presentation [10 minutes] on the culture of your chosen country or the current events of the subject you have previously chosen. There must be a thorough study of the field or fields you have selected for this presentation. b) The Final will consist of a 20-minute presentation to explain the process followed in the production of a video and the reasons for going one way or another [to make your point, you may use segments of the video]. Every one is required to be present at these presentations, since the evaluation of these two projects is a joint venture between the class and the instructor. 

You are responsible for reading at least two Spanish papers from two different countries every day. As mentioned before, you will be asked to inform your classmates about your findings at every class. [Click on QUIOSCO to see newspapers from the Spanish-speaking world].

Como meta diaria y con la ayuda del diccionario, nos hemos propuesto la incorporación de un mínimo de 100 palabras al día a nuestro vocabulario conversacional. [Ver Diccionarios en la red.]  Si llegamos a lograr esta meta, para fines de este curso habremos incorporado a nuestro vocabulario activo de todos los días, la modesta suma de 1400 palabras.  Si a esto sumamos nuestro constante encuentro con las expresiones idiomáticas (50 memorizadas, 20 escritas por clase) [ver un artículo sobre ellas dando aquí], los refranes y dichos populares, los trabalenguas, los chistes, las canciones y las adivinanzas, esta clase puede convertirse en un verdadero arsenal  de nuestro conocimiento a fondo de la lengua. De gran interés para todos deben ser tanto el portal de la Academia de la Lengua como el del Centro Virtual Cervantes que todos debemos visitar con frecuencia para enterarnos de muchas cosas que está haciendo la lengua española para que no se pierda la herencia cultural del mundo hispano. También de interés general puede ser la Página del Idioma Español que informa diariamente sobre temas relacionados a la lengua y la cultura hispana. You can also listen to Spanish speaking radio stations from all over the world. 

P R O G R A M A    D E L   C U R S O
Para cada clase hay que  memorizar un grupo mínimo de 50 expresiones idiomáticas, 20 de las cuales deben ser utilizadas en un párrafo que se debe entregar en cada clase. 

Martes 28 de agosto
Introducción  general al curso y presentaciones de cada estudiante.  Discusión del programa.
Jueves 30 de agosto
1:   Costumbres alimenticias en el mundo actual
Martes 4 de septiembre
2:El dinero, la inflación y el desempleo
Jueves 6 de septiembre
3: El estrés y sus consecuencias
Martes 11 de septiembre
4: El alcohol y las drogas
Jueves 13 de septiembre
5: La desigualdad social entre los sexos
Martes 18 de septiembre
Examen de medio término
Jueves 20 de septiembre
6: La destrucción del medio ambiente
Martes 25 de septiembre
7: Diversidad étnica y discriminación
Jueves 27 de septiembre
8: La presencia hispana en los Estados Unidos
Martes 2 de octubre
9: La revolución tecnológica
Jueves 4 de octubre
10: La influencia de la televisión
Martes 9 de octubre
Descanso: (Fiesta del Encuentro de Dos Mundos)
Jueves 11 de octubre
11: Examen final