Elaine Moffat: 30 Years of Linking Language and Culture

Language and culture are inextricably linked. In our languages classes at Greenhills, we take advantage of all of the ways that each of our languages is linked with history, art, music, literature, politics, food, science, geography, dance, play, philosophy, daily life, and just about anything and everything. The areas we can tackle are limitless, hence the challenge and the fun. We can teach the fundamentals of language through ways that appeal to each of our own interests and passions, and to what is going in the world, our students’ lives, and school life in general.

For the past 30 years, I have been developing cultural explorations highlighting diverse Hispanic and Latino traditions by introducing new foods. I used to do this during the longer X, Y, Z periods we had in the previous schedule. Now I can easily do these during our new longer periods. They are my language “labs,” and these are the lessons that students remember most about my classes. Our food tastings enable us to travel all over the Spanish-speaking world and to sample the best and most interesting things, while celebrating different traditions and learning about culture, thereby learning language in very authentic ways. So far this year we have celebrated Chilean Independence Day, studied about Chile, and eaten “alfajores,” a delicious cookie filled with dulce de leche. We will soon be sampling “queso helado,” an artisanal ice cream from Arequipa, Perú, and learning about Perú and Arequipa. Next, we will be talking about the Mexican birthday tradition of La mordida, which will be a total surprise for my students. Finally this semester we will be sampling Mexican “pan de los muertos” in honor of Día de los muertos and all of its beautiful traditions. There will be much more in semester two! Of course, I am always very appreciative of the students and their families who prepare these foods, often at the last minute. ¡Mil gracias!

By Elaine Moffat, Spanish World Language Teacher

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