ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-18009-99




    La reacción de los listeros es todavía más interesante en la conversación que se originó el 10 de marzo, cuando nuevamente Geoff Hargreaves intervino en ESPAN-L, esta vez para compartir con los demás miembros del foro algo sobre lo que los profesores de su escuela estaban discutiendo: la necesidad o no de enseñar el modo subjuntivo a sus alumnos de los primeros cursos de enseñanza primaria:

Right now, here in BC, we wondering if we really do need to teach the subjunctive at high school level. Parents would be so happy, if we found we didn't need to.
After all, lots of Chicanos never bother with the subjunctive!!

[9503: 150]

I should add--sorry--that the movement to 'desubjunctivize' Spanish is a question of postponing its teaching until students enter tertiary education.
High school Spanish will be the province of the indicative.
One argument is that many Chicanos go to language schools in Mexico to learn the subjunctive--but in their everday lives in Chicago and LA they don't use it. If they are seek promotion to the executive level, they need the subjunctive, but generally they get along without it.

[9503: 152]

    En solo cinco días, este mensaje generó treinta respuestas. Se reproducen a continuación las más significativas, tratando de respetar el discurso del debate para facilitar su lectura, y será al final cuando se aportarán los comentarios15.

    Algunas respuestas se centraron en aplicaciones didácticas,

Geoff, I never teach it until third year Spanish here in Arizona.
The kids have enough trouble with indicative, imperative, and interrogative. They don't need another mood. I have dabbled in subjunctive in third year, but I have had so few third year students that I really can't say I have taught it in high school.
They don't really miss it.

[9503: 157]

Geoff, there are so many things that my text" Spanish for Misery" includes in the second year, that I am constantly asking myself that same question. If you are familiar with the series or have a copy or even the misfortune as I do of having to use it, you probably ask yourself a lot; Do they need this grammar at this level?
One of the main things that gets me about the book also is the few useful vocabulary groups that are included.
Where do you teach?
What books do you use?
and how about this one......
How do you teach low level students preterite vs. imperfect? never mind the subjunctive......

[9503: 158]

Teach the imperfect subjunctive in a selective and reasonable manner.
Focus on certain verbs which are commonly used and which reflect this mood.
Written Spanish would be a useful source of illustrations.

[9503: 162]

Little is gained in the long run by watering down the secondary curriculum.
This is true in all areas, not merely language.
I have taught children. I am teaching adults. Unfortunately there are many college students who are weak academically, despite respectable GPA's.
On the language front, it is difficult for a student to make sense of a given tense in Spanish, if the student is unclear concerning the comparable English tense. This of course would apply to other languages too. In this connection, I recall a situation that occurred many years, when I was in high school. A classmate asked the teacher what a certain word meant. The teacher casually said that this was merely the "past participle" of the verb.
There was a short period of silence. Then the classmate asked what "past participle" means! I am sure that this situation occurs often, although students are perhaps skittish about mentioning it in class.
Overall, it is time to draw the line. Forever watering down requirements really accomplshes little. Why not strive for something better, instead of something easier!

[9503: 164]

pero también se definió un grupo de partidarios de una hipotética "desubjuntivización" del castellano,

We mostly get along without it in English as well.

[9503: 154]

frente a la postura de otros listeros que defendieron el valor y la importancia del subjuntivo16:

Regarding the teaching of subjunctive in high school, or rather a decision NOT to teach the subjunctive "at the high school level."
From my perspective, there is no significant difference between high school level Spanish and college Spanish. Spanish is Spanish, wherever it is taught.
Granted, it is usually taught at a different pace, but I have had many students place into college classes and be among the most proficient and successful in the class. It's time to demythify the subjunctive, and to accept it as part of the language. Perhaps it should be introduced earlier than it is.
We set it up as something so hard and complicated that we convince our students, and ourselves, that only those proverbial rocket scientists can figure it out.
When I was in grade school, when it was time to introduce fractions, my teacher announced to the class that this was a very difficult concept. Math was defined as "hard," so it gave me the perfect excuse not to understand it.
So, to pretend that the subjunctive is not an essential part of the language, and a VERY IMPORTANT means of communicating important ideas ("cuando tengas tiempo" is very different from "cuando tienes tiempo), is like deciding that those famous irregular preterite forms of hacer, tener, decir, etc. are a bother and not to be learned.
End of sermon.
I'm not saying that it is easy. My students struggle with it. I self-correct more often than I would like to admit (it just comes out wrong sometimes!), but I'm in there plugging away.

[9503: 168]

Estoy completamente de acuerdo! El subjuntivo es parte del color y la belleza del idioma de Cervantes, Unamuno, y Paz. Me costo' mucho trabajo llegar al punto de usarlo y si fuera que nada mas existeria seri'a una verdadera la'stima. Que viva el subjuntivo!

[9503: 179]

    En ese momento, Geoff volvió a intervenir en el debate para tratar de conducirlo nuevamente hacia sus intereses:

I don't think that anyone is denying that the subjunctive is a thing of beauty, a pearl of great price.
The question is: At what level should it be taught? Is it worth the struggle to teach it to students who will not go beyond Grade 11 in Spanish and who, once they have their foreign language requirement under their belt, will rapidly forget most of what they so arduously learned, and whose Spanish, within two or three years, will dwindle to 'Hasta luego, amigo" and "Dos cervezas, por favor?"
As a matter of interest, has any survey been done of how much Spanish is retained by students who don't belong to the minute fraction who proceed to university Spanish?

[9503: 181]

    Este mensaje de Geoff se cruzó con el siguiente de Dorine Houston, que se horrorizaba ante la idea de prescindir del subjuntivo en las clases:

Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Geoff!!!!!!
!Espero que no CAIGAS en la tentacio'n de minimizar la importancia de un tiempo verbal simplemente porque no se usa en un dialecto limitado! Seri'a una la'stima si DEJARAS que tus alumnos PERDIERAN una parte importante de la lengua por pereza. Cuando lo PIENSES bien, comprendera's que ense/arles a hablar chicano seri'a tan lastimable como ensen/ar a los espan/oles a hablar BEV.
Hace uno an/o he lei'do un estudio cuyo autor ni otros datos tengo a mano en casa durante las vacaciones de primavera, pero se trata de un estudio del "interlenguaje" de unos USAnos que estudiaban espan/ol, y del efecto de sus errores sobre su comprensibilidad por unos espan/oles de la misma edad (estudiantes universitarios) y resulta que cuando no usaban el subjuntivo en el caso de una ocasio'n obligatoria, los espan/oles no les entendi'an.
Otros errores no daban resultados de tan poca comprensio'n, excepto el error del ge'nero del sustantivo. Y ten en cuenta que el estudio de las lenguas ajenas no es para pasar el tiempo en el colegio, es para abrir la comprensio'n a otras formas de pensar tan legi'timas l "lo'gicas" como la propia. Lo cual incluye la necesidad de dar se cuenta de que los jo'venes espan/oles se expresan con un modo subjuntivo todos los di'as.
No dejes que tus estudiantes se EMPOBREZCAN de tal manera. Hazles trabajar a superarse en el aprendizaje del subjuntivo.

[9503: 185]

    La respuesta de Geoff fue clara:

Dorine, I don't have the power (still less the inclination) to water down Spanish courses. Right now we have a provincial commission at work on reviewing our BC curriculum--and the talk is that the subjunctive will not be required in full in high school, that's to say, the present subjunctive will be 'introduced', and no more.

[9503: 190]

    Tras este momento, que podría considerarse el de máxima tensión en la discusión, algunos listeros pasaron a reflexionar sobre la función comunicativa del lenguaje17, pero el contenido de la mayoría de los mensajes volvió a discurrir sobre cuestiones didácticas:

As a prof of spanish in college, I find the most depressing moment forme is when my new students inform me that they had x number of years of spanish in High School, but "we didn't learn anything". The subjunctive is not difficult, it is just different than the frequent word for word translations that can be done in so much of the two languages--here, one must think in spanish and not just translate words. Yes, they can learn a lot of spanish in HS, even the subjunctive.

[9503: 193]

Geoff, regarding "To subjunctive or not to subjunctive", I would argue that in a Spanish 3 class, it is not necessary to "DO" the subjunctive; that is, to present all forms and all uses. Certainly after many years of study, I, a native speaker of California English, am still learning about the nuances of uses.
But in a class situation, we can present the subjunctive in controlled situations, as indeed we do with most concepts. I use to try to present a grammar concept with all variations from A to Z. and I agree that kids cannot handle that. But they can learn Quiero que..., Es necesario que..
One use that I use in Spanish 2 when we get to the future is Cuando tenga...
No, they do not know all irregular form. No, they do not know how to use cuando with a command. Regarding loss of language, how many of us on the list have a third language that fades away until we need to rev it up and the re-learning curve is faster than the forgetting curve? But do we forget? And that includes all disciplines that are taught in HS and university:sciences, math, etc. the difference may be in that I have never had any one ask me to "say something in chemistry". Hang in there, Geoff. I enjoy the questions that you raise. They certainly make me look at what I am doing in my classes.

[9503: 195]

For several years at our university, we have experimented with two different language requirements as determined by the degree a student is to receive: a BA requires four semesters of language; a BS two semesters. There was no adjustment of course content to accommodate these two groups. The result has been that those students taking only two semesters of Spanish did not get the imperfect subjunctive or the perfect tenses. Due to the interdependency of all the tenses in Spanish, i.e. the verbal system is a closed system of inter-related forms, those students whose exposure has been incomplete are rather like people trying to play bridge with one half of one suit missing. They are handicapped from the beginning and have been denied a basic element of the language. All the tenses must be presented in high school and in the first two years of the university, although all the tenses need not be mastered by the student to communicate effectively. The pluperfect subjunctive, for example, the fine distinctions of the various possibilities for sequences of tenses in compound/complex sentences need not become a part of any given student's active language production, but for purposes of reading/composition/comprehension, these "remote" forms ought to be presented and tested for recognition.
Otherwise, we are simply denying the student/consumer an essential ingredient in his basic education. Unfortunately, student/consumers are not always happy consumers because, as specialists in education with a heavy emphasis in developmental psych tend to forget, growth is not always a comfortable process. It's much more relaxing to watch videos mindlessly where the greatest effort consists of accessing the material: i.e. turning on the machine.

[9503: 202]

The text that I use for my elementary classes is: Puertas a la Lengua Espanola. It introduces the Present Subjunctive directly after the Present Indicative and then works through several different uses of the subjunctive through several units. Then the two past tenses are introduces, the future, the conditional and then the imperfect subjunctive. I don't apologize for the subjunctive and rarely try to equate it to the rarefied use of the subjunctive in English. I just present it as something that is unique and special in Spanish. I would recommend this text to anyone and would suggest that it be used as a resource for other teachers who might not want or be able to choose it as their own text. It is published by McGraw-Hill, I'm using the Third Edition and the authors are Copeland, Kite, Sandstedt, and Vargas.

[9503: 234]

Hooray for you, Julie!! The only problem with teaching the subjunctive comes when grammar becomes the end of learning instead of the means of communicating clearly.

[9503: 249]

o sobre la defensa del modo subjuntivo:

But, Geoff, why is it worth teaching them anything then?
Even if they never understand the subjunctive or learn to use it correctly, the mere exposure to the fact that speakers of Spanish construct reality differently than do speakers of English is a very valuable lesson in cultural awareness. If they forget everything but donde esta el banno, at least maybe they will still have some insight into other ways of viewing the world if you teach them subjunctive.

[9503: 219]

Regarding the subjunctive - it is indeed important in speech, particularly in Spain. A very large percentage of spoken Spanish is in the subjunctive, and even if a non-native speaker cannot form it or use it, certainly it is very important that he/she be capable of recognizing and understanding it (notice the English subjunctive, by the way - it is simply that inm English, the forms of the subjunctive are frequently the same as the infinitive and therefore get "lost in the shuffle"). In addition, for any reader of Spanish, a knowledge of the subjunctive is important; commands and warnings are often issued in this voice. Even those among us who are least inclined to drink deep at the well of learning, become devotees of the Muse, or do anything that might lead to a level of language involving a form that deals with the hypothetical still need to know that we should not cross the railroad tracks, touch the live wire, etc. Perhaps total mastery of the subjunctive is not possible at the high school level (or indeed, at any other) but certainly it is important for students to know about it and recognize it before they hear the train whistle...

[9503: 223]

Perhaps I've skimmed messages too fast, but I haven't seen any/much mention of the possibility that fear of the subjunctive is related to the difficulty of identifying/using the subjunctive in English.
Many of the kids I tutor in French and Spanish have trouble with parts of speech and other basics in English. Still, I find that third year students who are doing generally well can handle the subjunctive as well as they handle other more advanced constructions.

[9503: 226]

I'm sorry, but I live in Tucson Arizona with my Chicano husband and work with almost exclusively Chicano colleagues. My husband has a 6th grade Mexican education, my colleagues all Masters and PhDs.
None of us goes a day without using the subjunctive. If we want someone else to do something, it requires the subjunctive. If we speak of uncertainties, it requires the subjunctive.
Teach it in context, not as a grammatical point. Allow students to acquire it naturally by providing them comprehensible input that includes the subjunctive in a TPR type of way, ie:

Yo quiero que tu abras la ventana.
Yo queria que el abriera la ventana, pero no lo hizo. etc.

As a grammar point, I agree, it is impossible to learn. As a way of functioning in a Spanish speaking community, it is easy to acquire.

[9503: 237]

    Este intenso debate desapareció del foro público el 15 de marzo sin que se llegara a ninguna conclusión general. Sólo dos personas, Geoff y Emil Dolphin, escribieron desde el Canadá; el resto lo hicieron desde los Estados Unidos.

    Como se ha podido ver, la mayor parte de los mensajes se dividen en dos opiniones contrarias: la de los listeros partidarios de dejar la enseñanza del modo subjuntivo para los niveles superiores y la de los que consideran que debe introducirse en los primeros años de aprendizaje de esta lengua. Los primeros se basan principalmente en dos argumentos: el hecho de que muchos de sus estudiantes sean chicanos y en su español diario no empleen el subjuntivo18, y el poco interés que suelen mostrar sus aprendices por un uso correcto de la lengua española -ya que, en la mayoría de los casos, solo emplearán este idioma para emitir expresiones como «Hasta luego, amigo» o «Dos cervezas, por favor»19-. Los listeros que consideran que el modo subjuntivo debe ser introducido en los primeros años de adquisición de la lengua española se apoyan, principalmente, en argumentos que aluden a la belleza de la lengua, a la calidad literaria o a la precisión20, y en menos casos se recuerda que «los jóvenes españoles se expresan con un modo subjuntivo todos los días»21. En relación con este último argumento, la presencia del modo subjuntivo desde los actos lingüísticos más elementales ha sido destacada por E. MARTINELL [1985], quien ya en la introducción a su obra indica que

(...) el uso del modo subjuntivo español no es privativo de un grupo de hablantes ni de un registro de lengua. Los errores en su empleo no delatan -salvo en pocas excepciones- clase social ni nivel cultural, sino la falta de espontaneidad del hablante, su con dición de no nativo.

[E. MARTINELL,1985, p. 9]

y más adelante, refiriéndose al uso del subjuntivo en oraciones independientes, esta misma autora llama la atención sobre la vitalidad de este modo en la lengua española

(...) porque ya no se trata de que su presencia sea obligatoria para los hablantes de cualquier nivel al construir ciertos tipos de frases subordinadas, sino que se trata de que hay formas subjuntivas que, aisladas o agrupadas con otros elementos, constituyen piezas léxicas de la lengua

[E. MARTINELL, 1985, p. 89]

J. BUTT y C. BENJAMIN [(1988) 1993]22 insisten asimismo en la actual vitalidad del modo subjuntivo, a pesar de que en el español hablado en algunas zonas de América se perciba cierta tendencia -como aprecian los listeros de ESPAN-L- a sustituir, en determinados casos, este modo por el indicativo:

The subjunctive is a very important feature of the Spanish and there is no conclusive evidence that it is disappearing from the language, as some have claimed, although it is true that spontaneous speech, especially Spanish-American, sometimes uses the indicative where formal language requires the subjuntive.23

[J. BUTT y C. BENJAMIN, (1988) 1993, p. 220]

También deben ser destacadas las intervenciones de los listeros que insisten en la necesidad de enseñar expresiones completas de uso muy frecuente en las que debe o puede emplearse el modo subjuntivo, en lugar de enseñar este modo como un aspecto gramatical descontextualizad24. Las oraciones que indican como modelo estos listeros son: «cuando tengas tiempo» frente a «cuando tienes tiempo»25, «yo quiero que él abra la ventana» y «yo quería que él abriera la ventana, pero no lo hizo»26. Todos estos tipos de oraciones están recogidos en las monografías sobre el subjuntivo de BORREGO-ASENCIO-PRIETO [1986] y de E. MARTINELL [1985], y en la Gramática comunicativa del español de F. MATTE BON [1992]. El contraste entre «cuando+subjuntivo» y «cuando+indicativo» es explicado por BORREGO-ASENCIO-PRIETO con las siguientes palabras:

El subjuntivo se justifica por la posterioridad que se indica con respecto al punto que se toma como eje de referencia temporal (...). Por el contrario, la mención de hechos experimentados (...) justifica el indicativo.


y una explicación semejante es la que da E. MARTINELL:

Las oraciones temporales van en indicativo mientras enuncien hechos reales, que ocurren en el pasado, en un presente habitual, o en el momento mismo de la emisión (...). En cambio, llevan subjuntivo cuando se describen acciones pendientes de realización.

[E. MARTINELL, 1985, pp. 48-49]

Las explicaciones de MATTE BON coinciden con las anteriores, tanto en el volumen subtitulado De la lengua a la idea:

Se emplea el subjuntivo en las oraciones subordinadas con las que el enunciador quiera referirse a una entidad del futuro con respecto al momento de la enunciación o con respecto a un momento del pasado del que está hablando

[F. MATTE BON, 1992, vol. I, p. 62]

como en el volumen De la idea a la lengua:

En los casos en que 'cuando' introduce un verbo, si éste se refiere al futuro con respecto al momento en elque se habla, va en presente de subjuntivo. Si se refiere al futuro con respecto a un momento del pasado del que se está hablando, va en imperfecto de subjuntivo27.

[F. MATTE BON, 1992, vol. II, pp. 193-194]


15. Esta conversación no fue la única en la que se discutieron aspectos relacionado con el modo subjuntivo, por lo que los comentarios a este debate se completan con el análisis de las conversaciones 11, 16 y 20.

16. Reproducimos solo dos cartas representativas de este grupo, pero también pueden consultarse en el Anexo 5a los mensajes [9503: 163], [9503: 169], [9503: 172], [9503: 174] o [9503: 180].

17. Pueden consultarse los siguientes mensajes: [9503: 204], [9503: 212] o[9503: 213].

18. Así se indica en los mensajes [9503: 150], [9503:152] y [9503: 185], por ejemplo. En el último mensaje reproducido [9503: 237] puede verse precisamente cómo su autor niega que el español chicano se caracterice por no utilizar el subjuntivo.

19. Como se señala en el mensaje [9503: 181].

20. Como por ejemplo en los mensajes [9503: 179] y [9503: 181].

21. El fragmento corresponde al mensaje [9503:185]. En el mensaje [9503: 223] se indica también que en un gran porcentaje del español hablado se emplea el modo subjuntivo.

22. Se acude a esta obra por tratarse de una gramática del español concebida por extranjeros que la destinan, asimismo, a un público extranjero.

23. Las cursivas son nuestras.

24. Método bastante adecuado pues, como indica S. GILI GAYA [(1961) 1983, p. 132], en la mayoría de los casos «el subjuntivo (...) depende de otro verbo que exprese algún matiz de irrealidad; es esencialmente subordinado», aunque «a veces, sin embargo, encontramos el subjuntivo en oraciones independientes, por ejemplo: ¡Ojalá llueva! (...)», pero incluso en estos casos «se trata de subordinaciones mentales que envuelven psíquicamente al juicio que se enuncia, aunque gramaticalmente no dependa de un verbo principal». También J. BUTT - C. BENJAMIN [(1988) 1993, p. 220] destacan que «The subjunctive is closely associated with subordinate clauses, especialy clauses introduced by que, and with relative clauses».

25. En [9503: 168].

26. Estas dos últimas en [9503: 237].

27. Las cursivas de las cuatro últimas citas son nuestras.

Ir a la siguiente conversación (conversación 5).

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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-18009-99
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