Excite | Empower | Engage
“With Ritmos and Rostros, we help college students develop the courage to use a second language, not just teach words and phrases they are too self-conscious to use when it counts.”
Professor Lee Forester
Founder & coauthor | Evia Learning
What we believe
Education is not the delivery of a product
Learning is an experience, not a commodity. Students learn when they experience something, process it, and then change their behavior accordingly. When you teach, you are encouraging students to react to certain stimuli in a specific way. That is never neutral, and for that reason teaching understanding is inextricably connected to the teaching of information or ideas.
Language is more than words
It is useless to teach students what to say in a different language if we do not at the same time teach them when, why and how to express themselves in that same language. There is no language without culture, and there is no language teaching without culture teaching. The purpose of language is not just communication, it’s self expression. This is true whether it’s your first or tenth language.
Students must connect to the real world
Cartoons and stilted scripts don’t help students learn. We build our materials around authentic images, videos, and the voices of native speakers ranging from Pablo Neruda to Bolivian miners in Potosí. We empower people from these places to speak for themselves and to tell your students what they think is important about their culture. This gives students hundreds of hours of natural aural input in the process.
Expect more from your textbook
Our integrated college
The first authentic Spanish textbooks that empower your students
Created by college professors who knew exactly what their old textbooks were missing: relevance, passion, and deep connections to the humans who speak Spanish. If you want to introduce your students to real people and real Spanish, you will love Ritmos and Rostros.
Beginning College Spanish
Now in its 2nd edition, Ritmos for beginning Spanish is the first textbook of its kind, featuring the voices of dozens of Spanish speakers and bringing a sense of community into the classroom. Ritmos guides students on their first steps into the diverse and fascinating cultures of Spanish speakers worldwide, with special focus on Mexico and Spain.
Intermediate College Spanish
New in 2020, Rostros provides the curricular foundation for an intermediate Spanish course focused on language, culture, and recurring themes of the Spanish-speaking world. Rostros guides students through a geographical, personal, and historical journey of the Americas, the Caribbean, and Spain while moving them toward continued study or time abroad.
Both have two essential learning components:
Online Interactive Program
Learners spend time outside class in our online learning platform. Hundreds of interviews with Spanish speakers highlight the places they live and work, utilizing real, natural Spanish. Vocabulary practice, ongoing culture screens, rich photography, and grammar practice make the online interactive a compelling experience.
Let’s move forward
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Traditional textbooks have a hefty grammar component that provides the organizing principle for the text. Grammar instruction follows the PPP mode: Present – Practice – Produce. At Evia, the grammar component supports content rather than being the content. Because of this, you can decide what role grammar should play in your course. This is great for programs based on comprehensible input, as grammar instruction and activities can actually be omitted without any impact on course content, since it is supplementary, not the main focus.
Traditional textbooks have an online platform designed to offer further practice, but most students (rightly) see it as busywork. At Evia Learning, our online component is foundational and receives the most resources and attention in development. We provide roughly an hour of engaging, student-focused content for every hour in class. Since exposure to the target language, time on task and comprehensible input are absolute requirements for language acquisition, this directly addresses a weakness of traditional textbooks that provide little meaningful or interesting learning outside of class. This makes Evia materials ideal for distance and online learning.
Traditional textbooks provide listening activities, generally the same as language lab materials from 30 years ago. Our listening materials come from real people living in the target cultures. We scaffold and select these unscripted materials carefully to make sure they are comprehensible for language learners. This trains students to work with unscripted conversational language from the beginning. This allows students to use their language skills in real life and breaks down the distinction other textbooks create between the language course and the real world.
In-class speaking activities
All textbooks have in-class activities that are labeled as ‘communicative’ but most often are really a form of structure or grammar drill. All in-class activities with Evia products need to fulfill one or more of three requirements:
- Is it interpersonal? Do students communicate about their actual lives, not the lives of cartoon characters or made-up scenarios?
- Is it intercultural? Are they learning or discussing cultural context that will help them build context with people from the target cultures? Does it help them reflect on their own culture(s)?
- Is it entertaining? Is it fun and enjoyable, and not a rote drill or meaningless task?
Evia products are unique with this focus on the purpose and quality of in-class activities, whether in person or remotely.
Dynamic, unscripted audio and video
With Evia materials, each homework session involves students watching or listening to a number of short clips with speakers from the target cultures addressing something the students are learning. These speakers are from various regions and countries, which exposes students to a breadth of accents and ways of speaking, crucial for developing robust listening skills. This also promotes courage to interact with real people, since learners are so accustomed to hearing language as it is actually spoken.
Custom photos that evoke curiosity
Traditional textbooks use stock photos. Evia Learning products feature professional, custom-shot photos to represent the physical culture, natural environment and personal interactions one sees in the countries being studied. These beautiful images create a desire in students to go visit, study in, or even move permanently to these countries. Teachers from the cultures under study often tell us that the images reawaken their longing for home; that’s how you know these aren’t just decorative pieces. They make a real difference over the course of a year of study.
Scaffolded writing program
Traditional textbooks downplay writing or provide writing prompts at levels well beyond student proficiency. Evia materials carefully match writing prompts to actual student proficiency and use student writing as a way to encourage genuine production rather than attempt to teach native-level writing skills. Writing prompts also provide models of production that learners can then take and modify to help them communicate.
Focus on personal narratives
Students far prefer narratives about and from real people rather than sanitized, generic texts devoid of any human connection. When students use Evia materials, they learn from actual speakers, which motivates students to lean into the new language and interaction outside class rather than avoid native speakers out of fear, uncertainty, or self-consciousness. Using materials from real people helps us advance our goal of connecting students as directly as we can to people from the cultures being studied once they leave their class.
Genuine communication & community
By emphasizing tasks that are interpersonal, intercultural and entertaining, Evia materials help you build real community in your classroom. Students talk about their lives and what they are really learning (in the target language!) rather than doing practice activities that most likely have nothing to do with anything real or personal. Building community is good because it makes the process of learning a new language more manageable and fun, and there is a positive encouragement to continue study beyond required language classes when they have a sense of being part of a cohort of fellow learners they know and care about.
Organized around cultural content
Traditional textbooks invariably follow a grammatical syllabus, populated with topics that fit with the structures under study (i.e., reflexive verbs as the grammar point leads to having “daily routine” words for the chapter vocabulary and content, whether that is an ideal time for students to acquire this information in their studies or not). Evia materials are designed around cultural content first, and then bring in whatever lexical or structural elements will help students communicate successfully about these topics. For this reason, you will notice that grammatical coverage is reduced compared to the number of topics covered in a traditional textbook. We do not try to teach structures or lexical items that aren’t needed to function at the target proficiency levels, but instead present the building blocks of communication that students are ready and able to learn, and then cement this foundation for the future through frequent recycling and practice. Sometimes, less is more!
The AAUSC proposed a new set of “5 Cs” (Context, Complexity, Capacity, Compassion and Conflict) to augment the standard 5 Cs proposed by ACTFL. Evia promotes transformative language learning, and these new 5 Cs fit perfectly with our goals. We nurture student empathy for others by focusing on cultural context and helping students learn more about themselves as cultural beings. We are not content to simply provide tools to students without accompanying instructions on what these tools are for. Language skills must serve not only personal interests, but also the needs of the community and should promote empathy and intercultural communication.
For more info on the new 5 Cs, see pages 8-12 of the 2010 AAUSC volume on Critical and Intercultural Theory and Language Pedagogy.
Success for all learners
Traditional textbooks present vocabulary and grammar and leave it up to individual students to “learn” it, though this often takes the form of simply regurgitating information over the short term without solidifying it in long-term acquisition. This privileges students with a good natural ability to memorize and those who think easily in grammatical categories (less than 10% of the general population). This leads to the unflattering finding that students who finish a college language requirement typically have no recognizable language proficiency in five years’ time. We firmly believe that language classes are integral to the mission of higher education, but findings like these belie the importance of them. This is a failing we as a field must address. Language courses can (and if they are to remain part of the core curriculum, must) clearly serve all students and give them lasting value.
At Evia, our goal is for all learners to have an immersion-like experience in their language class that will foster their ability to communicate interculturally and have empathy across cultural differences. These are skills they will benefit from and will not forget, no matter where they go in the future. This fits extremely well with college/university educational outcome goals and makes the language course a transformative experience that will benefit students for the rest of their lives. Our materials are an exceptionally good fit for programs that have a language requirement for that reason.
Transformative learning experience
At Evia, our focus is not on what topics your students cover. It’s on who they become. We want their encounter with language and culture(s) to be a transformative experience that puts them on a trajectory of more openness, eagerness to connect, compassion for others and a desire to change the world and make a difference. The beginning or intermediate college language class can and should have a positive transformative effect on students, helping students grow intellectually and in crucial learning values such as courage, curiosity and compassion.