Spanish Language in Context: Emerging Competent Abroad

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

Completion of the Independent Abroad outcomes in the IES Abroad MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication, as 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 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 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 an Emerging 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: 

Attendance and punctuality are 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 1.5 classes (for courses taught once a week) or 2.5 classes (for courses taught twice a week) in any course, the final grade will be reduced by one-third of a letter grade (for example, A- to B+) for every additional unexcused absence. Six absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Punctuality: Students who are late to class will receive a .5 absence. Arriving in class more than 15 minutes late will result in 1 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: 
  • Instructor directed tasks
  • Group and pair work
  • Individual and group oral presentations
  • Intensive and extensive reading in class
  • Listening activities
  • Class discussion
  • Role plays
  • Audiovisual activities
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Oral activities - 15%
  • Written assignments - 20%
  • Midterm test - 15%
  • Class activities - 10%
  • Oral final exam - 20%
  • Written final exam - 20%

Oral activities
Presentation on fieldtrip. Expert panel: group oral project.

Written assignments
Movie review. Essay: role of women in Chile and in my country. Essay: my role in the expert panel. Written paper: Visit to the National Cemetery. Reading Comprehension test: La última niebla by Maria Luisa Bombal. Reading Comprehension test: Tres años para nacer by Eledín Parraguez.

Class activities
Different class activities designed by the course instructor according to students’ need of practice and current events to be discussed in class. Activities include: pair work, peer review, short reading/writing assignments, quizzes etc.





Corresponding Learning Outcome(s)

Week 1

Introduction to the course: description of objectives, methodology, expectations and evalutions

  1. Functional: Asking and giving personal information. Discussing and analyzing nonverbal elements in a language. Talking about different ways of communicating. Understanding the role register, pronunciation and intonation play in a language community. Describing general characteristics of people of a country. Expressing opinions, surprise and interest. Contrasting and comparing people and their attitudes towards life, work, religion, etc.
  2. Grammatical: Review of tenses in indicative mood. Review of subjunctive mood in verbal phrases to express opinion and assessment.
  3. Vocabulary: Nouns and verbs that describe gestures and body language. Nouns and adjectives to describe people and emotions.
  4. Culture: Review of TÚ and USTED: the concept of register. Stereotypes: people in my country and people in my host country.

Submission of written assignment: Mi Viaje a Chile

Read and do the exercises of the Unit: “Los Chilenos”


Week 2

  1. Functional: Expressing opinions, surprise and interest. Compare and contrast people and their attitudes towards life, work, religion, etc. Preparing question to make a survey. Reporting statistic information. Expressing inferences related to information given in tables and graphs. Expressing opinions on the mass media.
  2. Grammatical: Review of subjunctive mood in verbal phrases to express opinion and assessment. Impersonal expressions to report statistic information.
  3. Vocabulary: Nouns and adjectives to describe people and emotions. Word formation. Review on numbers and figures. Nouns and Verbs to describe figures in tables and graphs.
  4. Culture: How do we learn from a new culture? Interviewing people in my local community: the impact of TV. Communication with people we do not know.

Read and do the exercises of the Unit: “Los Chilenos”

Video and class discussion: two different local TV programs

Listening to spoken Spanish in order to recognize register

Assessing the contents of TV Programs as regards to:

  • topics
  • audience they address
  • Cultural value or entertainment purpose
  • Language used
  • Making hypotheses of reason/cause
  • Specific instructions provided in the course dossier

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

Week 3

  1. Functional: Talking about income distribution and its social implications. Discussing the consequences of uneven income distribution. Expressing probability. Expressing presuppositions. Expressing advantages and disadvantages of a particular situation. Discussing, comparing and contrasting work, jobs, expenses, and economical problems. Explaining decisions.
  2. Grammatical: Review of present tenses. Subjunctive mood in adjective phrases. Connecting contrasting ideas.
  3. Vocabulary: Words related to money, economy, expenses and savings. Text connectors and adverbials.
  4. Culture: Why do we need money? (Socioeconomic) Class system in Chile.

Read and do exercises of the unit: “Life and Economy”

Video and class discussion: Life quality in Chile is among the worst in an OCDE ranking

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

Week 4

  1. Functional: Criticizing a movie. Describing and explaining differences. Expressing opinion on socio-cultural attitudes and behavior. Reporting information about past historic events. Expressing surprise, interest, dislike and disagreement. Contrasting and comparing the role of women in different cultures.
  2. Grammatical: Integration of mood and tenses. Complex noun phrases. Past and present tenses of indicative mood.
  3. Vocabulary: Adjectives to describe movies and visual arts. Review of comparative and superlative forms. Review of word formation. Adjectives to describe women (common word combinations).
  4. Culture: Talking about how movies reflect social situations. Chilean women throughout history.

Video and class discussion: Chilean moviemaking

Read and do exercises of the unit: “Mujeres chilenas en cifras”

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

Week 5

  1. Functional: Arguing and supporting arguments.
  2. Grammatical: Conditional clauses. Review of subjunctive mode with some verb phrases.
  3. Vocabulary: Word formation. Word frequent combinations: nouns and adjectives.
  4. Culture: Chilean families and women’s role in nowadays. The changing role of the (Chilean) woman nowadays.

Fieldtrip: Visiting historic buildings in the city


  • Visiting the historic center of the city
  • Using Spanish to talk to locals and obtain some specific information
  • Prepare and oral presentation for the class

Read and do exercises of the unit: “The new identity of the Chilean woman”

Video: Chilean movie “La Fiebre del Loco”, Submission of movie review

More information and maps given via moodle

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

Week 6

Workshop on Chilean culture: Trivia games, music, food and quizzes

Objectives: Review what students have learned about Chile, Explore student's familiarization and integration into local culture

Presentations on Fieldtrip


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

Week 7

  1. Functional: Describing and summarizing short fictional stories. Relating author’s personal background with his/her writing.
  2. Grammatical: Review of uses of past tenses: preterit, imperfect, past perfect. Subjunctive mood for expressing opinions and hypotheses.
  3. Vocabulary: Word formation: verbs and related nouns. Language in literature.
  4. Culture: Magic realism in literature and arts. Isabel Allende, her life on her writings.

Video and class discussion: an interview with Isabel Allende

Submission of essay 1: The role of women in my country compared to the local women’s

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

Week 8

Midterm Test

  1. Functional: Stating and supporting opinion about mass media. Comparing the impact of local mass media with the mass media in their own country. Reporting events, facts and others’ speech.
  2. Grammatical: Review of tenses. If conditional clauses using subjunctive mood.
  3. Vocabulary: Words related to education, politics, political campaigns, demonstrations, etc.
  4. Culture: The impact of mass media in local and home culture

Listen and do exercises on radio newscast

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

Week 9

  1. Functional: Identifying trends and opinions in newspapers. - Assessing facts and events - Comparing and contrasting information provided by different media. - Reflecting on the language, text and layout of newspapers. Assessing facts and events - Commenting and analyzing facts, reports and evidence - Discussing hypothetical reasons and consequences.
  2. Grammatical: Review of tenses and their uses when reporting news and stories. Indirect speech.
  3. Vocabulary: Understanding Chilean Spanish in different registers (poor, rich, young, adults). Nouns and verbs that describe mass media, ads and TV industry. Words to describe specific events on the news, newscast, and newspaper sections. Crimes and lawbreakers on the paper.
  4. Culture: Local newspapers. Controversial laws in public opinion.

Short reading comprehension test: “La última niebla” by Maria Luisa Bombal

Each student brings a different local newspaper to the class to be analyzed according to the table in the book

Read and do exercises of the unit on crimes in the papers

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

Week 10

  1. Functional: Making hypotheses about future events. Discussing the validity of facts. Expressing agreement and strong disagreement. Stating arguments and counterarguments. Expressing uncertainty and probability. Stating, supporting and defending opinions. Describing consequences, stating negative results of events. Demanding information.
  2. Grammatical: If conditional clauses using subjunctive mood. Simple and perfect future tenses. Use of connectors that express contrast, cause and result. Subjunctive mood in adverb phrases.
  3. Vocabulary: Environment and environmental problems. Word formation: adjectives from nouns. Clonation and medical terms that refer to medical advances and technology.
  4. Culture: Use of natural resources in a developing country. The impact of values and beliefs on country’s decisions.

Read and do exercises of the unit: what a future is ahead

Oral Activity: Expert Panel Discussion: Clonation

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

Week 11

Group activity: IES Abroad instructors present a topic of discussion with students. Activity is enriched by personal perspectives and experiences on a local historic event instructors have experienced

  1. Functional: Describing and explaining the importance of religion for locals. Make hypotheses about religions and death.
  2. Grammatical: Indicative and subjunctive mood to express opinions.
  3. Vocabulary: Words related to religions, religious practices, beliefs and death.
  4. Culture: Death and funeral rites for local people

Submission of essay 2: My role in the panel of experts, supporting my arguments in favor/ against clonation

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

Week 12

Field trip to National Cemetery

  • Exploring the cemetery from a historical, economic, political and social perspective
  • Understanding some important aspects of local idiosyncrasies

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

Week 13

Class interview with Eledín Parraguez

  1. Functional: Discussing and arguing on Chilean education experiment: integrated schools. Explaining and comparing Chilean with American education system.
  2. Grammatical: Present and past perfect tenses
  3. Vocabulary: Words to describe education, educational systems, class differences.
  4. Culture: The role of education for people and it helps in social mobility

Short reading comprehension test: “Tres años para nacer” by Eledín Parraguez

Submission of written paper: Visit to the National Cemetery

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

Week 14

Final written exam

  1. Functional: Talking about the conflicts among neighboring countries. Comparing and contrasting past events in different parts of the world and their consequences. Contrasting and comparing points of view. Recognizing different regional varieties of Spanish. Recognizing different regional accents of Spanish.
  2. Grammatical: Review of tenses in indicative and Subjunctive mood
  3. Vocabulary: Words that describe war, armed conflicts and patriotism. Connectors that express sequence and consequence.
  4. Culture: Patriotism and nationalism Spanish in Latin-American

Video and class discussion: La Guerra del Pacífico

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

Week 15

Final oral exam

Final meeting: Students discuss their final grades, receive their graded written exams and assess their experience

Reflection on the experience, assessment of personal objectives, goals and achievements

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


Required readings: 
  • Course handbook (designed and compiled by the Spanish coordinator, Prof. Claudia Flores).
  • La última Niebla by Maria Luisa Bombal (copies available at IES Abroad Santiago, and local universities)
  • Tres años para nacer by Eledin Parraguez (copies available at IES Abroad Santiago)