My school is a love fest right now, and here’s why.
Bypassing the miracle of modern technology – I paired up with a former classmate and we launched an old-fashioned pen pal project with hard copy letters. We have 122 students from a high school in Huelva, Spain communicating with students in Emmaus, Pennsylvania and their letters have FINALLY reached their destination. I sent our letters on November 30 from my post office in Sevilla and they only just arrived in PA. Really, Spain? According to my cartero (postman), anything weighing more than a certain amount will get sidetracked (aka lost) in aduana (remember this word? CUSTOMS). So a word to the wise – if you need it there quickly, make sure it doesn’t weigh too much. *I will research the exact amount.
– in the US we learn words like “carro” and “computadora” for “car” and “computer” .. here in Spain we use “coche” and “ordenador”
– remember when your professors told you that if you copied and pasted an English text into an online translator, they would know? They were right! We have some interesting conversations in the teachers lounge about translation gone wrong.
– in the US our math classes are given specific names like “Algebra” or “Calculus” .. here in Spain the students take “maths” and it encompasses all of these things.
– similarly, in the US the classes are assigned numbers, designating a level or a grade // eg. Spanish 4 or Algebra 3. My students are completely lost on this one!
– in Spain, our students take a class called “Lengua” which is basically Spanish literature and culture. In the US we refer to this as “English” .. and my students are wondering why Americans would write “My favorite class is English” .. they think, of course it is! you speak the language!
When I showed up with those manila envelopes in my arms, the looks of joy on my students faces and the explosion of energy in the room was beyond comparison. I laughed hysterically, explained “mashed potatoes” many times and had the best time watching their reactions. The US students wrote to us about Thanksgiving, and many sent fantastic photos of their dinners / families / themselves. In turn, my Spanish students will write about Dia de Los Reyes and how that works here in Spain.
Already they are boiling over with questions about Facebook and tuenti (Spanish Facebook) and email. My colleagues and I are trying to hold onto the hard copy dream as long as possible .. but soon we will begin to use epals.com to communicate online. We are hoping for photo and video exchange, and with any luck – some video conferencing in the future.
This confirms my belief that receiving mail is one of the simplest joys in the world. So thanks to the students (and their teacher) for their enthusiastic participation. It brings me great satisfaction to know that through this project some 250 students will think a little bit more about other languages and cultures. Remarkable things happen when you widen your perspective.
… and a special thanks to those of you who grace my personal mailbox with postcards and letters … it really brightens my day 🙂