Students of Spanish at U of T connect with Mexican university students for language exchange

February 9, 2021 by Berenice Villagómez

On February 8, 2021, students in a section of SPA100Y1 (Spanish for Beginners) led by Prof. Juan Carlos Rocha Osornio had the opportunity to practice their newly acquired knowledge of the preterite verb tense with students at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (UAEH) in Mexico via remote meeting.

In an effort to combat the onset of Zoom fatigue in his course, Prof. Rocha Osornio organized the language exchange to give our students a chance to do something different in the classroom. The aim of the session was to reenergize them as they continue learning Spanish: while students interact with new people, they also engage in peer-to-peer learning, and maybe even make new friends. In addition, our students in Canada (and those connected online from all around the world), helped their Mexican counterparts with their English language skills, thus making this session truly collaborative and reciprocal in nature.

According to Marko Dakic, a student in attendance, the first session was a success. Dakic appreciated the opportunity to practice in a more relaxed environment and to use everything they have learned in class so far: “While we are normally provided the opportunity to speak in class, it is limited by the fact that there are a lot of students in the course, and we tend to practice (out of necessity) the topic of the day. Having fluent speakers of Spanish in the class allowed everyone to participate, and to try to communicate their ideas with the words and grammatical structures that we have learned.” He also added:

The event was a great opportunity to meet new people and learn from them, share our experiences of learning languages and university in general. This was especially nice given that in the time of COVID-19, most students cannot even be on campus, let alone travel anywhere to meet new people and have new experiences.

The Mexican students who participated in this meeting are currently working towards all kinds of degrees at UAEH. This is one of the very few universities in Mexico that has invested heavily in their internationalization efforts. For instance,through its Language Center, UAEH plays host to the International Language Congress (CIL), a premier biennial conference dedicated to all aspects of innovation in foreign language teaching – including the design of online learning environments.

Due to the success of the first meeting, Prof. Rocha Osornio has organized a language exchange meeting open to all our Spanish students, regardless of proficiency level. Join us this Friday, February 12 at 3:00 PM, EST.

Dakic had this to say to his fellow students:

I am excited [for the next session planned for Friday]. I would strongly encourage any students that can attend to do so. From my own experience, the more you apply the things that you learn in a language class the better off you will be and the faster you will learn the language. The more mistakes you make now, in a relaxed and informal environment, the more you will learn, and more importantly, your confidence in the language will grow. When it is time to use the language in the real world, you will be less nervous, make less mistakes, and be able to communicate effectively.