September 3

Feeling the Movement in Spanish: The Effectiveness of Learning by Doing

I grew up doing competitive dance and loved it. I continued taking classes for fun for a couple years in college but drifted away from it as other activities filled my schedule. I’ve been wanting to take classes again for a while. Recently, I actually did it. After finding a studio close to my house, I signed up for a beginner adult class. I was nervous, but I was so glad I did it. Afterwards, I wrote about my experience in Spanish for the creative accountability group I’m in. Doing so reminded me of the powerful connection between physical movement and learning, and how incorporating movement in Spanish acquisition can be very effective.

When I taught beginning English classes, I loved to use total physical response (TPR) in my lessons, and I found that my students loved it too. TPR is when you use movement to teach language. Here is a great demonstration:

A Spanish teacher leads his students in a fun and effective TPR lesson.

There is a lot of information out there on TPR, for general language learning and for Spanish specifically. Connecting language with movement is not only interesting, it also gives learners the opportunity to process information and demonstrate understanding without the pressure of speaking. This is very important because it gives the learner a sense of accomplishment and ability; it gives them confidence in knowing that they can, in fact, learn, which will help motivate them to continue trying in the future.

Matching movement to sound is also a great way to mix things up in the learning process. Doing the same thing over and over leads to boredom and disengagement — very unfavorable feelings for learning. When you get up out of your chair and use your body, your mind will be engaged in a new way which will help the information sink in and stick.

I remember my teacher using TPR on my very first day of Spanish class in 7th grade. I think that part of the reason I remember that day is because I was excited to embark on a new adventure of language learning, but I also think that I specifically remember learning “levántate” and “siéntate” because of the movement associated with them. I remember enjoying getting to get out of my seat in the middle of class because normally you have to just sit and listen while the teacher talks. Integrating movement with the new information made it come alive in a wonderful way.

When I use TPR in teaching adult students, I always get great results and feedback. They are always slightly hesitant at first, perhaps not wanting to look silly or just feeling unsure of something new. Once they get more used to it, they love the chance to move around, and it seems to refresh them. I think this connection works the other way too: when I wrote in Spanish about dance, the movement and the language were separated but I was thinking about moving and that added a different cognitive layer to the task of writing. You can take advantage of this connection by doing movements with new words you are learning and repeating these movements when you are reviewing.

Another great tool for acquiring Spanish is Pars Omni Spanish Voices. Download it for free today to get access to a multifaceted learning environment that will help you improve and maintain your Spanish fluency.


language acquisition, language acquisition tips, language learning, language learning tools, learning Spanish, metacognition, vocabulary practice

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