Resources

“Resources” is my catch-all term for the various cultural artifacts we explore in our time together in class. Commercially-produced text books select certain portions of some authentic resources, and then annotate and curate them, order them according to what grammatical concepts they can be used to illustrate, in the order in which the textbook has quite arbitrarily decided to mete them out to you. Essentially, textbooks slice cultural products up and dumb them down and remove all controversial or problematic elements before charging you money for permission to access thin, runny versions of the crown jewels of the fantastic culture and language we teach, where everything interesting has been scientifically, mathematically excised.

I would rather pluck the jewels myself, and explore them with my students. No middle-men required.

Films

I personally love teaching films. I love the films themselves, but I also love the incredible variety of things they offer: Unforgettable visuals of the region we’re trying to get the students interested in; unique characters, who, in the films I choose, are complicated, interesting figures whose names and adventures the students will remember for the rest of their lives. The soundtracks, with culturally and chronologically appropriate songs with poetic lyrics, an infinite number of secondary texts to explore – actor bios, interviews with directors, online movie review sites…The possibilities are endless.

But my very favorite thing to do with films is to dissect the dialogue in very close detail. Amazingly, no one appears to be publishing or marketing the scripts in text form. So, over the years, I’ve cooked them up myself. I call them “dialogue trackers,” since “scripts” wouldn’t be accurate.

That’s because I’ve pretty much just written down, in a Word document, every single comprehensible word spoken in a film, in the order in which they appear. I break them up as in a traditional script – one person’s line is separate from the next, etc. But I don’t write down which character says which line, or describe the scenes.

There are a couple of reasons for this. In part, it’s because that would triple the amount of work it would take to produce the document. But it’s also because this lack of information gives the students an opportunity to participate in creating their own text out of their copy of the dialogue. Leaving some information out means that a great deal of note-taking, from writing down which character says which line, to dividing one scene from another, to noting where each scene takes place, etc., is in the hands of the students. And having them take responsibility for their own learning in this way can be a very useful tool.

I’ve seen each of these films many, many times. Every year, I snag one more detail about what’s being said – in seemingly every film, there are words and expressions that take several repetitions to catch. I’m not an expert, after all, in every single dialect across the Spanish-speaking world. But by now, they’re very complete and accurate.

You can do this for any film you love – it just takes a while. Then again, once you have it, you have it – forever. You can use it year after year, improving it every time, making it more accurate.

The versions you can pick up below are also annotated with such things as cultural and historical information that’s referred to in the film, symbolism and culturally relevant images and references that I’ve noticed, and completed versions of song lyrics. I usually just remember them myself, and bring them up as needed. But in case you don’t know some of the tidbits I’ve picked up over the years, I’ve dropped them in. You can include the footnotes and such in the versions you print up or copy to hand to the students, or not – I can see an argument for each. It’s up to you!

Films for which I’ve cooked up a dialogue tracker, which can be purchased on my Teachers Pay Teachers page:

Diarios de motocicleta: This coming-of-age story follows the young Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend, Alberto Granado, on a motorcycle journey through South America. Based on Guevara’s memoir, the film explores the injustices and inequities of Latin America that led Guevara on his arc of leftist revolution.

María Full of Grace: María Álvares, a young Colombian woman tired of her predictable life, accepts work as a drug mule and discovers much about herself and her own goals and dreams of a better life.

La historia oficial: Argentine history teacher Alicia Ibáñez discovers that her own adopted daughter may have been stolen from leftist victims of the dirty war. A classic treatise on memory, denial, and the political and societal scars of the very recent past.

La misma luna: A young Mexican boy crosses the American border alone in a desperate attempt to reunite with his mother, who works in the US to provide him a better life.

Fresa y chocolate: All but universally hailed as the best film ever produced in Revolutionary Cuba, “Fresa y chocolate” deals with personal, romantic, and political betrayal, and the ways in which everyday Cubans are ground down by all three. The film serves as the perfect companion piece to “El lobo, el bosque, y el hombre nuevo,” the short story on which it is based.

Historias mínimas: This gorgeous Argentine film follows three different characters’ journey from the small town of Fitzroy to the regional capital of San Julián, where they search for fame, a second chance at love, and redemption. Understated and sparse, the film serves as a haunting and heartwarming encapsulation of the spirit of Patagonia.