As a language assistant abroad, I notice how important the cultural aspects are in order to completely understand a foreign language. In my opinion, it is much more efficient to learn a language while increasing our knowledge of the foreign culture rather than just focusing on the linguistic aspects.
Last time I had the chance to introduce Spanish peculiarities in my classes was during a presentation about the Christmas traditions in my country. My idea was to play some videos in order to make the presentation more dynamic and entertaining for my Austrian students. In that moment, I realized the best examples were commercials: they are full of cultural features that should be explained in order to understand, not only the commercial, but also the target population.
Moreover, teachers can make a good use of commercials: listening comprehension, writing exercises about a particular cultural aspect, discussion in small groups, guessing-the-end game, introduction to a certain topic…
Regarding Christmas time in Spain, the following commercials are really helpful for teachers and I yielded good results with some of them:
1. Freixenet, 2000
- Level: elementary
- Cultural contents: Spanish Christmas drinks, history of this brand (Catalan sparkling white wine), flamenco dance, Spanish regions (comunidades autónomas)
- Linguistic contents: vocabulary about food and drink, Christmas wishes
- Extra activities: complete in small groups a Spanish map with cultural aspects (e.g. Cava in Catalonia and Flamenco in Andalusia), compare Spanish Christmas food and drink with those of the students’ country
2. Noel Cookies Company, 2006
- Level: elementary – intermediate
- Colombian commercial
- Cultural contents: school Christmas performances, costumes, Christmas songs (villancicos)
- Linguistic contents: vocabulary about animals, professions and Christmas songs
- Extra activities: Christmas song (fill in the gaps), oral communication (do you like costumes? which one is your favorite and why?)
- We learnt about this and other challenging videos for translators in university!
3. El Almendro, 2010
- Level: elementary
- Cultural contents: Spanish people living abroad, typical Christmas sweet (turrón)
- Linguistic contents: vocabulary about Christmas sweets and desserts, irregular verb volver
- Extra activities: Christmas song (fill in the gaps), Christmas wishes
4. Ikea, 2014
- Level: intermediate – advanced
- Cultural contents: meaning of the Three Wise Men in Spain, Christmas letters
- Linguistic contents: oral comprehension, vocabulary about Christmas presents, subjunctive form in Spanish
- Extra activities: written communication (write your own letter for the Three Wise Kings using subjunctive), comparison in smalls groups the different Christmas holidays between Spain and the students’ country
5. Spanish Lottery, 2014
- Level: intermediate
- English or Spanish subtitles
- Cultural contents: the meaning of lottery in Spain, how the lottery works in Spain (how much, when, where to buy, etc.)
- Linguistic contents: vocabulary for bars, imperative form
- Extra activities: guessing the end (stop in minute 1:45), oral and written communication (what would you do with the money? which number would you buy and why?)
By the way, we knew this morning which number was the lucky one of this year: 13437.