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“Pasa el agua, por favor” and More from the Spanish Sitdown Table

Language teachers stress that the only way to become comfortable with a language is to “speak, speak, speak.”

The challenge for many students is that they have neither the time nor the environment in which to do so. Is there a way we can supplement what is learned in the classroom, allowing those who don’t spend time abroad to become more confident speakers?

Last month, Laura Quazzo ’13 came up with an answer when she announced she would be starting a Spanish sit-down table.

With the help of Language Department Chair and Spanish teacher Virginia Invernizzi and science teacher Julie Cullen, Quazzo devised a plan allowing students to incorporate their language into their daily lives.

“I remembered a Spanish dorm that I saw when I was visiting colleges, and I thought it would improve everyone’s conversation skills,” Quazzo recalled from when she and Mrs. Cullen, Quazzo’s advisor, brainstormed ways for her to improve her Spanish.

Students expressed immediate interest in Quazzo’s idea. One of them, Zatio Kone ’12, explained, “I think the Spanish table will be a great way to work on my speech in an informal and fun way. I’ve heard of language tables before but they’re usually in the context of colleges, and I think it’s great that Laura brought something unique to Deerfield. We’ll meet often in a non-pressured environment and on top of that there will be food.”

Senior Associate Director of Admissions and Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs Debra Dohrmann, the table head, agrees that a Spanish table is “an opportunity for students to engage in an intellectual interest, practice a skill, outside of the traditional academic venue—a classroom.”

The Spanish table will meet as regularly as any other table and will call for a rotation.

The table is a setting where students feel comfortable taking risks speaking, as everyone at the table is at approximately the same Spanish level, including Mrs. Dohrmann.

Mrs. Dohrmann, known as “Dulce” to her fellow classmates, took Spanish at Deerfield for several years, and even accompanied students on the Uruguay trip this past summer.

“Because I am also a student of Espanol, and not a teacher, I think that the students will be very comfortable, and comfort leads to risk-taking, and risk-taking leads to making mistakes and learning from them,” explained Mrs. Dohrmann.

Quazzo recognized that students might feel pressured to speak perfectly while with their own teacher. “I thought that it would be a more friendly environment if our table head was at the same Spanish level that we were, so that it wouldn’t feel like a classroom,” said Quazzo. “An hour a day can really make a difference.”