Because of America's close proximity to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, Spanish is one of the most frequently spoken foreign languages in the United States. And with the Hispanic population in America greatly expanding each year, learning Spanish has never been more important.
To foster greater understanding of Spanish language and culture in America's students, more teachers must consider foreign language instruction. Spanish language teachers should be experts at improving the Spanish-speaking skills of their students, and educate them about the various cultural differences between America and Spanish-speaking countries.
But before getting the chance to teach this budding group of Spanish speakers, potential teachers must prove they have an understanding of the culture, structure of language, and content expertise required of Spanish language teachers.
Only by obtaining certification are teachers able to show this language mastery, reflecting years of dedication and hard work to linguistics and language acquisition.
What is certification?
Certification is a guarantee that teachers have the educational tools necessary to effectively teach their students. The certification process begins when a potential teacher enrolls in a teacher preparation program, culminating with an examination of the teachers skills, abilities, and knowledge.
The certification standards in each state differ, but most require knowledge of content and teaching styles. For more information on your state's certification process, visit the map of state teaching certification requirements.
The Spanish teacher certification process tests potential teachers on their language comprehension and speech analysis skills, so future teachers must ensure their complete understanding of the subject. In order to pass this rigorous set of standards, what exactly should potential teachers study?
Knowledge of Spanish language content
Before becoming certified, potential teachers must show an ability to communicate efficiently and accurately in Spanish. This includes speaking about topics like home, school, hobbies, and current events in an interpersonal and conversational manner.
Leaders in education expect Spanish teachers to communicate Spanish with native speakers with clarity and precision, without errors in grammar or pronunciation. This includes the various rules that govern the formation of words and sentences in Spanish, such as subject/verb agreement and word order.
During the certification process, potential teachers are expected to show an ability to lead a class, so teachers should prepare to narrate, describe, explain, and use past, present, and future tenses when addressing students.
When leading a class, Spanish language teachers should know how to communicate on topics related to particular interests, disciplines, and situations in everyday life. To prepare for this, potential teachers must gain a thorough understanding of Spanish vocabulary.
During the certification process, potential teachers listen to audio recordings of Spanish speakers consisting of short conversations. They are then asked to correct or describe the structure of the conversation, including vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
Certification standards require potential teachers to show an ability to identify, correct, and analyze errors in pronunciation and grammar in spoken Spanish. This includes false cognates, use of slang, and register errors.
In addition to an understanding of the rules that govern spoken Spanish, potential teachers must also demonstrate an ability to write the language clearly. Certification asks teachers to show how to write about specific topics, like world issues, travel, and family, while showing appropriate style for tone, expressions, and vocabulary choice.
Potential Spanish teachers must exhibit knowledge of the spelling, structure, and punctuation attributes of written Spanish, and be able to break down specific grammatical rules. They should show an ability to identify correct usage of verb conjugations, as well as tense and mood selection.
In addition to teaching language acquisition to their students, Spanish teachers must effectively explain the differences and similarities of Spanish-speaking cultures.
Before becoming certified, potential teachers must demonstrate a knowledge of the geography, history, arts, and literature of Spanish-speaking countries.
Certified teachers understand the differences between these countries, as well as the cultural attributes they share with each other. This includes differences such as greetings, gestures, rites of passage, and attitudes.
For example, potential teachers need to understand that though many Spanish-speaking countries share the language, there are minor differences in pronunciation or word usage that teachers must understand.
Potential teachers must gain knowledge of key cultural traits, and integrate these traits into the classroom setting. While teaching a class about geographic vocabulary, a teacher might include information about how geography has divided and brought together Spanish-speaking countries. This would include information on how geography has shaped art, music, and lifestyles in these countries.
Becoming a certified Spanish language teacher
The road to becoming a certified Spanish teacher is challenging, but rewarding. If you're interested in learning more about your state's certification process, explore the teacher certification requirements map.
Effective Spanish Teachers
When teaching Spanish to students learning a foreign language the first time, teachers should adopt some practices and attitudes that foster language acquisition.
For new language learners, the path to learning a language, as well as the cultural aspects of that language, sometimes seems daunting and implausible.
But many foreign language teachers agree on set aspects of effective foreign language instruction.
In the article “Behaviors and Attitudes of Effective Foreign Language Teachers: Results of a Questionnaire Study,” published in The Foreign Language Annals, researchers examined the most effective teaching approaches used for teaching new students a foreign language.
In the article, Teresa R. Bell surveyed 457 foreign language teachers to develop a comprehensive set of goals, behaviors, and activities that teachers agree increases student interest in foreign languages. Bell notes that foreign language teaching has shifted over the years from a traditional, grammar-based approach, to a more communicative and interactive approach.
Overall, 97% of the teachers indicated that integrating culture and language by using authentic materials in class was one of the best ways of getting students involved in the learning process. By using maps, pictures, artifacts, and food in the classroom, teachers create a more non-threatening and conversational environment that spurs students to participate in class.
In addition to integrating culture in the class, 94% of teachers polled said that they use their target language in the classroom more than English, encouraging students to listen to directions and respond to questions in the target language. For example, a Spanish teacher would explain rules and class activities in Spanish, and expect students to respond in Spanish.
By introducing learning strategies like repetition, imagery, and memory devices, teachers agree that students are best prepared to quickly integrate a target language into everyday communication.