02/01/2015, by CLAS

Creative writing in Spanish

Milan Kundera, Samuel Becket, Joshep Conrad, Franz Kafka and Vladimir Nabokov have in common the fact that they did not always write in their mother tongue. There is something special about writing in a foreign language, and our Creative Writing in Spanish students know it well. A quote attributed to Proust reads, ‘a novelist who desires a very defined style should write in a foreign language’. Maybe our students feel forced to search for more ingenious images to compensate for a shortage of vocabulary or grammar inaccuracy, we do not really know; in any case, the fresh perspective they bring into their work and the feeling of freedom they infuse into their Spanish words make them produce truly spectacular fiction.

Creative Writing in Spanish is a Language Centre module, which has been taught since 2010 to final year SPLAS students and students from other programmes with a high level of language proficiency. In this module students have the opportunity to explore their creativity using the Spanish language. This module aims to develop and improve students’ writing skills in Spanish by providing them with practice in creative writing in the target language, supported by the study of creative features of relevant contemporary fiction in Spanish. They learn to become writers and not only write, but also read as writers. Students work in prose forms such as short stories, flash fiction and autobiography, and are also encouraged to explore the place of their creativity in their own lives and academic studies. They use blogs and wikis and they meet up to give each other creative feedback.

Our module has even travelled. We were asked to present it at a conference in Jyäskylä, Finland, where we also offered a series of workshops to help tutors there develop their own creative writing modules. It was presented at the Tri-Campus Language Centre Conference in Malaysia 2012and we also exhibited a poster presentation at WorldCALL (Glasgow) 2013, where we talked about the role of blogs and wikis in teaching creative writing.

The idea of a module with a focus on creative writing in a foreign language seemed a bold move at first but very quickly students started expressing what theygained fromthe module and, they not only confirmed all our expectations, but also surpassed them.

According to the students’ feedback, their vocabulary and grammar expanded as they kept writing, and their fluency increased, as they discussed their work. They were identifying, exploring, and efficiently using in their writing, literary techniques such as narrative voice, point of view, dialogue; they were building characters, designing good beginnings and endings. Their analytical skills were developing.

Finally, they talked about pride: ‘I could not imagine I could write like this in a foreign language’, a student said. They also talked about motivation, freedom, importance of regular work, real communication, feedback, confidence, focus on work well done rather than errors, creativity, original thinking. ‘The Creative Writing in Spanish module reminded me why I chose to study a degree in Spanish in the first place’, another student stated. In response to that, we can only say that the Creative Writing in Spanish students also keep reminding us, week after week, why we chose to teach languages. As they learn a foreign language,students also develop as human beings, learning to be critical, developing their vision of the world and shaping the individuals they choose to become.

Veronica Layunta-Maurel, Language Centre

Posted in Language Centre