Spanish professor Arturo Laris, who hopes to offer Spanish IV in the spring, plays his guitar as part of an immersive lesson. Photo by Kathryn Scott.

Spanish IV: Plans for a higher level to be taught

A feature on Professor Arturo Laris and what his Spanish 221 course has to offer.

Spanish 221 (level four) is potentially going to be offered this spring quarter. This possibility is the result of an increasing number of students who have shown interest in taking of a higher-level Spanish class, which has given college officials a greater incentive to once again offer more advanced levels. Spanish professor Arturo Laris would teach Spanish IV, permitting that enough students are interested. He says some of his reasoning for coming to Washington was to see a new part of the world and to gain new experiences.

His love for advancing horizons is evident in his immersive teaching methods. “Think of it this way; level three is reaching kind of an intermediate level of proficiency with Spanish and level four just gets you there,” describes Laris. Laris has been a full-time professor at Pierce Puyallup for three years and before that he worked part-time at Fort Steilacoom. Prior to his time with either campus, Laris taught multiple levels,some more advanced than 221, of foreign languages.

He also taught related classes, such as Latin American literature and Latin American culture. Laris explains that Spanish 221 would be an amalgam of many courses he’s taught. The level of in-depth discussions and the need to think and express oneself is also much higher in 221 than in 121-123. Laris also plans to add more compositions and hold students to tighter structures within them, such as a thesis.

There will be more assigned readings, advanced grammar and much more cultural exposure. The previous level four classes of his have involved showing students at least four films and giving readings related to the films. He plans to do the same here and wants to encourage diplomatic arguments as a way of broadening the minds of students. Grammar from previous courses will also be reviewed, but there’ll be plenty of new material to work with as well.

As a way of bringing further realism to the course, he’ll also speak more freely, as he would to a fellow Spanish-speaker, something that’s not always possible when working with level one students. Laris explains that the course for level four was already designed, but that there were probably never enough students interested in it. Because it was already designed, he assumes it was taught at one point. The same was true for Spanish III before his arrival. Prior to him joining Pierce, Laris doesn’t know when it was last taught. Like the language itself, his courses grow, change and adapt to not only the times but to the needs of the students.

He says he immediately pushed to change the previous Spanish curriculum, partly to make the course more affordable to students. He says he tells his students to speak their minds if things are or aren’t working because he’s listening, and they can always change something for the better.

“There’s a lot of positive energy for learning Spanish and certainly I think the thing here is that people are buying much more into the immersion. People see value in it (immersion), they’re learning how to speak, they’re learning how to use a language, whereas before we were teaching out of a book,” says Laris.

Laris explains he believes more people are starting to realize the importance of learning a foreign language in such a rapidly changing world. “It’ll be a different place in 10 years and you’re going to see a lot more Spanish speakers here. I think people are catching on to that, which is why I think it’s vitally important that we provide more Spanish,” says Laris. Students entering Spanish 221 would either be coming from 123 or based on their level of experience. Laris says he’ll take anyone that has the ability, not necessarily only level three graduates. The quarter he’d be offering to teach would also depend on when it would flow smoothly for students leaving 123 and entering 221.

Students from 123 would need to be in 123 within at least two-quarters of the opening of 221. Laris hopes to advertise and gain interested students, to not only teach Spanish but to create community. He says his favorite parts of teaching are connecting with students beyond teaching a language, giving them something of value and watching them grow as they continue to better themselves.

“Ultimately, that’s what you’re doing here. You’re creating relationships and if it’s not that then what are we doing?” says Laris.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Kathryn Scott

Spanish IV: Plans for a higher level to be taught

by Kathryn Scott time to read: 3 min