Well, the impossible has happened. Despite the class managing to delay the arrival of the subjunctive tense for many months, and working against almost impenetrable resistance from the group, last week Juan-Mi came up with a couple of really effective exercises that has drummed the subjunctive into this recalcitrant bunch of reprobates that meets weekly at the Axalingua school in Colmenar www.axalingua.es
It was also a master-class on how to teach adults. Don’t frighten them, lead them in gently, show them that they understood it already, and then draw on the group’s own knowledge to come up with their own rules to help them remember. As an ex-trainer myself (of charity workers), I recognised the techniques – but only afterwards when I was reflecting on the class. During the session, I was totally caught up in the process which not only completely by-passed our fears of the subjunctive tense, but also made it simpler and more memorable than we would ever have thought possible.
Trick number one was beginning the session with quite a deep discussion of some controversial issues. We were talking about demonstrations and strikes, the reasons for them, and whether we were in agreement with the aims of the demonstrators. By getting the more political or “thinking” part of our brains going, the “learning” part of our brains sat back and went off duty while we got fired up, discussed and argued, agreed and disagreed with each other, and forgot about the bad case of subjunctivitis that had been threatened for today’s lesson.
Trick number two was giving us a very funny little scene to act out, with one simple question to answer at the end (as to whether the young woman said yes or no to going on a date). So we concentrated on the wonderful over-acting from our enthusiastic group, and we concentrated on looking out for the answer to the question about the date. Did we understand most of the script, Juan-Mi asked us, casually? Yes, we agreed, pretty much. Well without us even noticing, it had been jam-packed with examples of the subjunctive. And we had listened to it then read and understood it, without difficulties.
Trick three was to avoid lecturing us. Juan-Mi has a light and inclusive teaching style, ideal for adult learning. Looking at the acting exercise we had just completed, together we came up with some of the “rules” about the subjunctive – when to use it, what are the component parts, and how to construct it. With our five rules up on the whiteboard, it suddenly made complete sense. And more importantly, it appeared to be both manageable and useable. Se me encendió la bombilla.
So then it was off to Málaga for a rowdy night with friends at an intercambio in a bar. Every so often a subjunctive was produced with a flourish at which point four of us jumped up for a raucous high five and the cry of “¡¡¡ Subjuntivo !!!” In return our Spanish friends were rewarded with a high five and a congratulatory shout whenever they successfully used an English possessive contraction or the second conditional tense. At the weekend a quieter one-to-one intercambio was useful to start to bed in the new learning.
I have worked out that it takes about two months from learning something new, to being able to pull it from my memory confidently and with reasonable accuracy. A few months ago I was ranting about the ridiculousness of the “se me da mal” construction and moaning that it would NEVER become comfortable to use. Pues, ahora se me da bien usarlo con fluidez. About six weeks ago in class we struggled with what seemed a completely ludicrous construction about losing keys – learning to say “Se me han perdido las llaves” (The keys have lost themselves to me) rather than “He perdido las llaves” (I have lost the keys). It’s supposed to reflect the “involuntary” nature of the loss of the keys (as though “I have lost the keys” is somehow deliberate???). A week ago I used the new version instinctively.
So under Juan-Mi’s tutelage we are being given all that we need to deal with this worrying case of subjunctivitis, recover, and emerge in a few weeks confidently able to announce “Espero que hablemos bien el subjuntivo”.
© Tamara Essex 2013
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
So it comes when there is a second verb after a “parent” verb, such as “I hope that you want it” or “I suggest that we go now” or “I want that you eat that cheese” (we would say “I want you to eat that cheese”).
Espero que lo QUIERAS. Sugiero que nos VAYAMOS. Quiero que COMAS ese queso.
And the construction is simply to “change track” so the A verbs (hablar etc) use the E (Espero que yo HABLE bastante bien). And the E and I verbs (comer, vivir etc) use the A (Yo dudo que ella VIVAS aqui. Espero que nos VEAMOS pronto).
Phew! Not so hard after all. Lots of other uses of it and constructions of it, but it’s a good start.