How I’ve Acquired Language By Watching TV

I started watching the Spanish drama”El Internado” on Netflix after reading many comments about it on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook page. “El Internado” tells the story of the adults that work and the students that study at a boarding school called Laguna Negra in an isolated part of Spain. Some teachers, like Kristy Palacio and Mike Peto, show it in school as part of a comprehensible input (CI) classroom. I have been toying around with the idea of doing this, but haven’t summoned up the courage to do so just yet. In preparation, however, I decided to start watching it just to see if it was any good. I was hooked before I even finished the first episode.

“El Internado” has seven seasons, and I have watched almost all Seasons 1 through 3 with subtitles in English. I’m almost ashamed to admit that part about the subtitles, guys. As a Spanish teacher you would think I would want to challenge myself and watch it with Spanish subtitles or no subtitles at all, but the truth is that sometimes I just don’t want to work that hard, especially since I watch about 80% of it on an exercise machine at the gym. Also, I really like listening to the Spanish and trying to match it up with the English subtitles.

I’ve been watching the show now for about four months, and just very recently I have noticed improvement in my own ability to speak and understand Spanish. My vocabulary has improved, as has my ability to produce various structures that were a struggle for me previously. For example, I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the school year about teaching present perfect structures in my Spanish 3 class. I didn’t feel very confident about my ability to produce this structure spontaneously because it is not a structure that I have been exposed to often. But due to the fact that “El Internado” is chock full of dialogue with present perfect, I can now produce it on the fly with ease.

The best part of the whole experience is that I am so caught up in the story and the characters (Paula and Evelyn are my favorites) that I don’t even realize that I am acquiring language. This is exactly what I want to happen in my classroom. I want my students to be so caught up in compelling, comprehensible input that they don’t even realize they’re acquiring language. That should be the goal for all of us who teach using CI.