Spanish Language In Context: Emerging Competent Abroad

You are here

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

Completion of the Independent Abroad outcomes in the MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication, as determined by the 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 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).

Students who enter this course will have mastered most of the outcomes of the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Among other characteristics, these students are able to converse at a rate of speed approaching normal conversation. They are creative, spontaneous and self-reliant as they solve problems, interpret texts, negotiate, express their opinions, likes, and dislikes in the culture. Although they still make errors and experience communication breakdowns, these students tend to resolve these challenges on their own. Students who enter this level can already understand a variety of colloquial expressions and slang, and are also able to understand a wider variety of native speakers from different backgrounds.

Students entering this level can succeed in a range of moderately complex university courses designed for native speakers. Before registering, they should consult with the appropriate IES Abroad academic adviser on course selection.

By the end of this course, students will have acquired the skills of a Competent Abroad learner, but will have only started to acquire the subtlety of expression and control of complex structures that characterize Competent Abroad learners. Emerging Competent Abroad learners have only partial mastery of these structures and quite often resort to simpler and more direct modes of expression, particularly when negotiating linguistically difficult or unfamiliar situations. Emerging Competent Abroad speakers understand local cultural attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns well enough to make an informed choice about which cultural features they would like to adopt or need to adopt in order to live harmoniously in the local culture. There may, however, be some gaps and inconsistencies in their knowledge, and they lack the depth of understanding and sophistication of those who have spent more time living and working in the local context.

Attendance policy: 

Students are expected to attend class on time every day. They must be prepared to participate actively in all the activities planned for each class period. They may miss class three times without penalties. However, after the third absence, a point will be taken off the final grade. Three tardies will become one absence. Three justified absences will be equivalent to one unjustified absence.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will be able to achieve the outcomes for the Emerging Competent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad 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 describe and analyze key host cultures, subcultures, habits, norms, and behaviors in a variety of settings, and they will be aware of the risk that generalizations can lead to stereotypes.
    2. Students will be able to reflect on and discuss the validity of their own cultural beliefs, behaviors, and values by contrasting and comparing them with the host cultures.
    3. Students will demonstrate openness and acceptance of different beliefs and styles even when they do not agree with them.   
    4. Students will accept responsibility for their own learning by defining their linguistic goals and demonstrating independence in their exploration of the culture.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to identify a fairly wide range of social and cultural dialects of the spoken language.
    2. Students will be able to understand most native speakers and non-native experts and comprehend a wide range of moderately complex interactions.
  3. Speaking
    1. Students will be able to participate fully in most academic and social interactions using when appropriate complex language including slang, colloquial expressions, double meaning, and humor with increasing confidence.  
    2. Students will be able to make arguments to support hypotheses and opinions on almost any topic of their interest.
  4. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read and understand textbooks and academic articles for classes taught in the host language as well as a wide range of popular texts for enjoyment.
    2. Students will be able to read and understand authentic materials including newspapers, advertisements, brochures, instruction manuals etc. on abstract topics with some assistance at times.
  5. Writing
    1. Students will be able to write for a wide range of native audiences and express themselves clearly and effectively.
    2. Students will be able to write essays for classes incorporating aspects of appropriate academic style with some assistance at times.
Method of presentation: 

In order to consolidate subtlety of expression and to achieve control over complex grammatical structures, students will be encouraged to always participate actively in class and to complete all written assignments. In addition, they are expected to read all the materials assigned for this course.  Since during this semester students will be observing reality from a different perspective, from inside Latin America, they are expected to share and analyze their own insights as well as the complex processes Latin American countries have experienced. In other words, through culture, literature and personal experience, they will understand cause and effect.


Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Essays and rewrites - 25%
  • Individual oral presentation - 15%
  • Group Oral presentation - 10%
  • Midterm Exam - 20%
  • Final Exam - 20%
  • Homework and class participation - 10%

TOTAL 100%

Students are required to write FIVE two to three page essays (double space) for this course. In each of these essays they will reflect upon their experiences in Ecuador as well as the different ideas, issues, and historical facts they will be exposed to. These essays will give students the opportunity to elaborate their ideas and to improve their proficiency in Spanish.

It is very important that students carefully review their work before they turn it in. Half a point will be taken off per error.  The grade obtained from the rewritten version of each essay will be averaged with the first one.

Essay topics

  1. In this essay, students are expected to describe new surroundings, their Ecuadorian families, and significant cultural differences they are beginning to notice.
  2. In this essay, students are expected to narrate a significant experience or adventure they have been through while living in this country.
  3. This essay will be a critical review of a lecture or performance students have attended. They will express subtle, complex ideas in Spanish.
  4. In this essay students will be expected to analyze one of the literary pieces they have read for this class. The essay will explain literary techniques and explore subtleties in meaning and form.
  5. The final essay will attempt to summarize what has been learned from studying abroad.  It will explain how and why points of view have changed because of this experience.

Oral Presentations
Each student will be expected to do TWO oral presentations. One will be individual and the second one, in groups. Dates for each presentation will be assigned at the beginning of the semester. In the individual presentation, students will choose an interesting newspaper article or editorial. He/she is expected to provide enough background information for the class to understand the topic within its local context. At the end of the 8-10 minute presentation, the student will ask at least three questions for his/her classmates to discuss. The group presentations will focus on places in Quito that students find worth researching and talking about. Their presentations should include interviews, pictures or anything creative they may come up with.

There will be TWO exams in this course, the midterm and the final exam. The midterm will evaluate grammatical, cultural, vocabulary, and literary aspects we have covered in class. The final exam will be cumulative.

Everyday students will be required to review essential grammatical issues and will be expected to complete the assigned exercises from the textbook Repase y Escriba. They will also have brief research, vocabulary, and definition assignments. In addition, in order to make sure everybody understands the reading materials, which tend to be quite complex, we will use questionnaires and discuss their answers in workshops during class periods.

Reading Materials
Students will read and prepare for class discussion and critical analysis:

  1. Every day, selected articles about cultural topics from the packet for this class. In addition, will read and discuss occasional news articles from local newspapers.
  2. Weekly, a short story will be assigned for students to read, analyze, and discuss with their classmates.
  3. During the second half of the semester we will read, analyze, and discuss the novel LAS BATALLAS EN EL DESIERTO, written by the Mexican author José Emilio Pacheco.

Visits, Interviews, and Films
In order for students to practice Spanish in real situations with real people from the local culture, they will be asked to interview people about different issues. They will also visit places that may be considered peculiar, unique, or interesting to explore and to present in class. In order to get extra points that will be added to their midterm or final exam grades, students may write film reviews about recommended films. These written film reviews will consist of a brief summary of the plot, an analysis about its significance, and a critical opinion based on specific examples.

Grading Criteria for Class Participation and Homework
Students will be evaluated with the following criteria (10: excellent - 4: unacceptable)

      (10) Always participates, gives additional information, positive attitude in class.
              Never speaks English.
      (8) Always participates. Positive attitude in class. Uses English only to translate certain words.
      (6) Frequently participates in class but his/her answers are very short and basic for the class level.
             Uses English to get across complex ideas.
      (4) Participates poorly. Does not have a positive attitude. Uses English frequently.

      (10) Always turns in homework on time, completed and well done.
       (8) Turns in homework on time, completed but not well done.
       (6) Turns in homework on time, but not completed or well done.
       (4) Sometimes turns in homework but is often incomplete.

Listening, speaking, reading, writing, intercultural communication.





Corresponding Learning


Week 1

  1. Functional: Break the ice Introductions.
  2. Grammatical: Ser y estar.
  3. Vocabulary: texto de E. Ayala Mora: “Introducción: Ecuador, nuestro escenario. Una compleja realidad”. Pp 7-10
  4. Culture: Lectura y discusión del texto de E. Ayala Mora
  1. Write a mini essay explaining what you like and what you don’t about these new surroundings.
  2. Ser / estar, pp 5-19. Homework: Aplicación en p. 13
  3. Saber / Conocer. Ej B, p.23



Week 2

  1. Functional: Describe and narrate in the past.
  2. Grammatical: Preterit vs. Imperfect.
  3. Vocabulary: from the short story assigned for this week
  4. Culture: “El eclipse” short story by Augusto Monterroso.

Vocabulary from

“El eclipse”.

R y E pp 34-46. Homework p.39, Aplicación, p.41. Ej B.

*Essay 1 due: “Description of new surroundings and the adaptation process.

I.A., I.B, I.C



Week 3

  1. Functional: Reflect about the meaning of the verb “to define”.
  2. Grammatical: Pretérito vs. Imperfecto.
  3. Vocabulary: from the articles ”América, descubrimientos y diálogos, fragments from Diario de Cristóbal Colón y texto de Chang Rodriguez sobre la Conquista, pp 53-68 in course materials.
  4. Culture: Reading and discussion of assigned texts.

Pret and Imperfecto.

R y E Exercises. C,D y E p, 42

Workshop: Class questionnaire.


  1. What is the meaning of definition?
  2. How did the Spaniards define the Indians and why?

I.A, I.B, I.C,


Week 4

  1. Functional: Historical consequences of the Spanish Conquest. Indigenismo: a process started by Bartolomé de las Casas.
  2. Grammatical: El sistema de acentuación. R y E, Pp 23-26. The subjunctive. Introduction R y E. 85- 107.
  3. Vocabulary: from Bartolomé de las Casas.
  4. Culture: Fray Bartolomé de las Casas and his relevance in history.

Workshop about “Breve relación sobre la destrucción de Indias”, written by Bartolomé de las Casas.

Exercises R y E. 92, ej A. 93, ejs A y B

I.A, I.B, I.C


Week 5

  1. Functional: “Mestizaje” a conflictive consequence of the Spanish Conquest.
  2. Grammatical: The subjuntive in nominal and adjectival clauses. R y E: 109-122
  3. Vocabulary: in chapter about the Conquest by Chang Rodriguez.
  4. Culture: What is mestizaje? How is this term perceived in Ecuador?

*Oral presentation # 1.

Read: “El régimen colonial y su legado”, de E. Chang Rodriguez. 72-80

Exercises in R y E: 114-115. A.B.C

*Essay # 2 due. Narration of an adventure in Ecuador

IV. B, V.A,

I.D, V.C.

Week 6

  1. Functional: Literature and real life, how are they connected?
  2. Grammatical: The subjunctive in cl adverbial clauses. R y E. 138-147
  3. Vocabulary: from the short story “El Sur”, by Jorge Luis Borges.
  4. Culture: Read and discuss short story “El Sur”.

Bring a definition of “fantastic literature”. Complete vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. Answer questionnaire about “El Sur”.

R y E. Aplicación, 139

A,B,C y D.

I.A, I.B,


Week 7

  1. Functional: Culture and perception. “Machismo”.
  2. Grammatical: Simple and compound prepositions. R y E. 170-178
  3. Vocabulary: from short story “El Recado”, de Elena Poniatowska.
  4. Culture: Reading and discussion of “El Recado”, by Elena Poniatowska.

*Oral presentation # 2.

Bring definitions of machismo, sexism, feminism. Hacer tarea de modismos, vocabulario y cuestionario sobre “El recado”.

Gramática en R y E. Aplicación, 170. Ap, 176: A y B

I.A, I.B, I.C,


Week 8

  1. Functional: Review of all the materials we have covered so far.
  2. Grammatical: Continuation of simple and compound prepositions R y E 191-204. Review of structures previous to midterm exam.
  3. Vocabulary: review previous to midterm.
  4. Culture: From the Conquest to the Republican era. General review.

Oral presentation # 3.

R y E.Aplicación, 201. Exercise. B.


I.B, I.D,


Week 9

  1. Functional: Compare and contrast. How to argue.
  2. Grammatical: Qualifying adjectives. R y E. 244-257. Explicative and specifying adjectives. The superlatives.
  3. Vocabulary: from Juan Montalvo’s essay about Washington and Bolívar.
  4. Culture: Read and discuss the nineteenth century essay: “Washington y Bolívar”, de Juan Montalvo.

*Oral presentation # 4

Identify the main ideas in Juan Montalvo’s essay and explain how he does it. Make a list of the metaphors and their function within the essay.

R y E. Aplicación, 249. Ej A, 254.

After visiting the mercado artesantal, explain the dynamics of bargaining: Use qualifying adjectives.

I.A, I.B,


V.A, V.B.

Week 10

  1. Functional: Literature as a tool to understand reality.
  2. Grammatical: Relative pronouns. R y E. 357- 368. Relative pronouns and their antecedent. The pronoun cuyo.
  3. Vocabulary: from the novel: Las Batallas en el desierto, by José Emilio Pacheco. Mexican jargon and other idiomatic expressions.
  4. Culture: Novel Las Batallas en el desierto. Introduction, context, themes. Chapters 1 - 5

*Oral presentation # 5

R y E. Relative pronouns. Aplicación, A, B, C, y D. 361- 363 El relativo cuyo. Aplicación, 368

Read Las Batallas en el desierto. Chapters 1 - 5.

*Essay 3 due. Critical review of film, concert, or art exhibit you have attended while in this country.


V.A, V.C.

Week 11

  1. Functional: Compare and contrast moral values discussed in novel Batallas with moral values in Ecuadorian society.
  2. Grammatical: Reflexive verbs. The impersonal “se” and the passive voice, R y E. 301- 313.
  3. Vocabulary: Reflexive and non reflexive verbs. Mexican and Ecuadorian idiomatic expressions.
  4. Culture: Batallas Chapters 6 -12.

*Oral presentation # 6

Reflexive verbs.

R y E. Aplicación, 311- 312, A, B y C.

Class discussion about Batallas.





Week 12

  1. Functional: Narrative strategies designed to confuse the reader. Function of the narrative voice.
  2. Grammatical: Sequence of tenses. R y E. View chart on p. 94
  3. Vocabulary: idiomatic expressions from “La indiferencia de Eva”, de Soledad Puértolas.
  4. Culture: Read, discuss and complete questionnaire for short story “La indiferencia de Eva”.

*Oral presentation #7

Sequence of tenses. Direct and indirect styles. Exercises.

Read, complete questionnaire and discuss “La indiferencia de Eva”.

I.A, I.B,


Week 13

  1. Functional: Discover and share interesting aspects or places in Quito.
  2. Grammatical: point out grammatical errors from presentations.
  3. Vocabulary: idiomatic expressions students have learned about while preparing their presentations.
  4. Culture: Students will prepare presentations about places in Quito and their cultural significance.

Group oral presentations during this week.

I.A, I.B,

I.C, II.A,



Week 14

  1. Functional: Irony. A most powerful tool. Official History vs. the Truth.
  2. Grammatical: Spanish equivalents of the verb “to get”. R y E. 316- 318
  3. Vocabulary: from short story “Emma Zunz”, de Jorge Luis Borges.
  4. Culture: Read and discuss this short story by Borges.

*Oral presentation # 8

Exercises R y E. Aplicación, A. 318

Read, complete questionnaire and discuss “Emma Zunz”.

*Essay # 4 due.

Critical essay about one of the short stories or short novel read for this class.



V.B, V.C.

Week 15

  1. Functional: Literature as a tool to denounce and to criticize ignorance and prejudice within certain atmospheres.
  2. Grammatical: Uses of por and para. R y E. 215- 228
  3. Vocabulary: from “Un hombre muerto a puntapiés” and from textbook by Enrique Ayala Mora: “Democracia y derechos ciudadanos”.
  4. Culture: Read and discuss short story “Un hombre muerto a puntapiés” and article by Enrique Ayala Mora: “Democracia y derechos ciudadanos”.

* Oral presentation # 9

Homework R y E. Aplicación 222, A, B y C.

Read, complete questionnaire and discuss “Un hombre muerto a puntapiés” and

Ayala Mora. Important connections between ideas from short story and Ecuadorian reality nowadays.




Week 16

  1. Functional: False development: Allegory as an eloquent depiction of reality.
  2. Grammatical: Overall review. Exercises.
  3. Vocabulary: from short story “El Guardagujas”, by Juan José Arreola.
  4. Culture: Read and discuss short story “El Guardagujas”.

*Oral presentation # 10

In class exercises about sequences of tenses and shifting from direct to indirect styles.

Read, answer questionnaire and discuss “El Guardagujas”.




Week 17

  1. Functional: Overall review.
  2. Grammatical: Overall review.
  3. Vocabulary: Overall review.
  4. Culture: Overall review. Connections between past and present, between literature and reality.

*Final Essay# 5 due.

Changes in perception due to experience abroad



I.B, I.A,

I,D, V.A,

V.B, V.C.


Required readings: 
  • Canteli Dominicis, Marìa & John Reynolds. Repase y Escriba. 4ta. Ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  2003.  (selections from this grammar textbook)
  • Corral, Wilfrido y Valencia, Leonardo. Cuentistas hispanoamericanos de entresiglo.  McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2005. (selection of short stories from this textbook)
  • Olazagazti-Segovia, Elena.  Sorpresas.  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1993. (Copias de algunos cuentos de autores hispanoamericanos)
  • Pacheco, José Emilio, Las Batallas en el desierto. Barcelona, 1981 (novel)
  • Mullen, Edward J y Garganigok John F. El cuento hispánico. McGraw Hill, 2004. (selected short stories)
  • Mora, Enrique Ayala, Ecuador, patria de todos. Corporación Editora Nacional, 2009. (Selected chapters from the textbook) Several copies of this textbook are available at the Library of  IES Abroad, Quito.
  • Various critical essays and newspaper articles about Latin American and Ecuadorian cultural issues.