Showing posts from 2013

Creative Entrepreneur: Brittany Koteles

by Ann Abbott

Just a few years ago, Brittany Koteles was a University of Illinois student in my course titled "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities."

Now she embodies that title.

Among her many accomplishments, Brittany pushed a referendum for her school in her hometown when she was in high school; in college she designed her own major; she worked for Ashoka; she did a Fulbright in Barcelona; she authored case studies of several Catalonian social entrepreneurs; she worked on a social enterprise start-up (Hub, Barcelona); and more.

Now she and a partner have crowd-sourced the financing for a short film and shot it! Click on the image below to see a trailer for the film.

Bow is the e-mail I received from her yesterday--in three languages plus a greeting in Turkish. She is a model for all my students.

Dear friends,

Two months ago, we had a dream to make a short film. With your help, we did much
more than that. Because of the critical mass of 128 co-f…

Student Spotlight: Cassie Grimm

by Ann Abbott

I just received the e-mail that every entrepreneurship educator wants to receive: a former student telling me that she's working on a start-up!

Here's Cassie's message. Watch the video above and click on the website. This looks like it could take off!

*Also note this: her e-mail is perfectly crafted (although either "Profesora Abbott" or "Ann" would have been better). I read this e-mail, checked my calendar, and replied, "Sure. See you on Friday in 4006 FLB." She didn't make me work. She didn't make me try to remember her. (Maybe adding a picture would have been even more helpful.) She didn't put the burden of scheduling onto me. And most importantly, she told me exactly, specifically, unequivocally what she wanted from me: permission to upload my syllabus. I already know the answer is yes, so now I will be able to spend some time with Cassie on Friday just learning more about how things are going for her and for this…

Student Spotlight: Amanda White Is Going to Brazil on a Fulbright

by Ann Abbott

I love hearing from former students. Their stories inspire me, and I also think they are role models for current students.

Amanda White sent an e-mail this morning about her upcoming stint as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Brazil. It's important to see how she got to this point.

She studied abroad on our year-long program to Barcelona.She took "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Entrepreneurship" with me--doing her community service learning work with full dedication.She went to Spain as a Fulbright ETA. I wrote a letter for her, and in her letter I was able to give very specific examples of how she would make an ideal ETA in Spain because I had seen her in action in the community service learning courses. In other words, my examples went beyond the normal comments about her classroom academic abilities.She worked with a career coach (I'm not sure about the details) upon her return to the US. She was looking for ways in which…

Student Project Is an Example of What Virtual Volunteering Could Look Like

by Ann Abbott

A student who will be in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course next semester shared with me a series of YouTube videos he made about the University of Illinois. After studying abroad in Costa Rica and spending time with his host family, he wanted to come back and show them a big part of his life in the United States: his college campus.

Watch his introductory video below and click here to see the entire video playlist.

This is a wonderful project for so many reasons, but I'd like to highlight the way it models how language programs can use "virtual volunteering" for community service learning.

If students produced a similar series of videos about bicycle laws in Champaign-Urbana, they could contribute greatly to a real community need. (Many local Latinos ride bicycles, and when the cities recently changed bicycle lanes and began monitoring bicycle traffic more closely, this created a number of problems for our local Latino community.)What if s…

Thanks from the Community

by Ann Abbott

Students work in the community and don't always know just how much others appreciated their work. 

Here is a note from Ronnie Kahn at La Casa about students who participated in the event for Latino families.

Hi Beth and Anne,I want to thank you for putting out the call for background checks for students to work with the younger siblings for Latina/o Family Visit Day.  A separate sibling track allows us to create programming that they enjoy, while relieving child care duties from parents or older siblings.  Your call for volunteers allowed us to have enough people to hold the younger sibling program throughout the day.
Thanks for your support of this important retention program; I am sure the committee will outreach to you in future years, Ronnie 

Tutorials in Spanish about Pinterest and Social Media Marketing

by Ann Abbott

In yesterday´s blog post I shared what students want to do in my Business Spanish class which is also a social media marketing consulting workshop. One student indicated that he-she would like to learn more about Pinterest. Since I have a limited amount of time in class, I want to share these tutorials with students and let them access them if they want and when they want.
Tutoriales en SlideShare"Guía rápida de Pinterest
Guía rápida de Pinterest from Ricardo Llera ¨ "Uso colaborativo de Pinterest"  
Uso colaborativo de Pinterest from Melisa Penélope
¨Pinterest para empresas¨ Pinterest para empresas from María Bretón

¨Pinterest para marcas¨
Pinterest para marcas from Claudia Díaz
Tutoriales en YouTube

¨Caso de éxito¨

Giving Students a Voice in a Service Learning Course

by Ann Abbott

In a previous post I explained how I allowed students to choose the chapters of the textbook that we would study this semester. That is one way to give students voice in the course.

Yesterday I walked into class and said (in Spanish), "Pull out a piece of paper and a pen. Write down what you want to do during today's class. In other words, what do you need at this point in the semester and at this point with your consulting projects?"

These were the results, in descending order of frequency:
Spend time working with their team.Discuss their posts. Specifically, some people wanted to inject more variety in their posts and get new ideas.Manage client relationships. Specifically, one person wanted to change the frequency with which the team sent posts to the client (from every week to every two weeks), and another simply wanted to work out a better process for communicating with the client.See the work that other teams have done for their clients.Do work from ou…

Volunteer Opportunities Abound for Current and Past Students of "Spanish in the Community"

Latina/o Family Visit Day: Sunday, October 13 Contact: Ronnie Kann,, 217-244-5941

I am reaching out to you personally and to your organization to volunteer for Latina/o Family Visit Day on Sunday, October 13th.   We are in need of people to work two hour or more timeslots.  We are in dire need of people who have been background checked to work with the younger children.  If you are able to work, can you indicate hours that you are free (between 8:00 and 4:00). Every little bit helps. I have attached an excel chart for your name, contact information, hours you would like to work and whether you have been background checked or not.  Those students who have been background checked (Education majors; America Reads, America Counts; volunteer activity in school) will be assigned to work with the little kid. Please share this excel with members of your org and  other students who might be willing to help us out (they don’t have to speak Spanish).
As always, if you have quest…

How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines to Consulting Clients

by Ann Abbott
As the semester progresses and my experiment with turning my traditional Business Spanish course into a hands-on social media marketing consulting business continues, this is my top lesson so far: In this new territory, I need to learn precisely what my students need to learn. So far, I see that they need to learn things I never imagined I needed to teach.  I'll share the list of things that students need to learn in a future blog post. For now, I want to zoom in on one area of professional communication about which students need explicit instruction: the subject lines of emails to clients.

When looking for some guidance on this issue, most of the information that popped up on Google was about internet marketing; in other words, how to send e-mails with subject lines that make people want to open them so that they will read your email newsletter, sales offer, etc. (Here's an example of "how to get them to click" advice.) Buried in there, I found some adv…

How Students Can Choose the Textbook Chapters They Want to Cover in a Semester

by Ann Abbott

I´m teaching Business Spanish this semester, and it feels like I'm teaching two different courses in one. First, all my students are working in teams as social media marketing consultants for a real-life client. Secondly, I still want to cover some of the fundamentals of a traditional Business Spanish course.

Exito comercial is the go-to book for any Business Spanish course. But it's a monster! There is so much content, that even if you are not also teaching social media marketing (was I crazy?), you would still need to be selective about the content that you cover in one semester.

I asked students to select the chapters that they want to cover, following the set of activities in the pictures below. If you'd like a pdf of the lesson plan, just e-mail me (, and I will send it to you.

Tally results below the pictures.

Top 4 chapters

An Example of the Long-Term Impacts of Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott
Seeing your students succeed is a true pleasure. Today I received an e-mail from a former student who just accepted a job offer. I was a reference for her. The company was eager to hire her before she accepted an offer from anyone else. When I spoke glowingly of her, I was simply confirming the impression the company had already formed of her. I can honestly say that everything they wanted her for were qualities that I had already seen when she was my student in my Spanish course on social entrepreneurship that involves community service learning.

And here's the kicker: she was my student seven and a half years ago.

7 1/2 years. 

Seven and half years later, she still remembers what we did in that course. She still remembers the 1-page business plan assignment. She still remembers her work in the community--in Champaign-Urbana and Chicago.

Of course, I'm not saying my course made her successful. I am saying, though, that this kind of course reveals talents that are…

Writing a Mission Statement for the Spanish and Portuguese Language Programs

by Ann Abbott
In my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies, I have the privilege of working with a team of people who all have unique and very important perspectives about our students.

Melanie Waters directs the very first language courses that most students take. In many ways, she holds the key to the first impressions we make on students. She is also key in training our TAs so that they provide excellent teaching to students in whatever course they eventually teach.Brenden Carollo directs the fourth-semester courses, when students have choices. They can take a grammar-based course or a Spanish in the Professions course. In many ways, he holds the key to helping students decide if they will continue with Spanish or not.Florencia Henshaw stepped into the new role of coordinating all the "skills" courses for our majors and minors--Reading, Review of Grammar, Oral Spanish and Composition. She has a lot (!) of work, but by overseeing all these courses she can see how they wo…

Small Touches Have Big Impact When Promoting Your Language Programs

by Ann Abbott

I am so happy about everything that I am learning from my friends and colleagues in the less commonly taught languages. Today they showed me the power of creating displays that capture students' attention.

As I walked through the lobby of our Foreign Languages Building earlier today, I saw tables set up with lots of flyers, suckers, chocolates and signs that said things like: "Take a flyer, take a piece of candy." There were at least 100 pieces of candy lying on the tables. The flyers were colorful, arranged in neat stacks, displayed at curious angles and skirted the entire table. There was no one manning the booth at the time, but the table was so intriguing that I wanted to go look at their information, even though I am not a student.

Later in the day when I passed by, Mithilesh Mishra who teaches Hindi was behind the booth, talking to many students who were surrounding the booth. The pictures here don't capture the number of students who were there, …

Help at the Parent Teacher Conferences at Central High School

by Ann Abbott

I just received another e-mail from the administrative staff at a local school, showing how much our students' Spanish skills are needed in the community.

Let's help them out again this semester!
We are once again in need of volunteers to help with Spanish translating during our parent teacher conferences next month.  Last semester your student’s help was a godsend.

I am hoping you can help us out again this semester?  Our conferences are Thursday, October 24th from 5:00pm to 8:00pm and Friday, October 25th from 8:00am to 12:00pm.  If you know of anyone that might be interested in helping, could you please have them email me at

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can send my way.
Joan I. Strater
Main Office Secretary
Champaign Central High School
(217) 351-3911
(217) 351-3919 Fax

Community Partner Relationships: An Acknowledgement of Spanish Students' Impact

by Ann Abbott
One of the volunteer coordinators at a local school with whom I have worked for many years is handing over her duties at that school to a new coordinator. I sent her a message wishing her well in her new role and thanking her for everything that she has done to help both me and my students over the years.
Her reply: Annie,
Thanks you for the kind words.  I will miss working with you and your students!  What a blessing you all have been to our bilingual students and teachers.   You were the first group of volunteers I was fortunate enough to work with, and you're still my favorite.
Take care,   When we do Spanish community service learning, we fill real community-identified needs. Our work is important, in big and small ways.

Communication is the key to successful community-campus partnerships. Communicate often with your partners. Communicate in order to celebrate good things. Communicate so that everyone is in the loop about challenges, too. Communicate because that is…

Career Coaching for Foreign Language Students: Our second "Mi Carrera" workshop for Fall 2013

by Ann Abbott

Dr. Darcy Lear will be a special guest speaker at our "Mi Carrera" series on Wednesday, September 18 at 4:00 in the Lucy Ellis Lounge of the Foreign Languages Building at the Unversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. You can read her blog to get lots of in-depth advice about how to highlight your language skills and cultural-know how. But if you come to the workshop, you will get personalized advice based on your own study-abroad experience, coursework, community service learning, business Spanish coursework and all other pertinent experiences. Freshman or senior, it's never too early or too late to position yourself to stand out in the crowded job market.

Careers in Translation and Interpreting for Spanish Majors: a Presentation by Patricia Phillips-Batoma

by Ann Abbott

Yesterday we had our very first "Mi Carrera" workshop for Spanish majors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Patricia Phillips-Batoma from the Center for Translation Studies set a wonderful tone for the rest of the semester by doing three things:
Explaining very clearly what translation and interpreting are.Inspiring students to think of career paths they can follow (and money they can make!). Demonstrating how translators do their work. There's nothing like being at a workshop in person, but Dr. Phillips-Batoma kindly shared her slides which you can see below. The main takeaways include: There is a lot of demand for Spanish translation and interpreting jobs.You need some training.Freelancing is the dominant work model--and you can make good money.Furthermore,  I pointed out to students that even if you do not become a professional translator/interpreter, as a bilingual in any profession you will probably be called upon to do those things. Why…

Student Spotlight: James Peters

by Ann Abbott

I've blogged about James Peters before, and I just wanted to add this quick update. I received a message from him just today, and I am so impressed by his work in a country that is rarely talked about: Paraguay.

"Hello from Paraguay! Sorry it has been so long- I have not had internet for the pat year. I have been pretty isolated down here but it has been an amazing experience. I'd say that I pretty much think and only speak in Spanish most days while I can retreat to the local indigenous language-Guarani. Thank you so much for all of your support through our time at U of I, I would love to come back and visit and talk to you about my experiences, if you are interested. Thanks again,

James Peters"

How to Welcome Students to Your Language Courses

by Ann Abbott

Classes at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign start tomorrow. I'll be teaching "Business Spanish" and "Spanish in the Community."

I enjoy the first day of classes, even though I get a case of the jitters each year. I like meeting the new students, and I enjoy thinking of ways to make the first class engaging so that they will want to come back.

But my colleague Nola Senna starts engaging with her students before she even sees them. Read the emails below--the first one is for students taking their very first Portuguese course and the second is for returning students. Notice the ways that she accomplishes the following:

Makes the students feel like they have made a smart choice to study Portuguese.Puts their coursework on the Portuguese language into a global context.Shows students that she cares about them--and about the Portuguese program being a success.Creates a sense of community. Lists ways that they can take their learning beyond the cl…