Spanish Language In Context: Emerging Independent Abroad I

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Completion of IES Abroad’s Novice Abroad outcomes from the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, determined by placement test.


Research has demonstrated that study abroad can enhance every aspect of language ability. One of the most important general findings of this research is, however, that study abroad is most beneficial for the development of abilities related to social interaction. Students who go abroad can learn to do things with words, such as requesting, apologizing, or offering compliments, and they may also learn to interpret situations calling on such speech acts in ways that local people do… In short, and logically, study abroad has been shown to enhance the aspects of communicative competence that are most difficult to foster in classroom settings (IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, p. 6).

While most courses in the Engineering program are taught in English, students are surrounded by Spanish, in their homestays and apartments, in their interactions with Spanish students, at IES Abroad activities, and at the IES Abroad Center in which, starting after a month of their arrival, they will be speaking Spanish, receiving emails in Spanish and signing a compromise of speaking Spanish as much as possible.

Students entering this level must be able to fulfill the learning outcomes of the Novice Abroad level, as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Specifically, they should already be able to express themselves on a variety of concrete, everyday topics and meet their basic needs in the language. Students who enter this level may be more proficient in reading and writing skills than oral communication, especially if they have never traveled or studied abroad previously. Although students may have been exposed previously to certain competencies taught at this level, they need additional practice and instruction to move toward mastery of these competencies. Students at this level may succeed in partner university courses as long as such courses are primarily designed for international students and/or require passive student linguistic participation (art studios, dance).

As students gain more self-awareness and self-confidence, they will attempt more in the community. Paradoxically, this means they may also experience more miscommunications and frustration. Reading and writing require effort, and many students will need to make a special effort in this regard. Students will also develop cultural awareness and skills to work through the challenges of adaptation in the local culture and learn to celebrate their successes. They will begin to appreciate the value of these language and intercultural skills.   

This course builds upon skills introduced in Novice Abroad. By the end of the course, the successful student will have begun to develop some communicative and cultural self-confidence necessary to attempt moderately complex tasks in Spanish, as described in the learning outcomes below.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES Abroad classes, including course-related excursions. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies. If a student misses more than two classes in any course half a letter grade will be deducted from the final grade for every additional absence. Seven absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Learning outcomes: 

Students who are placed in this level should be capable of achieving the outcomes in the Novice Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication.

By the end of the course, students will be able to achieve some of the outcomes for the Emerging Independent Abroad level as defined by the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. The key learning outcomes from the MAP are summarized below:

  1. Intercultural Communication

    1. Students will be able to solve some daily troublesome situations and meet needs with limited help.
    2. Students will be able to make some informed comparisons between the host culture and the students’ home cultures.
    3. Students will be able to distinguish between verbal and non verbal communication that reflects politeness, formality, or informality.
    4. Students will be able to recognize simple patterns of intonation and their meaning.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to understand some interactions (media, speeches, music, conversations, etc.), especially if the speaker is used to interacting with non-native speakers.
    2. Students will be able to understand direct requests, questions, and simple conversations on familiar and concrete topics.
    3. Speaking
    4. Students will be able to talk to a limited extent about persons and things in their immediate environment, as well as their plans and their experiences.
    5. Students will be able to address moderately complicated situations involving familiar subjects.
  3. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read passages and short texts (notes, detailed instructions, etc.) on familiar topics and understand the general meaning.
    2. Students will be able to support their understanding of texts through the use of context, visual aids, dictionaries, or with the assistance of others in order to facilitate comprehension.
  4. Writing
    1. Students will be able to communicate with limited effectiveness through notes, emails, and simple online discussions and chats.
    2. Students will be able to write short essays on concrete topics of limited levels of complexity, although with reliance on the communicative patterns of their native language.
Method of presentation: 

Usually contents will be presented using a task-based approach. We will begin each unit with listening and reading activities to become familiar with the language presented, followed by an explanation of grammar and vocabulary. Then, we will proceed with exercises and homework, followed by speaking and writing activities to practice and use the contents studied in each unit. After each unit, the student should be able to understand and use the contents studied in real-life situations, develop learning strategies, and reflect on their progress. Emphasis is made on learning strategies like paraphrasing, deducing words from context, etc.


  • Correction of homework assigned in the previous session: discussion, explanation, doubts
  • Brainstorming and discussion of topic(s) to be introduced
  • Reading and listening exercises
  • Explanation (inductive) of grammar
  • Grammar practice worksheets
  • Discussion, speaking, writing tasks

Home: Homework exercises to practice of grammar forms and vocabulary, written assignments
Moodle: Written assignments on forums, extra materials for review, discussion

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Participation (15%)
  • Homework and written assignments (20%)
  • Two Verb quizes (10%)
  • Paper (5 %)
  • Midterm exam (20%)
  • Final exam (20%): On contents covered in class (specific contents tested in the midterm exam will not be included).
  • Oral Presentation (10%): In the second week of the course, groups of 2 or 3 students will be organized and the topics will be discussed. The instructor, along with the students, will establish the calendar for the presentation. The instructor will evaluate the following aspects:
    • Information presented to explain of the topic
    • Presentation method
    • Execution of surveys and its conclusions
    • The students’ ability to communicate; students should not read their parts, but be able to explain to others their findings and what they have learned with their research. The research will be part of the oral skills evaluation of the student.

    Students can discuss with the professor any concerns they encounter when completing the assignment.

  • Self Assessment: Students are encouraged to keep a portfolio, compiling the activities, lists, and texts for each unit. This will allow students to reflect on their progress as well as to evaluate their learning at the end of the course. The Portfolio is optional. A class journal (forum) will also be created on Moodle in which the students will write about their progress, difficulties, likes, and dislikes, and share these concerns or anecdotes with the instructor and classmates. Writing in the class journal regularly is mandatory.




Corresponding Learning Outcome(s)

Week 1

(Unit 1)

  1. Functional: filling out a questionnaire, talking about habits, durations and motivations. Expressing difficulty. Making recommendations.
  2. Grammatical: Review of present tense, regular and irregular. Reflexive verbs. Contrast between porque and para. Expressions for advice (tener que, deber, hay que, ir bien + infinitive) Frequency markers (Siempre, a veces, nunca…)
  3. Vocabulary: Feelings, difficulties. Countries, nationalities and languages.
  4. Culture: Learning styles. Teaching of foreign languages in Spain. Languages in Spain. Castellano vs español. Instituto Cervantes.

Objectives and wants for the course.

Making a list of your difficulties when learning Spanish and giving advice to other classmates.

I.A, I.D, II.A, II.B, III.A, III.C, IV.B, V.A, V.C

Week 2

(Unit 2 & 3)

  1. Functional: Comparing. Describing objects. Expressing likes and dislikes. Locating objects. Physically describing people. Identifying people in a description. Assessing relationships with people. Talking about Jobs. Naming clothes and accessories.
  2. Grammatical: Verbs with I.O. (gustar, encantar, interesar) Comparison with adjectives (más que, menos que, tan como) Comparison with nouns (más que, menos que, tanto/a/os/as como) Prepositions. Possesive adjectives and pronouns. (mi, mío...). Gender and number. Contrast between verbs with I.O. (gustar) and reflexive verbs. Agreeing and disagreeing (Yo también, yo tampoco, a mí también, a mí tampoco). Verbs parecer/ parecerse a. Verb llevarse bien.
  3. Vocabulary: Furniture. Parts of a house. Daily routine. Physical description. Clothes, accessories.
  4. Culture: Madrid and Barcelona. Models of family in the Spanish speaking world.

Writing about daily routine, comparing daily routine in the USA vs daily routine in Spain.

Describing your home and favourite places.

Describing your family.

Describing oneself (physical and likes and dislikes)

Identifying and describing pictures of celebrities.

Quiz: Present, regular and irregular. Reflexive verbs and verbs with I.O.

I.A, I.B, II.B, III.B, IV.A, V.A

I.A, I.C, I.D, II.B, III.A, III.B, IV.A, V.A

Week 3

(Unit 4)

  1. Functional: Understanding and writting letters. Asking for favours. Asking and Giving permission and replying. Making excuses. Making invitations
  2. Grammatical: Present progressive (estar + gerundio) Verb poder (¿puedo + inf?)
  3. Vocabulary: Courtesy. Greetings. Post office.
  4. Culture: Treatment and politeness in Spanish speaking countries (tú, vos, usted, vosotros, ustedes)

Role-play of situations with different degrees of formality.

Writing a postcard to a friend describing what the student is doing in Madrid.

Alaska. ‘Bailando’


Week 4

(Unit 5 & 8)

  1. Functional: Describing past experiences. Talking about intentions and projects. Recommending places. Talking about abilities. Giving advice. Talking about feelings (both physical symptons and emotions)
  2. Grammatical: Present perfect. (Pretérito perfecto) Past participles, regular and irregular. Ir a + infinitivo. Ya vs. Todavía no. Saber, poder and conocer. Contrast between ser and estar. Present progressive II. (Estar + gerundio) Verbal periphrases. Dejar de + inf, Seguir + gerund.
  3. Vocabulary: Leisure and free time. Schedules. Body parts. Symptoms.
  4. Culture: Spanish cities. Spanish work schedules and free time activities. Non verbal communication in Spain. Mediterranean diet and healthy lifestyle.

Writing a guide of Madrid, after interviewing madrileños, and post recommended places in the categories of the wiki (museums, cafés, parks, bars)

Explaining problems and giving advice to a set of problems.

Role play about physical states and home remedies.

Bebe. ‘Ella’


I.C, I.D, II.A, II.B, III.A, IV.A, V.A, V.B

Week 5

(Extra Material & Unit 7)

  1. Functional: Describing past experiences, narrating a biography, assessing past situations (Me gustó) Recommend places. Expressing desire.
  2. Grammatical: Past simple. (Pretérito indefinido), regular and irregular. Contrast pretérito indefinido and pretérito perfecto. Me gustaría + infinitive. Markers: Hace, desde, desde hace.
  3. Vocabulary: City services. Describing places. Review: forecast.
  4. Culture: City of San Sebastián, Spain. Travel and tourism in Spain. México. Recent books, movies and music. Biography of some Spanish celebrities and historical characters.

Recommend places, regions and cities to visit in Spain.

Narrating past trips.

Writing your biography.


Week 6

(Unit 9)

  1. Functional: Describing memories and anecdotes. in the past and comparing them to present. Agreeing and disagreeing.
  2. Grammatical: Pretérito imperfecto. Antes vs ahora. Ya no/ todavía. Verb soler(used to) in the past (Solía)
  3. Vocabulary: Descibing and assessing. Feelings.
  4. Culture: Spain during Franco’s regime (1939- 1975). Events in Spanish History. Ibiza in the 1960s.

Visit to Chamberí metro station

Viewing of a chapter of ‘Cuéntame cómo pasó’ tv serie about Spain in the 1960s.

Narrating your childhood.


Week 7

Review for Midterm and Midterm exam

Week 8

(Unit 10)

  1. Functional: Narrating stories in the past and sequencing actions.
  2. Grammatical: Contrast pretérito imperfecto and pretérito indefinido. Past of estar + gerundio (estaba hablando, haciendo) Discourse markers.
  3. Vocabulary: Describing and assessing.
  4. Culture: Cuba. History./ Transition to democracy in Spain after 1975. Coup d’etat 1981.

Narrating anecdotes in the past. What happened and how we felt.

Describing circumstances under which you met someone special.

Narrating anecdotes

Andrés Calamaro. ‘Cuando te conocí’


Week 9

(Unit 6, 11 & Extra Material)

  1. Functional: Following instructions. Giving instructions and advice. Giving directions. Locating objects and places.
  2. Grammatical: Pronouns. Direct object. Pronouns of Indirect object. Imperative affirmative. Demonstratives (este, ese, aquel), adverbs of place (aquí, allí, cerca, lejos) Ser/estar/haber.
  3. Vocabulary: Food. Ways of cooking.
  4. Culture: Spanish well known companies (Zara, Camper, Mango) Spanish dishes. Concept of ‘Denominación de origen’.

Visit to a market and tour around neighborhoods in Madrid.

Listening to a Spanish recipe and writing recipes.


José Made in Spain. and IES-sponsored cooking workshops

I.C, I.D, II.A, II.B, III.A, IV.A, V.A

Week 10

(Unit 11 & Extra Material)

  1. Functional: Following instructions. Giving instructions and advice.
  2. Grammatical: Combination of pronouns of direct and indirect object. Imperative negative, emphasis on regular verbs.
  3. Vocabulary: None
  4. Culture: Usage of imperative and resources to make petitions in formal and informal contexts.

Designing and presenting an advertising campaign. Making poster.

Mecano. ‘Maquillaje’

I.A, I.C, I.D, II.A, II.D, III.A, IV.B, V.A

Week 11

(Extra Material)

  1. Functional: Expressing desires. Complimenting. Reacting to compliments.
  2. Grammatical: Formation of regular present subjunctive. Ojalá + subjuntive. Superlative.
  3. Vocabulary: Feelings. Expressions ¡Qué + adjective!
  4. Culture: Celebrations and greetings in Spain.

Writing cards to wish happy birthday, get well soon...

Juanes. ‘A Dios le pido’ (Forms, subjunctive)

I.A, I.B, I.C, II.A, II.B, III.B, IV.A, V.A

Week 12

(Extra Material)

  1. Functional: Expressing desire, assessing situations.
  2. Grammatical: Formation of present subjuntive II. Main irregular verbs. Usage of present subjunctive with verbs to express desire (Querer, esperar) and assessing verbs with I.O. (gustar, encantar, interesar) Contrast: Present subjuntive or infinitive. (Quiero viajar, vs Quiero que vengas)
  3. Vocabulary: Media.
  4. Culture: Demonstrations in the history of Spain. ‘Los indignados’, Spanish youth and current situation (Unemployment, mileuristas)

Visit to universidad Complutense and survey to Spanish students. (¿Qué quieres para el futuro?)

List of wishes for a better world for young people.

Quiz: Formation of imperative and present subjuntive, regular verbs and main irregular.

Juanes. ‘Me enamora’ 


Week 13

(Extra Material)

  1. Functional: Describing objects. Giving opinions about current issues.
  2. Grammatical: Present subjuntive III. Contrast of the usage of present subjunctive vs present indicative, to assess opions (Creo que vs No creo que). Contrast por and para.
  3. Vocabulary: Describing objects: Shapes, sizes, materials.
  4. Culture: Spanish inventions. / Spanish politics

(Class and Moodle) Designing and presenting an invention, object to solve daily life problems.

David Bustamante

Efecto mariposa ‘Por quererte’ (Por)

Ella Baila Sola. ‘Por ti’ (contrast por/ para)

‘Cobarde’ (Por)


Week 14

(Extra Material)

  • ORAL PRESENTATIONS about field work
  • Spanish music session
  • Review exercises for final exam.

Assessing the course.

Presentation of field work.




*There will also be daily homework not included in this list. which will depend on the student’s progress and difficulties.

Required readings: 
  • VVAA (2005): Aula Internacional 2. Barcelona: Difusión.

The textbook will be used during the first part of the semester.  Afterwards, extra materials will be given to students.

  • Rápido, Rápido.  / Vía Rápida/ Pasaporte 2.

Destino Erasmus I (completed with extra material during the last weeks of the course)