Did you know: Spanish is the second most studied language in the world? As the official language for 22 countries in the world, it’s easy to make a case for why studying Spanish is important. This summer, students entering grades 4-10 have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language with BASIS Independent Brooklyn Spanish instructor, Ms. Liliana Arzate. A native speaker from Mexico City, Ms. Arzate has developed a fun and innovative program that will showcase the beauty of the Spanish language by using history, art, film, dance, food, and field trips. Recently, I sat down with Ms. Arzate to learn more about her vision for the program and why she is so passionate about teaching in the summer. Below are photos from last summer's Spanish Immersion program fiesta at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley.

Spanish Dancing from last year's Spanish Summer Immersion at BASIS Independent Silicon ValleyMatthew Beller: Ms. Arzate, why did you decide to develop and lead the Spanish Immersion program this summer?

Liliana Arzate: As a Spanish classroom teacher, I approach my lessons in a very formal way during the school year. I believe that appreciating the Spanish language requires more than learning formal grammar and verb tenses. To have a deeper understanding of Spanish, students need to learn about the culture of Spanish speakers. I plan to expose my summer students to Spanish and Latin American art, music, and food to create a truly immersive experience. 

MB: What are you hoping your summer students will learn in your program?

LA: My goal is simply for students to learn Spanish by exposing them to Spanish and Latin American cultural traditions, which is my tool for teaching them the actual language. When students enter my class, they will be using Spanish from the very first minute they walk in. We will start with simple words and move onto developing sentences, and this will be taught using cultural activities and group-based projects. In addition to learning basic Spanish, I want kids to have fun, so art projects, field trips, music and dance are a large part of the program.

BK_Summer_Spanish_Pinata.jpgMB: Can you give some specific examples of the projects and activities your summer students will experience?

LA: One project I am really excited about is creating a piñata. My students will build their own piñata using traditional Mexican materials and techniques, and they will fill it with Mexican candies and toys. On the last day of the program, we will have a fiesta with music and food, and the class will get to break the piñata in front of their parents and guests.

I also plan to teach my students how to make alebrijes, which are papier-mâché statues formed in the shape of an animal and are very popular in indigenous Mexican communities. Food will be another way of connecting students to Spanish, and we will be taking field trips to Mexican and Cuban restaurants, and cooking traditional Latin American dishes in class. My students will also get a chance to learn how to dance Salsa and play Afro-Cuban drums.

MB: Do you need to speak any Spanish in order to join the program?

LA: No. If you have no Spanish language background, then this a great chance to get a taste of the language. However, if you do speak Spanish, it’s an opportunity to practice speaking the language without a formal Spanish class with exams and assignments. There are so many Spanish students who would benefit from a setting that actually uses the language and goes beyond vocabulary and verb tenses.

MB: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

LA: You’re welcome! I look forward to spending the summer with our students.