Practice makes perfect

GVL / Luke Holmes - International students chat in the lobby of the Murray International House during their orientation on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – International students chat in the lobby of the Murray International House during their orientation on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016.

Megan Webster

Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that oral proficiency is the hardest aspect to master. To read and write in a foreign language is one thing, but being able to speak it is a completely different, and a typically more difficult, skill.

To help students develop this aspect of their foreign language proficiency, Grand Valley State University has a tool for those who wish to practice speaking Spanish outside of the classroom—Spanish Circle.

Every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., students can go to the first-floor lounge of the International House (located in the Mark A. Murray Living Center) to attend a meeting to help them grow and gain confidence in their Spanish-speaking abilities in an informal setting.

Bret Linford, a Spanish professor at GVSU who is involved in Spanish Circle, said the meetings give students a much-needed opportunity to practice the language, and actively using the language is vital to becoming truly proficient in it.

“The research on acquiring a second language has shown that if a student enrolls in one Spanish class, there aren’t enough opportunities to use the language, and a big part of acquiring a language is to use it,” Linford said. “As you use the language, you become better at it.”

When students attend Spanish Circle, they can expect a variety of activities each time they show up. Whether the weekly agenda includes games or informal conversations with other students, attendees will be able to practice their Spanish-speaking skills in multiple ways to ensure they are getting the most out of their visit.

“This is just one opportunity for students to come and use the language so that they can actually see improvement,” Linford said. “The improvement doesn’t come as quickly if they are just going to class and doing the homework.”

When it comes to who is able to attend these weekly meetings, there is an open-door policy. Whether students are just now taking Spanish 101 or are in Spanish 321, everyone is welcome to attend Spanish Circle to develop their oral proficiency even more.

Mayra Fortes, a GVSU Spanish professor who is also involved in Spanish Circle, said the meetings allow students who are preparing for the Oral Proficiency Interview to gain confidence before they take the evaluation, but that doesn’t mean this opportunity is only limited to those pursuing the interview.

“We hope that with the Spanish Circle and providing this opportunity outside of the classroom to speak, it will also help students reach the level that they need to reach in the Oral Proficiency Interview,” Fortes said. “But this isn’t for students who are only taking the interview. Any student can go if they want to practice outside of class in a more informal setting and to gain more confidence.”

Along with the expectation of diversity in the activities planned for the one-hour session, students can also expect switching between Fortes and Linford. Fortes said this allows the students attending to gain a different perspective from the professor coordinating the meeting on a given day, furthering their oral proficiency through different techniques.

Snacks and refreshments are provided at the weekly Spanish Circle meetings. For more information, contact either Fortes at [email protected] or Linford at [email protected]