How to... use the Champions League final as a winning teaching resource

19th May 2016 at 12:03
As Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid prepare to face one another in the UEFA Champions League final on 28 May, a languages specialist shares her ideas for using the match to inspire some champion Spanish lessons

Matches between neighbouring football teams are always the most hotly contested, however lowly the league. But when a derby coincides with the final of the Champions League and involves one of the world’s most famous clubs, then the stakes could not be higher.

Next week’s clash of the titans between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid is a gift for Spanish teachers. Here are some ways it can be exploited in the classroom:

  1. Don’t overlook the obvious
    "Real" means “royal” in this context, not “real”. The sociolinguistic clue is unambiguous: the Santiago Bernabéu stadium (make sure it is pronounced correctly) is situated on the Paseo de la Castellana in the affluent district of Chamartín. And as if it were not enough to be royal, the immaculately laundered "Los Blancos" are also hyperbolically dubbed "Los Galácticos" (loosely, "superstars"), or given the rather rather fluffier nickname "Merengues" "(meringues").
  2. Make comparisons
    Atléti’s Vicente Calderón stadium, conversely, is located on the other side of the river. "Los Colchoneros" ("the mattress-makers") are named after their red and white-striped kit, said to have been sourced originally from the cheap offcuts of traditional mattress ticking. The "Rojiblancos" are the eminently successful underdogs, driven by a sentimiento de rebeldía (spirit of rebellion).
  3. Explore unusual vocabulary
    The compound word "Rojiblanco" combines the colours rojo (red) and blanco (white). Barcelona, similarly, are nicknamed "Los Azulgranas" ("claret and blues"). With these examples to hand, it is easy to spot other compound words, such as "los altibajos", used in media reports to refer to the “highs and lows” or “ups and downs” of Real’s season, such as reaching the Champions League final and losing to Barça in La Liga.
  4. Draw on social media
    Twitter feeds are a mine of instruction in grammar and history. A quick glance at @realmadrid provides an object lesson in exclamatory discourse. Despite character constraints, the convention of the initial upside-down "punto de admiración" (exclamation mark) is strictly observed, while the hashtag #HalaMadrid (deriving from the Spanish transliteration of “Allah”, and meaning “Go, Madrid!”) alludes to Spain’s centuries-old Arab heritage.
  5. Teach fighting talk
    Pre-match build-up is all about the rhetoric of positive thinking. “Tenemos mucha ilusión, muchas ganas,” says Atleti striker Antoine Griezmann, which loosely translates as, “We’re really up for it, we’re pumped.” “Vamos a darlo todo, nos vamos a dejar la vida,” counters Real midfielder Isco: “We’re going to give our all, leave it all on the field.”

    With a bit of luck your pupils will be equally committed.

Dr Heather Martin is a languages specialist and tweets @drheathermartin

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