Los jóvenes actores de 'El internado' mantuvieron en vilo a millones de personas durante siete temporadas | Foto: Atresmedia Internacional
Too legit to quit
Everyone loves a fictitious and dramatic train wreck, right? How about this scenario: A group of young adolescent students try to figure out the many dangerous secrets of the their boarding school—which was previously an orphanage—in order to survive being pursued by former Nazis, who are experimenting with fatal medical examinations, and a torturous Head of School, who relentlessly psychologically tortures the students while carrying out strict orders from the Nazi party. Now add in a few love triangles, the release of a deadly disease, and enough bad guys to make your stomach churn and head spin. And for good measure, let's throw in a traitorous student and another student who sees dead people. All this together makes up El Internado. Are you curious yet?
Or maybe you prefer a period piece drama that begins with a missing maid, a brother who won't return home without her, and two psychopaths who run the most luxurious hotel in Spain? Where social class dictates social norms, and playing with fire surely gets you burned. Welcome to Gran Hotel.
As you can see, telenovelas are compelling! Everyone loves a good mystery with lots of surprises, especially students. I love using resources in class that engage my students so much that they are teetering with excitement and intrigue. In case you haven't already guessed it, the magical resources I speak of are telenovelas, specifically El Internado and El Gran Hotel. Both have enough mystery and intrigue to last the entire school year and beyond. And while I think there are other telenovelas that can be used, El Internado and El Gran Hotel have proven to be invaluable to CI teachers these past few years (dating back to at least 2009; shout out to Mike Peto). Both students and teachers just can’t get enough. In fact, I’m watching El Internado as I’m writing this. So, why are these telenovelas still relevant?
the power of the telenovela
If you’ve watched El Internado, Gran Hotel, or just about any other telenovela, you know that it’s very easy to get reeled into the “telenovela microcosm.” For some reason, the characters, their situations, and their relationships with others draw the viewer in—the more drama the better! And, oh boy, is there drama!
In a conference I attended back in 2012, I attended a workshop called Explorando la identidad adolescente global a través de las telenovelas presented by Maria Meléndez and Kathy Ozment. Going back through my notes, I recall the presenters stating that telenovelas are so compelling because they are addictive and engaging authentic content that individuals can relate to. There are a variety of common educational themes (e.g. social hierarchy, good vs. bad, racism, domestic abuse) that telenovelas display that you can use to teach in your classroom, even if it’s often portrayed through hyperbolic situations. I like the way PBS states that "telenovelas are a cultural touchstone...and a conversation piece." I firmly believe that telenovelas will continue to remain relevant if they continue to be accessible, relatable, and irresistible. As such, they will remain a novel way to teach and acquire Spanish.
Do you have a favorite telenovela? Apart from the Spanish series El Internado and Gran Hotel, I also love Silvia Navarro in Amor Bravío, Jacqueline Bracamontes in Sortilegio, and Ana Brenda Contreras in La que no podía amar, oh, and, Juan Diego Covarrubias in De que te quiero, te quiero, and, also, Angelique Boyer en Lo que la vida me robó, and, well, you get the picture...