El pescado peligroso y el muchacho


alicante 1



The “boy” and the dangerous fish
Ok for those of you who don’t speak Spanish the title might be a bit challenging and even for those of you who do you might be wondering what on earth I am on about. I have just returned from the most amazing experience as a student on a summer school in Alicante. This blog is primarily about work – research etc. but I wanted to post something to reflect on the experience as I think it is relevant both in terms of an example of a learning experience AND the issue of technology-mediated learning versus face to face support. I’ve blogged a few times before about this. The title translates “the dangerous fish and the boy”, which was the nickname for two of my fellow students Gerald and Anthony. Can’t remember why they were called that but there you go! 


alicante 2It was a fantastic experience and I feel I have learnt more in a week that on the whole course. I wanted to reflect on why it was such a good experience and why I feel it’s being so useful. I think there are a number of factors. Firstly the intensity of it, non-stop immersion in the language. We all totally freaked out when we arrived Saturday to be confronted in class solely in Spanish. I got off to a bad start when I was asked “Donde vives?” (where do you live?) I replied that I liked fizzy water, tea and wine. Oh dear, oh dear… Secondly there is no doubt about it the tutors (Judit, Rosa and Fernando) were fabulous – energetic, sympathetic and able to react to what was happening in the class. Thirdly the contact with other students – sharing war stories, finding out that I wasn’t the only one who tended to do nothing and then work like mad just before an assignment was due, sharing learning strategies, figuring out street signs together. How sad is it when a group of you get really excited when you understand a street sign and realise it’s using the imperative? And what do you reckon “melon piel sapo” means? A fellow student M.A. and I had great fun trying to find out from a shopkeeper. The answer? It’s obvious! “Melon with the rough skin of a frog”! Fourthly the chance to practice – to talk!!! Languages are not dry academic subjects, they are conversational, living – you can only learn so much from books. As I have blogged before I think LXZ194 is a great course  - the materials, activities and audio tracks are excellent, BUT I have really missed having contact with other students. That shared camaraderie is such a critical part of being a student and more importantly I think a really key part of the learning process. So what does this mean in terms of technology-mediated learning? I am afraid there is just something about face-to-face learning that can’t be replicated online. Don’t all shout at me about second life etc, etc. Yes I think you can do a lot in audio or video conferencing, or immersive 3D worlds but I still think there is something unique and special about face-to-face interaction. For me the week was a learning-fest of sound, vision, contact, interaction… that together just made such a difference in terms of my level of Spanish and equally importantly my motivation for learning. It’s even made me want to continue to go on and do the next course in February! Mind you I haven’t done the exam for this course yet… Anyone out there thinking about learning Spanish I thoroughly recommend the course (and that’s honestly as a student not as an OU employee) BUT I recommend you sign up for the additional summer school as well – it’s worth every penny.  

5 Responses to “El pescado peligroso y el muchacho”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I would have to wholeheartedly agree with Grainne’s comments. A very worthwhile week! I was struggling to finish the end of the course with events in my personal life and this week has given me the confidence, skills, strength and motivation to know that I can finish it now, and can enjoy doing so too! It’s great to link up with fellow students and revise the Portales course, whilst catching some sunshine and scenery! It exceeded my expectations and I am thrilled to have come away having made some great friends as well. This is my first O.U course and Portales is written really well and is very user friendly. The Spanish Intensives week is the perfect compliment to this and arrives at a time that is appropiate to the course calendar. I feel like my language skills have taken a huge step forward and can’t wait to continue learning such a beautiful language through the O.U and the Spanish Intensives weeks at the end of each course. It’s also like a big reward at the end of your year’s study to enjoy being in Spain and progress whilst having fun.

  2. Gráinne Says:

    And a fab bunch of people too - great to have met u Sarah


  3. Sue Pardo Says:

    I am sorry guys. Although I am just about to do my level 2 exams with the OPen U. I am sorry to say there are not enough one to one tutorials like you would get at a real university. Aolso even though the cousre materials are good 80 % of language communication is non verbal SO face to face cannot be replaced. E learning is ok for you techno people but you still have over 30% of the uk not on line and probably over 40% of the poorer areas . I know I worked as a community development worker for Liverpool City coucil. I used to say you can find it on the web. BUT most people really don’t know how to use technology well including my self. I teach Spanish in Adult education. Most centres have just about got a flip chart nevermind interactive boards with laptops.

  4. Gráinne Says:

    Hi Sue

    i agree with you - there IS is a difference between having face to face contact and doing things online, half the trick is working which is most appropriate when and also linking in pragmatics in terms of people’s availability to attend face to face things or not. It will be interesting to see where newer communicative tools- for audio, video and virtual worlds fit in all this. I suspect it will be a mix - with personal preferences and ways of working playing a big part.

  5. lindsay Says:

    The language is a barrier and understanding is difficult but a lot of the meaning is in body language and that translates pretty well anyway. Sounds like an adventure.

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