What’s Up With These Students?

My Advanced Spanish students are very special. There is a lot of grammar in the course, which always makes me feel apologetic.

“I’m sorry for all these grammar activities,” I told them. “I know they must be boring.”

“No, no!” the students responded enthusiastically. “We LOVE grammar. Can you bring some more grammar exercises? We got together and made a list of topics where we still need some practice.”

This is an Advanced Spanish course, so the grammar we do is very complex. The students, however, can’t get enough of it. They even enjoy learning the terminology.

“When I think about the uses of subjunctive in the adverbial clauses,” one student says in Spanish, “I always enjoy considering how perfectly they transmit shades of meaning.”

It isn’t just grammar that they are good at. As a lab activity, they have read a short story by Horacio Quiroga and analyzed it. The absolute majority of the students came up with such interesting and unexpected readings of the story that I truly enjoyed grading that assignment. Usually, you get one or two people in a classroom who can engage critically with a text. Here, I had one or two people who did not manage to do that and wrote responses that were not very creative. The rest did great.

These students keep coming to my office to practice, to ask questions, and to discuss the subjunctive. I keep harping on the subjunctive because it is probably the most difficult grammar topic in the Spanish language. Normally, people’s eyes glaze over whenever the subjunctive is mentioned. I, however, am a great fan of the subjunctive and even have dreams where subjunctive and I go to the beach together. (Seriously, I do.) Students in this course make me happy because they share my enthusiasm for the subjunctive.

“Do you want me to turn on the subtitles for our movie?” I asked.

“No!” they responded. “We need to practice listening comprehension.”

I know that my readers are probably now waiting for a punchline where I will reveal that these are imaginary students and not the real ones. At least, when I share this with people I know, that’s their reaction. There are so many articles coming out every day that present the generation of today’s students as over-entitled, lazy, and whiny.

The truth is, though, that these are real students. I have no idea why they are so motivated, engaged and enthusiastic. I just hope that this is some sort of a new trend that will continue for a while.

12 thoughts on “What’s Up With These Students?”

  1. πŸ™‚ These things happen sometimes, the stars align and you get a whole class of very driven, enthusiastic students. Enjoy!


  2. Grammar was my favorite part of my language classes. (In high school I took French, German, and Italian, and took Spanish in elementary school — it was mandatory — and two semesters in my first year of community college.) I could happily sit and conjugate verbs the whole day long. Of course, considering my temperament, what do you think was my least favorite part of language classes? Conversation, of course. I had no particular trouble pronouncing the words, but if you tried to get me to have a conversation my brain would short out and I’d become tongue-tied.


  3. I read your work-related blogs mostly to make a good impression on my teachers. You seem to be a big fan of people dropping by at your office, so I’m going to make that part of my daily routine. Thank you πŸ˜‰


    1. And the very best thing you can do to get your teachers to adore you is to ask the following question:

      “Is there any extra reading you can recommend on the topic of today’s lecture?” πŸ™‚

      That makes a teacher’s heart melt.


  4. “I just hope that this is some sort of a new trend that will continue for a while.”
    I also hope so! It must be massive to have students like those!

    just two things to say, as a Spaniard:
    1. oh, please, Grammar in Spanish is not difficult, no matter the level (I know it actually is if your mother language is English, I know, I know, but that thought came so strongly to my mind that I couldn’t stop it)
    2. Well thanks we’ve got “Subjunctive in adverbial clauses” to transmit the shades of meaning because we would not be able to understand each other if we were to rely in lexic!!


    1. “oh, please, Grammar in Spanish is not difficult, no matter the level”

      – Compared to the grammar of Russian, my mother tongue, it is, indeed, very easy. What I like about the Spanish grammar, though, is that it’s very logical and reasonable. Once you understand the underlying philosophy of the language, you don’t need to memorize anything. And I’m happy that my students enjoy this kind of analysis.


      1. Yes, it is indeed reasonable, and that’s why it’s really easy, compared to, as you say, Russian or in my case, Basque. Basque has got a chaotic Hell for grammar!


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