Oxford Learner’s Spanish Dictionary for the Caribbean: How language can transform your teaching

Foreign Language educator María Zita Salazar discusses her experience teaching Spanish language in the Caribbean and the way language education has evolved over the years. With the new Oxford Learner’s Spanish Dictionary for the Caribbean, María sees a transformation in teaching and learning both in and outside the classroom.

Without a doubt, teaching secondary level Spanish in the Caribbean at is one of the most rewarding, enriching, and thought-provoking feats as an educator. It thrives on the essence of vocation, dedication, and reflexivity.

When delving into the present of Covid 19, the Caribbean and specifically Trinidadian foreign language educators have been challenged to rise to the occasion to not only inculcate a passion, spark, and interest in learners, but also a sense of independence that promotes the idea of holistic and autonomous learning.

In the epoch prior to the internet and social media, dictionaries and physical textbooks were the tools that were deemed “sacred” amongst us language aficionados who appreciated the idea of self-governing language acquisition outside the classroom. Those were the tools that took us to the next level; that drove our thirst for knowledge; that gave us the edge over our classmates and that helped us to reinforce what was taught in class as a lesson extension.

The reliance on social media and the internet for knowledge today is a reality that many educators accept and adapt to when in the classroom. Because of this, investigation may be present but deductions and critical thinking, although not totally lost, may need some tweaking. Hence, the Oxford Learner’s Spanish Dictionary for the Caribbean has come to save the day to assist not just our learners but us, the educators by extension.

It has always been a paradoxical philosophy held dear to my heart that a teacher is and always will be a permanent student. As an educator, a profound willingness to learn each nuance and idiosyncrasy of one’s students to cater to their academic needs should always be a top priority. This dictionary is not just for those preparing for the CSEC examinations, but also for those who are now starting to rev up their Spanish language engines. Teachers can utilize this educational tool to promote investigation, independent learning, and to emphasize and recognize the importance of igniting one’s cognitive learning during the Spanish as a second language acquisition process.

As a secondary level Spanish language educator at Trinity College East in Trinidad, I hold the perspective that any type of resource, once valid and credible, can enrich the academic journeys of my foreign language learners. However, as not every learner may not fit into a one-dimensional box, learning and education can be defined a multifaceted entity that flourishes when the inculcator of knowledge understands that not every student learns the same.

With this dictionary, learners can dive into deep waters of the Spanish language as they find not just meanings, but local and cultural content that provokes the stimulation of the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic cognitive learning styles that are crucial for students to discover on their language-learning journey. Learners must decipher in their second language acquisition trajectory which style works for them and appreciate the splendours and flexibility of multidimensional methods of learning.

In essence, while reading the cultural titbits in the Oxford Learner’s Spanish Dictionary for the Caribbean, the learner is encouraged to envision foreign realities and make connections to his local ones. This resurrects the lost critical thinker and births a learner who is encouraged to learn Spanish through not merely a semantic or pragmatic filter but through coating the vocabulary and grammatical boxes with splashes of culture and history that allows for an all-inclusive learning experience.

The pupil, through flipping through the pages and relishing in the beauty of the Spanish to English duality, does not merely stimulate tactile senses but also touches the prize of knowledge that opens their eyes to another world. A world that is rich in diversity and accessibility, making the dictionary user-friendly and effective.

Essentially, reviving the thirst for knowledge from Spanish language learners in Trinidad at the secondary level has undoubtedly been a challenge, due to the heavy influence of the internet and the incursion of a global pandemic. However, for those educators who do what they do with vocation and passion, do you all truly believe that there is hope for the revival of the critical thinker and the learner who appreciates and understands the importance of autonomous learning? I honestly and firmly believe that there is.

By María Zita Salazar

María is a foreign language educator with a tremendous passion for Hispanic culture, literature and history whose area of expertise lies within the sphere of secondary and tertiary level Spanish language acquisition. María has a BA in Spanish and a BA in Latin American Studies, in addition to having spent time in Zaragoza, Spain where she studied Hispanic Philology. She has been teaching for almost 8 years and spent 6 years in Colombia teaching English as a second language in addition to Portuguese.