Taking the Bilingual Plunge


Manuel MoralesThanks to Dr. Manuel Morales, Dr. Marshall Corrick decided to give Spanish a second chance.

“When I was in high school 50 years ago, I took Spanish and got my worst grade ever,” the retired science professor said. “A friend of mine started a prison ministry, and I wanted to be able to talk to anyone we would see there. So, I decided to take Practical Spanish.”

Corrick now owns a Bible in which much of the New Testament has been marked in a variety of colors. That idea came from Morales, who has asked his students to incorporate the Bible into their learning process by using a color code that marks the grammatical function of various words in the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.

“This is grammar alive,” Morales said. “My students tell me the Bible is the best way to review the grammar. We could study a work of literature in the same way, but it would not have the same value. This is the Bible, the Word of God.”

Each student obtains a bilingual Bible, one in which the English text is aligned side-by-side with the Spanish text. The students then use a color code to mark different tenses as well as different parts of speech (conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, etc.) and different multiple-word “function formulas.”

Morales said he uses this learning method for all of his Spanish classes. It helps give the students a greater understanding of how sentences are constructed than through simply speaking phrases.

“It’s very hard to hear different constructions, because many of them are simply not spoken or heard during a normal day,” Morales said.

Manuel Morales and Schurz Elementary teacher Eddie WashetasMorales also defends his teaching method on biblical grounds. He said many who hold to the theory of evolution believe learning a second language is also part of the evolutionary process, and repeated input is all that is required for adult learning. Morales said he believes learning is more difficult for adults, and that cognitive strategies (word pictures, memory devices, etc.) are needed to master a second language.

“There is a reason I’ve lived in this country 23 years, but I still don’t talk like I’m from Iowa,” Morales said. “Acquiring language is more than an evolutionary characteristic.”

Corrick said he appreciates how Morales is able to incorporate the Bible into a subject taught from a secular perspective at most universities.

“Because it is the Bible, I have more incentive to do the work,” Corrick said. “I have always gotten a lot out of reading the Bible. Now I can read it and get even more out of it. I get a better feel for the construction. I’m finding it very helpful.”

Helping students prepare to use their Bibles to minister to Spanish-speaking people is exactly what Morales is aiming for.

“It is a challenge, but it is important,” Morales said. “What we are doing here is unique.”