by Bridget Kern
With the end of the semester drawing near, now is a good time to reflect on my experiences working in the community. When the semester first began, I was nervous about my placement because I knew that I would be communicating with native Spanish speakers and I was worried that they would notice and judge my grammatical errors. The first time that I volunteered at Spanish Story Time, I felt a little awkward because there was no defined role for me and most of the people that attended the event didn’t know what to make of me. Even during this week’s Spanish Story Time, a parent was speaking Spanish with the course coordinator but when asking me for craft supplies spoke English. This was a very awkward situation because I didn’t know whether to answer in English or Spanish. Another difficulty I faced during the semester was trying to find ways to complete the 28 hour service requirement. Since I earned so few hours from Spanish Story Time, I ended up volunteering at parent teacher conferences at Central High School, as well as providing childcare at the School of Social Work. One benefit of working in a variety of locations is that I experienced different settings and utilized different vocabulary and grammar depending on the situation. For example, translating for parent teacher conferences was more formal, so I practiced using the Ud form of verbs, however, when babysitting at the School of Social Work I used more informal language such as commands and the tu form of verbs.
Towards the middle of the semester I began to feel more comfortable speaking Spanish at my placements. I gradually made a place for myself setting up the arts and crafts at Spanish Story Time. At the School of Social Work the more time I spent with the children the more accustomed they were to staying, playing and talking with me. I also began to feel more comfortable initiating conversations in Spanish. I learned that most people tend to appreciate the efforts I put into speaking Spanish and didn’t judge my errors. Even though at times communication was difficult or confusing, native speakers and I still found a way to get the main points of our conversations across. I also had the opportunity to practice speaking Spanish over the phone which was surprisingly more difficult than having a conversation face to face. Overall Spanish 232 taught me more than just how to speak Spanish. I learned: how to be persistent in trying to find community placements, how to interact with adults and children of different cultures, how to address people in Spanish over the phone, and a wide range of everyday vocabulary such as bus terms and arts and crafts terms. My feelings about Spanish Service Learning have changed from trepidation to enjoyment of the time that I spend at my placements because I have played an active role in providing services that better people’s lives.