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Keeping it Real with Pen Pals: A Language Learning Journey to Spain

What is the best way to learn a language? Put down those flash cards for a moment and take a look at how Year 12 Spanish students at St. Andrews International School Bangkok are taking an exciting approach to maximise and build upon the Spanish they are learning in the classroom. This group of motivated language learners has embarked on a bilingual exchange of pen pal letters with a class of English language learners in Haro, La Rioja, Spain.

While many people have different situations, styles and strategies to build their language skills, experts agree that a communicative approach, in which we maximise authentic social interaction for real-life purposes, is an effective way to build language proficiency. Through this exchange, students agree that their language skills are growing.

The pen pal activity has been very helpful because it has allowed me to not only make a new friend, but also practice my Spanish with another person. It has taught me the common 'way' to chat in Spanish. Vaishnavi - Year 12 Spanish student at St. Andrews
Regular letter writing helped me to improve my grammar and also vocabulary. It helped me to develop my Spanish skills. Yoshita - Year 12 Spanish student at St. Andrews

In this bilingual exchange, the students share information about themselves and life in Bangkok, for their counterparts in Haro. They are realising that there are many similarities and differences (surroundings, festivities, daily life) that they can explore and celebrate through language.

I have learnt that Spain is a country full of celebration and the people in Spain celebrate to the fullest when it’s time to celebrate and work to the fullest when it’s time for work. Jaswinder - Year 12 Spanish student
It seemed fairly similar to student culture in Thailand - they enjoy similar entertainments like TV shows and video games. Erjin - Year 12 Spanish student

After reflection and feedback, it is clear that the students are keen to continue the correspondence, and possibly use technology to make it more instantaneous, frequent, and convenient to carry out independently. Indeed, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

IMG_5128 Haro students