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Through Textbook, NC State Lecturer Engages Spanish Learners Across U.S.

 |  Nash Dunn  | Humanities and Social Sciences

While her office is in Withers Hall, Spanish lecturer Susan Navey-Davis helps engage learners far beyond NC State’s campus.

As a co-author of the highly-circulated textbook Plazas: Lugar de encuentros (Cengage Learning), Navey-Davis has a hand in growing higher education Spanish across the nation. Now in its fifth edition, the book is used at more than 50 colleges and universities.

Cover photo of “Plazas: Lugar de encuentros.” Photo courtesy of Cengage Learning.

Cover photo of “Plazas: Lugar de encuentros.” Photo courtesy of Cengage Learning.

The introductory-level publication offers a comprehensive curriculum of Spanish language and culture. It takes a communicative approach to instruction, prompting students to speak and interact often.

“This is not for a lecture-style course,” said Navey-Davis, who serves as assistant head for student affairs in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.  

“For years, we have been trying to get away from solely teaching language and vocabulary,” she continued. “The learning is typically more meaningful and lasting when students connect what they’re learning to other disciplines.”

In the latest edition of Plazas, released this year, students can observe real-life examples of how professionals are using foreign languages in their careers. Through a partnership with National Geographic, each of the book’s 15 chapters features photography and narratives from explorers who rely on Spanish in their fields. One chapter, for instance, features underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda.

In addition, the latest edition offers video components featuring the National Geographic explorers and language models that support instruction.

“Rather than solely reading text or listening to someone talk, students can now visualize what they are learning,” Navey-Davis said.

Cengage initially recruited Navey-Davis to craft teaching annotations for the first edition of Plazas in 1999. She has served as a co-author ever since — her duties increasing with each publication.

For the latest edition, which she co-authored with Robert Hershberger (DePauw University) and Guiomar Borrás A. (Glendale Community College), Navey-Davis was responsible for teacher annotations and writing, speaking and review activities at the end of each chapter. She also worked with Hershberger to draft core vocabulary and grammar activities throughout the book.

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