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April 30, 2024

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Fort’s Cultural Building: Adopting a New Approach to Hispanic/Latin Heritage

“¡Se Habla Español!” Mr. Bermúdez Leads the Way in Embracing Language and Heritage at Fort

Fort Dorchester High School is breaking new ground with a transformative new Hispanic/Latin Studies class led by Mr. Henry Bermúdez. In response to a growing number of Spanish-speaking students in the Dorchester Two District, the innovative course seamlessly integrates language proficiency with a deep dive into Hispanic culture.

Native from Colombia, Mr. Bermúdez has been teaching Spanish 2 at Fort for nearly 3 years now. He also heads the most recent revamped version of the multicultural club, the ‘Hispanic Heritage Society’, mainly known for being the first club in Fort whose goal is to embrace students who speak Spanish or come from a Hispanic ancestry in a cultural fellowship. All of these interactions with the Hispanic community at Fort presented Mr. Bermúdez with an issue, “Seeing students using Spanish as their first language in my foreign language Spanish class made me realize the need to create a class that incorporates the use of Spanish as a first language, and what better way to do that than through culture” explains Mr. Bermúdez.

Using a communicative approach, the class is focused on engaging students in both oral and written communication by engaging in many activities that foster critical and analytical thinking using various Spanish-language publications and resources. The uniqueness in this program lies in a cultural perspective, encouraging participants to share their heritage and fostering a dynamic exchange of cultural insights.

Collaboration from students is encouraged, regardless of fluency levels. The class promotes Spanish usage for all students, reinforcing the idea that active participation is essential for linguistic growth. He also aims to highlight relevant aspects of Hispanic culture and enhance oral and written communication skills. Success is measured through post-activity evaluations, providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of cultural and linguistic proposals. “I insist on communication. It’s not just about speaking and writing for the sake of it. It’s about doing it well. What isn’t used is forgotten,” asserts Mr. Bermúdez when addressing strategies to encourage interaction and active speaking in the classroom.

But, what do Hispanic Fort Patriots think about this new class? Junior Mikaela Vergara Solari acknowledges that Spanish-speaking students coming to the United States from foreign countries could have a hard time reinforcing their knowledge in their native language. Vergara Solari declares, “When you come to a new country and start speaking another language you can forget the grammatical rules of your mother tongue, and if you can’t build those skills in your language, then it will be very difficult to master them in a second language.” Conversely, senior Camila Baez Mercado disagrees particularly on this point. “You never finish learning the rules of a language,” she claims. Nonetheless, if they could both agree on one thing, it was that this class is the perfect opportunity to re-build a sense of community among Hispanic students.

At the same time, sophomore Sofia Tamayo-Combita explains that the difficulties and lack of advancement in the Spanish programs led her to pursue to study other foreign languages at Fort. “I’m in love with my native language, but the fact that if I put it on my schedule, I would have to learn it as if I were back in elementary school made me and my friends choose French for this school year,” Tamayo-Combita explains. Both, Tamayo-Combita and junior Claudia Alonso Policarpo, an exchange student from Spain, relate to the urgent need for a curriculum that challenges students to become more fluent in their own tongues. Alonso Policarpo states that “You already know the language, the thing is knowing how to use it. It’s like the Americans here who take English classes to reinforce their language, their grammar, and vocabulary. So, we need something similar for Spanish speakers because the Spanish classes taught here are for people who are learning Spanish, not for those who already know it.”

Furthermore, Tamayo-Combita advocates that this course should be extended to all of the Dorchester District Two high schools so that Spanish-speaking kids may be prepared in their own tongue. “A class that is taught in Spanish and seeks to expand the knowledge of Hispanic students sounds like something we need urgently. We need to continue strengthening our language despite the fact that we are in another country. Even more so, given that there will be numerous Spanish-speaking regions in the same room speaking Spanish, it would be beneficial not just to learn from other cultures, but also to acknowledge how we share a language while being so distinct from one another. That is so wonderful and deep,” discloses Tamayo-Combita. 

As Fort Dorchester High School pioneers this innovative class, the journey is not just about language skills, but also about nurturing a deeper appreciation for diverse cultures. It’s a step towards creating an educational environment that fosters well-rounded global citizens. “The impact this academic moment can generate is the promotion of correct Spanish usage to avoid mixing Spanish with English. Additionally, we see that Hispanic migration to the United States is reaching unprecedented levels. This means that in the future, more people are likely to speak Spanish, and it’s better that it’s done correctly,” foresees Mr. Bermúdez when contemplating the long-term impact of the class.

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