March 4, 2002
June wedding bells chime in Woodinville High School class
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
On a regular school day this coming June, two students will say wedding vows during class at Woodinville High School (WHS). What's more, they'll say their vows in Spanish even though English is their primary language.
The ceremony will take place in the ACT Center and combine Spanish and American traditions.
There'll be a multitiered cake, music, photographer and a minister during the class period.
What's going on? The bride and groom are actually playing roles in Linda Crúce-Robin's level 300 Spanish class.
Their classmates will play the various supportive roles of wedding party members, such as maid of honor, best man, wedding coordinator and mother of the groom. "I assign everyone a role," says Crúce-Robin known to her students as Doņa, a title of respect in Spanish-speaking countries and a name she prefers.
The two-week wedding unit begins with the groom asking the bride for her hand in marriage, in Spanish of course. Once the bride says "Yo acepto," the marriage is on.
The guys throw a bachelor party for the groom and the girls celebrate with a bridal shower. Again, only Spanish is spoken.
The events build up to the impending nuptials held at the end of the second week.
The ceremony, or la ceremonia de boda, is complete with real wedding gown, real wedding guests and real wedding kiss.
The festive occasion is carefully planned, down to the silver balloons, paper flowers and fancy cake.
At last year's 2001 wedding, students ordered a cake created by a WHS student who decorates cakes as a side business.
The student entrepreneur whipped up a three-layer confection smothered in vanilla frosting and elegantly trimmed in yellow with pink sugar roses and topped by two white doves.
Doņa says the students usually pay for the cake, chipping in $5 each.
The mock ceremony concludes the final unit in a yearlong class that teaches Spanish through immersion of the language.
"It's their final exam," says Doņa who also teaches level 100 and 200 Spanish. During the wedding, students are expected to speak only Spanish. Doņa says that it's the true test of their ability if a student never slips into English.
The inspiration for the wedding unit came after an educator's workshop that Doņa attended.
There, she met a teacher from Alaska who teaches German through simulated family situations. Doņa thought the idea seemed like an interesting way to involve her students.
"I always look for simulations," she says, "so the kids can have a meaningful way to use their Spanish."
She introduced the wedding unit to her students in 1999. Since then, she says, the unit has become so popular with students, some sign up for the course just to be a part of the wedding.
Students have enthusiastically embraced every part of it, from writing invitations to making small gifts for the bridal shower.
They also enjoy choosing what they'll wear on the big day. Doņa loans out dresses, but some of her students like to find their own apparel and search thrift stores.
Some of the guys rent smart-looking tuxes. In past years, the girl or guy playing the part of the priest has borrowed their minister's pastoral robe.
In addition, the wedding doesn't overlook Spanish traditions. For example, before the bride's entrance, two pages stroll down the aisle holding up pillows.
One page holds a pillow displaying the ring and another holds gold coins, called "arras" in Spanish, to symbolize wealth. "So the couple will be wealthy," Doņa says citing the symbolism. Two other pages hold the bride's train.
Currently, level 300 students are learning the cha-cha, salsa and rumba among others.
"Dances they'll do at the wedding," Doņa clarifies. She mentions that the dance unit teaches the students social etiquette as well as language skills when they ask in Spanish, "May I have this dance?" Doņa also has a three-week art unit. "They paint forgeries," she says with a pleasing smile, explaining that the class studies Spanish and Mexican artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlķ, and tries to duplicate the artwork.
Students no longer learn a language by memorizing dialogue as was the method taught in years past. "That's old hat," Doņa says and adds, "Language learning is so much more acoustical than linguistic."
She believes students have a better opportunity to learn a language through the immersion approach. "I feel the only way you really learn a language is when you're forced to use it to communicate, to get one's needs met."
There's one aspect in the wedding, though, that doesn't need translation ... the wedding kiss.
The bride and groom are asked to kiss for at least 10 seconds, long enough for a photograph.
"Every year the guys and girls are nervous about the kiss," says Doņa.
Even so, there are more difficult features in learning Spanish than a 10-second kiss. "Getting the tenses straight and getting over the fear of making a mistake," Doņa points out.
Learning a foreign language, she says, has numerous benefits, even for the student who never uses it over a lifetime such as increased analytical skills and brainpower.
Says Doņa, "Brain research says that it infinitely increases your intelligence."
Mastery of a foreign language also offers students an edge in landing a job. Doņa mentions that one of her former students works as a receptionist at a medical clinic in Kirkland.
The student was hired for her Spanish-speaking ability so that she can communicate with Hispanic patients when needed.
Spanish is one of several languages taught at Woodinville High School. Also offered are French, German, ESL (English as a Second Language) and American Sign Language.
Colleges generally require that applicants have two years of the same foreign language, though some colleges may require three.
Doņa's students may be having too much fun planning a wedding, quickstepping the cha-cha and dreaming up a fine Picasso to ever consider the class as a requirement.
For questions or comments, contact Linda Crúce-Robin at: firstname.lastname@example.org.