Monday, August 31, 2009

Writing about Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Each week I look forward to getting my "Monday Motivator." It's the e-newsletter from Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her website,, is a great resource for anyone (even non-academics) who want to put their writing on the front burner, where it should be.

This week the challenge she sets forth in her newsletter is straightforward: write every day for 30-60 minutes.

I write that much or more most days, but I don't always write on the "right" project. For example, this blog is important to me and I do consider it a "publication" in a way. However, if we want to advance Spanish community service learning (CSL), we need more research-based articles on it. (Click here to see the bibliography I have collected so far, and leave a comment if you know of other books/articles that should be on the list.) Since I am in a non-tenure track position in which publishing is not truly part of my job description, my goal is to produce one scholarly article per year. So, while I am working on that, I need that to count for my 30-60 minutes of writing per day. Blogging, creating curricular materials, textbook writing, and other kinds of writing are all "extra" and need to be done after my 30-60 minutes of article writing.

I also need to limit my writing projects. Right now, for example, I am working on two book projects and external grant writing. Believe it or not, I originally wanted to squeeze in even more writing projects for this semester! (I always want to do more that I actually can do.) When I put it all down on paper, and then mapped it out on my Outlook calendar, I saw that just three writing projects was still stretching it. Now that I have those three projects mapped out on my calendar, my goal is to actually follow the map.
What are your writing goals for this semester? Will you be researching/writing about Spanish CSL? Oh, and I think that writing a comment on this blog counts for your 30-60 minutes of daily writing. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

UIUC: Service Learning Resources

by Ann Abbott

I feel a twinge of jealousy when my friend and colleague, Darcy Lear, talks to me about the service learning center at her institution (even though it is currently undergoing consolidation and transformation). At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, service learning is done individually, sporadically, and with the resources that you yourself can put together.

But there is one bright light at the campus-wide level: Valeri Werpetinski at the Center for Teaching Excellence. Our campus now has an active webpage featuring programs and resources for anyone on campus who is interested in starting a service-learning course, maintaining on or building on what they already have. Click here to see the service learning page.

Here are some features from the page and events planned for this semester.
  1. Service learning workshop plus reading group for this fall (click here to see details). My teaching schedule this semester overlaps a bit with these events, but I will still attend. I love the fact that Val has planned the reading group around the topics of international and multicultural service learning. And the workshop's focus on reflection coincides with the work my thesis students did last year, so I have many thoughts (and questions!) for that event.

  2. Service-learning Consultation Services. If you need some one-on-one time to walk through the process of creating or assessing your service-learning program, Val offers personal consultation.

  3. Citizen Scholar Certificate. Completing the steps of this certificate guarantees that you will finish with a solid understanding of the issues and best practices of service learning. I know, because I did it myself! It's a great opportunity for graduate students to show on their cv the depth of their knowledge about service learning.

  4. Engaged Illinois. Val created a social networking site, and she shares great resources from national sources. I have found great teaching materials, calls for papers and funding opportunities here. You don't have to be from UIUC to benefit from joining the group.

  5. Discussion Board. Even though Val puts together wonderful workshops, sometimes you want to continue the conversation "after the bell." And sometimes, you just can't make it to the in-person meetings. So I was delighted to see that Val had set up a discussion board. Just a few minutes ago I subscribed to it and submited a discussion question. I'm looking forward to seeing what other people post.

  6. More. There is a lot more on the service-learning page. Thanks, Val, for your hard work and smarts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Long Should Spanish Community Service Learning Last?

by Ann Abbott

I always look forward to the National Youth Leadership Council's quarterly newsletter, The Generator. The latest issue focuses on "Duration & Intensity," one of the K-12 Service-Learning
Standards for Quality Practice

All in all, the information in "The Generator" and my own experiences lead me to this answer to the question in the title of this post with another question: "For whom?"

Students need to dedicate enough time to a service learning project (not just a service project) so that they can work through the entire experiential learning process. There are many process models that you may follow or adapt (Kolb's model of experiential learning, the Inquiry Process, or the activities listed in Indicator 1 of "Duration & Intensity"). But whatever model you adhere to, students should have the opportunity to work through the cycle at least once. However, not every step has to take place in the community. Reflection and celebration can take place in the classroom or on-line, for example.

Community Partners need students' skills and manpower long enough to accomplish the project as they had envisioned it. Realistically, it is not always possible to complete a project. Something that on paper seemed reasonable and doable, may end up going in different directions due to glitches or a perceived need to adjust the plans. That is part of the "fuzziness" that makes communitiy service learning time consuming and even frustrating for some participants. But it's also the nature of real-world, complex problems that our classrooms cannot adequately simulate. Community partners also need the project to last long enough that they can develop trust in the program and the individual students and evaluate whether or not the costs of the program (their time, effort, patience, training programs, etc.) are worth what they gain.

Program Coordinators and/or Instructors need the project to last long enough to be worth the energy they expend in setting it up. If the CSL work is being researched and used to gain tenure, promotion, grants, etc., then the project needs to last long enough to gather useful data and to prove real outcomes regarding student learning and community impact. Although in Spanish departments at Research I universities, this kind of work and research is not valued in that way (subject for a future post!).

Obviously, there is not one answer to the question of how long and how intense a CSL experience should be. We need to look at this in terms of how much time in one course should be dedicated to CSL, how many courses across the curriculum should involve CSL and how long a particular CSL program/project should last through the years.

These are the indicators so far for the duration and intensity of the Spanish CSL program at the University of Illinois:

  • It has been running for five years so far.
  • Students work in the community every semester (but only occassionally in the summer).
  • Each student must work in the community 28 hours throughout the semester (not all at once).
  • Almost all community partnerships have continued semester after semester.
  • I have written three research articles (co-authored with Darcy Lear) about the program and students' learning outcomes. Two articles have been published; one is still under review. Additionally, I have written descriptive pieces in various publications and presented details about the program in numerous conferences and workshops.
  • Our community partners have been able to complete projects and enhance their on-going work with the students' help. I could do more to document this.

Do you have an answer for the question in the title of the post? How much time do your students dedicate to their CSL projects? Do you think there is anything unique about how long Spanish students need to dedicate to their CSL work because of language acquisition issues? Leave a comment and let me know what you do and what you think.

UIUC Grad Students: Research Opportunity to Work with Local Latinas/os

My friend and colleague from the School of Social Work sent me this announcement and asked that I pass it around. Although it says that you should be from a health allied field, you can let Dr. Piedra know that you are in the Spanish program but capable of doing the work listed (if that is true, of course).

I'm so happy to see Lissette's work with local Latinos. She is a big proponent for linguistic and cultural competency in the field of social work. (Click here to see more about her and her work.)


Seeking two masters-level or doctoral-level bilingual students from Social Work, Psychology, Community health or other health allied field (must be able to read Spanish and have conversational skills) to provide 10-12 hours of clinical research assistance for Project Vida Alegre.

Vida Alegre is study that modifies and tests a manualized Spanish version Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) model for depression. The model will be used to assist Latino immigrant mothers who show signs of depression. This is a two semester appointment. Independent study credit will also be available. Please send resume or CV if interested to by September 1, 2009. For any questions, contact Dr. Piedra at 217.649.8836.
Research assistants will engage in the following tasks:
Fall 2009

  • Learn the CBT model; complete post-test and mock group
  • Learn the IRB protocol
  • Contact and obtain referrals from local community agencies
  • Schedule screenings at a convenient location
  • Assemble screening packets and consent forms
  • Screen recruits and randomly assign into a standard or modified CBT group
  • Collect and enter baseline data
  • Transcribe interviews
  • Participate in qualitative research team meetings to develop a coding chart for the interviews
  • Double code interviews with the other RA or PI until 95% inter-rater reliability is reached
  • Code half the interviews with the final coding instrument
  • Ensure groups are set up and confirm January start dates

Spring 2010

  • Send out reminders the week before groups start
  • Run stand and modified groups according to protocol
  • Collect data at the end of first session
  • Enter quantitative data
  • Participate in weekly supervision and team meetings
  • Run focus groups during week 13
  • Send taped interviews to professional transcribing system and check for accuracy
  • Participate in qualitative research team meetings to develop a coding chart for the focus groups
  • Double code 2 focus groups with the other RA or PI until 95% inter-rater reliability is reached

  • Code half the focus groups with the final coding instrument

  • Assist with the data analysis

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Graduate Students: Conference on Business Language Pedagogy

by Ann Abbott

So you are working on your PhD in Spanish literature and linguistics. You and how many other people? Your dissertation is groundbreaking and your advisor is well known in the field. Whose isn't? What can really set you apart? Maybe this: building your expertise in a secondary area that many Spanish departments have on the books but that few professors know how or want to teach. Business Spanish.

Here are two great opportunities to develop this part of your teaching and research portfolio:

Are you from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? "The Illinois CIBER may be able to help with the travel costs," says Lynnea Johnson, Associate Director. She can be reached at

2. Sign up for Prof. Andrea Golato's course entitled "Educational Entrepreneurship: Teaching Language across the Curriculum." It's not too late to sign up. And although Prof. Golato is in the German department, this course is for anyone teaching a foreign language.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Community Service Learning in Latin America

by Ann Abbott

El Centro Latinoamericano de Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario is a wonderful example of a service learning program in Latin America. Looking through their site, I am struck by how much our students can learn by analyzing the site and comparing their conceptualization and practice of community service learning (CSL) with ours.

I am struck by several things on the site.

Cultural meanings of words. "Solidario" and "solidaridad" are used frequently throughout the site. As a cognate, students will easily recognize the word. But culturally, solidarity and "solidaridad" feel very different to me.

Aprendizaje-Servicio. In Comunidades (my textbook), I use the term "aprendizaje en la comunidad." CLAYSS and a similar Chilean program I am aware of, both use the term "aprendizaje-comunidad." Obviously, we're talking about the same thing, but I wonder what we gain or lose by using the term "comunidad," or not.

International ties. In Comunidades I include an activity about cultural conceptions about geography and continents. (How many continents do you think there are? Did you know that not everyone would give the same answer?) I find the "Iberoamérica" concept intriguing as well as the way they have visually "mapped" the centers of "aprendizaje-servicio" to include some US institutions.

Definition. In a previous post, I suggested classroom activities to help students understand better the definition of community service learning. A great follow-up would be to have students then read CLAYSS's definition and compare/contrast the English-language and Spanish-language definitions. Of course, the terminology would stand out, but more importantly, is there any unique cultural touch in the definitions?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

U of I Translation Studies: Program Updates

Translation plays a very big role in Spanish community service learning, so I always like to share information about the University of Illinois' Center for Translation Studies. Here is a program update from Elizabeth Lowe, Director.

"Dear colleagues and students,

"I am pleased to announce new course offerings for the Center for Translation Studies in the 2009-2010 academic year.

"We welcome Dr. Anastasia Lakhtikova to our instructional staff. Dr. Lakhtikova has a doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. A native speaker of Russian, she has specialized in the work of writer and translator Vladimir Nabokov. She will be teaching and developing new courses for our program. Open to undergraduate and graduate students for registration for Fall 2009 is her new course titled "The World of Translation" (CWL 496). This course introduces students to a number of masterpieces of world literature and the challenges they pose for a translator. From the classics of Western civilization, to contemporary remakes, from the literature of the absurd, to the postmodernist novel and "potential literature," the class will explore ways in which texts move across cultures. It is an excellent introductory course to the translation studies curriculum. For more information about this course, click here.

"In Spring 2010 Dr. Lakhtikova will offer a course titled "Translation and Bilingualism." Dr. Lakhtikova will have an active role in our program. Please make her feel welcome.

"In Spring 2010 we will be offering "Theory and Practice of Literary Translation" with guest lecturer Prof. Reinhard Mayer. Prof. Mayer is a highly regarded translation scholar and he will be with us for a semester to teach, work with students and to assist with development of our MA program.

:Patricia Phillips-Batoma will teach "Commercial and Technical Translation" in Spring 2010. Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, this course will be an elective available to students who wish to specialize in professional and technical translation.

"We plan to offer the study abroad program in Vienna again next May (Summer I). Titled "Translation in the European Union," this program will give students the opportunity to observe the important role of translation and multilingualism in an EU capital. The program will also include a side trip to Brussels to visit various EU agencies, including the Directorate General of Translation.
We are currently in the process of enhancing our website. You will receive more news and updates on the Center for Translation Studies in the near future.

"Best wishes for a successful beginning to the new academic year.

"Elizabeth Lowe
Director, Center for Translation Studies School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 4080 Foreign Languages Building, MC-171
707 South Mathews
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Phone: (217) 244-7455 Fax: (217)244-8430

Tell Me: What Do You Want to Read on This Blog?

by Ann Abbott

That's me at the computer, blogging right now. When I started blogging here two and a half years ago, I can't say that I had a clear vision for what the blog would be. I simply knew that I had a lot to say about Spanish community service learning (CSL), social entrepreneurship and my talented students. I wanted to share those thoughts and hopefully build a community with others doing Spanish CSL.

After more than two and a half years blogging here, I thought it was time for some reflection. I hired a recent graduate to read through the posts and streamline the labels to be more user friendly and relevant. I also asked her to give me her opinion about what students would like to read here. Here is what she said:

"So, I was thinking about the site and what I would find personally interesting as a student. I really enjoyed the 'Student Spotlight' sections of the blog, because they are usually chock-full of links to different Spanish-related sites, organizations, programs, etc., and I feel that these can give current students a good example as well as many different resources for discovering what they might like to do as post-graduates. I think that sometimes it is difficult for undergrads to look at the big picture and they can become overwhelmed with the array of options facing them. So it is nice to be able to read about what former students have gone on to do after taking your class. I definitely think students will find some good resources in those entries.

"Of course the related programs, volunteer opportunities and links would be helpful to them as well, and many of the entries which deal with class activities or social issues are directly correlated with their coursework, so they should be able to utilize those.

"I think that the 'student reflections' can be helpful to students who are participating in the same volunteer work (for Leal elementary, for example) as the former student bloggers, as it might give them a little help with what to expect of their time there.

"As for the other labels, I think that the only ones which may not be directly related to students would be the faculty insight, spanish community service learning, and Comunidades, since these seem to be more helpful to other faculty members or professionals.

"As for myself, if I were a student being directed to your site, I would immediately go to one of the 'student spotlights', 'related programs', 'volunteer opportunities,' or 'cultural exchange' labels. I found that there is a wealth of information on the blog for Spanish students, and I hope that I was able to arrange it in such a way that would be helpful for their site navigation."

I really appreciate having her student perspective. Thanks, Lauren!

Now my question is for others who are reading this: What do you want to read here? What is helpful to you? What information do you find lacking? Any ideas and perspectives you can offer would be very welcome.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Say Gracias in Spanish, Part 2

by Ann Abbott

As you know, I think that when we teach Spanish community service learning (CSL), we need to also teach our students professional skills. One very important skill is know when and how to say thank you to the people you work with in the community.

However, as always, separating professional skills from language and culture is almost always impossible. They go together. And when they go together well, you really stand out. And sometimes all it takes it just one little correction to make everything perfect.

Recently, I received a note from a student who did so many things right:
  • When she dropped off the forms I needed to submit her letter of recommendation, she added a personal note. Nice.
  • She addressed me as Profesora. I wouldn't have minded if this former student had called me Ann, but she didn't know that. I like that she used "Profesora" to be safe and professional.
  • She wrote in Spanish! A note in English wouldn't have seemed unprofessional to me, but going the extra step to write to me in Spanish gave me a very good impression. This is a person who likes Spanish and is willing to give just a little more than is required.
  • She used usted with me. Again, I wouldn't have minded if this former student had used ; however, the more formal address shows that she is mindful of cultural norms.
But there was one little thing that caught my attention, in a negative way. Mind you, this really isn't important, especially given all the things she did right. And really, I don't think we should strive for perfection. But it stood out because the rest of the note was so perfect.

"...gracias por escribiéndola."

In English, we use a gerund to say thanks for doing something. "Thanks for writing it for me."

In Spanish, though, you use an infinitive. "Gracias por escribirla. Gracias por escribírmela. Gracias por habérmela escrito."

Again, it's not that important, I know. I understood what she was saying, and I appreciated the gesture, the thought and the words. Still, I think many of our students strive to improve their language skills, so I want to point this out.

There are so many pat phrases that require a totally different structure in Spanish or a slight grammatical tweak:
  • Thanks for helping me. / Gracias por ayudarme.
  • Have fun. / Diviértete.
  • Have a good day. / Que te vaya bien.
  • See you later. / Nos vemos.
As I thought about it, I realized that greeting cards often use these pat phrases. Could they help our students? Try this:
  1. Ask students to write down the name of the person who most recently did something or said something nice to them. Share the story with a partner.
  2. Ask students to go to, click on "Postales" in the left navigation bar or do a site search for "Postales" and then select the category: "Gracias por todo."
  3. Ask students to look at the postales in this category and note the language they use. (Several simply say "gracias," but a few use the "gracias por infinitive" construction.)
  4. Now tell them to send one of the postales with a personal note in Spanish to the person they identified in the first step, if possible. (If that isn't possible, they should send one to a friend or family member.) In their personal note, they should be specific about what they are thanking the person for and use the "Gracias por infinitive" instruction. Gracias por haberme escuchado cuando me sentia triste la otra noche. Gracias por haberme prestado tus apuntes para la clase de química orgánica. Gracias por saludarme con una sonrisa cuando llego a tu oficina. Etc.
If you use this with your students, let me know how it goes! And if you have any other ideas about how to help students perfect their "gracias por..." language, cultural and professional skills, please share your ideas here.

Gracias por haber leído esta entrada. :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Honduran Coup: Information for Spanish Community Service-Learning Students

by Ann Abbott is a great resource for instructors and students. It provides an even-handed and thorough discussion of the basics of globalization and issue briefs on discrete points that illuminate the workings of globalization in one specific region or on a specific issue. Since our Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students deal with many recent immigrations, knowledge about globalization can help them put these population movements into perspective.

I received Globalization 101's newsletter today, and they announced several new and fascinating "news analyses," including one about the Honduran Coup: A Coup in Honduras, A Polarized Society, which analyzes the recent coup and the subsequent international response.

Although smaller in number than immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, Illinois does have many Honduran immigrants. (You can use US Census data to find information about the number of Hondurans in your community.) If your students work with Hondurans, it is important that they be aware of the stress the might be going through right now. It is a very tense situation, and it is not clear at all what the ultimate outcome will be. People are deeply divided--some supporting Zelaya and others Michiletti--causing arguments even within families. If economic sanctions are imposed, an already very poor population will suffer even more, making the remittances of Hondurans outside of the country even more important.

Here is a possible classroom activity:
  1. Pre-reading. Write the word "Honduras" in the middle of board and make a concept map with all the information your students know about the country and the current situation. (Don't be surprised if students know very little; that observation alone is a good starting point for a lesson.)

  2. During the reading. Have students read the article from and answer the following questions: Who is the elected President? Who is the acting President? What is the US's stance? What would have been a more democratic reaction to Zelaya's power grab?

  3. Post-reading. Ask students to imagine possible consequences of this on-going situation for Hondurans living in the US (feelings, actions, needs, etc.). Then ask them how they can serve in the community in a culturally-appropriate way now that they know this information (if they didn't before).