Two Ways to Contextualize
Let's look at examples of two different ways multimedia can provide context.
Contextualized Language Samples
First, let's try an experiment. (This can work even if you are not a Spanish speaker.) The clip in the Tá Falado lesson that you watched introduced the idea that Portuguese speakers add extra vowel sounds to the end of many syllables that end in consonants: ping-i pong-i, King-i Kong-i, piquenique. Now, when Brazilians talk of Hollywood's old cowboy and western movies, they call this bang bang. How do you think that a Brazilian would pronounce the word bang bang? Correct! Bang-i bang-i.
If you got the answer right, it was because the brief exposure to the Tá Falado lesson provided you with enough context to make the association (and perhaps knowing some Spanish also helped). The bottom line is that you were able to predict the Portuguese pronunciation and create new examples. This shows one of the positive ways that technology can be used in language instruction—contextualizing the language sample.
Contextualized Learning Environment
A discussion blog allows students to create the context for discussion and is a great example of a contextualized learning environment. The discussion blog that accompanies each podcast lesson of Tá Falado gives students a forum to share their experiences with and questions about the material. Future users can take advantage of the answers to questions. Additionally, it can be the learners themselves who provide the answers, and not just the teachers.
Let's look at one of the discussion blog comments that accompanies the Tá Falado lesson on the verb ficar ("to be located, to stay, to become"). This comment was written by a listener named Marcus.
"We got to Rio yesterday. This week I did a Tá Falado crash course ... this lesson in particular really helped! Specifically, we were in the Botanical Gardens while a lady helped our 5-year-old son Max feed the monkeys—she kept using the verb ficar to tell him to stand still while they took the food from his hand. Thanks to this episode I didn't search my Spanish vocabulary in vain for the meaning. In general, Tá Falado has really helped me feel confident in understanding not only the language, but the culture."
Marcus' comment illustrates a nice example of contextualizing the learning environment. He was, in essence, primed for the moment when the verb ficar was used while his son was feeding the monkeys. No doubt, Marcus will remember this moment and make the association with the verb ficar. By sharing his experience in the blog, he is providing context for others to learn the verb.
Assign students to listen to the podcast lessons as homework, but ask them to write their questions and observations down in the discussion blog. Prior to class, look at the student comments and prepare your in-class discussion and follow up based on the student comments in the discussion blog. That way you know that you are focusing your attention on the areas that students are wondering about.