Intercambio Lingüístico allows BHS and Mexican students to connect

Created+by+Spanish+teacher+Pedro+Mendez%2C+Intercombio+Linguistico+allows+students+at+the+high+school+to+both+improve+their+Spanish+and+connect+with+fellow+high+school+students+in+Mexico.+

GRAPHIC BY ELSIE MCKENDRY

Created by Spanish teacher Pedro Mendez, Intercombio Linguistico allows students at the high school to both improve their Spanish and connect with fellow high school students in Mexico.

Despite the pandemic, Spanish teacher Pedro Mendez has found a way for students at the high school to ‘travel’ to Mexico twice a week.

Intercambio Lingüístico is a small program which offers students in advanced or AP Spanish the opportunity to connect with other high school students in Mexico. The participants use Skype to communicate, and the central purpose is to help both groups of students improve their communication with the opposite language while breaking down stereotypes.

Mendez created Intercambio Lingüístico with the help of English teacher David Cano who teaches in Mexico. Mendez said that both students and teachers have to make a commitment to this program and that he’s already seen improvement in the students’ Spanish and English skills.

“In terms of language development, I see a lot of improvement in the kids even if they don’t notice it yet. I went to the students’ Skype calls, and I heard them using the subjunctive, using the past tense, using a little grammar and I was thinking that this is a nice exercise when you don’t have the pressure of someone looking at you closely,” Mendez said. “And when I visited the chatting rooms, I also saw that felt more comfortable too.”

The program has allowed students to not only improve their language skills but deepen their understanding of Mexican culture. (CONTRIBUTED BY PEDRO MENDEZ)

Junior Risa Cove, a participant of Intercambio Lingüístico, said that through talking with students from Mexico, she has gained a better understanding of the country as a whole.

“I’ve learned so much about Mexican culture, which has been so fascinating. The little differences between our lives and their lives can be so fun to learn about. For example, the other day my partner and I were talking about games that little kids like to play outside which led to a long conversation with a lot of laughing. You never know interesting things about what one topic will lead you to,” Cove said.

Through Skype’s screen share feature, students from both ends are able to show each other pictures and maps of where they live. Cove said she and her partner made presentations to show each other about their lives.

“We’ve talked a lot about food, school, things to do for fun and popular places to go where we live, fashion and learning about each other’s languages,” Cove said. “We both prepared presentations with pictures of our friends and family, and also screen sharing and taking each other around our neighborhoods on Google Maps was really fun.”

Students use Zoom’s share screen option to show each other different aspects of their lives. (CONTRIBUTED BY RISA COVE)

Another participant, junior Dhruva Schlondorff, said that after you get over the initial awkwardness and hesitation of meeting new people, everything else will fall into place.

“Honestly, I was definitely at the beginning. You just have to take a leap of faith and understand that you’ll make mistakes in Spanish, and they’ll make mistakes in English. Keep in mind that after the first call it gets way better. You just have to get over that hump of the first call. And then the conversation comes in much more naturally,” Schlondorff said.

According to Schlondorff, he was surprised at how much the Mexican students knew about the United States and how little he knew about Mexico and its culture. The program is designed to address the lack of awareness of how people from other parts of the world live.

“We talked about the culture in America versus Mexico. I think, even though it’s constantly said to me, I am always surprised by how much more people from other parts of the world know about the United States versus people from the United States who know about literally any other country. I feel like I realized even more how ignorant I was,” Schlondorff said.

Although this program started in late October, Mendez said that the feedback given to him from Cano has been nothing but great news.

“I got a brief email from the teacher running the program in Mexico, and they say that they’re very happy,” said Mendez.“They’re very happy to have Brookline students participate in the program. The kids are super excited and wait for the day to practice English.”

 

This article was updated to include a correction on 1/18/21