I’m posting this in my travel blog because I figure a lot of the people who look at this blog must have taken a foreign language class at some point. I studied Spanish for about six years total. You’d never know it based on my recent trip to Spain and complete inability to express myself. But I do have the transcripts to prove I did take Spanish; and one thing at least one of my Spanish teachers did was force everyone in our class to “change” our names to something Spanish.
By the time she got to me, all the best names were taken. So my sophomore year of high school, I went through the whole year being called “Bonita”. Bonita means “pretty” in Spanish, so naturally, I got a lot of shit for calling myself that. But it was either that, or some other name that I liked even less. There were maybe three or four names left to choose from. I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember Bonita was the least icky of them all.
From what I understand, this is a common activity in foreign language classes. Somehow, going by a name other than what your parents named you is supposed to help you advance in your foreign language learning process. I don’t get it, though. How is calling myself Bonita going to make my Spanish skills progress? I mean, I guess if you like your new name, it might help you get into the spirit of the process. But I didn’t like the name Bonita and was happy when I could abandon it in June of that year.
I just asked my Facebook friends if they ever had to “change” their name for a foreign language class. So far, only guys have responded. I get the sense that guys tended to think that was a dumb thing to have to do. The girls probably didn’t mind it as much, especially if they got a name they liked better than their own. For the guys, it was probably pointless. I mean, your ability to conjugate verbs and pronounce trilled r’s probably has nothing to do with the fact that for 50 minutes a day, your name is “Raul” or “Rafael”.
It wasn’t just the Spanish teachers who did this, though. French teachers did it too.
I’d be interested in knowing if today’s teachers even have time for such a pointless activity. In my day, we could play Spanish bingo and win dulces when we got “Bingo”. But from what I understand, today’s kids are too busy preparing for tests to have time for fun and games. Hell, a lot of ’em don’t even get P.E. class anymore. Why would they have time for new foreign language names or Spanish Bingo? Or watching cheesy Spanish soap operas from the early 70s? I swear to God, in the same Spanish class during which I had to call myself Bonita, we watched an early 70s soap called Zarabanda. I think it was actually an educational soap, but all I remember about it besides the theme song was the ugly Brady Bunch era outfits they wore.
Apparently, Spanish classes are still using this soap… They were old in the 80s!
Anyhoo, if anyone out there can shed some light on this for me, drop me a comment.