Monday, May 2, 2016

Community Service Learning Students and the Peace Corps

Take your engagement with cultures and languages even further: consider the Peace Corps.
by Ann Abbott

I know several students who have gone to the Peace Corps after a college experience filled with travel, language learning and transcultural encounters. It's a fantastic experience, and they come back with unique perspectives and skills.

Scrolling through LinkedIn this morning, I came upon a blog that my former student, Andrew Piotrowski has contributed to. His posts are about El Salvador, and I just loved reading them. I admire the way he presents his experiences, the people who he worked with, and the way the he sees things now that he is back in the US. I encourage you to read them on Peace Corps Volunteers: Stories about the Toughest Job You'll Ever Love.

If you search through this blog, you'll find old posts from Andrew. Here is what he wrote to me after I told him I much I loved his blog posts.

Thank you Annie! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I feel like I got my start blogging by writing articles for your blog to earn that extra credit hour I needed back at U of I. That was a great experience, and I'm grateful that you helped me reach others through writing!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Language Teaching Tips: The First in a Series of Short, Focused Tips

by Ann Abbott

On this blog I usually tackle "big picture" items. I think a lot about what a Spanish major should look like in the US today. I use it as a platform to hopefully make Spanish community service learning more accessible to anyone thinking about teaching with it. I want to share my students' reflections so they have a strong voice in how we construct (or don't) our courses. I'd love it if Business Spanish and specific topics like social entrepreneurship and bilingual social media marketing gained resonance in our field.

But I started out, many years ago, as a course supervisor. Of SPAN 101 and 102. That was my first gig.

I worked on the syllabus, did classroom observations, put together tests, soaked up ideas from my professors and mentors, and much more. I had to pay attention to the little things that make classes work. And even more specifically, that make language learning work.

I'm not sure how many classroom observations I've done over the years and how many TAs and instructors I've talked to about their teaching. It's a lot! Scores. So it recently occurred to me that I should share some of that knowledge on my blog and other sharing sites.

Here is my first of what I hope is many: "Giving Instructions One at a Time." Because sometimes just the way you set up an activity determines how much students take away from it.

End of Academic Year: Time for Reflection

Annie Abbott, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
It was nice to have my picture taken by a professional photographer.
by Ann Abbott

As the spring semester and the academic year come to a close, it's a good time to reflect. Last week I handed in my annual activity report, and that forces you to reflect on the products of your work within a structured (and hierarchical) format. Some of the highlights from that list include:


Incorporating New Areas of Business into Business LanguageStudies: Social Media Marketing.” Global Business Languages 19 (2014): 71-84.  
This was my only piece of writing that appeared in print this year. In it, I use Radio Ambulante as a case study to exemplify linguistically- and culturally-appropriate social media marketing. So it combines two things that I love: the creativity of social media marketing and Radio Ambulante's masterful storytelling--in their podcasts and in their marketing. I'm also happy to say that the article cracked Global Business Language's list of its most popular papers.

I have four other pieces in press, one abstract awaiting word of acceptance or not, and one article manuscript that I'm currently drafting. That was a pretty good writing year for me.


For the first time in decades, I taught a 100-level Spanish class--and it was good! I taught two sections of SPAN 142, one of our fourth-semester Spanish courses that fulfills the language requirement. The students were delightful! I used Dia a dia: De lo personal a lo profesional, the textbook that Holly Nibert and I wrote and published a year ago. It was a great chance to put all that work into a real context, with real students. But most importantly, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to have students at that level do some community service learning. The response to that was overwhelmingly positive!

Director of Undergraduate Studies

My happiest accomplishment in this category was the redesign and simplification of our webpage for Spanish undergraduate studies. This summer I will continue to evaluate and perhaps add to the page, but for now I'm just happy to have a "fresh face" for our page.


I don't know of a better way to end the year than with very meaningful awards. I received two, and they make me very proud--not for me, but to be a part of a community that respects and enacts engaged scholarship and teaching.

Other categories for reflection

Now that that official reflective task is finished, I'll set aside some hours this week or next to reflect on categories that matter to me and that aren't on the official form. How can I improve student learning? How can I set important, pertinent new learning objectives for my students? What "stretch project" should I focus on? Is there more that I can share on social media (including this blog) that would be helpful? I'll let you know the answers...

What are your accomplishments from this academic year? What do reflect upon? Have you set any goals for next year? I'd love to hear from you and learn from you.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Life Long Language Learning: Online Tools for Portuguese Learning

by Ann Abbott

I say it all the time: I love hearing from former students! Especially when they tell me that they are still using Spanish and are interested in continuing their learning.

This week I received this email from a student:

Hi Ann,

I'm not sure if you remember me or not, but I am a former student of yours (like six or seven years ago). I saw you on LinkedIn the other day and have been thinking of trying to pick up Portuguese lately so thought I'd reach out for some direction. I would like to take an online course for credit somewhere to keep me motivated and on task. If you have any insight and advice (and also time haha) please let me know. If you know of any similar advance Spanish courses like that I'd be interested as well. I've been using it a lot and there's always room for improvement! 

Unfortunately, I don't have good answers to the specific type of learning experience he's looking for. I understand signing up for a for-credit course because the structure and payment make you prioritize it. But I just don't know about 

So I shared the following information, and "Prof. Jason" and Prof. Kelm added more. 
What I forgot to add is that we do offer totally online Spanish courses from the University of Illinois that are for credit. I don't know if any of them fit this former student's interests and level, but maybe they will interest you.

You might wonder what work this former student does now to keep him interested in improving his Spanish and learning Portuguese. What do you think? International business? Agribusiness? Work in the tourism sector?

No. He is an EMT.

I hope that you're using online resources to keep up with your language skills! If you have any specific recommendations, please let me know (in a comment here or at arabbott@illinois), and I will add them to this post.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Student Reflection

[from Ann: As you read this reflection from Joey, think about what questions you would ask him about this situation. What kind of behaviors might he be referring to? Could they be attributed to a number of things? How could you find out more about who attends school in Latin American countries and who doesn't?]

by Joey Gelman

Yo tengo una vista limitada sobre el mundo educativo. Por lo tanto, cuando yo pienso en el sistema de educación, es una idea normal que todo el mundo por lo menos tiene un nivel de educación básico. Pero esta idea no es una realidad y está reflejada en el comportamiento de los estudiantes en mi clase. En mi entrada anterior, hablé de un estudiante que está nueva a la clase y está teniendo problemas en la clase porque no sabe mucho inglés. Encima de esta idea, este estudiante nunca ha asistido a una escuela antes de Central. Es decir, él tiene casi 18 años sin educación formal. ésta es una idea increíble para mí, y desafortunadamente una realidad triste para muchos adultos jóvenes en el mundo.  Entiendo que hay situaciones cuando un niño que tiene 14 años o un poco más joven necesita salir de escuela para trabajar para apoyar a su familia. Sin embargo, la idea principal en esta idea es que ellos salieron de sus propias escuelas, no que ellos nunca asistieron la escuela. Este estudiante no está solo en nuestra clase. Por lo menos hay un estudiante más que tiene una situación similar y me parece que el resto de la clase no ha asistido a la escuela por los años que son “obligatorios” en nuestros ojos. Por esto, aunque los estudiantes no saben toda la información que deberían saber a sus edades, lo más importante, es que algunos de ellos nunca han aprendido cómo comportarse en una clase, cómo respetar el salón, el maestro etc.  Por lo tanto, las normas que aprendieron cuando éramos niños no están inculcadas en estos estudiantes, y se mostró en nuestra clase. Sin embargo, nuestra clase está llena de estudiantes brillantes y amables y algunas veces vimos las chispas inteligentes y creativas en estos estudiantes. No obstante, ellos no han dado un ambiente en lo que pueden aprovechar sus habilidades y entender cómo aplicar sus conocimientos y entender cómo deberían compartir en situaciones específicos antes de ahora. No es su culpa que ellos están en esta situación, pero ahora es nuestro trabajo enseñar a estos estudiantes lo más que podemos en su poco tiempo en una escuela estadounidense. Es una tarea difícil, pero necesitamos intentar. En realidad, no podemos arreglar el sistema  educativo para todo el mundo, pero cuando tengamos la oportunidad, podemos intentar ayudar. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Student Reflection

by Joey Gelman

Para esta semana, quiero reflexionar en mi experiencia de una manera más personal con un grupo de estudiantes. Durante la clase de estudios sociales, trabajé con un grupo de estudiantes que no habían acabado sus tareas por el día.  Generalmente, hay un grupo de la clase en lo que trabajo pero ese día trabajé con los estudiantes que o no participan mucho o son nuevos. Uno de los estudiantes está en la clase una vez cada semana si tenemos suerte. Pero mientras el profesor trabajaba con los otros estudiantes, fue mi responsabilidad para trabajar con este grupo. Por primera vez, trabajé con este estudiante, y por fin, estaba interesado en el tema de la clase. Estaba preguntándome sobre las preguntas y entendió las ideas que eran clave para entender el tema. También, había un estudiante en este grupo que tuvo su primer día en la escuela, pero llevó en los EE.UU por cuatro meses. Entonces, cuando lo pasé el paquete que necesita terminar, él no sabía ninguna palabra de inglés. Esta situación fue muy interesante, pero me gusta mucho este reto. Mientras los otros dos estudiantes seguían su trabajo, yo senté con este estudiante y expliqué todas las oraciones e ideas principales para él. Cuando yo reflexiono sobre esto ahora, entiendo que mucha de este trabajo fue simplemente copiar y pegar, pero lo más interesante para mí es la idea que en abril, hay un estudiante que ahora está en esta clase y es 3-4 meses detrás del resto de la clase. Me gustó trabajar con este estudiante, porque fue una experiencia divertida para traducir y ayudar con una gran porción de la tarea, pero me lo mostró que este sistema para los estudiantes no podría funcionar. He hablado de esta idea con el profesor de la clase, pero los dos de nosotros hemos visto el progreso que los estudiantes han logrado. Sus habilidades en inglés son mucho mejores y tienen más confianza pero es frustrante ver al estudiante nuevo, quien ahora está en un ambiente que no puede tener éxito. La clase no puede ir más lento para este estudiante, y él ya tiene 18 años, entonces de junio, él probablemente no seguirá escuela después de este semestre. Por eso, probablemente no habrá aprendido bastante habilidades en inglés para su vida real porque habría estado en una clase donde no pudo avanzar ni tener éxito. Mientras que quiero este estudiante a tener la oportunidad para aprender en una escuela, forzando este estudiante en esta clase que es avanzada frente a un ambiente más personal para ayudarlo, él no tiene la posibilidad para aprender. En mi opinión, es una pérdida de tiempo y puede ser peor para él porque podrá perder su confianza y motivación para aprender si está expuesto a este tipo de ambiente de aprendizaje. Esta experiencia me ha mostrado muchísimos beneficios, pero también algunos negativos en el sistema educativo en los que no había pensado antes de este trabajo. Voy a describir más sobre esta idea en mi próxima entrada.

Student Spotlight: Hannah Rickey

by Ann Abbott

Hannah Rickey was a student in a special section of our Spanish composition course the only time I ever taught it as a community service learning course. That's a course that many students take as freshmen or sophomore, so I was delighted when Hannah was my student again in "Spanish in the Community" and my social entrepreneurship course a few years later as a senior.

She went on to work last year as an Americorps legal advocate.

And now she is transitioning again. I want to share her message to me so that all students can see the connections between law and our Spanish community service learning courses. Hannah doesn't say that she's interested in going to law school, but who knows? Many of my former students have ended up going to law school and some now work specifically in immigration law or with immigrants.

Hannah is a role model not only because she has been working with immigrants' rights, but also because she exemplifies the winding path so many people have after graduation. I say it here all the time here, but it's true: focus on finding a good learning experience for yourself in your first step out of college, work hard, impress your bosses, build your network and follow the opportunities that will arise from that.

Hola Ann!

I've been meaning to shoot you a message since you forwarded Kelly Klus's email last month. It was funny timing to get that message around this time, because I am also in the process of applying for jobs and figuring out what comes next! It seems like I just started, but my AmeriCorps service year is already winding down.

I have loved the experience of working in an immigration office, and I wish I could continue here, but ... I'm starting to look for positions in immigration in Chicago and a few other areas in the Midwest.

I feel like I've gotten so much experience and gained so much knowledge in such a short period of time in this service year, so I'm optimistic moving forward. I have a surprising amount of independence here, taking lead on many of my own cases (Naturalization, DACA, green card renewals), as well as assisting our attorneys in their cases, particularly with asylum and Special Immigrant Juveniles. Our attorneys don't speak much Spanish, so I assist them every day with our multitude of Spanish-only clients, which has of course only helped my language skills and confidence, and also has given me the opportunity to learn so much about those types of cases, in all of their stages. I never would have imagined a few years ago that I'd be in a job where I speak Spanish every day, but I love it, and I'm so glad this opportunity worked out.

I know that your reference and my experience from your classes played a large role in getting this position, and I was hoping to continue to utilize you as a reference on my applications this time around, if that is all right.

I hope that things are going well with you and in Champaign, I miss it very much!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Student Spotlight: Brianna Anderson

by Ann Abbott

What a difference a few years makes! I want to share these two emails from the same alum so that current students can see that it's very normal for careers to follow winding paths.

Focus on finding your first job. Then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to move forward in your career.

December 2013
Hola Senora! 

Just wanted to send you a quick note and see how everything is going with you.  Things with me are going great!  I am working at a prevention-based non-profit called Dream, Inc. in Jackson, MS.  Our organization focuses on the issues youth encounter.  I work specifically with clubs (mostly SADD Chapters) across the state to incorporate highway safety activities into their schools.  Unfortunately, I haven't had much of an opportunity to use my Spanish recently and am afraid I've gotten a bit rusty!  Grad school is also going well--I just completed my first semester in a Child and Family Studies program at Southern Mississippi and am really enjoying it! 
Anyways, just wanted to say hello and happy holidays!  Hope everything is going well!

-Brianna Anderson

April 2016
I wanted to give you a quick update on my search for PhD programs--I am finally done with visits!

I ended up receiving offers from UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, University of Illinois, and Clemson.

I really liked the human rights/international focus of the program at Clemson, but [she decided on Illinois in the end].
So...I am happy to say that I will be returning to Illinois this fall!  Thank you so much for your help in the application process!

I told Brianna I wanted to get together for coffee when she is back in Illinois and asked her if I could share her story on my blog. This is what she said:

I will be back in C-U! I plan on moving up some time this summer after I wrap things up in Tennessee--my husband is starting with a company in Danville in May. I will be sure to reach out to you when I get settled in! I have no problem with you sharing this in your blog. If it wasn't for your class, I would not be on this career path :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Student Spotlight: Ken Kliesner

By Ann Abbott

I know I sound like a broken record, but it's true: I love hearing from my former students! 

Sometimes they contact me because they are thinking about their professional path. Sometimes they need a letter of recommendation (and I am happy to support them long after college). Sometimes they friend me on Facebook (I like following their personal and professional adventures on Facebook). But whatever the motivation or method, it's a real joy to see someone move forward and develop.

Ken was a great student last year in my course on social entrepreneurship. I've written about him on this blog before. And it was so nice to have a message from him the other day. I asked if I could share, and he said yes: 

In preparation for our meetings, we would appreciate your giving thought to the following questions:

Hope you are doing well!  Just wanted to give you an update on my life.

So the Fulbright didn't work out, I got to the last round and I ended up not getting it, but I will definitely be applying again next year!  In the last 6 weeks, I got a contractor job at Beam Suntory headquarters (the Jim Beam company) working in International Supply Chain management.  I mostly work with Latin American and Canadian clients, so I get to use my Spanish, and even Portuguese almost every day!  I'm also still applying to NGOs and international organizations, but this is a good way to get experience in the mean time.

I'm so happy for Ken's success. The funny thing is that his message came to me just as I am in the middle of writing a manuscript about the dangers of being too specific in our approaches to Languages for Specific Purposes in university programs. Students really can't be sure what kind of job they will have in the near future, and even in the long term. I can tell you for sure that while Ken was sitting in my social entrepreneurship class, he wasn't asking himself how he could apply this to his future job in logistics. I don't know if Ken even knew about logistics.

So, it was good to have that confirmation that what I'm saying about "less specific purposes" has merit from recent alums' viewpoints. (When I am back home and at a computer, I'll add a link to my slides from the LSP conference last month that talk about these issues.) I also asked Ken if he had any advice for current students. He did, and it is such good advice. I hope everyone will read it. On the one hand, it's an invitation to think about the kind of specific job Ken has now as a possibility for your future job/career. On the other hand, it's an encouragement to keep your mind open about jobs/careers and follow a path that might be winding but that will open doors down the line.

Entonces gracias por llenar el formulario!  Realmente, no podía lograr lo que ya he logrado en esta compañía sin su inspiración, le agradezco mucho.

Para sus estudiantes, diría que en realidad la búsqueda de trabajo es una de las cosas más frustrantes, deprimentes, desconcertantes y agotadoras que van a hacer.  Sin embargo, no deben perder sus sueños o su esperanza porque en realidad, van a encontrar algo que les gustará y esta cosa probablemente les va a dar una perspectiva diferente sobre su carrera.  Yo quería trabajar para el FBI, y todavía me gustaría hacerlo, pero he aprendido que hay muchísimas más oportunidades de crecer en este mundo, y a veces el trabajo de sus sueños no está alcanzable directamente después de graduación.  A pesar de que quiero trabajar en el sector público o para el gobierno, todavía estoy ganando experiencia internacional valorosa que me hace sentir muy sastisfecho.  También diría que experiencia en el sector privado, o sea en negocios, siempre puede traducir a experiencia beneficiosa en cualquier otro sector, pero no siempre funciona al revés.  Es decir que las habilidades que se puede desarrollar en los negocios son útiles para otros sectores también, pero en el gobierno, por ejemplo, aquellas habilidades no se transfieren tanto porque son demasiadas especificadas.  Pensé que estaba "settling," pero en realidad, mi experiencia con esta compañía ha sido una bendición y sé definitivamente que me va a ayudar con mis sueños futuros de trabajar internacionalmente en el sector público.  ¡Entonces, estoy trabajando en la Cadena de Suministro Internacional, principalmente con clientes latinoamericanos y canadienses, y uso mi español y portugués casi diariamente (y también estoy aprendiendo un poquito de francés)!  En fin, diría que nadie debe pensar de su futuro como si fuera una ruta sola, hay muchos caminos que llegan en el mismo destino.  El futuro es bien espantoso cuando no podemos verlo, pero cuando seguimos con una mente abierta, podemos alcanzar nuestras metas y mucho más en maneras que nunca imaginamos antes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Student Reflection

by Joey Gelman

[from Ann: Joey describes a situation that my CSL students see over and over again. Joey suggests solutions at the level of hiring within the school. I encourage you to think even further back in this chain and identify the role of languages (and missed opportunities to teach languages) in college, high school, grade school, pre-K, homes, communities, churches, etc.]

En la última entrada me enfoqué en la idea sobre el choque cultural para los estudiantes en su nuevo medio ambiente. Para esta semana, quería enfocarme en la idea sobre las escuelas y sus habilidades para servir los estudiantes que sólo hablan español en sus propias escuelas. Durante mi tiempo en la escuela, ha habido algunos días en que los maestros normales no estuvieron en la escuela porque tuvieron citas o conferencias etc. Pero, en está situación, la escuela no tuvo bastante maestros hispano-hablantes para enseñar la clase. La falta de bastante maestros preparados para el grupo de estudiantes de ESL es una tendencia que probablemente existe en la mayoría de las escuelas en los EE.UU. La pregunta es sobre la idea que si las escuelas están listas para dar la instrucción necesaria para ayudar a los estudiantes? Desde mi experiencia, creo que las escuelas no están listas, y necesitan proveer más maestros bilingües si quieren enseñar su programa correcto.

Lo que quiero decir es que, durante los días en los que estuve allí como la unica persona que puede hablar en español, la escuela proveyó maestros sustitutos, pero ninguno de ellos habla una palabra de español. Mientras fue un reto bueno para mi, fue difícil para la clase, porque yo sólo tengo una capacidad limita para hablar en español sobre la mayoría de temas, y en esta clase, los términos del gobierno, las leyes, ideas de derechos etc, no son temas comunes en mis conversaciones normales en español. Entonces, los maestros estaban describiendo temas en inglés, y los estudiantes estaban durmiendo porque no entendieron ninguna cosa. Como expliqué antes, intenté explicar los temas, pero era claro para mi, que si yo no hubiera estado allí, no habría habido nadie allí para intentar a explicar los temas a los estudiantes. También, aunque yo estuve allí, todavía pienso que estos días eran perdidas de tiempo y más importante, una oportunidad perdida para los estudiantes, porque perdieron dos días de instrucción para mejorar sus habilidades en inglés.

El mismo ejemplo existe en la clase del arte para este programa también en Central. Por las tres semanas pasadas, la maestra del arte ha enseñado la clase del arte para los estudiantes de ESL sin su maestro estudiantil, que habló español, porque él se fue para terminar sus requisitos para ser maestro en otra escuela. En esta situación  la maestra habla un poco de español, y yo intento ayudar lo más que puedo, pero también no sé todos los términos del arte para describir lo que la maestra se quiere. Pero para nosotros dos, damos muchos gracias a una estudiante en la clase que es bilingüe. Pero aunque usamos a ella para ayudarnos, no debería ser la responsabilidad de una estudiante que esta en las clases ser la traductora para el resto de la clase. Si la escuela tiene el programa de ESL, necesita más maestros que son bilingües; y cuando la escuela contrata estos maestros, necesitan contratar tantos como sea posible. Entiendo que hay situaciones donde la escuela no puede pagar por muchísimos más maestros, especialmente para este programa en particular. Pero, si queremos que estos estudiantes logren sus potenciales a través de este programa, no podemos tener días como expliqué arriba, o una clase del arte para hispano-hablantes sin una maestra que pueda hablar español con fluidez.

Durante mi tiempo en Centralentiendo cómo importante un programa como así puede ser, pero necesitamos invertir en este programa para que funcionar a su máximo potencial.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Undocumented Immigrants: Invisible in Our Community, Invisible in ourCurriculum

This flowchart makes the information very clear: there is no "legal path" for anyone except the very privileged.
by Ann Abbott

Florencia Henshaw invited me to speak to her students in SPAN 308 "Spanish in the US," and I was delighted to do so. I think we need even more of an emphasis on Spanish in the US and that students need to understand better the complex realities of Spanish and Spanish speakers in the US.

The topic of the week was "El español en la vida pública." I don't know exactly how she was planning to frame that topic, but I decided to talk about our public discourse towards undocumented Spanish-speaking immigrants and our public policies related to them and their lives.

I'll share my notes and resources below in a list format. I only had twenty minutes to talk, and I didn't take the time to structure this as a lesson like I normally would. But maybe something here will strike you and you could develop an actual lesson plan. If you do, I'd love to hear about it!

Pathways to citizenship

I passed out copies of the image at the top of the post, gave students a few minutes to look it over, and then I put them into pairs to share two things: their personal reactions to the information and any information in the flow chart that was new to them.

Ideally, that would be followed up with similar information, but in Spanish. Click here to go to the companion website for my textbook Comunidades. Then click on "Videos" on the left. Then scroll down to the section titled "10-2 ¿Cómo se consigue una visa?" Use those videos to reinforce the concepts of the image at the top of this post and to learn the vocabulary in Spanish.


For many people, talking about undocumented immigrants is taboo. Politically incorrect. Uncomfortable. Instead, I say that if we have at least 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country, not talking about them is wrong!


For most students, the Spanish-speaking community in Champaign-Urbana is invisible. They live in different areas of town (many live in trailer parks rather far from campus). Many work in service jobs, out of sight: in the kitchens of the restaurants where you eat; cleaning the hotel rooms your family stays in during Moms week when the room is empty; on the factory floors, providing the invisible hand of labor that produces the goods you buy in stores and online; etc.

They are here. The Refugee Center reported that in the past twelve months they served 2,300 unduplicated individuals. Most of them are Latinos. Many are undocumented. Many more live here yet never go to the Refugee Center for help. 

Sometimes they decide to be "invisible." In January, ICE announced that it would step up raids. There is fear among immigrants, and they don't want to be too visible.

Undocumented immigrants are mostly invisible in our Spanish curriculum, too. Oh, the scars I still have from faculty members who didn't like the fact that community service learning focused on undocumented immigrants. It will reinforce stereotypes, they said. It will make them think that all immigrants and Spanish speakers are poor and in need of services. Hmmmm. Here is my question for them: what stereotypes are you reinforcing through your literature-based curriculum? What message are you sending by excluding this significant population of our country? 

Public discourse 
The demonization and criminalization of undocumented immigrants didn't begin with Donald Trump, but he certainly whipped up that hatred into a frenzy during his presidential campaign.

In this interview Melania Trump speaks specifically about immigration (2:55 to 4:17). Ask students to watch this part of the video and then using the information in the image at the top of this post, decide how she received her visa. And how did she have the resources to make all those trips out of the country?

Many students think she received her citizenship by marrying the Donald, but she didn't. Still not sure of the correct answer? Read here.

"I immigrated the right way," is a phrase that we must always challenge. It implies that others could do it "the right way," too, but they choose not to. Sometimes people say, "my grandparents/great grandparents came her the right way." I won't go into the history of our immigration laws here (and the questionable veracity of family lore), but those same people today often wouldn't have a pathway either.

You could write a book about the Trumps' attitudes about immigration. Read what Ivana Trump has to say about undocumented immigrants and why they are necessary in the US!

And if you want to understand better the fastest route to "legal immigration" to the US, read about the "Inmigrante Inversionista."

Public Policy

Beyond our public discourse on undocumented immigrants, we have public policies that control and constrain them. I have a chapter about public policy and foreign language community service learning in a forthcoming book from Multimedia MattersCreating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners, edited by Melanie Bloom and Carolyn Gascoigne. With the students I shared two:
  • ITIN. For people who do not have social security numbers, like undocumented immigrants, the IRS gives them an ITIN which they use to pay income tax and to get a mortgage to buy a home. So...undocumented immigrants DO pay taxes. They certainly pay all taxes for which there is no choice: sales taxes, property taxes, taxes/benefits taken out of every single person's paycheck by their employer. Many use the ITIN to pay income taxes. Furthermore, many citizens DO NOT pay taxes. The headlines today were about the list of very rich actors, politicians and business people who use shell corporation to avoid taxes. And many American citizens do service jobs (babysitting, hair cutting, gardening, lawn mowing, odd jobs) that they never report and pay taxes on.
  • TVDL. In Illinois, people without a social security number might now qualify for a TVDL. However, that doesn't mean that they will actually be helped by the employees at the DMV to obtain one. I have heard stories about people who inquired about getting a TVDL and were told misinformation by grumpy (racist? xenophobic?) DMV employees. There are also rumors of those employees asking for payment to "help" people get their TVDL. Just because there is a law on the books that is meant to provide a more just experience for undocumented immigrants doesn't mean that the human beings involved in that policy are being just themselves...
So there you have it. My notes. My resources. It's not a lesson plan. It's not a unit. But they are my thoughts. And the feedback I felt while I was with the students and after I left was that they were interested, intrigued and wanted to know more.

P.S. Tammy Jandrey Hertel shared this wonderful resource: "Gangs, Murder and Migration in Honduras" from Latino USA.

Katherine O'Donnell Christoffersen also shared this music video about ICE and the #Not1More hashtag we and our students can use in advocacy efforts. (You can also look at the Pinterest boards Florencia Henshaw and I have created: Videos about immigration and Música sobre la inmigración.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship: Week 10

SPAN 332 Spanish and Entrepreneurship Spring 2016 @AnnAbbott with a picture of a table and some printing work to convey the idea of creativity and work required by social entrepreneurship
We focus on social entrepreneurship that is linguistically and culturally appropriate, with 28 hours of service learning.
Week 10
by Ann Abbott

Semana 10: El riesgo


We talked about ethics. Why? Because people normally think about risk as a financial game that entrepreneurs play. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they lose--and lose big. But with social entrepreneurship, losing your reputation is one of the biggest risks for the organization. 

As always, we spent the first five minutes of class in paired conversation. Like I always say, in community service learning (CSL) classes, students have to be able to start and maintain conversations in Spanish, often out of thin air. Those five-minute "hablar sin parar" activities are very important.

I transitioned us to our topic--ethics--and emphasized that compliance and ethics are two different things. Just because you are not breaking a rule or a law does not necessarily mean that you are doing the most ethical thing. 

Then we went straight into the series of activities that I shared with students, and that you can find here on my SlideShare.


On Thursday, I started out with information that I had given to Florencia Henshaw's students in my very short 20-minute talk in her "Spanish in the US" course. (Link coming soon.)

It was easy to transition back to our discussion on ethics after that, and we did the last activity on the handout. All in all, I believe we had a good discussion this week about ethics and ethical dilemmas in multilingual, multicultural environments. It's just one week, but I hope that it plants some seeds with them about behaving ethically, even when others are doing something that is unethical.

If you are interested in this topic with your students, here are some resources.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Experiential Activities for the Spanish Community Service LearningClassroom

Because a lot of language educators believe that community service learning (CSL) is only for Spanish, it's so nice to be friends and colleagues with Deb Reisinger from Duke University who does CSL with her French students. (She also does business language studies and teaches social entrepreneurship; we have many, many things in common.)

I'll be visiting her and her colleagues at Duke next week, and I'm excited to see their campus for the first time and learn more about their engaged scholarship and teaching projects. Although our universities are quite different (public/private) and in different places (small city Midwest/bigger city South), we actually are both part of the "New Latino Diaspora," a phenomenon that has the potential to radically shift how we teach Spanish in higher education in the US. (There might be a similar phenomenon for French speakers, particularly from the French-speaking Caribbean and Africa, but I'm not sure.) 

My plan is to share ways in which we can conceive of CSL courses as experiential not just in the community but also in the classroom. I don't want to overstate the "experiential" component within the classroom, but I do want to push the idea that what our CSL students do in the classroom can be active, engaging, purposeful and with an authentic audience. And those are some of the compelling characteristics of their work in the community, too.

So I've shared above the slides that I will use during the presentation. (This was the first time I created the slides within Canva. I used a template, and I'm pleased with the results.) And now I'd like to list the links and resources I will use during the presentation.

Mission-based management

To illustrate what mission-based management looks like, I'll use the following resources:


To show one way we can help students prepare for the role of everyday advocate:
To work on students' digital literacy and understand the effects of the language divide combined with the digital divide:

I look forward to seeing my colleagues Deb Reisinger and Alán José and to meeting people who are doing wonderful CSL work at Duke. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How to Turn Declining Enrollments Around: The Example of Communication

by Ann Abbott

It's well known that enrollments in higher ed programs in the humanities are decreasing. A lot. It has hit languages hard. Spanish, too. It seems we're all scrambling with no clear strategy that we can have complete confidence in. First of all, we don't really know from the students themselves why they are choosing to stay away from our programs. How can we fix a problem we don't understand?

Still, the Head of my department and I went in search of some potential solutions. We knew that the Department of Communication at our university had successfully reversed a very big dip in enrollments some years ago. We talked to them about how they did it.

Remember, there are no magic bullets. We probably need a combination of strategies, and we might even have to change some things about the very nature of our programs. (Ugh, it's so hard for people to change.) But here are the strategies that we walked away with.

Consider your name 

They changed the name of their department from "Speech Communications" to "Communication." This reflected more accurately what they actually do, they told us. I also suspect that many students see the word "speech" and their knees knock in fear. Taking the scary part out probably helped. The process took three years.

Redo the curriculum

They discarded old categories that no longer reflected the discipline and made the major/minor more flexible. They eliminated supporting coursework, so students now take 37 hours in communication. Of course, they had to make an argument for why this is important: to themselves, to students and to the administration. In other words, redoing the curriculum still requires us to offer a logical, sound program. As you can see from their program of study, they offer six areas of specialization, and they articulated in their brochures: "This is what this specialization does for you." 

One point to consider: rhey have an "intro" to the major, similar to LAS 101.

Aggressive marketing

Back when students read the campus newspaper, they ran full-page ads in the Daily Illini. They work closely with the Division of General Studies (DGS), and many of their students move from that program into theirs. They buy lunch for the DGS advisors and tell them about their communication major and careers. That helps the DGS advisors help the students make informed decisions about Communication. They told us that DGS sends a newsletter to students and one to parents. They suggested we try to be the "major of the week" for one of those newsletters to gain more visibility.

They hold a meet the department event (and faculty attend!). Furthermore, their student interns do the kind of work it takes to make the current majors feel good.

Became more focused on career outcomes

You can definitely see the emphasis on careers and successful alumni on their website. They always had an internship program, and they are pushing it even more. Additionally, they brought back a popular skills course that TAs teach: Business Comm 211. And finally, as we were running out of time with so much more to discuss still, they mentioned the importance of course titles. Course names matter: students need to clearly know what it means, but it should also be a bit "glamorous." (And for students today, the "glamour" often comes from being associated with careers.)

That's a quick summary of our discussion. It's not philosophical. It's not pinpointing the underlying problems. But it is a helpful list of ideas from a department that turned itself around. Are you doing any of these things in your department? Have different strategies been successful for you? It would be wonderful if we could share our ideas and outcomes (successful and not successful) so that we can all understand students' perspectives and concerns better and come up with better solutions. 

How I Have Been Reaching My Acadmic Writing Goals Lately

It feels good to check items off the list.
by Ann Abbott

When I made my March writing list, I tried to be realistic. I knew that March included spring break plus travel to Phoenix for the LSP Symposium. Still, I completed every item on that list by March 22.

While I'm happy about that, it's not because of anything special that I have done. There's no secret. I just simply sat down and wrote for about 60 minutes almost every day.

It wasn't every single day.

And it wasn't always a full 60 minutes.

But I just kept advancing. Slow and steady.

Here are a few things that help me stick to that.

Passion. I am passionate about the things I write about. I to want to share ideas and experiences with the world, and writing is the best way.
     Are you writing what you're truly passionate about? I sometimes see people who think they "should" research and write something that doesn't match with their true passion and area of interest.

Mental strength. I try to remind myself to write from a place of power. In other words, I say things to myself like, "Ann, you know a lot about this topic; own it!" Or, "I enjoy reading and learning from other people's work;  there have to be people out there who would feel the same way about what I want to share." That might sound corny, but I even write notes to myself ("Dear Ann,") to give myself pep talks.
     Say positive things to yourself. Out loud. On paper. There are too many negative messages all around us; make your words to yourself kind and encouraging.

Relaxation techniques. Still, I don't always feel like I'm writing from a place of power. There was something I needed to write this month (that's not on the list because it came up last minute), and I felt a great deal of anxiety about. I was too worked up to focus. So I named it ("Wow, I'm really anxious."), lit a nice candle on my desk, took some deep breaths, and just dove in. I know writing can make me anxious, and I know some of the things that I can help me lower the anxiety.
     Would closing your eyes for a few minutes help? Would downloading the app called "Calm" calm you down? Would some stretching exercises limber you for typing? Would writing by hand in beautiful, slow cursive help?

Buddies. I have standing writing appointments with a couple of friends. We Skype. They write. I write. I know myself, and I know that if I were trying to do this alone, I wouldn't do it.
     Pick up the phone and call your most supportive friend. Tell him that you rarely ask for help, but you really need this. They don't have to write, but you'd really love it if you could Skype while they work on one of their own goals and you write. (Honestly, this was the hardest part for me. It was really tough to find someone.)

Concrete goals. As you can see from the picture, I try to break the projects into concrete phases. When I sit down to write each day, I more or less have an idea of what I want to accomplish. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. But those times when it does work, that means that I'm advancing toward the big picture. It adds up. It simply adds up over time.
     Get out a nice piece of paper. Write something big and bold at the top. Then write down some realistic goals. Your goal might be to simply think and plan your next project. That's a good one to start with!

Experience. Experience equals confidence. I know I can do. Because I have done it many times. Each project is different, of course, but previous success builds your confidence.
     What have been particularly successful at? Sticking to a workout regime? Cooking homemade meals most nights? Fostering friendships even when people move apart? Analyze those successes and use the same techniques (if possible) in your approach to writing.

Helping others. I have a friend who is getting back into the swing of writing, and we talk a lot. We talk about her progress, her challenges, her questions, her fears, her patterns, her goals...everything. I'm not claiming any special sway over this person--she is a full-fledged professional, capable of ruling the world if she decides to--just saying that being a support for another person who is writing makes me feel good and makes me feel good about writing.
     Who could you talk to about writing? Who is open about both the good and the bad? 

Visibility. I tape my writing schedule and daily to-do lists on the wall opposite my writing desk in my home office. I see the lists every day. (I also like using markers and nice papers.)
     Should you tape your list to the bottom of your computer screen? Could it be your screen saver?
This is my latest project, and as you can see 
I plan to write about 20 pages. So I simply 
assign a topic per page (more or less). There 
is wiggle room because the journal accepts 
longer articles.

Time and space. Through experience, I now know better how long something will take me to write. But last year I made a breakthrough in terms of "space." It was the first time I calculated ahead of time how many pages I would write for each section of my paper. In other words, knowing the page limit, I simply divided that number by the sections of the paper and the number of points I wanted to make in each section. What a difference that made! In the past, I often wrote too much then had to cut. Similarly, I would write without having a really good sense of exactly where I was within the limits of the manuscript, without knowing how much time I could spend illustrating a specific point without going over. Now that I have a better (though not perfect) sense of "the space" of a manuscript, I often simply tell myself, "Today I'm going to write about X for one page."
     Read the journal's author guidelines to find out the minimum and maximum length. Remember, 250 words is about one double-spaced page. Then splice your outline onto the page length you're shooting for.

Last year I submitted five article manuscripts, some of them co-authored. While on the one hand I was happy about that, on the other hand I thought that I should slow down, relax, since I am non-tenure track. For tenure stream faculty, the norm in our department is supposedly two articles per year (plus a book before going up for tenure). And I don't think most of them even reach that goal. So I said to myself, why? Why did I submit five? I decided to write just two things this year--one per semester. But I continued to write for almost an hour, almost every day. The writing simply accumulated. I guess I'll stop thinking about it and just continue to write consistently and see what happens.

I love to read about writing and talk about writing. Any chance you could share about your writing process and practices in a comment? I'd love to read it. We're too alone and isolated in a competitive environment where everyone is sizing everyone else up instead of lifting each other up!

Monday, March 21, 2016

An Online Community of Practice for LSP

by Ann Abbott

At the recent Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) Symposium, I participated on a panel titled "Where's the Community in Languages for Specific Purposes?" Deb Reisinger (Duke) presented about the possibilities for French, Community Service Learning and LSP. Lourdes Sánchez-López challenged us to try to understand why there are not Spanish community service learning courses in all or almost all Spanish programs? Diana Ruggiero (U of Memphis) shared insights from her program, and I was most captivated by the reading she gave of one of her student's photo journals. Barbara Lafford (Arizona State U) suggested a clear path to creating and institutionalizing our LSP community of practice. And I talked about our online community of practice.

Normally I prepare slides and speak extemporaneously, but for some reason this time I wrote it out. Due to time constraints, I abbreviated my remarks during the presentation. Here they are in full.

Where is the community in LSP?

In the March 2015 issue of the PMLA, a special section on “The Changing Profession” focused on the role of public intellectuals who share their expertise online and explored “the divide between public writing and academic writing” (Loofbourow and Maciak 439). For Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) and Community Service Learning (CSL) specialists, this divide is further vexed because the “academic writing” side of this dyad is not as stable and esteemed as it is in other disciplinary areas such as literary analysis and linguistics. In other words, LSP and CSL specialists still struggle to be recognized in both academic and public venues. But if online writing “should be understood as valuable public engagement” as Loofbourow and Maciak claim, then this is especially consistent with the values and practices of our fields. So, quite simply, I urge all of you present [and now reading this] to build our community of practice through public writing. I will focus on social media.


As I stated in a blog post on the NOBLE website, working on CSL and LSP at my own institution was lonely, frustrating and even demoralizing at the same time that it was uplifting, engaging and community-focused. I began to blog because I had a lot to share but no interlocutors. Times are different now than in 2007 when I started blogging, but only recently (and I mean very recently) has my department begun to truly consider the viability and importance of these two areas as indeed areas of scholarly inquiry. Maybe. And that’s only because of alarmingly prolonged trends of equally alarming declining numbers of students. You might have a different why, but you need to know what it is because doing public writing is an investment of time and energy.

What should you share? 

These are the elements I feel that our profession still needs to produce and share in places that are easily accessed: 

  • course syllabi
  • detailed lesson plans or unit plans
  • helpful online resources
  • book and journal reviews
  • annotated bibliography
  • examples of student work and perspectives
  • community member and expert interviews
  • your stories--your process (not just products), your successes and your failures.

Where should you share? 

Share on your own channels. Start wherever you already are on social media. If you have a blog, blog, Write LinkedIn posts. (Our LSP colleague Steve Sacco is very good at this.) Film vlogs on your own YouTube channel. Do a podcast, Pinterest boards, Facebook notes, a Facebook page, and any kind of posts on social media (Snapchat stories, tweets, Instagram photos). 
By the way, we should decide upon a hashtag so that we can easily find this work. #LSP #CSL?)  
Guest post on NOBLE or someone else’s blog. 
Amplify other people’s posts. Hit like. It truly expands the post’s reach. Share. Retweet. Link to it. Share with your colleagues and students. Assign as reading to your students.

Final Reflection. 

Some people are afraid to share, but I find it to be actually liberating. If you regularly put your ideas out into the public sphere, you will find yourself generating more and more ideas. Don’t keep your great ideas and great work to yourself. People often write to me about how helpful my blog has been to them, and I average about 4,000 visits to my blog each month. (That's not a huge number, but who would imagine that so many people would be interested in CSL and LSP?) So while working in this field might still be lonely in my department, I know I’m not alone. As Loofbourow and Maciak conclude: “To occupy this position [as semipublic intellectual], with its potential rewards and pitfalls, is to be an academic in the Internet age--aware of all the barriers, real and imaginary, between the ivory tower and the public sphere” (445). That's a perfect space for us to build an online community of practice.

Loofbourow, Lili and Phillip Maciak. “Introduction: The Time of the Semipublic Intellectual.” PMLA 130.2 (2015). 439-445.