Accents, motivations and cultural identities: The things you learn from your students

Can we ask you a question? We’ve been wondering all class [which explains why they were talking the whole time and disrupting the kids next to them] … where are you from? Coz, like, you don’t have an accent in English, or, I mean, whatever, but you have a really good accent in Spanish. So we were just wondering…

This came from 2 girls in a class I substituted for a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago. They approached me sheepishly after class. What they meant was that I sound like a native speaker of English, but to their 200-level learner ears, I also sound like a native speaker of Spanish. I was flattered and used it as an opportunity to encourage them to work hard in class and study abroad if they can, but there’s something else afoot, no? Their usual teacher, as they mentioned, has lived in the US for 10 years and still has a very heavily accented English. He knows more colloquial American expressions and cultural references than I do for any Latin American or Spanish culture, but they’re tuned into pronunciation, not word choice. This made me wonder, does their perception of us have an impact on their learning? Do they pay more attention to me or him? Are they more motivated by one or the other of us?

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I’m baaaaack

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My alarm went off at 6:45 this morning and with that if there was any impression left for me that Granada was vacationlandia it vanished in an instant. The walk from my piso in the centro to the CIMCYC (Centro de Investigación dr Mente, Cerebro y Comportamiento aka Center for Research on Mind, Brain and Behavior) on the Campus de la Cartuja of the Universidad de Granada takes about 45 minutes if you’re moving quickly. A bus would only take perhaps 25, but knowing that A) I’m not good at motivating myself to exercise for real and B) if last year’s stint in Grana’ was any indication my schedule would be busy and erratic I made the commitment to myself that I won’t take the bus except perhaps in case of deluvio, and use that to combat the butt-flattening pressure of dissertation research and writing. It should be noted that more than half of this walk is uphill-a pretty steep incline-and I carry a backpack with a computer and some books which add a few pounds to my back. And this Granada. It’s like 89 degrees and really sunny. I arrive to the lab quite sweaty.

But there is good to be had in this day despite what may seem like an unpleasant start. I passed through the lovely Plaza Bib-Rambla and past the Catedral in the glowing morning sun. I saw 4-year-olds brimming with excitement as they’re dragged along by their proud mamas to the first day of colegio. My first participant showed up on time and my experiments all worked without issue. The 2nd one, too! I had a lovely lunch on the terraza with my colleagues and successfully wrote a script in R to analyze my data which saved me TONS of future time and headache. On my walk home I spoke with the sweetest old man pharmacist to get advice on a mask for my face (travel sucks for my poor skin) and remembered that this morning I downloaded the latest episode of “Breaking Bad”.

Granada feels like home again with all the stress and sleep deprivation that can entail, but it is vibrant and full of life and has me feeling like maybe this dissertation thing isn’t so overwhelming after all.