Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lesson Plan with Music Videos about Immigration

by Ann Abbott

Again, I'm trying to vary the dynamic in my classroom as we head into the final weeks of the semester. So today in "Spanish in the Community" will be dedicated to music videos related to immigration--as long as enough students bring in smart phones or laptops.

Step 1. I will set up five "stations"--one for each music video. The stations will include a copy of the lyrics, except for the mix. For the mix, I will ask students to jot down lyrics that they hear.

  1. "Clandestino" Manu Chao
  2. "Frijolero" Molotov (OJO: some strong language)
  3. "Mojado" Ricardo Arjona
  4. "Venezuelan en New York" King Chango
  5. Narco corridos mix, DJ Rojo Mix
Step 2. The students will go to one of the five stations, and fill out the following information on a note card:
  1. Nombre de la canción y artista-grupo
  2. Un comentario sobre la letra.
  3. Un comentario sobre la música.
  4. Un comentario sobre las imágenes.
  5. Una pregunta.
  6. Estrellas--de una a cinco.
Step 3. After viewing the video, students will partner with someone who saw a different video. They will explain the songs to each other and then compare and contrast them.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until students have seen all videos or until time allows.

Step 4. I will write the names of the songs on the board and all students will have to come up and put a tally mark beside their favorite. We´ll see which one wins, and hopefully have time to find out why.

Update: Class #1's favorite song by far was "Mojado."
Class #2 had a more even vote: "Frijolero" (3) "Mojado" (2), "Clandestino" (2) and "Venezuelan en NY" (2).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Student Reflection

by Hannah Perhai

Hello again! Hannah Perhai here with an update on my experiences in the community!

This semester, I'm volunteering for the S.O.A.R. Program at Booker T. Washington Elementary. It stands for Student Opportunities for After-School Resources, and it provides after-school tutors for the children at the school via University students. Lots of different students get involved: people looking for Education hours, Spanish students like me, and those who just love working with children and making a difference. These students travel out to the temporary location of Booker T. Washington (pictured) every Tuesday, Wednesday, and/or Thursday to work with the kids who participate in S.O.A.R.

So where does Spanish come into play? Well, Booker T. Washington is a bilingual school with many Spanish-speaking students. The earlier grades are taught in a mix of Spanish and English, so I've been paired with a Spanish-speaking second grader. He is more comfortable with Spanish, so we get to learn together as he works on his schoolwork and I practice my Spanish!

A typical day in a S.O.A.R. classroom consists of circle time, homework time, at least twenty minutes of reading, and then free time.  In circle time, the whole classroom comes together to learn a quick lesson or do an activity. Right now we are learning different health tips, and last week we learned the value of stretching before exercising.

Next comes homework time. Most often, the kids have math homework to finish up. My child's homework is always written in Spanish, so this is where I get to start practicing my language skills. 
Before homework and reading every day, the tutor and student are expected to set a daily goal. Usually, our goals are something like "read three books." These books can count toward the daily expectation of reading at least twenty minutes during reading time. The kids get a sticker for every day that they accomplish this goal, and at the accumulation of six, they get a prize.  My student and I read books in both Spanish and English, and we talk about the story in Spanish.

Finally comes free time, when we are free to play games or play in the gym on some days. This time is always very open and free, so I get to meet the other students and join with them and their tutors for different board games or card games. Last week, I played Uno while speaking about the rules of the game and chatting in Spanish! When someone called out "Uno!" it was very appropriate. :)

So, all in all I've been enjoying my volunteering experience so far. S.O.A.R. is a great program with a heart for educating our youth. I am very happy to be working with it. There are plenty of difficulties, which I plan to discuss in my next blog post, but the rewards are far greater. Let's see what the rest of the semester has to offer!

Student Reflection

by Val Kaskovich

Hello once again! This week at the S.O.A.R. tutoring program, I was presented with a rather unusual task. I had the opportunity to interact with someone I usually do not -- my student's parents. Although I have never met them nor will I likely meet them in the future, I was assigned the challenge of writing a letter to the parents of my first grade student about my experience as their child's tutor. While the task at first seemed daunting, to my surprise the letter was easy to write and actually turned out better than I expected.

As I have stated many times before, the kids at Booker T. Washington are wonderful. That being said, I believe that my student is truly exceptional. He reads and completes assignments with enthusiasm and diligence. He communicates well in both Spanish and English, and is not afraid to ask for help when he needs it. I have seen huge improvements in his math skills and reading comprehension in just a few short months. All this is extremely impressive and deserves recognition at home.

Academic achievement and progress is important to include in a letter to his parents, and I am sure they will be very proud to read about it. However I think that the most important part of my letter was what I included next -- praise for their son's attitude, character, and behavior. He is polite 100% of the time. Everyone wants to be his friend because he is kind, smart, and just downright fun. He is responsible yet accomplishes his goals with a carefree mindset and an amazing sense of humor. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to let his parents know what a great kid they are raising. Parents have so much influence over a child's personality and education, and I am happy to be able to communicate my pride in their student's success in words (and most importantly, in their native language, Spanish!). I hope they enjoy the letter and keep supporting him at home as they have been. Can't wait to finish out the school year with S.O.A.R.! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

by Ann Abbott

Teaching the first class after spring break can be challenging. The students are refreshed, but are starting to feel the itch to finish the semester.

In today's "Spanish in the Community" class, we did Lección 15 in Comunidades: ¿Son noticias para nosotros? The activities in the lesson analyze how informed students´ are about the news in general, the news in Spanish and the news in their local Spanish-language newspapers/radio stations/blogs/etc.

My students reported that they are not very well informed about the news in general. A few students are, but just a few. They have discovered over the course of the semester that there is a lot of information about immigration that they don't know, and they realize that being uninformed means that misinformation can take hold. Still, most say that they're just not very interested in the news.

So the next activity was both fun and informative. I printed out seven articles from today's La Raza, Chicago's Spanish-language newspaper, and cut them in half. In one class I have fourteen students, so everyone got one half of an article. They read their half. Then they had to stand up, circulate, explain their "noticia" to their classmates in order to find the person who had the other half of their article. I think they had fun and at the same time learned about the other articles.

I learned, too.  Did you know that in the US, human trafficking generates more money than drug trafficking? I didn't.

Here are the articles students read:

  • Fascinación por el narco y su vida. Students compared this to gangster rap.
  • Tráfico de personas a EEUU genera $6,600 millones. We talked about border crossing and coyotes in in Lección 14 ¨¿Por que emigrar?¨ And when we talked about culture and numbers, students learned (most of them for the first time, I think) that billion in English is mil millones in Spanish. Seeing that in the headline was a good review.
  • Activistas declaran: Illinois no es Arizona. One of my students is from Arizona, so she has added a lot of perspective to our class discussions about national discourses on immigration. This article showed students that Illinois wants to be hospitable to all members of its communities. (Well, at least some people do.)
  • Ponen rostro a la inmigración. This article talked about undocumented students who are publicly declaring their status in order to effect change. Since so many of my students wrote their second reflective essay on the Dream Act, this was a good connecting article.
  • Superan situaciones traumaticas con terapias grupales exclusivas para hispanos. Especially for students who are working in human service agencies for their CSL work, this is a good reminder that programs that are important in all communities still need to be both linguistically and culturally appropriate.
  • Salvan pie a indocumentada. One of the activities in Lección 14 asks students to ennumerate the dangers of different forms of border crossing: rafts, coyotes, walking through the desert, hidden in a truck-trailer, and hopping a train. This was a good reminder that what we talk about in the book and in class is real, not just theoretical.
Do your CSL students read the news in Spanish? Are they informed enough to be able to challenge people around them who repeat the commonplaces about immigration? This was a good lesson: it got the students up and moving around, and it informed them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mary K. Long, Teaching Business Languages with a Humanist's Sensibility

by Ann Abbott

I have always said that I am a better writer and teacher of Spanish community service learning, business Spanish and social entrepreneurship because of my background in literary analysis, not in spite of it. 

My dissertation was titled, "Transitional Discourses: The Psychosomatic Fiction of Juan José Millás." In the chapter I wrote about Millás' novel, Tonto, muerto, bastardo e invisible, I included one section on "A Corporate Topography," which explored the spatial representations of power within the corporate discourse presented in the novel and in the protagonist's actual disruptions of the spatial relations at his job. In the final chapter, I analyzed Volver a casa. And in that chapter, I analyzed the "work" of literature in a section called "Metafiction and Materiality."

Then when I graduated and began teaching, I twice taught an undergraduate course called "El trabajo y los sistemas de poder" about Medieval and Early Modern Spanish texts. So looking back, I now realize that I was always interested in business studies, even when I was working within literature.

This is a very long way of introducing the work of Mary K. Long, who also has her PhD in literary studies and now works in literature, business language studies and translation studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Mary co-edited a recent book from Vanderbilt UP, Mexico Reading the United States"The thirteen original essays in this collection explore the Mexican point of view from the 1920s to the present in order to register often unheard voices in the complex cross-border, cross-cultural reality shared by the two nations. The contributors, all of whom have personal experience with the challenges of bi-cultural and bi-national living, discuss travel writing, novels, film, essays, political cartoons, and Mexican sociocultural movements. In a time of ever-increasing migration of capital and human beings, this book turns on its head the usual perspective of U.S. economic and cultural dominance in order to deepen understanding of the bi-national relationship." In addition to the introduction, Mary wrote a chapter titled, "Writing Home: The United States through the Eyes of Traveling Mexican Artists and Writers, 1920-1940." From the title, description and Mary's chapter title, you can see that she brings to business language studies a unique ability to understand and appreciate multiple perspectives and power relations.

Mary also gave us information about two recent collections:

  • Consistent Incorporation of Professional Terminologies into the World's Languages: The Linguistic Engine of a Global Culture. Michel, Gueldry, editor. Edwin Mellen Press, 2010. (I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book was reviewed by Larry Scher, from the University of Illinois.) Unfortunately the link doesn't show you the table of contents (how is that possible?), but I'll share just a few chapters: "Languages, Culture, and Education for Nonproliferation Policy"; "Lost and Found in Translation: Integrating Languages into health Care for Improved Health Outcomes"; "The 'Cultural Turn' in Business and Management Discourse: Political and Ethical Considerations"; "Issues in Language Policies for the Labor Force in Developing Countries."
  • How Globalizing Professions Deal with National Languages: Studies in Cultural Studies and Cooperation. Michel, Gueldry, editor. Edwin Mellen Press, 2010. My friend, David J. Shook, has a chapter in the collection: "First-year Spanish Textbooks: Towards Connecting Students, Professional Goals, Language, and Culture. Mary also has a chapter: "Spanish for the Professions Degree Programs in the United States: History and Current Practice." This chapter, for me, complements Christine Uber Grosse's work, and echoes languages for specific purposes (LSP) importance, achievements and challenges. In addition to the valuable information in the chapter about LSP programs in the US, I would like to quote a few noteworthy passages from Mary's article:
    • "Thus Spanish for any 'professional use' is much more than a technical course an din fact requires both the critical thinking skills and cultural knowledge that are at the heart of traditional humanities education in language and literature. What has changed from the traditional approach to language and literature is not the teaching of literature, culture, critical thinking and textual analysis, but rather the sorts of texts and situations being analyzed (the categories have been expanded beyond literature); the way literature is read and increased sources of cultural information." (37)
    • "University of Colorado students...prepare multimedia group presentations on business aspects of the Hispanic world as well as individual presentations focusing on sustainable business practices and non-governmental agencies in specific countries.... They also write a career research paper, and in the final course for the major prepare a professional portfolio that includes translations of a variety of texts as well as summaries and analysis of articles about current business issues in the Hispanic world." (38)
    • Spanish for Professions degree programs have a solid, proven record of combining the many strengths of professional fields with the life values of liberal arts programs. It is expected that the field will continue to prosper." (42)
    • In sum, this is a chapter that I will often refer to.
Mary's work is a good example of what business language studies can look like when a scholar who is well-grounded in the theories and methodologies of her area of PhD preparation brings those same tools (and others--and in Mary's case her personal experiences from living and working both the US and Mexico) to bear on LSP.

2011 CIBER Business Languages Conference, Teaching with Technology Workshop

by Ann Abbott

Orlando Kelm's workshops are legendary. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I'm serious. And it's rightfully deserved.  I'm pretty savvy about technology, yet I learned about platforms I didn't know about, and Orlando gave very creative and inspiring examples about how to use these tools in the teaching of business languages.

You can see the information from his presentation in this particular post. Be sure to view the entire blog as well to learn more. It's a wonderful example of how to effectively use a blog as your course website, how to teach business cultures, and it contains very useful links and posts.

Specifically, I learned about and We did some very fun activities with polleverywhere during the session. Students can text or tweet their responses as well as via the website. It was fun to see the graphs change in real time as people sent in their responses. This could be used in class to give a quiz, to solicit opinions, to probe students' background knowledge and more. You can use the free version if no more than 30 people respond to the poll, and Orlando sometimes has students create the poll themselves, not just answer ones that he has written.  Orlando uses to allow his students to upload their videos to his YouTube channel.

Two Google projects were mentioned--Google Goggles and the Google Art Project. I will have to look into them more on my own.

This is a very quick summary, in part because nothing I can write can do justice to Orlando's presentation style, his wonderful examples and the back and forth with the audience members. I encourage everyone to explores his blogs.

2011 CIBER Business Languages Conference, Day 2

by Ann Abbott

At some conferences, the quality of the sessions is really hit or miss. At this year's CIBER Business Languages conference, I didn't attend one single session in which I didn't learn something or get an idea for something I can incorporate into my teaching and/or programming.

Here are the sessions I attended and just a few of the highlights.
  • Christine Uber Grosse. The link I provided here shows many of the articles that Chris has published, but certainly not all of them, especially not the latest. She has been and continues to be a leader in business languages, especially because of her publication record in top journals. Her morning keynote talk was titled, "The Continuing Evolution of Languages for Specific Purposes" and was based on her article that will appear in the Modern Language Journal special issue on LSP. She gave a very interesting retrospective on the field, highlighting key professors, and her article will be a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with leaders in the field. Since her article will soon be available for all to read, I'll just give one quote that I jotted down: "The irony is that the greatest opposition to LSP comes from Modern Languages faculty." Her talk generated a terrific question and answer period. Several people gave wonderful advice for raising the field's profile. Mary Long (University of Colorado, Boulder) said we should retool the language with which we speak of business languages (e.g., express it in humanist and linguistics terms, the "languages" spoken in most language programs), stop asking for "permission" with our body language and to never be apologetic about what we do. Maida Watson said to show the deans that you are bringing in resources through grants and other sources. Chris said that we need to publish in the *best* journals. And Barbara Lafford followed up by saying we should use the same theoretical frameworks as the more established fields. There is more to say on this topic, of course, and I look forward to reading many of the articles in the upcoming MLJ special issue.
  • Margrit Zinggeler and Coral Lopez-Gomez. Margrit and Coral both talked about an internship program that they have established with Eastern Michigan students who work with Consulates. Coral is an Honorary Consul of Spain, and she explained the differences between career consuls and honorary consuls, as well as the duties they carry out for their citizens, the host country's citizens and the business community. She suggested contacting your nearest Consulate Corps to begin an internship program. Margrit then followed up with a presentation about the academic structure of the internship. Eastern Michigan holds an important place within LSP studies, so it was great to see the latest from there.
  • Juanita Villena-Alvarez. First of all, I would like to congratulate Juanita on her very prestigious award: South Carolina Governor's Professor of the Year. (Whatever you think about recent South Carolina governors, the recognition for Juanita's work is wonderful.) Secondly, I'd like to thank her for the information she shared with us about trends in the research and practice of Spanish for the healthcare professions. The main take-away for me from Juanita's talk is that we need to establish some common criteria and standards to combat the mish-mash of programs and approaches that we have now. I'd like to see a core curriculum in translingual communication strategies and transcultural competence that is applicable in any profession. To that, we can add profession-specific topics.
  • Mary K. Long. Mary explained the benefits of the CIBER faculty development trips abroad (FDIB) to business language faculty. Although Mary teaches Spanish, she explained how the trips to Asia and Eastern Europe have informed her thinking and teaching of Business Spanish. What impressed me most was the way that Mary showed such a macro-view of understanding the connections among business, culture, ethics, power structures and global policies. I loved the slides in which she would juxtapose a business practice with a contradictory cultural practice. Mary is a wonderful example of how faculty with strong grounding in the humanities enrich the teaching and research on business languages.
  • The lunchtime keynote talk was given by two representatives from the Defense Language Institute/Foreign Language Center, Presidio of Monterrey, CA.  No comment.
  • Greg Moreland and two University of Florida students. It is always eye-opening to listen to students talk about their learning experiences in our classes and in study-abroad. I was especially struck by how different the experiences are for heritage speakers and non-heritage speakers. It would be interesting to have a panel of students who have taken a business language class abroad, studied business in the host institution or had an internship abroad.
  • Michael Doyle and Mary K. Long. Mike and Mary both presented on translation studies within a business language curriculum. Mike's presentation focused on the American Translators Association's certification exam and argued that when we grade our business language students' translation work, we should at least make them aware of the ATA's grading criteria so that they understand the professional practices and ethics of translation. Mike also said something that merits, I think, an entire session: "biliteracy is necessary for translating, not just being bilingual and bicultural." Both Michael and Mary have translation courses within their business language programs, so it was wonderful to get their in-depth insights. Mary's talk, "'Real World' Documents as Linguistic and Cultural Artifact in the Spanish for Business Translation Class," was especially interesting for me because of the translations students do for community entities. She trains her students not just in "how to translate," but, perhaps most importantly, because they will not come out of her course ready to be professional translators, she teaches them when to say no, that they cannot translate something. In fact, she goes so far as to teach students how to say, "I cannot translate this, but I can help you find someone who can," because after her class they also know how to identify qualified translators. Mary also provided this valuable nugget: a report on "What Business Wants: Language Needs in the 21st Century."
  • After a busy day, we spent the evening at a wonderful outdoor reception--although it was quite chilly--and a dinner at the Riviera Theater, a beautiful, art-deco movie theater.
What a successful conference. I'm looking forward to next year's conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    2011 CIBER Business Languages Conference

    by Ann Abbott

    I always enjoy coming to the CIBER Business Languages Conferences to see friends and pick up new ideas. This conference has been especially energizing. Being in Charleston, South Carolina is a nice break from the long Illinois winter we had this year, and having all the sessions and events in the same hotel makes for a nice, intimate atmosphere.

    Here is the conference agenda, and I will highlight a few things from today's schedule.

    • Plenary panel on "Directions for Research on Languages for Business and the Professions." It was a good idea to start the conference with a focus on research.  If we want to raise the profile of this area, we need to raise our expectations for the scholarly output, too.  Mike Doyle is advocating for a change of wording and suggests that we call what we do Business Language Studies. That's important, as long as we also do the research, and he mapped that out on a slide. I think his piece in the upcoming special issues of Modern Languages Journal will explain that in more detail. Maria Antonia Cowles focused on curriculum development and called for participatory action research. Steve Sacco called for us to teach business languages, especially in the less commonly taught languages, in a more coordinated manner and less in the piece-meal fashion in which it takes place now. He had a strong conclusion linked to the very premise of CIBERs and their federal funding.
    • Darcy Lear. Darcy and I presented together, but on two different topics. Darcy described many aspects of the Spanish for the Professions Minor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel-Hill, and she spoke in-depth about the Spanish for Journalism course she teaches. She told how she integrates service-learning into the course (they do non-profession-specific CSL work, but their journalistic work for the class is for their community partner or describes it. In other words, they may do ESL tutoring, but they would then write a press release for the school or write an article for publication in the Spanish-language press about the students, program or school. (Thanks, Darcy, for also sharing how you use Comunidades with your students.) The audience was very interested in seeing the posters her students must prepare and the finished, published pieces that emerge from their course work. 
    • My session. I then spoke about teaching social media marketing in my business Spanish class. At the outset, I told the audience that I wanted them to walk away with some activities in hand and with a framework for teaching the "soft skill" of transcultural competence. I think the information was well-received and that people recognize social media marketing as an important skill to teach ourselves as well to our students.
    • Marta Chamorro. I met Marta at ACTFL in Boston. We got together for breakfast one morning to chat because we had a lot in common, including our teaching of Business Spanish. Marta spoke about her work with the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) in her Business Spanish course and included videos of our students' work.  I think that the feature that most impressed people in the audience is that her students must read Spanish-language newspapers for ten minutes every single day of the semester (yes, on Saturdays and Sundays, too) and then spend five minutes writing up a very short summary and analysis. Those all go into the portfolio of all their work for the semester. Marta has high expectations for her students and also gives them lots of support and inspiration. Everyone was impressed by her work and her energy.
    • E. Teel Evans. Teel presented the work done by her students in a sixth-semester Business Spanish course (i.e., her students have already had a previous introductory Business Spanish course). She showed the extensive and intensive work that her students did to plan an international business, and the best part was seeing that one of the students built on that work and actually opened his own business: Spanish Vines.
    • Nancy Buchan. Our lunchtime keynote speaker talked about the research-based Communication and Social Interaction Style (CSIS) assessment. The test could be a very good teaching tool, not to reinforce stereotypes of direct/indirect cultures for example, but instead to help students examine their own cultural beliefs on several dimensions in comparison to other possible perspectives and practices. (Although I will admit that I pointed my finger at Darcy when the speaker described one "type" as someone who is direct, unafraid of confrontation, believe in schedules, adheres to deadlines and wants plenty of space during interactions. She never pointed her finger at me as any one "type;" maybe I'm more direct and confrontational than her!)
    • Maida Watson. I was so happy to hear Maida present on entrepreneurship in foreign languages. She, Darcy and I all received grants from the programs on our campuses that were funded by the Kauffman Foundation, and we developed entrepreneurship courses with them. I teach "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" at UIUC, Darcy Lear teaches a freshman seminar on "Spanish and Entrepreneurship" at UNC, Chapel-Hill and Maida taught a course, in English, at Florida International University about entrepreneurship in foreign languages. Maida's paper will be published in a forthcoming book on Specialized Languages in a Global World.
    Tomorrow will be another good day of sessions, and on Saturday morning I will attend Orlando Kelm's workshop on technology in business language teaching.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by April Nwatah

    This past weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate. From what I was told before I volunteered, this was the first time that they’ve come to the Champaign-Urbana area. In addition, Champaign-Urbana has a large Guatemalan population – so their services were quite needed.

    While they were in town they issued passports and identification cards to the Guatemalan community. This event was held at the Wesley Foundation on Green and Goodwin. While there I mostly did child-care (coloring and playing games with the kids of the people who came).

    I had an amazing time working with the kids! Initially I found it to be quite easy to communicate in Spanish. I was able to think of all of the words and phrases that I wanted to use and was able to converse quite rapidly with the people in the community. However, in many cases my Spanish was not needed and was occasionally useless. I specifically remembered talking to one young girl in Spanish when she replied (in English) “I don’t speak Spanish.” I didn’t really know what else to say until another young boy interjected and explained to me that they spoke a Guatemalan language. My years of studying Latin American EVERYTHING all came together in an instance. I remembered learning about Guatemala and how although Spanish is the official language, 40% of the population speaks one of the many indigenous languages. This fact was really important for me to realize. I usually assume that if I’m working with someone from Latin America, I can just speak Spanish with them. I usually don’t remember that there are other languages spoken in Latin America. It also made me wonder how many times I’ve spoken Spanish in the community and how many of the people have actually understood me (as they may have actually spoken another language).

    This encounter has encouraged me to do more research on the indigenous populations in Latin America. I look forward to learning more about them!

    Hispania, March 2010

    by Ann Abbott

    Yes, I'm reviewing a year-old issue of Hispania. I'm sorry for the delay, especially since the Special Section on "Curricular Changes for Spanish and Portuguese in a New Era" is so pertinent and timely to the curricular innovations I would like to see happen in our Spanish program.

    But first, let me mention Bill VanPatten's article, "Some Verbs Are More Perfect than Others: Why Learners Have Difficulty with ser and estar and What It Means for Instruction." I remember reading that article when the issue first arrived in my mailbox and being impressed by the elegance of BVP's writing. I think all academic writers should aspire to write so clearly and engagingly--and I say that as someone who does not do second language acquisition research! (By the way, my post on Bill VanPatten is consistently one of the ten most accessed posts on my blog.)

    The special section is a collection of 15 short articles that respond to two MLA reports:

    I will highlight very briefly a few of the pieces that I believe will be of interest to readers of this blog.
    • "Promise (Un)fulfilled: Reframing Languages for the Twenty-First Century" by Raquel Oxford inserts ACTFL's work with the "Partnership for 21st Century Skills" within the list of transformative guidelines for our profession. She asserts that, "changes for twenty-first-century skills must form part of the conversation as modifications move forward in the language curriculum." (68). I concur, and I think that CSL in on-line communities and on-line CSL work are important pathways on the mapping of 21st century skills.
    • "A Responsive, Integrative Spanish Curriculum at UNC Charlotte" by Michael S. Doyle details how their program offers translation studies and business content within the undergraduate, Masters and potentially the PhD programs.
    • "El español para fines específicos La proliferación de programas creados para satisfacer las necesidades del siglo XXI¨ by Lourdes Sánchez-López talks about the role of languages for specific purposes (LSP) in the re-envisioning of foreign language curricula. The piece offers a very useful definition of LSP that builds upon language for general purposes courses: "no lo consideramos como una entidad aparte de la enseñanza del español como lengua extranjera, sino como una integración, ampliación o prolongación" (87). Her recommendations are strong and solid, but hinge on professors being willing to prepare themselves to teach outside their comfort zone and in areas that pull them out of the academic world, something that I observed that very, very few faculty--even those within language programs that risk extinction--are willing to entertain.
    • "The Case for a Realistic Beginning-Level Grammar Syllabus: The Round Peg in the Round Hole" by Audrey L. Heining-Boynton argues that we need to abandon the notion that the entire gamut of grammar structures be presented in the first year of students' language studies. As you know from reading this blog, I feel that CSL reveals the gaps in students' language abilities that remain hidden in the classroom (numbers, names, commands, etc.) that should be emphasized more in the language curriculum. They can communicate fine without the pluperfect. But they cannot function in a CSL setting if they cannot give commends.
    • "Where's the Community" by Ethel Jorge states that "though the suggestions [of the two MLA reports] might be far-reaching for many institutions, I believe they do not go far enough for a small liberal arts college such as Pitzer College. In many ways the collaborative satement in the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages et al.'s 'Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century' was more visionary because of its recommendation to include student interactions with communities of native speakers in the 'integrative the major' that the MLA ad hoc committee endorses" (135). She then describes Pitzer's CSL program in compelling language that other Spanish faculty can appreciate.
    I'd like to close with a quote from Ethel Jorge's piece that, for me, wraps up quite nicely the difficult nature of change within Spanish programs and the pushback we can expect when we push to enact these curricular changes that look nice on paper, but create real challenges when put into place:

    "Undeniably, there are realities that make curricular changes difficult to implement. Among these is the traditional power structure in foreign language departments. ... the entrenchment of permanent faculty in traditional positions; doctoral programs that do not produce new faculty with the broad conceptual background and skills to match emerging needs; and a reward system in academia that has a traditional view of the type of work that counts for promotion and tenure. Also, in recent discussions about the future of foreign language teaching, there are members of professional associations who are thoroughly invested in literary studies. These individuals claim that the introduction of cultural area studies and languages across the curriculum threatens the integrity of the field. They are concerned that foreign language departments will lose their hard-won reputations withing academic circles based on literary studies and will be tarnished by these new intellectual trends" (137).

    Our work is hard. Some people say that we want to turn our departments into "service departments." And my feeling is that the people who are the most difficult to engage in conversations about serious curriculum revisions are not even reading these seminal reports nor the Special Section of Hispania. Nor this blog.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Foreign Language Annals, Spring 2011

    by Ann Abbott

    Although there are no articles dealing with community service learning in the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals, three articles did strike me as important for what we do.

    1. Carreira, Maria and Olga Kagan. "The Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for Teaching, Curriculum Design, and Professional Development." In addition to the very important facts and general profile that emerges within the article, the abstract states: "We argue that a community-based curriculum represents an effective way to harness the wealth of knowledge and experiences that [heritage language learners] bring to the classroom and to responde to their goals for their [heritage language]," 40. While a community-based curriculum could be interpreted in many different ways, community service learning (CSL) is obviously an important part of that curricular response. In the "Implications for Teaching" section, the authors make the following suggestions for administrators and instructors interested in improving heritage language programs:
      • "Know the community," (59). You can gather information about the community in many ways, but a good CSL program will give you deeper, richer insights into the community from community members themselves. Furthermore, your students will have that same knowledge based on their own interactions in the community and the information you provide to them in class.
      • "Know the learner," (60). A group of my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students spoke last week at the Scholarship of Engagement Seminar.  Two of the students were heritage speakers and the other two weren't. Listening to the heritage speakers talk about their learning experiences with CSL was enlightening. A lot of their learning had to do with issues of identity, reclaiming their language and culture in an academic setting, and helping younger students go through the same experiences they had as kids. There is a lot of research waiting to happen on the connections between CSL and heritage learners.
      • "Connect the learner and the community," (60). The authors mention community-based oral history projects that are available through the NHLRC. That can also be embedded within a CSL course, and I have a lesson on oral histories in Comunidades.
    2. Miao, Pei and Audrey L. Heining-Boynton. "Initiation/Response/Follow-Up, and Response to Intervention: Combining Two Models to Improve Teacher and Student Performance." I was mostly interested in this article because I saw Audrey's name. She is another Pearson/Prentice Hall author, so I have gotten to know her fairly well.  I like her, admire her work and respect her advocacy for languages on several fronts. IRF and RTI were completely new terms to me. The authors state that, "RTI formalizes what good teachers in all subject areas have always done: to reflect and asses their practice in order to modify and improve their instructional delivery" (66). I firmly believe in the importance of reflection in our teaching, not just in students' CSL work. I reflect on my teaching through this blog, my conversations with friends/colleagues (mostly Darcy Lear) and with my students themselves.
    3. Ben Youseef Zayzafoo, Lamia. "Teaching About Women and Islam in North Africa: Integrating Postcolonial Feminist Theory in the Classroom." I was pleasantly surprised to see an article that was not based on a quantitative or qualitative study! And I learned a lot about the content matter and related issues just by reading the article. In the abstract, the author lists many "conceptual limitations" in the teaching of Islam and North African women to undergraduate students: "inadequate knowledge of the geography and history of North Africa; the discursive dichotomy between East and West; the production of the Muslim woman as a single category; the tendency to de-historicize Islam and Eastern cultures in general into unchanging and closed systems of religious practices and beliefs; the uncritical adoption of Islamic exegesis as an explanatory prism to understand all the woes of the Islamic world; and the cultural essentialism underlying the discourse of multiculturalism in American textbooks" (181). Not only is this very important information about the teaching of Islam and North Africa, many of the issues transfer to discussions of immigration and specifically of Latino immigrants to the US.

    How do Spanish Community Service Learning Students Define Success?

    by Ann Abbott

    If you read through the "Student Reflections" on this blog, you'll find that students define a successful Spanish community service learning (CSL) experience in many ways.  
    • They use and improve their Spanish.
    • They feel they "connected" somehow with a member of the local Latino community.
    • They feel that they were able to help someone in the community resolve a problem.
    • They gain new insights into immigration policies and immigrants' lived realities.
    • They feel that their work in the community connects to their career goals.
    But this week in class, we turned the tables: I asked students what they thought success looked like in general and for immigrants in particular.

    First we did the actividades concluyentes at the end of Unidad 3 in Comunidades. Then we viewed the video interviews with Ruth Montenegro, a successful businesswoman originally from El Salvador.  (You can see those videos at the Comunidades Companion Website.)

    Finally, we did the activity about defining success (pp. 94-95).  I wrote items that invited discussion, thought and questioning. At least I thought they did. I was surprised to find that the majority of my students--who are all smart, sensitive and caring people--defined success in almost exclusively economic terms. There were a few other surprises, too.

    • Item #1 asks if this is "éxito" or not: "Tener una casa propia, un auto que no tenga más de cinco años y poder tomar vacaciones en la playa dos veces al año." From my observations, this item generated no discussion or questioning among the student groups. The answer was simply, "Sí." First of all, if that is the definition of success, not many people in this country will ever be successful. And if that's what people aspire to, that's why too many people are maxed out on credit with their mortgages, car payments and credit cards. 
    • Item #3 describes, "Una madre que lleva una vida de sacrificios para que sus hijos puedan estudiar en una escuela de renombre y vestirse de moda." Although this item did generate more discussion in a few groups, it also revealed that a lot of people have very gendered notions of success. In short, most students seemed to feel that, yes, that was an example of success. That disappointed me, of course, because again, it is all about external, material, "branded" signs of success, and all on the back of the self-sacrificing mother.
    • Item #7 is about, "Alguien que se hace millonario, pisoteando a los demás." To begin with, most students did not know the word "pisotear," so I think the answer I expected from them probably came through in my explanation of "stepping on others." Still, some students did feel like that was success.
    • Item #8 portrays, "Una persona que trabaja para pasar un referéndum que beneficiaría a las escuelas, pero el referéndum no pasa." I was surprised that at least some students said that, yes, this was success because the person had worked hard.
    In the future, I will develop this activity further. As it is right now, it is a very good starting point for a broader discussion about success. Where do our ideas about success come from? What are the realities versus the myths of success? What would ethical or moral success look like? Where do immigrants and their lived realities fit within our definitions of success?

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Dissemination Opportunities Related to Spanish Community Service Learning

    by Ann Abbott

    It's great to see the attention that foreign language community service learning (CSL) is getting within our profession. My friend and colleague, Darcy Lear (UNC-CH), is working on a piece for a special issue of The Modern Language Journal on specialized language instruction. She is focusing specifically on the role of CSL in the teaching of Spanish (or other languages) for the professions.

    Here are a few other opportunities that are still open:

    What we need to present in these and other forums is rigorous research results. There are important research questions that need answers. However, as I have said many times on this blog, that will not happen until our profession begins to reward research on service learning in the same ways it rewards research on linguistics, applied linguistics and literature. 

    Will you submit a manuscript or presentation proposal to these venues? Do you know of other upcoming publication and conference opportunities for foreign language CSL? If so, please share in the comments.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Marlee Stein

    It has been awhile since I have posted, since once again I was shuffled around in the SOAR/Booker T. Washington.  I wrote last time about what a wonderful experience I was having working one on one with a first grade student in the SOAR program.  Unfortunately the girl who I had been working with, her tutor returned and I spent an hour just sitting.  I was extremely upset, but luckily the coordinator was able to find me another time and girl I could work with.  I now volunteer on Tuesdays (and in my original Booker T. Washington assignment to finish my hours) with a different first grade girl.  I really get to use a lot of my Spanish now, and I am so happy.  I guess it just takes awhile of pursuing what you want and taking initiative in order to get the most possible out of the class and the volunteer opportunities.  She is extremely rambunctious and never wants to do her homework, she would prefer to play games and read fun books.  Thus it was a challenge to get her to concentrate, so I had to be very energetic and try to make what she was working on fun, interesting, and relatable to her life.  I talked about it in my most recent reflection, but every time my student would get super excited about something she would begin to talk extremely fast and with a heavy accent, and it was challenging to understand her.  I enjoyed the challenge since in class the professors typically speak slowly for the students to understand.  In the real world and whatever my future profession with Spanish is they will speak fast and with native accents like my student does.

    In class this past Tuesday we worked on teaching them about the new nutrition pyramid.  Since they are so young they probably never knew there was an old one.  We taught them all the food groups and then had them make their own copy of the pyramid.  It was a good review for me because I had to remember examples of food.  I hadn’t used a lot of food vocabulary since elementary school when I first learned it.  It was a good review and helpful because when I study abroad it will be very important I know which foods are which so I do not accidently eat something I am not fond of.  My student really enjoyed trying to guess foods in each food group.  Overall I had a wonderful time this past Tuesday, and am looking forward to learning countless more vocabulary with my new student pairing.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Kendra Dickinson

    Hello everyone!

    It has been a while since I have written, due to the all too familiar rush and chaos of the life of a college student during midterms. Still, I have been consistently working in the Extension Office of Hispanic Outreach during this time, on a variety of interesting and challenging projects. I have been working on an interview for the Radio Extension, a Spanish language radio show hosted by Julia Bello-Bravo, an Extension Outreach Specialist with whom I work very closely. The radio provides different information every week to the Spanish-speaking community of Champaign-Urbana. Although I have absolutely no experience in journalism, what motivated me to become a part of this project was the need to provide accessible information communities in their native language. As the Spanish-speaking and Latino population in the United States increases, the importance of having news and information accessible in Spanish is ever increasing. Although I have not yet conducted the interview that I am preparing, I will let all of you know what it is aired so that you can tune in!

    I have also been working with Julia Bello Bravo in preparing the next edition of the Latin American Literature and Cultural Identity Read Group. This is a reading group that any person who speaks Spanish can be a part of, so for more information, please contact Participants receive copies of the reading, and then meet periodically for coffee and snacks to discuss the readings. Next month’s reading is a book called “La Voragine” by Jose Eustasio Rivera. This book is of particular interest to me because one of the main themes is man’s interaction with and struggle against nature. The book describes the journey of two lovers, Arturo y Alicia, that flee to the Amazon Rainforest. They experience many hardships in their travels, being lost in the forest, violence, hunger, and illness. This work is considered to be one of the first examples of Latin American “jungle literature.” It will be very interesting to see how the participants of the reading group interpret the work, and to ultimately see how the work reflects a variety of cultural views on nature and man’s interaction with it.

    Also, in recent news, Francisco and I finished our preliminary analysis of the Water Quality Survey, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois State Water Survey. As I have previously mentioned, the survey aims to gain more information about the water quality and the concerns about water quality of the Spanish-speaking and Latino communities in the Midwest. My next assignment is to find people in Chicago that will complete the Water Survey for me over Spring Break! When giving me this assignment, Francisco discussed with me the challenges of going out onto the street and asking people to be a part of the survey. First of all, many people are busy, whether it by on their way to work, to the store, to pick a child up from school etc., and therefore do not have the time to stop and complete a survey. Others might feel a distrust for or take offense to a complete unknown person asking for information such as what is their country of origin or what is their grandparents country of origin, at a time when immigrations issues in the U.S. are at the forefront of a heated policy debate. Also, given that I am not a native speaker of Spanish, nor I am of Latino/Hispanic origin, I have many worries that I will not be trusted by the people that I try to interview. Still, I recognize that it is important that I do the survey, because the more information that thus survey can gather, the most accurate and useful the information will be, particularly concerning giving Spanish-speakers information about their water quality by understanding what type of concerns they have, and what are their preferred methods of having those concerns addressed. In no way do I mean to generalize that the entire Spanish-speaking or Latino population of the Midwest has the same concerns, however there are certain cultural and language based trends that may affect the transmission and reception of information, and I think that it is important to take into account specific cultural needs of a group of people to better address their concerns.

    Well I wish everyone a wonderful and relaxing Spring Break, and please wish me luck as I embark on my first experience in the field for the Water Survey! Stay tuned for more information about my experience in the field and for updates on the Radio Show!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Val Kaskovich

    Hola, hispanohablantes!  My volunteer work with S.O.A.R. has continued to be lots of fun and very eye-opening. Seeing the academic growth in my student has been truly inspiring. Apart from normal S.O.A.R. activities, some of the students have been involved in a program called "Little Bites for Healthy Kids" two days a week during S.O.A.R. This program is provided by Abriendo Caminos, a research group that aims to promote healthy diet and exercise habits in Latino immigrant children. Click here for more info on Abriendo Caminos (this organization is also a volunteer option for the SPAN 232 course). As part of "Little Bites," the students are engaged in small exercise activities such as stretching and aerobic activity, as well as taught about the value of healthy foods, family meals, and a strong body.

    This week, the students in the K/1st classroom learned all about the Food Pyramid - one that, might I add, looks very different from the pyramid I learned as a kid! Instruction was given by the room leader in Spanish and in English. The students seemed to get a kick out of naming as many foods as possible from each group: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans. After the presentation, the students were given their own Food Pyramids to color and decorate as they pleased.

    I think the collaboration between S.O.A.R. and Abriendo Caminos through the "Little Bites" program is a very positive one. The program not only provides vital health knowledge from a young age, but also encourages discussion and incorporation of healthy habits at home. The ability of the program to communicate in both Spanish and English is essential in this very bilingual community. Hopefully, the students will embrace a healthy lifestyle, and maybe even teach their parents a little something, too. I can't wait to see what "Little Bites" has in store for the Booker T. Washington students in the coming weeks.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Haley Dwyer

    Hello again! This semester, as I said in my earlier post, I will be volunteering my time at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC). ECIRMAC is a wonderful organization that I never knew existed in Champaign-Urbana. The Refugee Center is a non-profit organization that helps to aid in the resettlement of immigrants and refugees from all over the world. The work that they do here on a daily basis is vital for the survival of many of the immigrants who come into the Refugee Center. There are multitudes of people who work at the Center who speak almost every language known to man. The time and commitment that they put into their job is absolutely amazing and because of it I have a lot of respect for them.

    The thing that surprised me the most about the Refugee Center is how they operate. Their office is literally located in a hole in the wall of a church, yet they serve hundreds of people a week. Since they are a non-profit organization, they have an incredibly small budget and therefore do not have the best accommodations. Their filing system is simply a filing cabinet with three drawers, all of which are stuffed basically to the maximum with folders on clients. Along with this, they only have two computers in which their documents are saved everywhere. Although they work in such limiting and sometimes hectic conditions, the employees of the Refugee Center are able to thrive. They maintain a level of determination for helping their clients to the best of their ability that both amazes and impresses me. Their dedication to these people is moving and after volunteering at the Refugee Center for some time I am starting to understand it.

    My time at the Refugee Center so far has been a rollercoaster in itself. Since I have never been fully emerged in Spanish before, it can be overwhelming at times. Some days I walk out of the Center and feel like my Spanish skills are completely inadequate and that going to Spain is a foolish idea. Then again, on some days I walk out of that tiny office and feel absolutely confident in my Spanish skills and ready to take on the world. These days, where I feel like I was actually able to help someone, are what keep me coming back to the Refugee Center every week. Although a lot of times I feel like my vocabulary is not up to par with the Center, I always try my hardest to express myself while using Spanish. I hope that as time progresses at the Refugee Center, I will be able to improve my Spanish skills and to become more comfortable with them. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and hearing their stories, because for me that is why I chose to volunteer at the Refugee Center. 

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Val Kaskovich

    Hello again!  The S.O.A.R program at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Champaign is off to another great start this semester. I have spent a few afternoons a week for the past few weeks as a tutor working in the bilingual Kindergarten and 1st grade classroom. Having already met most of these children when I tutored through SOAR last semester, it is truly amazing to see much they have progressed in just a few short months. I am paired up with a first grader who is an incredibly smart and hard-working kid - not to mention he keeps me laughing! Getting to know each student's personality and seeing them all each week is a blast.

    Over the past few weeks we've been working a lot with math skills related to money and counting coins. Fortunately, the classroom is filled with tons of learning tools to help the students grasp the concepts easier. There are money posters on the wall in both Spanish and English, real coins for the students to see and count, and even giant cut-outs of coins that are magnetized to the chalkboard. Sometimes we practice in Spanish and sometimes in English - I am realizing how important it is for the students to know in both languages, since these are skills that the students will use for the rest of their lives. It seems to be going very well - I'm so impressed with how much the students learn in a short period of time.

    Furthermore, one of the main focuses of SOAR is improving literacy skills and reading comprehension. The students in my classroom are driven to practice their reading skills by what is, in my opinion, a very effective teaching tool. The students earn a "gotcha" sticker for every 20 minutes they spend reading during SOAR. Once six "gotchas" are accumulated, the student wins a small prize - stickers, candy, small toys, etc. From my experience, the students LOVE earning gotchas! At first, it seemed like my individual student was motivated mostly by the prizes, but now I can see him really enjoying the stories that we read. I ask basic comprehension questions and ask for his opinion throughout the story, and before we know it the 20 minutes is up! He is not only acquiring reading comprehension skills, but at the same time is learning tons of new vocabulary in both Spanish and English. SOAR is a fabulous resource and a real motivator for the students to complete assignments, improve critical thinking, and - most of all - foster a love for learning from an early age. Stay tuned for more updates about my semester with SOAR!

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Three things I have learned about community service learning exams

    by Ann Abbott

    This week I gave two exams.  One was a sit-down exam in my "Spanish in the Community" course.  And the other was the take-home midterm exam for my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students.

    Although no student enjoys preparing for and taking exams, and no faculty member I know delights in writing and grading exams, I have learned a lot during this midterm exam week in my courses.

    1. Review sessions should be "study workshops." In the Spanish composition course that I coordinate, the week before a 4-5 page composition is due, the class is turned into a writing workshop. The class periods are semi-structured, and each day has a separate focus (e.g., content generation, organization, editing). Students do their own work, but the instructor and peers are more available than usual for support and advice.  Likewise, in my "Spanish in the Community" course, we used the day before the exam to break up into pairs, and each pair studied one or two "Lecciones" in Comunidades. They presented the results of their review to their classmates, including the most important concepts within each Leccion as well as the important grammar and vocabulary. In the end, students themselves had done the review, and I was just there to guide them if they gave too much importance to something I considered minor or vice versa.
    2. Students do not know what to expect on an exam for a community service-learning (CSL) class. Even students who have attended every class, participated actively, done their homework and devoted themselves to their work in the community ask what the exam is going to be like. The exam, I explain, is a way for them to demonstrate that they can fully integrated their community-based learning with their classroom-based learning. It's a bridge. So a successful exam shows that you have learned the concepts presented in the classroom and you can demonstrate that learning with specific examples from your work and observations in the community.
    3. Students do not know what to expect from a test in a course that uses communicative language teaching. When class time is mostly used to exchange information with other students and draw conclusions based on that information, students may feel like they haven't learned anything and that they have nothing to study for an exam. That is why the review time in class is helpful. Usually, based on previous courses, students mentally classify textbook information as "exam material!" when it is presented in the following typographical formats: vocabulary lists at the beginning or back of a chapter; charts and tables with grammatical paradigms; block text.  So, for example, students always correctly identify as "important" the definitions of ACTFL's 5 C's on page 19 in Comunidades and the vocabulary listed on page 15.  But conclusions they reach after exchanging information with each other, such as defining the similarities and differences between study abroad and CSL (p. 20) doesn't "look" like exam material. Or definitions presented in the format of an activity, such as a matching activity of terms associated with immigration status and their definitions (p. 63).
    What have you learned about giving or taking exams in a CSL course?

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Marlee Stein

    Hi again everyone!  As I said before I am volunteering at Booker T. Washington in a third grade classroom.  I really enjoy the kids and the teacher and getting to know them.  I have gotten to use a little bit of Spanish in the class because of my own initiative.  I usually work on reading with them, and in order to learn Spanish I ask them comprehension questions.  A lot of times they are able to read the English, but have no idea what things mean.  I explain the words in Spanish so that they are able to understand the significance of what they are reading.  Although I love my assignment, I am not using as much Spanish as I would have liked.  This week and next week there was no school on Monday due to ISAT testing and President’s Day.  In order to make up my hours I volunteered at SOAR on Thursday in a 1st grade classroom.  Luckily all the children spoke in complete Spanish.  I got to work one on one with a little girl and help her read English and Spanish books, solve math problems and write sentences.  It was truly one of the best experiences.  I plan to try and do at least half of my hours at SOAR because I feel like I am learning so much!  The two of us took a trip to the library, and as we were searching for an English book for her to read, we came across the book Ferdinand.  When I was in middle school and I was first learning Spanish I remember reading that book.  I actually read it multiple times over the years in my Spanish classes.  It was really interesting to see her using the very same book to learn English.  It gave us a great common ground to start with and sparked a number of great conversations.  I can not wait to go back next week!


    Student Reflection: Haley Dwyler

    by Haley Dwyer

    Hello All!

    My name is Haley Dwyer and I am a sophomore studying Global Studies with a minor in Spanish. I am excited to be sharing my experiences with the Spanish & Illinois blog this semester. I have been studying Spanish since the 7th grade, but I did not really gain the love for it until my senior year of high school. Coming into high school I was placed in a Spanish that was too advanced for me, so I struggled greatly with the language. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when I took a trip to Mexico with my family, that I realized my love for the language. Studying Spanish in college has been a thrilling and eye opening experience for me so far and I can’t wait for the many experiences that this semester of my community volunteering will bring me.

    Although many of the people who are taking SPAN 232 have already studied abroad, I am not one of those lucky people yet. Next semester though, I will be embarking on my own adventure overseas in Bilbao, Spain. I have looked forward to studying abroad since high school so needless to say I cannot wait to go to Spain. Bilbao is the reason that I took this Spanish class. I hope that when I arrive in Bilbao I will be able to communicate and participate with the people so that I can get the best out of my opportunity to be there.

    This semester, I will be volunteering at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) in Urbana, IL. ECIRMAC helps refugees from all over the globe with a variety of issue. While I am at the center I have done a variety of things so far, everything from filing paperwork to translating Peruvian diplomas. So far it has been a challenging yet rewarding experience and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester brings. I hope that I will be able to learn about the lives of immigrants from all over the globe while utilizing my Spanish skills. Check back for more updates about my time at the Center!

    Hasta Luego!

    Student Reflection: Hannah Perhai

    by Hannah Perhai


    I'm Hannah Perhai, a sophomore Spanish and Psychology major. Spanish has been a part of my life since I was twelve years old and first set foot in my seventh grade Spanish class. I always had a knack for understanding the language and memorizing vocabulary, so that's what drew me initially to continue with Spanish into high school. Now, I've completely fallen in love with the language, and I've made it a part of my future by majoring in Spanish here at the University of Illinois!

    I have always wanted to help people in my career, and ideally, I would be able to use my Spanish skills in conjunction with this. When I was told about SPAN 232 and the premise of the class, I knew I would have to register. This class will encompass my desire to help people while using and improving my Spanish, as well as challenge me in ways I have never before experienced.

    So, before the semester progresses any further, I would like to set some goals for myself and my community learning.

    1. I want to become more comfortable with my Spanish-speaking skills. I consider myself to be pretty shy in new situations, so hopefully participating in a semester long program will help me feel more open to speaking Spanish in a public setting. 

    2. Make a difference in the community. I am working at Booker T. Washington Elementary as a tutor for a bilingual student with the after-school program S.O.A.R. for my community project. While I'll blog about this later specifically, I want to set the goal for myself to really help these kids to the best of my ability. 

    3. I want to have fun! In the end, I love Spanish, even though it can sometimes be scary. I want to learn alongside these kids and enjoy every second. :)

    I hope these goals aren't too difficult to accomplish, and I look forward to writing more about my experiences in the community!