By Diana Chery, World Languages
As educators, I believe, we are committed to honor the subject we teach by bringing as many perspectives and voices as possible to our students. The teaching of a foreign language cannot be detached from historical, social and cultural elements that provide each language with a set of living and multidimensional codes that go beyond grammar and vocabulary.
Thus, an essential component of the Spanish 3A and Spanish V curriculum is the analysis of films that encourage and stimulate further discussion and reflection on various topics from political issues to individual human struggles related to the Spanish-speaking world. One of the films that informs our students about a crucial political and social revolution in Latin America during the 70’s is the Argentinian film La Historia Oficial (The Official Story), which documents one family's experience with the "Dirty War."
Coincidentally, as I was preparing my 3A students to watch this film, I was reading Dr. Margarita Drago’s memoirs about her five years in prison as a political prisoner during the war. Fortunate as I am, I had the honor to meet Dr. Drago a couple of years ago. I asked her to visit and speak about her experience to complement our students' study of the film, and she graciously accepted.
A group of 10th graders (Level 3 Advanced) were the hosts and hostesses of her first talk. They listened to her attentively, then continued with intelligent and informed questions, all of them in the most kind and unassuming fashion. The talk and Q & A was conducted in Spanish. The second session gathered seniors and juniors from Spanish V and IV Advanced. This session in particular revealed a level of confidence and overall understanding that students acquire by studying a second language steadily over the years.
Dr. Drago was impressed and moved to see these young adults using her mother tongue and their target language to communicate their ideas and questions on a topic that transcends their age, historical moment, and geographical place.
This conversation with Dr. Drago was also an interdisciplinary exchange that involved David Higham's (Performing Arts) film class, and a history background so our students were able to perform so wonderfully in their target language.
These young learners had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Drago’s example of courage, creativity, dignity, resistance, and hope. She reminded us all that although the world is stained with cruelty and injustice, there are paths to resist oppression, there are ways to create beauty, and there always are reasons to be kind.