Friday, September 19, 2014

Student Spotlight: Amanda White

Amanda White
by Ann Abbott

I have already featured Amanda White on this blog several times. However, the other day she sent an email about her Fulbright experience in Brazil that just blew me away. It touched on so many things that are important to me and many of you.
  • Her love of languages.
  • Her nostalgia for the countries in which she has lived and studied.
  • Her abilities and challenges as a student of the liberal arts.
  • Her ability to see how languages, countries and cultures all connect and influence each other.
I'll let her message speak for itself. 

Oi pessoal!!!

I've just caught up on rest after two weeks of traveling in Brazil and realized it's time for another update. This one will be a bit longer to share about my travels in São Paulo. To see photos from São Paulo click here. By next week (hopefully), I will send another email about my travels in Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, and Salvador.

The Fulbright midyear seminar in São Paulo last month was really great! I'm happy I got to visit São Paulo, the biggest city in the Americas with about 20 million people living in the metropolitan area and about 12 million in the city center. The city also boasts one of the largest immigrant communities in Brazil. I especially loved this and enjoyed the diversity particularly through food (Uberlândia lacks in this area, Brazilian/Mineiro cuisine 24/7 with the exception of one Mexican, one Thai restaurant, and lots of sushi).

For the first time in months, I enjoyed spicy Indian cuisine. My absolute favorite was finding a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant. The name of such a fine establishment? Sancho Bar y Tapas (as in my literary heroes Sancho Panza and Don Quijote de la Mancha!!). By far, one of the best meals I have ever had. The decor was spot on. As we walked in, I saw the bar lined with pinxos (pronounced pinchos) just like in Northern Spain. Bottles of wine were stacked along the brick walls and legs of jamón hung from the ceiling with care. The restaurant layout was long, stretching into the back, and narrow just like many European buildings.

Spanish was everywhere. Quotes from Spanish poets and writers were written on the brick walls with chalk. The menu had dry red wine (not very easy to find in Brazil. Brazilians tend to love sweeter things, including their wine). Bullfighting posters hung on the walls along with pictures and paintings capturing well-known moments from Don Quijote de la Mancha (DQ and Sancho were everywhere in this place). I especially loved the Spanish and Brazilian flags hanging side by side on the wall. I was in my element. I had the best of both worlds in a single place. 

The food was delicious and the waiters even spoke Spanish. We had such a good time. At one point during dinner, I turned to my friend Amber (my orientation roommate in Brasilia and ETA in Rio Grande do Sul aka, gaucho land), we grasped each other by the arm and within seconds of the other we sighed, "I think I'm going to cry." Cry from pure joy of course! Great ambiance, great food, great company.

We also enjoyed a few of the museums in São Paulo. My favorite was the Portuguese Language Museum. A museum about a language? Yes! It was super cool and interactive. It was fun to see the linguistic influences of Brazil's indigenous languages, African languages (due to the slave trade), French, English, Spanish, and Arabic in shaping Portuguese over the centuries. I particularly enjoyed reading on a giant, wall-sized timeline about the influence of Arabic on Portuguese. It shares similar history to Spain, in which the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries. I tend to forget about Portugal as part of the Iberian Peninsula (oopsies). Then of course, the Americas were "discovered" and Arabic influenced Portuguese arrived to the new world. I find it so fascinating how languages are malleable and ever changing.  

Another really cool museum was the Soccer Museum, located in the same stadium where Pelé scored over 200 goals. Charles Miller, born to a Scottish father and Brazilian mother with English descent in the state of São Paulo, is credited as the father of soccer for Brazil. When he was young, his parents sent him to school in England where he was introduced to soccer. He later brought two soccer balls, cleats, and a rulebook back to Brazil. The rest is history. Inside the museum they also share World Cup history, information on Brazil's most influential footballers, and more. I have never missed playing soccer so much until living in Brazil.

The conference was very well done just like our orientation. It was really fun to see everyone again and swap stories. Many of us shared the same feelings about our overall experience despite our very different locations. It was comforting and validating, even encouraging. Besides lectures, we participated in group activities and attended workshops lead by fellow ETAs. We enjoyed company from the Argentina and Uruguay ETAs (their programs are much, much smaller than ours. I also mistakenly said Paraguay in the last email). It was interesting to hear about their experience as well. 

One of my favorite speakers was Tom Healy, the Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (le gasp!). He, his 11 fellow board members, and thousands of petitioners successfully fought hard to protect the Fulbright program from major federal budget cuts (I sent an email about this earlier in the year). For now, the program stays as is. I encourage you to read the history of the Fulbright Program here. 

Stemming from that discussion, Mr. Healy shared why he thought intercultural programs are so important even in this age and how we show its importance and success since we live in a quantitative era desiring specific measurements. So, what are we quantifying and testing for in programs like the Fulbright? How is it measured? Well, it's hard to measure because.... 

...basically, we as Fulbrighters, and by extension study abroad students and other cultural exchange participants, are US ambassadors working on the ground with everyday people in their everyday lives. Fulbright also welcomes exchange students from other countries to the US. Through these interactions, we build friendships, trust, and mutual understanding between cultures. This is the main focus instead of metrics and data. It may not seem like a big deal, but it truly is. When we make friends, we lose enemies and gain allies. Sounds peaceful, right? 

Mr. Healy is a poet and Liberal Arts and Science (LAS) guy to the core. A fellow ETA asked Mr. Healy if his present self could give his 22-year-old-self advice, what would it be? Mr. Healy responded, "I would say to worry less about defining yourself. Ease up on yourself, you'll be just fine." 

This really resonated with me, and I think many other ETAs felt the same way. Mr. Healy believes that LAS students and alumni (like me) in particular experience a great deal of pressure to be, to find something, or have a title if they are not entering a specialized profession. I've struggled with this and spoken to some friends and family members about the subject. I found Mr. Healy's words encouraging and validating. My path is unconventional and that's more than okay. One way I can ease up on myself is to stop using conventional norms to guide my unconventional journey.  

These were some of the highlights in São Paulo. Others included sharing specialized coffee at Coffee Lab in the bohemian neighborhood Vila Madalena, seeing amazing street art in Beco de Batman, walking in Ibirapuera Park, and visiting the Afro-Brazilian Museum within the park. It was fun to experience the local culture and enjoy the enormous city after our daily conference activities. 

I have about 9 more weeks in Brazil, which will be over in the blink of an eye. We ETAs spent months anticipating the midyear seminar in São Paulo. Once it was over, it was hard to say goodbye. Luckily, I will see some of my ETA friends in the States when we visit each other and keep in touch. It's amazing how despite not knowing each other very personally, we become very close when together. 

I think this is because we share a unique experience, which few outside of such an experience could fully understand and relate to like culture shock, language barriers, and expat lifestyles unless they've had similar circumstances elsewhere. I don't consider this bad. It's just a different way I relate with others in different relationships. I enjoyed witnessing this bring us together and feeling a sense of family when so far away from my own. I'm very grateful for it. 

Thank you for reading through this e-mail (as well as each one I've sent!). I know it was a bit lengthy, especially because I doubt I will write a blog post anytime soon. I'm doing my best to be present in each moment while away from the computer, and not to cut those enjoyable moments short. 

Stay tuned for Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, and Salvador. Hope everyone back home is well!

Um abração,


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Info City CU: A Model of Public Engagement and Technology

Click on the picture to go tot he web site.
by Ann Abbott

Yesterday I attended a meeting with our campus' new CIO, Mark Henderson, and a group of people from an initiative called Info City CU.

It was a positive, exciting meeting with like-minded people. One of those meetings in which you leave feeling really energized and happy that you work in this organization with really good people.

You can find out more about Info City CU at their website, but here are a couple of things that stood out for me.

One of the attendees likened an Info City to the older model of an Industrial City, in which the city was built up around corporations and organized according to their needs. In contrast, an Info City allows us to learn from the mistakes of the Industrial Cities and create a more just Info City. That was very helpful to me.

I also learned some new things and new terms. I had never heard before about:

  • One Web Day 
  • Webliographies, as opposed to bibliographies. Here is an example of a webliography.
  • Digirati, as opposed to the literati. Thinking about the digital divide, describing it and trying to eradicate it are very, very important projects.

Course about Social Innovation with a Trip to Ecuador

by Ann Abbott

Course envy.

That's what I am feeling right now. This looks like such a wonderful course! It's something that I would love to teach.

In fact, it is what I teach! But in English. With a trip to Ecuador.

But my course envy is students' opportunity to do something wonderful. I hope they will sign up for this course and do great things!

Click here to see the course website.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Articles of Interest in The Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes

Click on the photo to go to the journal.

by Ann Abbott

Thanks to the NOBLE newsletter that Mary Risner sends (email here if you´d like to receive it, too: by, I learned about the Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes.

When I began scrolling through the first issue´s table of contents, it seemed to me that the journal was focused on quantitative, very specific linguistic-type research. That doesn't speak to me.

Then I scrolled some more and read abstracts for these articles that do, indeed, interest me. Click on the links to read the full articles.





Monday, September 15, 2014

Learning about Countries in a Business Spanish Class

It's important to note that while students were doing this activity (described below), I was not in the circle. They were talking to and listening to each other. If I could change something about it, I would have had them complete the first sentence with a few examples; that way they could have been called on by their classmates more than once.
by Ann Abbott

In this post I return to the question:

How can you use a textbook in a course in a way that does not become dry and repetitive?

I hear many people complain about textbooks today. They're too expensive. They're boring. Faculty don't actually use them in the classroom. They're heavy. Who reads? Faculty can put together their own teaching materials that are better--and free!

Those are all legitimate observations.

But they don't have to be.

Textbooks don't design your lesson plans. You do. And if you design your lessons using what we know about good teaching practices--and in our case, how students learn a second language--the textbook can be your foundation. 

I love to write curricular materials. But why would I put together materials that are already in Exito comericial? I couldn't even do it if I tried because the book is encyclopedic almost and has been built by three highly-qualified authors over many years. It's on its sixth edition, for crying out loud!

What I can do, and I what I actually enjoy doing, is taking the information and activities in Exito comercial and having students work with the book in fun, active, meaningful ways.

Here's what I did in my Business Spanish class today.


Students had to read "Una vista panorámica de España¨ and ¨Una vista panorámica de Guinea Ecuatorial¨ from chapter two of Éxito comercial.


First I wrote on the board, ¨No sabía que...¨ I told students they had three minutes to complete the sentence with information that they had read about Spain for today. I wanted them to complete the sentence with information that they found interesting, surprising, shocking, whatever. Just something that they didn´t know before they read that section before class today. 

I gave them a model. ¨Yo no sabía que el tamaño de España era dos veces el tamaño de Oregón.¨ 

(Did students actually read before coming to class? I don´t know. I do know that after today´s class they will realize that they better read!)

Then I told them to put their chairs in a circle and gave them these instructions:
  • The first person (Person 1) says what they didn´t know about Spain.
  • Then they call one of their classmate´s name.
  • That person (Person 2) has to respond to the information the previous student presented by saying, ¨Yo ya sabía que [lo que dijo la otra persona], or, "Yo tampoco sabía que [lo que dijo la otra persona].¨ In other words, they had to listen to each other, not zone out until it was their turn...because they didn´t know when their turn would be.
  • Then Person 2 had to say the name of a different classmate (Person 3).
  • Person three had to reply to Person 2´s statement by saying either ¨Yo ya sabía X,¨ or ¨Yo tampoco sabía X.¨ (Some students had studied abroad in Spain and could honestly answer that ¨ya sabían la información.¨) Then they had to finish the first sentence with their own observation ("No sabía que...) and call a classmate's name.
  • Etc.
I then talked to the students about some things I consider important about contemporary Spain that aren't mentioned in the textbook: mileuristas, nimileuristas, the housing/mortgage/foreclosure crisis, the protests and shows of solidarity that called for a more just economic, banking and financial systems.

Guinea Ecuatorial

Then we turned to the reading about Guinea Ecuatorial. I told them that I knew very little about this country (which is true), and that I wanted them to work in groups and prepare a two- to three-minute presentation to teach me the information that they thought was most important, relevant, interesting, or surprising in the reading. I gave them five minutes to prepare.
The times that are written on the board are notes to myself. When I tell students that they have five minutes (or whatever time) for an activity, I look at the clock and write down the time five minutes from now. I do this because it is very easy to forget when five minutes are up! And I do this so that they see that when I say five minutes, I really do mean five minutes. You can't chat for four minutes and scramble; you really do need to do five-minutes worth of work.
They did a great job! I sat down in the back, listened to their presentations, took notes, asked questions and noticed patterns in what they taught me. I learned a lot about the country, and they had an opportunity to really put the textbook's information to good use. I don't think that they will forget about Guinea Ecuatorial for a while!

After working with the textbook, I asked them to get out their devices, go to Google Images and search for images of Guinea Ecuatorial and the capital city. It's one thing to read about a country, and it's another thing to see what it looks like, see the beauty, see the colonial architecture, see the people, see the landscape. 
Teams getting ready for their 2- or 3-minute presentations on Guinea Ecuatorial.

I would say that most Spanish students are rarely if ever introduced to Guinea Ecuatorial as a Spanish-speaking country in Africa. My students did--because we used the textbook as the foundation for today's class but in an engaging, purposeful way. I asked students if they had learned something new today, and they all nodded yes and enthusiastically.

I hope this post helps you think about textbooks in a new way, too.

Do you think that textbooks are a waste of students' money? Do you use your textbooks in new, surprising ways? Do you, like me, depend on the textbook to do a lot of work for you...but not all the work? I'd love to hear your ideas, experiences, complaints and questions in the comments.

Business Spanish: Social Media Marketing with a Local Non-profit Focused on Helping Immigrants

by Ann Abbott

My Business Spanish students are working as social media marketing consultants for La Línea this semester. I will add more later about what we have learned so far from their work in the community, their questions and their feedback.

For now, here are a few photos.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Consulting with Community Partners, Part 1

Working at my dining room table today.
by Ann Abbott

When you hear the word "consulting," you might think of business suits, first-class flights, briefcases and PowerPoint presentations.

But when you do community service learning, consulting with your community partners usually looks very different. It might be:

  • Chatting about a project when you run into each other picking up your kids from the same art class their kids go to.
  • Showing solidarity when you show up at the same march and march a couple of miles in a cold, hard rain together.
  • Liking and commenting on the information they share on Facebook. Even personal information. It has been heartwarming this year for me to witness one of my community partners fall in love via the pictures she has posted.
  • Hosting a bridal shower for a friend who is friends with one of your community partners and so you get to talk to her and celebrate the bride-to-be at the same time. 
  • Staying abreast of activities, problems and celebrations in the community through a Facebook group that one of the community partners formed.
This weekend, consulting with my community partners has looked like this:

Via private messages, one community partner asked me for information about who to contact at the university to inquire about a Dreamer's tuition. All of a sudden the university switched the student's status to an international student...with much higher tuition. I tried to think of the people on campus to contact, but I'll also try to move things myself if the community partner doesn't get very far her/himself.

In another private message, a different community partner asked me a few questions about a service recipient that she and others in town are working to help. I won't go into details on this public forum, but suffice it to say that it is a story of someone who is panicked, confused, desperate and totally reliant on the grace of strangers. And you know what? That could happen to any of us. (Although most people probably think it won't. Not really.) Some of the questions were about housing, employment and legal assistance. I only wish I could have done more.

I spoke on the phone with another community partner. We talked about technology issues, information issues, and as usually happens, those issues are tied very tightly to organizational issues. In other words, when you start asking questions about, let's say, a website, you quickly find that the answers lead you to more questions, often unanswered, about an organization's mission, staff, turnover, resources, trust, and more. I am always sorry when I am asked a direct question and cannot give a direct answer! But sometimes it takes an outsider's eye to see that we're not ready to ask that final, definitive question yet. I'll write another post about this with more detail.

What do your relationships with your community partners look like? What do you talk about? Do you provide more to them than just students? Do you interact with them even when you're off duty? Or do you find it important to draw lines around your time? I'd love to hear from you.

Public Engagement and Campus Information Technology at Illinois

by Ann Abbott

For the past two years and now entering the third, I have participated in our campus-level information technology (IT) shared governance. I have learned a lot, met a lot of wonderful experts and felt the stretch and strain of shared governance in a huge, decentralized campus.

Good times.

Here's a simply listing of some of the things I participated in. Later I will give some thought to pulling together patterns, disjunctures and other kinds of insights from these experiences. 

1. I chaired the Extension & Outreach Committee. I wish our committee was called the Public Engagement committee. That said, I think we made some good initial strides toward framing and shaping the relationships between IT and public engagement on our campus. 

2. I served on the IT Executive Committee. All the chairs of the subcommittees and several other representatives for the Executive Committee. This is where the various interests come together and look at bigger-picture items that bind us together. At these meetings I not only learned about campus IT, I also got a peek into many of the offices, programs and structures that do great work on this campus but are not directly involved in teaching and research. In other words, I saw what a huge machine our university is. I saw why our univeristy can have thousands of employees but not enough people to teach certain classes.

3. I attended and presented at the CIC CIO Tech Forum. I heard many very good speakers and came away with ideas about iTunes U and iBooks. I also remember being inspired by something they had done at Northwestern's College of Education. They had received two or three very large flat-screen tvs or monitors as gifts. They turned them on their sides and hung them in the entrance area. They had an Instagram feed rotating constantly. They had determined a hashtag for the College, and students posted their own photos that were on public display. I like that idea!

4. I was a member of the search committee for the new CIO. This was a lot of work and intense at times, but I enjoyed getting to know everyone on the commitee and am very proud of the result: Mark Henderson is our new campus CIO.

Finally, I'd like to contrast my experience with shared governance and IT at Illinois with the picture painted in a recent article in AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, v. 5: Poritz, Jonathan A. "Open Access to Technology: Shared Governance of the Academy's Virtual Worlds." Although I certainly don't disagree with any of the points raised in Portiz's article, I am glad to see that shared governance about IT on the Illinois campus is three years old, involves faculty, APs, and Deans. I think we're on a good track.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant

Click on the picture to read the full description and order.
by Ann Abbott

My friend Prof. Carina Olaru shared on Facebook that she is bringing the author of Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant to her campus of Monmouth College.

I had never heard of this book before, even though its is from my university's press. I'm glad I know about it now, and I just ordered it. I'll write more about it when I read it.

I love the book's tagline: 
The valiant memoir of a man living the "good" life--illegally

With all the talk on my campus these days about "civility" and never "devaluing" anyone or anyone's viewpoints (what does that mean?), it is refreshing to see Carina tackle an issue that can be very emotional and divisive: undocumented immigrants in the US. Here is how Carina put it: 
Bringing a person to campus to talk about undocumented immigrants, I hope, will start a necessary dialogue between students, staff and faculty who have various views. My hope is that this person will be received well by my institution of higher learning and that we are willing to exchange ideas. 
I'll share more about the book after I receive it and read it.

Good luck with your event, Carina! I hope it is a wonderful and challenging experience for all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Service Learning at the University of South Florida

Click on the picture to read this newsletter from the University of South Florida.
by Ann Abbott

Yesterday I had a very exciting conversation with Dr. Lance Arney, Dr. Harold Keller and Dr. Soria Colomer from the University of South Florida. They had invited me to speak at their annual Service Learning Day in November, and in yesterday's conference call we explored various themes that I could address and how they might resonate with the interests and needs of the USF faculty.

We decided on the following.

In my keynote talk I will cover:
1. Transcultural competence. What are some issues and concrete examples of the need for transcultural competence in service learning?
2. Advocacy/Activism. How do we teach about advocacy and activism in a service learning course to better prepare students to go beyond volunteerism when they are students as well as afterward.

In a later conversation:
Technology. How can we use online platforms and information to engage with communities.

Soria forwarded me the newsletter that Lance's office sent out yesterday evening, and I was impressed with both the stories and the resources they provided. This is a model newsletter that informs the campus of what has been done as well as what can be done with service learning.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Medical Spanish: Do You Know What M-Health Is?

by Ann Abbott

I don't teach medical Spanish, but many of my languages for specific purposes (LSP) colleagues do.

And many students are interested medical Spanish, even though our department does not currently offer a full course in it.

So when I was reading Mujeres de empresa today, her post on M-health caught my attention.

Do you know what m-health is? Watch the short video above and click here to read the report and find the 50 best medical apps in Spanish.

Día a día: My New Textbook Is Now Available

Día a día, the textbook I co-authored with Holly Nibert.
by Ann Abbott

Hurray! Huge news! A textbook project I have been working on is now available.

Request an exam copy of Día a día!

This is just a quick post to show you the cover, the title and the link. I'll write more about it in the upcoming weeks.

For now, I'm just sharing the good news. Hurray!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Fresh Way to Use a Traditional Textbook

by Ann Abbott

Using the textbook doesn't mean that your class has to be boring!

I use Éxito comercial in my Business Spanish class. It has a lot of very good information and activities in it, but I have to be honest and say that students (and sometimes instructors) take a look at page after page of text and feel a bit overwhelmed.

I love to read. I got a PhD in Hispanic literature and actually read every single book on the reading list. Every single book. I dislike magazines whose articles are too short. I lugged huge novels to high school with me and read them in study hall.

But even I know that it can be easy for people to disengage with textbooks.

So here's what I did to shake things up.

1. Before class I prepared two laptops and three file folders.
  • In one laptop I loaded the audio disc that comes with Exito comercial and put the photocopy of 1-3 Al telefono (p. 12) in the file folder. 
  • In the other laptop I loaded the video disc that comes with Exito comercial and put the photocopy of 1-7 Comprensión y comunicación (p. 20-21) in it. 
  • In the third file folder I placed photocopies of the geography information--Figuras 1-1 through 1-4 and the questions in 1-4 Actividades (p. 14).
I asked two students to set up the laptops for me in two separate corners of the room along with the file folders.  I asked another student to put the "geografía" file on a desk in the middle of the room. (At the end of the class I asked two different students to pop out the discs and pack up the laptops for me. Believe it or not, I think that giving students--even university students--these small tasks in the classroom has a positive effect. It makes us work together as a team.)
2. I divided students into three groups and sent each group to one of the "stations." Each group had to read the instructions on the front of the file folder, open it up to see the documents (photocopies of the activities from the textbook because I knew that several of my students wouldn't have bought the book yet), and get started.

Honestly, students seemed very confused and unsure of what to do. I think some of their thoughts included: What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to touch the computer? What didn't she give us more instructions? How are we supposed to do this? One student did ask me, "How do I get the dvd to play?"

This was exactly what I wanted! I wanted them to be resourceful, take the lead, deal with ambiguity, figure things out, help each other out along the way. JUST LIKE THE BUSINESS WORLD. It worked.

3. After twelve minutes, I asked each group for their first impression. They all said that it was hard. Some because the Spanish was hard to understand, others because the questions were difficult. Then they rotated to the next station.

After twelve minutes at the second station, I asked them which one was more difficult, the first station or the second. I also noted that one of the groups approached their station as two pairs instead of one team of four. I told them that there isn't one "right" way to tackle a project. Then they rotated for a third time. After those twelve minutes, I again asked them what the hardest station was. They all agreed that it was the audio exercise, where they had to listen to a telephone conversation and answer questions about it. Again, JUST LIKE THE REAL BUSINESS WORLD: PHONE CALLS ARE HARD. They make people nervous. People's palms sweat when they pick up the phone. Especially in a second language!

4. To conclude, I put up two words on the board: PRODUCT and PROCESS.

I told them that the product of their work projects were their answers, the pieces of papers they wrote on. And I quizzed them on the content, asking them geography questions from station #2.

Then I told them that their process was probably more important than the product. Without a good work process, team process, it's difficult to get a good product. I asked them to reflect on their team's process. What was their reaction to the work? What kind of role did they each take on? How did they help each other? How did they let others know they needed help? Or did they not ask for help? Did they establish trust in any way?

Frankly, the students didn't spend much time on this. I don't think they fully understood the importance of processes and our ability to step outside the details of the work itself and see the ways in which we are going to attack it. But we'll work on that this semester. 

That'll be part of our process.

How do you use your textbooks? Have you found ways to use the textbook as a resource while still creating a dynamic, engaging classroom environment? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Business Spanish Lesson Plans: Week 2

Week 2
by Ann Abbott

Business Spanish, Week 2

Monday | Labor Day, no class

Wednesday | Exito comercial, Capítulo 1, Actividades

1. Vocabulario, p. 3. I'll ask students for the following:
  • Dos pares de sinónimos.
  • Una palabra de la lista que es una extensión de otra palabra en la lista.
  • Describe la relación entre la gerencia y la mano de obra.
2. Stations. I'll set up three stations.
  • Al teléfono, p. 12. On one end of the room, I'll have my laptop set up with the dvd that plays audio. Students will answer question 1, a-e.
  • Comprensión y comunicación, p. 20-21. On the opposite side of the room, I'll ask a student to use their laptop to play the dvd with the video of the consecutive interpretation. Students will need to answer two of the "Al ver" questions.
  • Geografía, pp. 13-16. I'll have pages printed out with the questions, and they will have to answer them.
3. Conclusion. We'll do some interactive geography quizzes together. I'll pull from these:
Taller de asesoría. Visita con la cliente.

Spanish Lesson Plan about Twitter with Activities

by Ann Abbott

I used this lesson plan with my Business Spanish students last week. They were very active and seemed to really enjoy it.

Be sure to teaching students this vocabulary: @ arroba and # almohadilla.

Also let them know that the Spanish in the tuits is not always perfect/academic Spanish.

If you use it, I'd love it if you let me know how it goes for you and your students. You can contact me at @AnnAbbott on Twitter or at via email.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Business Spanish: Wrapping up the first week

by Ann Abbott

I have two goals for my teaching this semester:
  1. On Sundays, plan my classes for the upcoming week.
  2. Post those lesson plans on my blog.
Bold? Inspired? Lunatic? I'm not sure. But I do know that planning ahead, like I used to when I was a TA, will help me feel less crazed during the week. With 23 years of teaching experience under my belt, frankly, I can pull off almost anything. But I'd rather not.

These were my lesson plans for last week. The first week of classes.

Business Spanish, Week 1


1. Names. After calling roll and doing a few activities, I always quiz students on the other students' names.
2. Your idea of the course. In pairs, students introduced themselves, then talked for five minutes about why they signed up for the course and what they thought the course will be like.
FACEBOOK Students got out their laptops, tablets, phones and went to our Facebook page where I had put up all the links ahead of time. Feel free to like the page, too! UIUC Spanish Service Learning
3. My vision of the course. Students read my blog post about the three things I want to focus on in Business Spanish this semester. Then in pairs they had to share their reactions to the blog post. Together, they wrote one comment on our Facebook thread for the day, describing their reactions.)
4. I showed them this platform for professionals to share their information and showed them how it is more visual and creative than LinkedIn. I tried to show them how to search it using key words that interested them (e.g., ingeniería, informática, Honduras, Madrid), but my connection to the internet kept coming and going.
5. Consulting project. We looked at our client's current Facebook page. Students gave their first impressions and gave suggestions of things we could do to help them with their page.
6. Details of the course. Students quickly saw the details of the course in our university's learning management system.


Éxito comercial. We began with the "lectura comercial" in the first chapter of the textbook, but as I had suspected, almost none of the students had bought the book. That was fine, though, because I had prepared the day's lesson with that in mind.
1. Globalización. I talked to students for several minutes about the story of Giuseppe, my brother-in-law, and his businesses. Students had to take notes, and at the end prepare one question for me. Here are the main points I covered, designed to highlight how globalization is not just about huge multinational corporations.
  • My in-laws had a small sewing factory in northern Italy where they did prêt-à-porter work. 
  • When labor prices became too high for the contracts that the designers were willing to pay, they closed their "laboratorio" just like so many other in the same area.
  • With some friends, Giuseppe went to Hungary and started a clothing factory there. His "socios" were in Italy and got contracts from companies like Benetton and Armani Exchange. (This was a move from pret a porter to more mass-produced clothing with designer labels.) This was not a smooth transition!
  • The textiles often came from India and China. The machinery came from Italy. The workers were Hungarians from a small town.
  • When Hungary entered the European Union and labor costs rose again, Giuseppe and his partners kept the factory in Hungary but expanded into Ukraine where, among other things, they make motocross leather jumpsuits and accessories. 
  • Cultural notes: At the very beginning, the workers asked to be paid in food items (potatoes) instead of currency. When Giuseppe would cross the border into Ukraine, he would be driven by security professionals because of the bandits on the highways. He encountered corruption. (I won't publish the details!) 
  • The current political crisis in Ukraine (with Russia) is occurring in a different region of the country, but of course the political unrest has economic repercussions: the western European countries from whom they receive the contracts are leary about giving their contract to a factory in such an unstable situation.
2. Liderazgo y ética. Frases célebres. The book includes some famous quotes about leadership, and I had students google "Frases célebres liderazgo." One-third of the room had to look that up using, the other third used and the other third used They compared their results, which were indeed pretty similar. My point was for them to see that they can miss good information in Spanish if they only ever use Then in pairs they had to share their favorite quote and explain why they liked it. I told them we would choose one of the frases célebres as our class slogan.
3. Los números. The textbook has a great section on numbers, and the cultural differences one encounters with numbers. Here are the numbers I put on the board and the questions I asked:
  1. 2/5/68. What month was I born in? If I were in Argentina, what month would people think I was born in?
  2. 120 kilometros. Is Chicago 120 kilometers away from Champaign? Less? More?
  3. 42 degrees. In Madrid, is that hot or cold?
  4. 8h15. In Madrid, is that the morning or the evening? What about 20h15?
  5.,00. How much is this? (Hint: no, it is not one billion; that is what we say in English.)


1. Nuestro lema. As a follow up from the previous class, students got back together with their partners and chose the one frase célebre they wanted to pitch to the class as our class slogan. Their instructions were to get in front of the class and read the quote (with energy!) then explain why they think it should be chosen. They did a great job. One student tallied the votes, and the winning team will email me the quote so that I can add it to our Compass homepage and in other materials throughout the semester.
In pairs, students had to stand in front of the class, present the famous quote they chose and explain why they thought it should be our class's guiding slogan.

These two students are pitching the "frase célebre" that they chose.

2. Social media. Students indicated which social media platforms they use. Important: the only platform they all were on was Snapchat. Vocabulary: they needed to know almohadilla # and arroba @.
3. Twitter. We did a worksheet about Twitter that I prepared a few years ago, and it went really, well. At the end of the worksheet, we tried to distinguish between social media and social media marketing in the tweets included in the worksheet.
4. Social media marketing. As a conclusion, I emphasized that we have to distinguish between social media and social media marketing. That is what we will concentrate on this semester. I gave them two examples of possible posts and asked if each one was marketing or not.
  • Sólo hoy: suéteres de lana con 50% de descuento.
  • Estamos abiertos desde las 8 hasta las 22.
Many in the class correctly said that they were both marketing messages. I told them that marketing can be very creative, but it is also fundamentally about letting people know you exist, what you do, how you can be contacted and how you can make clients' lives better.

One student told me after class that she had an internship this summer as a social media marketer for a local company. Exciting! She will add a lot of wisdom to the course and our consulting project.

I hope this information will be helpful to other Business Spanish instructors. Please let me know if it is, if it isn't or if you have any questions. I'd love to read your comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Video Tutorials for Spanish Community Service Learning Students

by Ann Abbott

Here are some video tutorials to help with the various platforms we use in our Spanish community service learning courses.

Use the wiki to sign up for your community partner and to log your work hours each week.

Click on this picture to watch the video tutorial. 

Use MySpanishKit to work on your grammar.

Click on this picture to watch the video tutorial.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Lesson Plan that Illustrates Community Service Learning's Shifting Perspectives

by Ann Abbott

The first day of a new semester is always exciting. You get to meet your new students, and they get to meet you.

It's also a chance to set the tone for the whole semester. That's why I like to actually teach the first day, not just hand out the syllabus and talk about the textbook.

Here's what I did yesterday for my first day with my "Spanish in the Community" students. Feel free to use it yourself. Really, you could use it any day during the semester. It emphasizes the back-and-forth that is so fundamental to community service learning: creating connections to the people in the community yet at the same time viewing that individual's reality through a larger lens.

In other words, the academic content of the course often comes into sharp relief when connected to individual lives of the people with whom students interact in the community. However, we have to adjust the lens in the classroom and help them reframe those individual realities within the larger socio-political context in which they exist.

Day 1

1. I asked students what they thought the most pressing topic in US immigration was right now. One student replied with the answer I was looking for: children at the border. We talked a few moments about that situation.

2. We watched this video interview to get the perspective of a person who is actually experiencing the effects of this current crisis on the border.

3. Students read an interview with an expert from our campus, Prof. Ellen Moodie, to see the situation from an academic researcher's perspective.

4. In pairs, students compared and contrasted the information that was presented through each source. What did they both say? What did one say that the other didn't? What is the effect of listening to an individual talk about her own experience? What visual information did the video offer? What is the effect of reading (without hearing her voice) a professor's explanation?

5. Conclusion: this is what we must do all semester long. We have to continuously shift from the close-up view on a person's words, stories, gestures, tone, etc., to the broader perspective of the policies and practices that combine to create the circumstances that shape individuals' lives.

What did you do on the first day of class? What challenges do you think are particularly important in a CSL course? Tell me your ideas in the comments, and have a great fall 2014 semester!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Word Verification

by Ann Abbott

Everything I read about blogging tells me that I should turn off the word verification for comments. And that made sense to me. It's a barrier. It's a bother. I don't really like going through that step on other people's sites.

So I did that. And, oh, the spam. So much spam! Awful, awful spam. Constant email notifications about spam.

I couldn't take it anymore. So I'm sorry, but the word verification step is back.

I love it when readers comment. I love it when you share your ideas with me. I learn from you. It's the same way when I do TA classroom observations: I go there to help them become more skilled instructors, but I always walk away a little better myself, too.

So please comment. Sorry that the spammers made me put back up that little obstacle between us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Video Lessons about Entrepreneurship that Spanish Students Will Love

by Ann Abbott

A wonderful resource for business Spanish students or anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship of any kind (commercial, social, academic, cultural, etc.): Lecciones de emprendimiento para principiantes. Diego Saez-Gil is a young, experienced, Argentinian entrepreneur who explains the entrepreneurial process in a friendly tone and with lots of very specific examples from his own experiences and others'.

After the introduction, there are eight lessons, each around 10 minutes. Click on the video above, and it should automatically take you through all of them. Or go to the website to see them separated out.

Language students will hear how business people talk about business concepts. In some cases it reinforces vocabulary and concepts from textbooks, and in other cases it introduces new vocab and ways of thinking about business. They will also see examples of businesses based on new media; textbooks tend to feature traditional business models almost exclusively.

I learned about Diego's videos from Leslie Forman, another young entrepreneur. Be sure to check out her materials and use them to teach students about the nuts and bolts of living and working abroad.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Engaged Humanities and Spanish Community Service Learning

When I think of the engaged humanities, these are the tenets that come to my mind and guide my work.
by Ann Abbott

Recently an old friend asked if I would be willing to go to her campus this year to give a talk. Yes! I love talking about Spanish community service learning (CSL), and I love the chance to see old friends in the places they work.

To organize the trip I needed to send her the usual--my CV, a photo, title of the talk, a blurb. But I also needed to write a paragraph describing my background and expertise in the humanities. Hmmmmm. Even though my PhD is in Hispanic literature, I have felt very distanced from the humanities for many years. When you do work in the scholarship of engagement, you can take a real beating from traditional humanists. "You make us look like a service department." "This isn't a vocational college." "Literature is the heart of Spanish programs." "There's no theory in what you do."

But in this precise moment in time (Israel's bombing of Gaza with 1,800 Palestinians killed; the riots in Ferguson; the Salaita case on my campus; immigrant children at our border in record numbers), I feel drawn back towards my training in the humanities, even literary analysis, because I see so many misreadings of people's words, so much de-contextualization of violence, and so little understanding of how power works.

So this was actually a timely exercise for me. And this is what I came up with:

Ann Abbott's work falls squarely within the engaged humanities, a strand within the broader humanities that strives to "connect humanities research and teaching with projects to advance democracy, social justice, and the public good" (Gregory Jay, "The Engaged Humanities"). After receiving her PhD in Hispanic literature in 1998, Ann began to turn her attention to critical analyses of the discourses about Spanish-speaking immigrants at the national level, within the local communities surrounding her university and within the profession of language teaching itself. For the past eleven years, she has incorporated Spanish community service learning into three courses ("Spanish in the Community," "Spanish for Business" and a course on social entrepreneurship), published curricular materials that connect students' learning to their local community contexts and written scholarly articles about both the student learning outcomes and the challenges of foreign language community service learning. During this period that many have called "the crisis of the humanities," the engaged humanities offers foreign language programs new ways to connect their scholarly expertise to community-identified challenges, and a new way to connect to students who increasingly want to see concrete outcomes to their education.

For me, the engaged humanities are quite different from a term that might be better known: public humanities and public scholars. (Here's a very good piece about public engagement and scholars, that illustrates what I actually think is just "public" without "engagement" the way I understand it.) Just like the difference between outreach and engagement is fundamental (outreach comes from an approach of "we the experts" helping the people who need us and our expertise; engagement is about partnerships, working on community-identified challenges, co-creating knowledge), a public scholar tends to be thought of as someone who writes op-eds, writes for audiences beyond other scholars, opines on current events in the media. The engaged humanities, however, are about engagement, in the ways I listed above.

Here are some links about the engaged humanities that might interest you.
How would you define the engaged humanities? How would you define your own relationship with the humanities more broadly? Let me know in the comments. Fighting to find a place at the humanities table can be a bloody battle; let's support each other. Or poke holes in the concept of engaged humanities. After all, critical analysis is what we do all day long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Incorporating Authentic Sources and Businesses into Business Spanish Classes

Let's make Business Spanish real.
by Ann Abbott

All too often, students' work in Business Spanish centers around fictions. Students write business plans for fictional businesses that they will probably never launch. Business cases highlight real-life issues but often within the context of fictionalized characters and companies. The chapter on marketing culminates in students preparing ads that are built on some sort of fictional "Mad Men" fantasy world.

We can do better than that. We can engage our students in real business practices, with real business people.

My Business Spanish class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm going to divide the course into three parts:

1. Case studies. Some will come from the textbook, Exito comercial. Others will come from the University of Colorado, Denver's language case studies.

2. Consulting. I did this for the first time last year. My students had five consulting clients and each team of students had to do the social media marketing for their client. They learned a lot! They learned about contracts, meetings, aligning expectations, teamwork, and I hope they learned something about themselves, too. But five clients was really too much. The biggest problem I encountered was this: the kind of communicative competence we expect from students in class (not perfect, just comprehensible), is at odds with the grammatical perfection required when you are representing someone's brand on social media. So we will have just one client this semester: La Linea.

3. Project-based learning. I want students to see and study real-life people from Spanish-speaking countries who are in the business world. I also want them to see that "the business world" doesn't just mean multinationals and billionaires, like Carlos Slim. So, just like the image at the top of this post states, I'll have students do this:

*Use online sites (About.Me, LinkedIn, and others) to search for Spanish-speaking professionals.
Example: Mimi Guarnero is a wonderful example of a young woman from Mexico who has an interesting educational background and a strong entrepreneurial streak. I also want to show students this list of YouTube stars. It features several people from Spanish-speaking countries. I want them to see that "business" can take many forms, including digital communication and entertainment. Furthermore, this specific list shows that the Internet is not "English-only," and that students should use their Spanish skills to explore parts of the Internet that probably don't appear on their Google searches and other highly-filtered sites.
*Find one professional who interests you.
Students might be attracted to a certain city or region. They might be interested in certain careers. Maybe they want to find someone who graduated from the University of Illinois. Whatever the personal connection might be, I want them to pick someone who resonates with them on a personal level and then do research about them. Click on all the links. Google them to find out more. Explore maps and Flickr images about the place they are from. Go all out.
*Pitch that person as someone we should invite to Skype into class with us. 
I'll teach the students a formula for preparing an effective elevator pitch (3 minutes; or maybe even this 30-second model of an elevator pitch), then have them all give their pitch during class. Students will then vote on the top three. Working together as a class, we will then contact those three people and see if they can Skype into our class and talk to us about their business experiences.

I'll fill you in with more details as I progress. Do you have any advice? Any concerns? Let me know in the comments!