The methodology we use is unique in Cuernavaca and, for that matter, in many parts of Latin America and Spain. It is an attempt to steer clear of traditional, mechanistic methods which, often, are also ideologically oppressive. It has not been easy to change what we, as teachers, have been doing for years and what we, as students, experienced in our own educational process. Paulo Freire refers to the “generative word” to be taken from and applied to the student’s own personal reality and about the active participation of the student in his or her own process.
The teacher/facilitator’s job is to be open, respectful, and above all, humble, maintaining a horizontal (rather than vertical, superior-inferior) relationship with the student. As we are working with people from other cultures, we cannot use “generative words” as such. However, the concept is considered while making specific points of grammar and creating participatory exercises which explain and demonstrate the reality of the Spanish language as it is manifested in the culture of Mexico. All of this happens through an integration of classroom instruction and direct experiences with the culture. For us, to teach language is to teach culture; they are inseparable, and one cannot teach or learn one without the other.
The “culture” we speak about is not some idyllic concept; it is the present, concrete reality of a people whose heritage, contradictions, and problems are integral to understanding their language.
At CILAC Paulo Freire’s methodology is applied to the teaching of Spanish as a second language and students are expected to contribute their insights and ask the necessary questions for critical analysis.