NOTE:  This is part 7 of on on-going series about an instance of teaching the subjunctive with a story-based approach and compelling, comprehensible input.

The example in from a Spanish 3 class, but the principles apply to any language and any level.

The story-creating process continues from the previous post here…

Clase, ¿por qué tener hambre es un problema para nuestros amigos?

[Class, why is being hungry a problem for our friends?]

¡Sí!  ¡Naturalmente, cada chica quiere que Marcus vaya a un restaurante diferente!

[Yes!  Naturally, each girl wants Marcus to go to a different restaurant!]

¿Adónde quieren ir?  ¿Adónde quiere Haley que Marcus vaya?

[Where do they want to go?  Where do they want Marcus to go?]

Again the class throws out suggestions and then Haley gets to decide where she wants Marcus to go.  It can be simple or complex.  I steer them into choosing something simple like a French restaurant because time was limited that day.

¿Haley quiere que Marcus vaya a un restaurant francés, o quiere que vaya a McDonald’s?

[Does Haley want Marcus to go to a French restaurant, or does she want him to go to McDonald’s?]

Either/Or questions can be helpful because they provide more comprehensible input.  They use the structure twice and it also prompts students to produce the structure in their response.  This feels natural to them, but it is highly guided.  At this point in the story, all students will understand the structure, but some will still not be producing it on their own.  With the guidance of questions like this one all can respond with the structure correctly in Spanish.

Haley quiere que Marcus vaya a un restaurante francés. 

[Haley wants Marcus to go to a French restaurant.]

¿Qué quiere Haley que Marcus coma allí?

[What does Haley want Marcus to eat there?]

Yet another model of the subjunctive, this time with coma.  This fits logically with “they are hungry.”   I insert a very short, non-grammatical explanation of why we use coma instead of come here; something like: “Just like we change va to vaya, here we change come to coma.”  That is enough to satisfy the average student at this point because they want to get to the end of the story, not hear my brilliant explanation of the subtleties of the subjunctive.

¿A Marcus le gusta la comida francesa?

[Does Marcus like French food?]

¿Qué tipo de comida francesa le gusta Haley especialmente?

[What kind of French food does Haley especially like?]

¿A Marcus le gustan las piernas de rana?

[Does Marcus like frog’s legs?]

¿Por qué a Haley le gustan las piernas de rana tanto?

[Why does Haley like frog’s legs so much?]

¿Por qué Haley quiere que Marcus coma las piernas de rana?

[Why does Haley want Marcus to eat frog’s legs?]

Once we have answered these questions satisfactorily, I summarize the answers with:

Ella quiere que Marcus vaya con ella a probar piernas de rana. 

[She wants Marcus to go with her to try frog’s legs.]

A ella le gustan las piernas de rana porque son crujientes y porque saben un poco a pollo. 

[She likes frog’s legs because they are crunchy and because they taste a little bit like chicken.]

Ella cree que a Marcus le van a gustar las piernas de rana también.

[She believes that Marcus is going to like frog’s legs too.]

Pero hay un problema.  ¿Qué es el problema, clase?

[But there is a problem.  What is the problem, class?]

Of course they just about scream out that Kylee wants Marcus to go to a different restaurant.  Many students blurt out the focus structure correctly here.   Some will revert to a more well known and comfortable indicative form (which is also correct) and say “¡Kylee no quiere ir!” [Kylee doesn’t want to go!], but many students will say ¡Kylee quiere que Marcus vaya a otro restaurant! [Kylee wants to go to another restaurant!]—spontaneous, if highly guided, use of the target structure. 

Notice that there is no forced speech beyond the level of acquisition here; we don’t make them speak Spanish and we don’t make them use the structure.  It just pops out of the mouths of the kids that are ready to produce it.  When they are ready to speak, they will speak.  We do not have to make them speak in Spanish; they are compelled to speak in Spanish because the content demands it of them.  If we are doing it right, spontaneous speech pops out of the moths of the students that are ready to produce it.  It happens at different times, but it will happen if they get enough interesting, comprehensible input.

¿Adónde quiere Kylee que Marcus vaya?

[Where does Kylee want Marcus to go?]

A student comes up with a great idea:  there is a Peruvian restaurant in Paris.  What a great idea!—so cosmopolitan and such a good synthesis of the ideas in this story so far.  I was proud of them for choosing this because of the multicultural element: the possibility that there might be a Peruvian restaurant in Paris!  Fascinating!

Kylee, por supuesto, quiere que Marcus vaya a un restaurante peruano.

[Kylee, of course, wants Marcus to go to a Peruvian restaurant.]

¿Qué quiere ella que Marcus coma allí?

[What does she want Marcus to eat there?]

This continues the parallel story theme.  The phrasing is similar.  The rhythm is obvious.  The repetitions are natural.

Clase, ¡es obvio que Kylee quiere que Marcus vaya a un restaurante peruano a comer barbacoa de llama!

[Class, it is obvious that Kylee wants Marcus to go to a Peruvian restaurant to eat llama barbecue.]

Pero hay un problema.   ¿Qué es el problema esta vez, clase?

[But there is a problem.  What is the problem this time, class?]

Class gives another logical answer in the world we have created in our story: Haley doesn’t want to go.  Haley verifies this new fact for us.

Sí, Haley dice que no quiere ir, y no va a ir.  ¿Por qué Haley dice esto?

[Yes, Haley says that she doesn’t want to go.  Why does Haley say this?]

With this “Why?” question I am looking for something fun and different.  Instead of saying the obvious, that she wants to go to a French restaurant, a student comes up with a delightful reason:  she cannot eat llama barbecue.

Ella no quiere ir porque no puede comer barbacoa de llama.

[She does not want to go because she cannot eat llama barbecue.]

The English translation of quiere ir [she wants to go] sounds a lot like the translation of the target structure quiere que vaya [she wants him to go].  The quiere ir structure is old hat at this level, but I want to make sure every student knows the difference in meaning between the two, so at this point I will do a comprehension check on this particular expression. 

Notice that there are very few grammatical explanations unless they are requested.  Think of it as “on-demand grammar.”  Long grammatical explanations break up the story, distract us from meaning and ruin the flow.  And a good story is all about flow.  If you need to give a grammatical explanation keep it short.  Use grammar to facilitate communication, not to disrupt it.

¿Por qué Haley no puede comer barbacoa de llama?

[Why can Haley not eat llama barbecue?]

The previous answer leads to another question, so again the class brainstorms some possible reasons.  Someone comes up with, “because it gives her bad memories.”  We do not know what the story behind those bad memories is yet, but that short answer gives us a whiff of a possibly interesting back story.

¡Sí, correcto!  Es a causa de que la barbacoa de llama le da memorias malas.

[Yes, correct!  It is because llama barbecue gives her bad memories.]

We stop again here so that students can pair up and retell the entire story up to this point.