Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Student Reflection

by Jacqui Kukulski

That wasn’t the earth opening up and swallowing me up was it? I certainly hope not, but sometimes it looks like that happens to some people. I was helping translate for a man the other day and he was supposed to have a follow up appointment a long time ago, but he understood that he would get a letter in the mail telling him when his next appointment was. He had many problems and there was a bit of confusion but what was the saddest part was there wouldn’t have been any confusion if he hadn’t been forgotten. I haven’t been at Frances Nelson long enough to witness a lot of this, but the feeling I get is that this is all too common.

Patients don’t always get appointments. The schedule fills up faster than the patients can get an appointment. Patients miss appointments or never make a follow up. It was suggested to this man that he needs to take responsibility for himself, and make sure he gets the appointments he needs. But what about his side of it? He doesn’t speak English. He probably hasn’t grown up with an American’s mentality of going to the doctor. We explain so often that you need to see an eye doctor and a dentist too, but as I was growing up, we always went. We never missed a year. It’s hard for me to understand why you wouldn’t go to a dentist, but that’s because I grew up knowing that you go to the dentist at least once a year. This patient probably immigrated here and we should be happy that he got himself to a doctor in the first place.

The saddest story I’ve heard is about a woman who was having a bad reaction to a medication, and no one caught that it was from the medication for over two years. No one, save a very compassionate translator. Without this translator, this woman wouldn’t have gotten an appointment, and no one would have been alerted to the fact that the reaction could be from some medication.

I only deal with the Spanish speaking patients, so I don’t know if these instances occur with the English speaking patients. Also, I can only assume that this is the same that happens at every clinic. There must people who simply fall through the cracks, I hope it’s not true. But now, this raises another question: why are they falling through the cracks? Is it because they don’t have insurance? Is it because they speak Spanish? Is it because the doctors aren’t taking the time to listen to their patients?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I also don’t think there’s a simple answer. There never seems to be a simple answer to something so complicated. When I first started working at Frances Nelson, I saw doctors as someone who was nice, helped people and prescribed medicine. Now, having seen the system from another side, the non-patient side, I realize that healthcare needs to be so much more than that. It needs to take care of the whole person and it needs to be the one person or group of people that still watch out for you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Advice from Former Spanish CSL Student: Internships and Volunteering in Latin America

by Ann Abbott

I just heard from one of my former students, Sarah Moauro, who has built a wonderful international life for herself in Latin America. I know that so many of my current students would love to do exactly what Sarah is doing, and she actually has some really good, specific advice. If you want to contact Sarah, just let me know (!

Here's Sarah's message:

Hi Ann,

I hope you're doing well and that it's not too cold yet in Illinois! I was just thinking that if you have any students coming to/studying in Buenos Aires or Latin America in general this year, here are a couple of ideas you could let them know about.

Over the last couple of months, I have been volunteering at an NGO called Fundacion Pro Vivienda Social. They do microfinance programs to help communities improve their housing and neighborhoods by developing infrastructure. They're almost always looking for more interns, helping with research or with communications, so it is something that could be useful for a lot of backgrounds (economics, political science, business, marketing are the most common). They usually ask interns to commit to 3 months.

If you have students coming to Buenos Aires that are interested in journalism (as well as marketing/event planning at times), I have friends that work for a English-speaking newspaper down here called The Argentina Independent. They always have a set of interns and the paper gets involved in some pretty interesting things (as well as have a fun community).

Also, for anyone coming to Latin America to study or volunteer, I have a friend who works for a scholarship fund that gives out two scholarships of $500 every month. It's called LIVfund and is pretty new - it's something that I think would interest people that take your courses.

Anyways, I just wanted to say hello and share these with you - from personal experiences, I know that finding good places to volunteer and intern without paying to do it isn't as easy as it should be.

There are more things you can do around here that involve basic volunteering (teaching English in a poorer neighborhood a couple hours a week, weekend activities for groups like Un Techo para mi Pais that is similar to Habitat for Humanity), but I wanted to send you things that were more internship/work experience related. Feel free to put people in touch with me if anyone is interested in any of them.

All the best,


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Champaign-Urbana: Volunteer Opportunity on Saturday

by Ann Abbott

Please consider volunteering and using your Spanish at this event:

This Saturday, November 12 from 10:00AM till 2:00PM there is a community fair at Lincoln Square in Urbana. Volunteers are needed. The name of the event is called "A community fair to connect working families with local services in East-Central Illinois," and participants will share information on where to obtain free medicare, dental services, access to healthy food, and so on. 

WHEN: November 12, 10:00AM - 2:00PM
WHERE: Lincoln Square, 201 Lincoln Square, Urbana

Please contact Guadalupe at:
Phone: 217-344-8455

Monday, November 7, 2011

"You Have the Right to Remain Silent": Spanish Community Service Learning and Our Legal Rights

by Ann Abbott

What would you do if the police knocked on your door?

My first instinct would be to open it. 

But I would fight that instinct. I would ask them through the closed door what they wanted. Until I figured out the situation, I would give no information beyond my name. 

If the conversation continued, I would ask them if they had a warrant. If they said no, I would stop communicating. If they said yes, I would ask them to slip it under the door for me to verify. Those are  my rights.

I am a US citizen. White. I live in a very good neighborhood. I was raised to see the police as my ally. Truly, I don't think I have any reason to fear them. I want to be a good citizen, and I want to help the police create a safe community for all of us.

But it is our right to remain silent--and not just after they have arrested you, despite all the chatty people you see on Law & Order.

I teach this in my "Spanish in the Community" course. It's in Lección 14 ("¿Qué se debe hacer durante una redada?"), and students tell me that they had no idea what their rights were. Most also think it's something they don't have to worry about. They've probably never found themselves on the wrong side of the law and cannot imagine ever finding themselves in that situation. Ever.

Of course it can happen to anyone. But the larger lesson for my students is that the community members we serve need to know this information--citizens, legal residents, documented immigrants and undocumented immigrants. These rights are for all of us.

And this morning, I read a case from the community that illustrates exactly why I teach this information to my students"

"Esta manana oficiales de immigracion entraron a uno de los barrios donde viven muchos Latinos en Champaign y detuvieron a una persona que estaba saliendo de su casa. Le preguntaron su nombre y pidieron ID. Cuando el hombre entro a su casa por su ID ellos fueron tras el, le hicieron mas preguntas y al final lo arrestaron. POR FAVOR cuando alguien asi se acerque no tienen obligacion de responder a mas preguntas. Solo deben dar su nombre. Si los oficiales no tienen una orden de arresto con su nombre, firmada por un juez y con su direccion no tienen derecho de entrar a su casa pero si ustedes les dejan la puerta abierta ellos entran. No les abran la puerta. Estos oficiales aparentemente estaban buscando a alguien mas pero se llevaron arrestada a esta persona. Cuidense."

Comunidades also has an activity that asks students to explore and question our concept of "success" (pp. 94-95). One item involves community-police relations: "Un grupo de padres que colabora con la policía local con la intención de disminuir la criminalidad en su vecindario." Students almost always say that, yes, that is an example of successful people. I then point out that although the intention may be noble, in some communities collaborating with the police may be seen as a betrayal. We need to understand that our lived reality with the police--which informs our perspective on them--may not be the same as everyone else's. Some immigrants may bring with them the notion that police are corrupt and not to be trusted. (Well, some people in the US might feel the same way, in fact.) Some people may not be able to distinguish the difference between the police and ICE officials. "Secure Communities" has created much mistrust between immigrant communities and local police. 

I am certainly not against the police and their role in public safety. However, I do want my students to ask themselves and others if a man leaving his home, as in the example above, has anything to do with public safety. What crime was he committing? Why was it necessary to arrest him? Was that a good use of police time and effort? Did that make our community safer in any way? I also want students to understand more about ICE, Secure Communities and other policies that determine police relations with our local communities. 

This may be a controversial post. Do you have an opinion to share? Do you know what your rights are? How much do you know about ICE, Secure Communities and crime rates among immigrants? What are the facts versus the media hype? Please leave a comment if you have a perspective to share!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Languages for Specific Purposes: One Look at the Role of Community Service Learning in LSP

by Ann Abbott

I was very happy to receive my copy of Specialised Languages in the Global Village: A Multi-Perspective Approach (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011) in the mail today. The book focuses on languages for specific purposes (LSP) and was edited by Carmen Pérez-Llantada and Maida Watson.

My contribution was Chapter Two "Social Entrepreneurship and Community Service Learning: Building Sustainable Non-profits and Language Programs" (p. 27-45). 

You can see in the table of contents that the chapters cover a wide range of issues. I would especially recommend the chapter by Stefanie Stadler for anyone who is working on intercultural competence (and aren't we all). There are also very insightful pieces by several of my CIBER colleagues who have become my friends: Christine Uber Grosse, Maida Watson and Mary Risner.

The book is described in this way: "The status of LSP (Languages for Specialised Purposes) in the contemporary socio-cultural context is an ongoing central issue of scholarly debate. Specialised languages in the global village examines the impact of globalisation on intercultural communication within specialised communities of practice. The contributions of the volume provide linguistically and pedagogically-informed discussion on modes of communication practice in professional and institutional domains, frames of social action and the construction of professional identities. The contributors also address issues of languages and social entrepreneurship, and the acquisition and development of linguistic/cultural competence in foreign languages for specialised purposes. The edition is a valuable reading for researchers in LSP, specialists in the fields of discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and scholars in the area of rhetoric and composition. It is also of interest for professional translators, language editors and language advisors in the fields of specialised academic/professional communication. LSP instructors and foreign language teachers will also find informed guidelines and useful pedagogical proposals for classroom implementation."

I first met Maida (Florida International University) when I went on the study trip she leads in Spain for instructors of business Spanish. Soon after that professional development trip, Maida and I co-authored an article about experiential learning and professional development programs: A Business Language Faculty Development Program with Experiential Learning,” in Global Business Languages 11 (2006): 3-21. Since then we continue to meet at each year's CIBER Business Languages Conference (this year it will be at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), and I went to Miami last winter to speak at the conference they organize for K-12 teachers of business languages.

In short, languages for specific purposes is an up and coming field within linguistics and has a place, I would argue, in cultural studies. The Modern Language Journal will soon come out with a special LSP issue. (My colleague, Darcy Lear, will have an article in it about the intersections between LSP and CSL.) It is the subject of many conference presentations, not just at CIBER's business languages conference. And the field is perhaps most developed already in Europe. I am happy, then, to have a chapter in this book that gathers many helpful studies and provides solid bibliographies for further research.