Dr. Cristina Pardo-Ballester, Assistant Professor of Spanish, is the WLC Coordinator of the Lower-level Spanish program, training and supervising TA’s for such popular courses as Span 101, 102, 201 and 202. Prof. Pardo has recently co-authored an introductory Spanish textbook, Pura Vida, published with Wiley, one of the most prestigious American textbook companies. We have asked Prof. Pardo to tell us more about this new volume and what students taking First-Year Spanish can expect to find in it.
I have taught Spanish for over fifteen years, and during that time I have come to realize how much my students enjoy learning about my life. They want to know about how, why, where and when certain situations happened to me. Since December 2008, I have been working on my most ambitious project. I have authored an Introductory Spanish textbook titled, ¡Pura Vida!
This textbook is unique in that the presentation and practice of grammar and vocabulary is implemented through task-based activities. These exercises promote cross-cultural understanding and highlight either a Spanish-speaking country or a cultural topic. This cross-cultural or hermeneutic approach (which represents the four perspectives: how we see ourselves, how we see them, how they see us, how they see themselves) has never been implemented in any other Spanish textbooks.
Pura Vida is a book that brings to life real experiences for our students. In this textbook, students study about real people, real places, and real situations. Pura Vida brings language learning alive by having students who have studied abroad narrate their adventures and mishaps as a way of introducing the vocabulary and the grammar. These real anecdotes came from the authors’ students. When there is a human connection, it makes the book’s content more believable and more relevant. In this way, the students are introduced to new vocabulary, new grammar, and cultural differences. Their narrations make the intangible appear tangible.
The book’s title Pura Vida means real life. The expression “pura vida” is actually a play on words. In Costa Rica that expression loosely means, “Life is good”and it is used as an enthusiastic answer to many questions: How are you doing? “¿Cómo estás?” Great! “¡Pura vida!” How was the party? “¿Cómo estuvo la fiesta?” Great! “¡Pura vida!”
Do you like the food? “¿Te gusta la comida?” Yes, excellent! “¡Oh, sí, pura vida!”
This title shows that the content in this book is as true to life and as real as possible.
The culture aspect of this textbook is the most attractive feature according to all the reviewers. Culture in Pura Vida is an integral part of the texbook and its organizing principle. We put culture at the base of learning the language and we build around it. This way, the students will be learning language through culture and culture through language.
Pura Vida is also part of my research in the areas of pedagogy and Second Language Acquisition. For example, when using task-based instruction we empower students by raising their cultural awareness through tasks that foster interaction and cooperation. With task-based activities we create situations in which students have to use the target language in a meaningful way to achieve a goal. It also lowers the affective filter so learning is enhanced. In Pura Vida, there are communicative tasks and /or games to encourage communication. With games, the focus is on the task, on the message or on winning rather than in the language itself. Language acquisition results since they have to use Spanish to achieve the goal or win.
¡Pura Vida! Beginning Spanish (Norma López-Burton, Laura Marques-Pascual, and Cristina Pardo-Ballester), 1st edition, Wiley & Sons. February 2014.
Interested in learning more about the book? Check out Pura Vida’s sample chapter: http://www.wiley.com/college/sc/puravida/samplechapter.html