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Learning Spanish, from Chile

  • Spencer LeFlem of Peterborough chatting via Skype with Spanish students from Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative.  —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Spencer LeFlem of Peterborough chatting via Skype with Spanish students from Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative.  COURTESY PHOTOS



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:6PM

In her first year as a Spanish teacher at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative school, Marie Ainaire knew that she wanted to get students talking to more fluent speakers. She even had a way to do it: Skype.

“One of my biggest goals is to have students speaking more in Spanish. I wanted to have more of an authentic experience than just talking to me, or to students who are at their own level,” said Ainaire.

Luckily, Ainaire has friends from or in several Spanish speaking countries. And while she was considering the idea, librarian Amy White had a suggestion: Make it into a mystery. 

So, Ainaire told her students that she would set up a Skype session with a friend of hers in a Spanish-speaking country. The question was, which country?

First mission: Information gathering.

The students from the middle school Spanish and Spanish I classes each did reports on one of the 22 countries in the world where people speak Spanish, using their preliminary vocabulary to gather facts – where the country is located, what geographic features are around it, the colors of the flag, and so on. 

Then, armed with notes from their own presentations and their classmates, they set up their first Skype call. They had to ask their questions in Spanish, because their guest didn’t speak any English – or so they were told.

“They would ask, ‘Are you in Europe?’ and he said ‘No.’ So, they crossed out Spain,” explained Ainaire. “They would say, ‘Are you on an island?’ and he said ‘No,’ so they were able to eliminate Cuba, and so on.”

Finally, with a question about whether the president of the country was a man or a woman, they were triumphantly able to declare that the man resided in Chile.

Then, they were able just to have a conversation with him, one of the points of the exercise. And they were very surprised, after being told that the man didn’t speak any English, when they asked where he was from and the answer was “New Hampshire.”

Spencer LeFlem, of Peterborough, has been in Chile for the past seven months on a teaching excursion.A friend of Ainaire from their time at University of New Hampshire, LeFlem agreed to be the first experiment in Ainaire’s Skype sessions.

But, said Ainaire, she hopes that he’s not the last. 

“I have other friends, so I’d like to do it again,” said Ainaire. “And hopefully get someone who really doesn’t speak English.”

Also, said Ainaire, since LeFlem anticipates staying in Chile over the next few years, she’d like to set up an exchange between her Spanish students and his English students, in a pen-pal program or exchanging Skype calls.