Baylor offers course for native Spanish speakers

Pablo Gonzales | Assistant News Editor

By Pablo Gonzales | Assistant News Editor

Se habla español? Did you know that Baylor offers a Spanish course for students that are native Spanish speakers?

The department of modern foreign languages and cultures, division of Spanish and Portuguese offers this specialized course and has grown in popularity among students who grew up speaking Spanish.

SPA 2304: Spanish for Heritage Speakers, is a special Spanish language course for students who already speak, read, and understand Spanish on a fluent or almost-fluent level, according to the Baylor Undergraduate Handbook.

Dr. Karen Lopez-Alonzo has taught the course for the past two semesters. Before last semester, it had not been taught since the fall of 2015.

Originally from Nicaragua, Lopez-Alonzo has taught college Spanish and Spanish linguistics for 20 years, but only at Baylor for two. Dr. Lopez-Alonzo wants to reach the students that have experience speaking Spanish at home, but may not have the formal education in Spanish.

“The students in my class are ones that grow up with Spanish at home and may or may not have not had formal language education,” Lopez-Alonzo said. “Most of them hear Spanish at home and speak Spanish at home, but hear and speak English when they go out.”

Lopez-Alonzo designed the course to be a review of grammar, vocabulary and writing with practical applications. Every class is different, one day might be a lecture, another day might be a group discussion over an assigned reading. She pulls in real examples from movies and television shows to make connections with topics in class.

“We look at television shows like ‘¿Qué Pasa, USA?’ and ‘Jane the Virgin’ and discuss some of the words that are used and talk about why they might have been used over other words,” Lopez-Alonso said. “We talk about how the use has changed today and compare it to how we speak Spanish.”

Student enrollment in the course has grown each semester. The course saw its highest enrollment with 11 students in the class.

Houston senior Alexys Uresti said she is very thankful to have taken the class and learned from Lopez-Alonzo.

“This class allowed me to better my formal writing instead of just focusing on a conversational setting,” Uresti said. “This class is helpful for Latino students who speak Spanish because the subjects we cover go deeper into the cultural aspects of our Spanish heritage. This class gives us opportunities to discuss with other classmates and see different perspectives on issues that wouldn’t normally be discussed in an introductory class.”

Lopez-Alonzo said she believes that this class offers heritage Spanish speakers a chance to feel proud of their culture and their language. Lopez-Alonzo also said she wants her students to be able to re-claim their language and find a sense of ownership in it.

“This class is bringing recognition and pride to a minority group,” Lopez-Alonzo said. “This class brings acceptance, joy and grace to these students. It brings a lot of ease to the personal history of all the students who take it. Students have the opportunity to come to class and strengthen the skills that they already have. Students are re-claiming their identity and learning to be proud of who they are.”