Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 4, 2019

DeVries 6

Professor Scott DeVries invites one of his Spanish 111 students to try some of the food he prepared on the grill.  

Photo by Bonnie Wong

Spanish Professor Makes Learning Language Tasty 

Carly Greaves


Eager minds and equally eager stomachs were fed on Sept. 27 by Dr. Scott DeVries, a Spanish professor who decided to add some spice to his teaching style, much to his students’ benefit and delight.

Spanish 111: Food Cultures is an introductory Spanish course offered at Manchester that meets three times a week. Classes on Monday and Wednesday offer the expected lessons on Spanish vocabulary and grammar. But each Friday students are treated to a Spanish dish or snack which is then incorporated into the lesson.

This past Friday was a particularly special session for the class. Behind the Calvin Ulrey Hall, DeVries prepared an Uruguay-Argentine style barbeque for the students. One grill was loaded with foot-long logs that were burned until they were glowing embers. These embers were then transported to another grill to be used for cooking. Smoke and flecks of ash spun in the wind while plump sausages sizzled on the charred bars of the grill. Once thoroughly cooked, the sausages were wrapped in bread and coated with chimichurri sauce, a tangy dressing made of parsley, olive oil, garlic and salt. This dish, known as a choripan, was served to the hungry students.

DeVries cheerfully tended to the fires and assembled the food. Although he originally proposed the idea of a food-based Spanish course, he gives credit to his wife, a Spanish teacher at Elkhart Central for helping him come up with the topic. Seeing that a common use for Spanish was to order food at Spanish or Mexican restaurants, the DeVrieses realized that students would be far more interested in a course that promised to help them in these real life scenarios than in a typical Spanish introductory class.

“It really motivates the students,” DeVries said. “They are learning the content, but they are also really motivated to do it, because they’re doing it in this different way.”  This motivation shined through at the barbeque. While the students enjoyed the choripan, their main goal was to complete an assignment. At one point Shayla Welch, firstyear student, walked up to the grill to ask DeVries a question. “Como se dice ‘sausage’ en Español?” she asked.

“Chorizo,” DeVries replied.  This was how the students practiced asking questions in Spanish—asking their professor and peers about the food and how it was prepared. Previous lessons from this year included the students learning new vocabulary by discussing tacos and learning simple verbs by comparing Mexican and U.S. Coke. This unique form of study both instructs and intrigues the students. “It’s just really cool to use Spanish in a practical sense,” Welch said.

This method of teaching students Spanish, along with a friendly personality, has made DeVries popular among his students. “He’s a great guy,” said Kaleb Newton, sophomore. “He really engages the class and if you need help, he’ll help you one-on-one.” Welch agreed. “He’s the best,” she brightly confirmed. “He’s also very willing to answer questions and he encourages us to not be afraid to just try and fail because that’s kind of what you have to do in a language. He’s really encouraging.” Mastering a new language can certainly be difficult. But DeVries has served up a class where active learning, fun activities and tasty treats are sure to be on the syllabus.