Learners: Activity 1

Learners' characteristics

Please read the information about learner characteristics before working through these activities.

Review Henry and Raúl’s individual characteristics based on their interviews:

  1. Their age when they began learning Spanish
  2. Amount and kind of exposure to Spanish they’ve had, whether communication-oriented or accuracy-oriented
  3. Their present orientation to either communication or accuracy
  4. Educational and literacy level; present and past purposes for learning Spanish
  5. Personality
  6. Motivation
  7. Learning styles and strategies

Raúl Interview
Transcript (PDF)

Henry Interview

Transcript (PDF)


Question 1:

How long have Henry and Raúl  been learning Spanish, and what kind of exposure to Spanish have they had? Did they learn Spanish in a more communication-oriented or accuracy-oriented way?

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

Henry’s first exposure to Spanish was in kindergarten, for one hour a week. However, most of his Spanish learning was in high school where the focus was on accuracy. He has not spent extensive time in a Spanish-speaking context. His purpose for learning Spanish is his interest in Spanish history; as a history major he hopes to minor or double-major in Spanish. He describes his strengths as conjugating verbs, writing, and reading. Since the majority of his experience has been in atraditional classroom setting, it's likely that Henry's orientation might be more accuracy-focused. On the other hand, as you see in these videos, he is a risk-taker with the language, and tries to talk with native speakers outside of class, which may mean he he is more communication-focused.

Raúl’s first (home) language was Spanish; it was his only language until about age 8, when he attended an after-school English program. When he moved to the US at age 9, he learned English through “submersion” and with support from a school teacher; at that point his Spanish skills stopped developing. Now a college senior, he only uses Spanish weekly when he speaks with his parents. He has never taken a Spanish course and says he can’t use Spanish vocabulary to talk about his major and career path. In this way, his orientation is definitely communication-focused. He says his vocabulary is limited to expressing emotions or memories of his childhood; it is the language of his fourth-grade self. It is much easier and more natural for him to think, describe his adult life, and communicate in English.


Question 2:

Did Henry and Raúl begin learning Spanish before the end of the critical period?  What is their present purpose in continuing to learn Spanish?

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

Henry was exposed to Spanish in Kindergarten (during the critical period, by age 6), but only for one hour a week; he didn’t begin really learning to use Spanish until high school. In an unrecorded meeting, Henry told us that he is very interested in the history of Spain and this supports his motivation to learn Spanish. (The National History Center released this statement in 2009: “When possible, foreign language competence and foreign study should be encouraged so that [history major] students can engage historical writing, primary sources, and historical subjects beyond the United States.”) 

Raúl’s native language is Spanish, so he definitely began learning it during the critical period. However, he doesn’t have much current interest in improving his Spanish skills. When asked if he would like to take a Spanish class, he did say it would be good to learn the vocabulary, perhaps that of his career path in Spanish (accounting, finances, business). That said, Raúl does not seem convinced that he has much use for higher levels of Spanish proficiency in his current life.        


Question 3:

How would you describe the personalities and learning styles of Henry and Raúl?  Do they take risks in speaking Spanish, or are they focused on accuracy and afraid to make mistakes?

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

Henry seems to be willing to take risks to get his message across, though he is not always fluent, regularly hesitates and does word searches. Henry willingly practices his Spanish with classmates and prefers communicative activities in class. That said, his current Spanish language class, which fulfills a university language requirement, is predominantly accuracy-oriented. His motivation for learning Spanish for professional purposes is likely to be nearly exclusively instrumental.

Raúl clearly has a communicative orientation. He has never taken an accuracy-oriented Spanish language class. He has only used the language to communicate. Raúl’s motivation is thoroughly integrative, and not instrumental: he seems to sees no practical application for Spanish in his college, classes, or career.


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