Almudena Marín Cobos

Almudena Marín Cobos
Graduate Student Senior Lead Teaching Fellow Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures
  • Address
    Casa Hispánica
    Department of Latin American & Iberian Cultures
    612 W116th Street
    New York NY 10027
  • Office Hours
    By appointment
  • Phone
    (212) 854-5815
  • Fax
    (212) 854-5322
  • Email
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B.A. with honors in Spanish Language and Literature (2008), Universidad de Córdoba (Spain). M.A. in Spanish Literature (2011), Universidad de Córdoba (Spain).
She has been studying and researching at universities in Europe and in the United States, such as Royal Holloway (2005-2006) and Queen Mary (2010) in London, as well as Fordham University (2012) in New York. She has also taken part in external research grants dealing with Spanish poetry during the second half of 17th century under the leadership of Prof. Pedro Ruiz Pérez (Universidad de Córdoba). As a result of these grants, she has spoken in many conference presentations and published articles in refereed journals pertaining to Early Modern Spanish Poetry, i.e. Anuario Lope de Vega, Bulletin Hispanique or Versants. She is avid a contributor to the online digital database PHEBO, an ongoing project directed by Prof. Ruiz Pérez.
She is interested in the processes of memorialization of the Spanish transition to democracy.

Academic Statement

The first time I taught Spanish was in a girls’ private school in the outskirts of London, in a village called Chertsey. While teaching these classes I realized through their expressive faces that the students struggled to grasp what I was saying. In that precise moment I understood that I had to tailor how I express myself to match their understanding,  so that they could really interact with me. The only way we all could understand each other, we all could communicate, was by speaking the same language. Spanish was not the problem, it happened to be much more complicated and enriching than just a mere linguistic code.

I feel that the fact that I have spent many years of my life learning (second) languages helps me to better understand how to work with students. It helps to know in advance what their expectations are when learning a language, and it also helps to know how to achieve it through the right process. Experience tells me that there is no point in memorizing lists of vocabulary or grammar charts if one is not able to start a conversation in the target language yet. That is why we need to teach students how to learn to use the tools, how to communicate.

Teaching by principles is the motto vindicated by a cognitive approach to teaching. Those principles are mainly related to mental and intellectual functions, and they inform the way I understand how languages are to be learned and taught. Therefore, all those principles should work together to lead my teaching task to the goal of communicative competence. It then becomes necessary a focus on how language is used under the criteria of fluency, authenticity and meaningful contexts. By making the right strategic investments, students will be on the right track to develop an autonomy that will allow them to control their own processes of learning -an autonomy that simultaneously relies on the interactions with others.

Languages are undoubtedly the most effective way to communicate ideas with people, to express thoughts and feelings and, last but not least, to learn from different cultures. For these reasons, language could not be considered as mere grammar rules, but as a question linked to the nature of the human being, to how one expresses oneself and how one's cultural perspectives are shaped within a given context.

As an instructor, my responsibility is to involve students in the learning of Spanish, letting them know both what I expect from them and what they are achieving through the course. In this matter, instructors should also be a guide in evaluating the process, resolving doubts and providing meaningful feedback to make them get to the stage of self-correction. Only when this happens can they become independent learners -which is the point of it all. Students should be, indeed, the main figures in class, increasingly gaining control over their own process of learning. The instructor’s main role has to be to foster a suitable environment so that the student feels comfortable  and willing enough to communicate with others -thereby playing that active role in class. Only in this way will they gain confidence in their own process of learning a language, a culture and so much more.

Teaching means taking risks, constantly reassessing one's approaches, and innovating. But teaching also offers the possibility of growing as an educator and, ultimately, as a person. Let us not forget the social responsibility teachers hold, instead let us enforce our own beliefs and principles to take that responsibility to the highest level.