JOBEN RIVERA-THOMPSON: Satisfying words on this Thanksgiving

  • Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dictionary is quite possibly the most vicious and malicious word one could utter to a young class of Spanish-language learners.


It ranks somewhere between “write a complete sentence” and “test tomorrow” on a scale of syntactic disgust. Their heads swivel and eyes roll at the cadence of this word. But, you know I was once, and still am a student, and I get their frustrations.


Some have not quite mastered the art of fingering through the pages of a book to find information, and then when they get to the spot they need, they have trouble finding what is useful. Some of us from the ancient days of telephone books and encyclopedias perfected this skill in our youth. On the contrary, for this generation, it is proven that technology makes discovery and knowledge as easy as a swipe across a 3-inch screen. The other possibility is laziness.


“What are we going to do with this?” is the typical fearful interrogation I receive when I attempt to pass a few dictionaries out.


Once I calm their nerves, I reveal to them that the dictionaries are their tool for a game. The game is dictionary wars. Students are asked to look up the Spanish translation for an English word in the quickest time possible. The catch is that they must start with their palms on the cover and back end of the book and thumbs rested on the outside of the pages.


They were open to the idea.


When a few rounds of the game went by, some of the students started to catch on to the trend. They noticed the objective of this was to make them familiar with vocabulary terms, yet the questions I got from them had less to do with turkey-day cuisine and more about how Puerto Ricans and Latinos celebrate Thanksgiving here in the states.


To answer that question, I can only really generalize and speak from my experience. Generally, the day has little to no significance for newly immigrated Latinos here to the states or that significance is more than just eating with family and flipping channels through football. I would like to think that individuals trying to make a life for them in the land of the free would be extra thankful to what God and country have provided to them.


For my own sake, coming from a Latino family that has been in the states for a while now, the traditions may not be the same nor may the food served equal, but the basic idea of an excuse to get together with family and enjoy each other is always welcome.


As I discuss with anyone who lends and ear, Latinos are generally much more familiar than their stately counterparts. We love family and being around them: grateful, thankful and ready to eat.


ˇBuen provecho!


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