Spanish as a Third Language

Print section


This document is complementary to the Spanish as a Third Language program at the secondary level. It is intended to help teachers with their lesson planning and specifies the knowledge that the students must acquire and be able to use during Secondary Cycle Two.1 It comprises seven sections that contain the elements of knowledge required to develop oral and written competencies in Spanish. Each section consists of a brief introduction that provides an overview of what the students are expected to learn and a table that provides details on this knowledge and its progression throughout Secondary Cycle Two.

Students who start studying Spanish in secondary school generally have very limited or no knowledge of the language, and their immediate environment offers little opportunity to interact with Spanish speakers. The classroom is therefore the place where they will do most of their learning. It will be mainly through constant exposure to Spanish in communication situations that are as varied and authentic as possible that students will be able to develop their competencies in this language.

Learning a third language relies heavily on prior language learning in a first and second language. Thus, by reinvesting the strategies and knowledge acquired in these languages, students will find it easier to learn Spanish and will begin to reflect on their language learning. Transferring prior learning in another language to Spanish does not always happen automatically, and the teacher will play a key role in helping students accomplish this transfer.

Second language acquisition is characterized by a spiral approach: students must be repeatedly exposed to concepts before they can assimilate and use them correctly. By drawing upon prior learning in different contexts and acquiring new knowledge, students will gradually develop their Spanish-language competencies. Through contact with increasingly complex texts, they will not only expand their vocabulary and repertoire of cultural references, but also develop their ability to use knowledge related to communication situations and to Spanish phonetics and grammar. They will also learn to use processes and strategies that allow them to become increasingly autonomous.

The knowledge presented in this document cannot be acquired in isolation. It is only within the framework of meaningful communication situations that students can assimilate this knowledge and learn to use it spontaneously. Learning a language is a long and complex process. Students must have multiple opportunities to use Spanish in a variety of contexts in order to acquire a functional knowledge of the language by the end of secondary school.

1.  The program was designed based on 100 hours of instruction a year.