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Thursday, August 29, 2013

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

Dr. Patricia Phillips-Batoma from the University of Illinois' Center for Translation Studies talks to Spanish majors about careers in translation and interpreting.
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:

  1. Explaining very clearly what translation and interpreting are.
  2. Inspiring students to think of career paths they can follow (and money they can make!). 
  3. 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 not learn how to do them now?



Attendees included mostly freshmen Spanish majors, but all of the "Mi Carrera" workshops are appropriate for all Spanish majors at all levels.
Darcy Lear, career coach to students of foreign languages, will be the speaker at our next "Mi Carrera" workshop: Wednesday, September 18 at 4:00 in Lucy Ellis Lounge, Foreign Languages Building.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Student Spotlight: James Peters

Click here to see James' LinkedIn profile.
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"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Welcome Students to Your Language Courses

Ms. Nola Senna, center, hosts a welcome-back party at the beginning of the school year. 
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 classroom.
  • Asks them to be partners in the learning process.
  • Assures them that this is a high-quality program with well-designed curricula.
  • Proves that she, as the Director of the Portuguese language program, is accessible face-to-face and virtually.
  • Provides a personal touch; shows that this program has character.
  • Assuages any anxiety students might feel about their course.
I think this is an excellent way to start the semester with students. At a huge univeristy like Illinois, it shows students that they are in a program that thinks of them as more than mere numbers. And for a small (but growing) language program like Portuguese, it shows that smaller can sometimes be more personalized.

Brava, Nola, for this wonderful example of how to open up the communication with all our students. I think these messages are models that all of us, in any language, can follow. (Nola is very active on social media, so please look her up to see the many other ways that she engages her students and friends with the Portuguese language and Brazilian cultures.)

The more I am around colleagues from the less-commonly taught langages, the more I learn!

Brand-new Students

Olá pessoal!
It is our pleasure to welcome you to the Portuguese Language and Brazilian Studies Program. Monday is a very special day as you'll meet your Portuguese language classmates and your instructor. You'll also find out more about the course (Course Syllabus + Calendar), our extra curricular activities (Portuguese HAPPY HOUR), and the many opportunities to meet other speakers/learners of Portuguese, practice the language and learn the about Brazilian Culture.

We commend you on making the decision to take up a less commonly taught language and discover a new world! As you know, Brazil's growing presence in the global scenario has dramatically increased the demand for Portuguese classes. This semester we have a record of 60+ beginner students!  So you're not alone!  Together with learning the language, we encourage you to learn more about the country as well. Below is the course info for a brand NEW Intro class that we're very proud to offer this Fall. There are plenty of seats left so if you still have time in your schedule, don't miss this unique opportunity. It's a 3-credit class and meeting times should not conflict with your other classes


Intro. to Brazilian Studies - 45649 - PORT 199 - BC
TOPIC: Introduction to Brazilian Studies. Meets with LAST 199.
Associated Term: Fall 2013 - Urbana-Champaign

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class6:30 pm - 7:45 pmTRForeign Languages Building 1038Aug 26, 2013 - Dec 11, 2013Lecture-DiscussionJose Cairus
We're all here to guide you through this journey to make it the most profitable and pleasant possible - with your full participation, of course! 


As director of the program, I'm always available to talk, answer questions and receive your feedback. You'll be meeting me in person sometime in the second week of school when I go around visiting all groups to greet you and talk about our teaching/learning and assessment philosophies!

Sejam bem-vindos!  
Cheers,



Nola Senna MA, MBA
Director - Undergraduate Portuguese Language and Brazilian Studies Program
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Returning Students

Olá pessoal!
It is our pleasure to welcome you back to the Portuguese Language and Brazilian Studies Program. Monday is a very special day as you'll meet/see again your Portuguese language classmates and your instructor. You'll also find out more about the course (Course Syllabus + Calendar), this semester's extra curricular activities (Portuguese HAPPY HOUR), and the many opportunities to meet other speakers/learners of Portuguese, practice the language and learn the about Brazilian Culture.

We are thrilled that you have decided to continue studying Portuguese with us. Staying on beyond PORT401 really shows your commitment to the language and that you trust us. We very much appreciate that! As you well know, Brazil's growing presence in the global scenario has dramatically increased the demand for Portuguese classes. This semester we have a record of 60+ beginner students!  So you're not alone!  

If you would like to consider (Double) Majoring or (Double) Minoring in Portuguese, let's talk! It may be easier than you think!
Together with learning the language, we encourage you to learn more about the country as well. If you're not yet enrolled, below is the course info for a brand NEW Intro class that we're very proud to offer this Fall. There are plenty of seats left so if you still have time in your schedule, don't miss this unique opportunity. It's a 3-credit class and meeting times should not conflict with your other classes.


Intro. to Brazilian Studies - 45649 - PORT 199 - BC
TOPIC: Introduction to Brazilian Studies. Meets with LAST 199.
Associated Term: Fall 2013 - Urbana-Champaign


Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class6:30 pm - 7:45 pmTRForeign Languages Building 1038Aug 26, 2013 - Dec 11, 2013Lecture-DiscussionJose Cairus


 Another great option for you is:


Luso-Brazilian Culture - 61155 - PORT 404 - I
TOPIC: "Doing Business in Brazil"
Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class5:00 pm - 6:15 pmTRLincoln Hall 1020Aug 26, 2013 - Dec 11, 2013Lecture-DiscussionNola M. Senna (P)


As you already know from past semesters, we're all here to guide you through this journey to make it the most profitable and pleasant possible - with your full participation, of course! 

As director of the program, I'm always available to talk, answer questions and receive your feedback. 

Sejam bem-vindos de volta!  
Cheers,



Nola Senna MA, MBA
Director - Undergraduate Portuguese Language and Brazilian Studies Program
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cel: (217) 418-1165
LinkedIn & Facebook 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

10 Things an Arabic Course Taught Me about Spanish Programs

Are any languages really "easy"?

by Ann Abbott

Spanish doesn't need to work very hard to attract students to its courses. Spanish is strong in high schools, so many university students simply continue on the path they have already begun. It's also viewed as a useful language, either when traveling through Spanish-speaking countries or within the US. And, let's be honest, many people see it as an "easy" language to learn.

But Spanish enrollments and number of majors have been going down at the University of Illinois. All of a sudden, we do need to start working harder to attract students!

And that's where we can learn a lot from the less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). To attract students to their courses, they do several things well: form alliances, advertise strategically and often, create eye-catching flyers, connect with heritage speakers, and more. Turns out being a "hard" language makes you create a compelling message and offer a high-quality product, just to bring in students.

So when my daughter, Giulia, decided to take Intensive Beginning Arabic this summer through the Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World at the University of Illinois, I was curious about more than just the wonderful language she was going to learn. I was interested in how they were going to teach it.

To make a long story short, Giulia had a fabulous experience in her course and in the program. Fabulous. She learned the language--the basics. She made friends. She learned a lot about cultures of the Muslim world. She came to love languages (all languages) even more. And I can say that she also matured personally a lot because of the intensive (8-weeks of daily classes) nature of the program. She was proud of her accomplishments at the end of the program, and I was proud of everything she learned.

Here's what I observed about Giulia's beginning Arabic course and the SILMW program that I think all language programs should copy.

1. Provide a full package. Giulia got a lot out of her beginning Arabic courses. But those four hours of class each day were just one part of her learning experience. There were receptions, meals, talks, conversation tables, cooking classes and so much more. Every single one of those elements contributed to Giulia's learning. Honestly, until recently, when I thought about my Spanish courses and even our whole Spanish program, I just thought about the classes and course design. We miss out on so much when we only think about the learning that takes place in class and during homework.

2. Extra credit motivates students. This is what I firmly believed until this summer: students who want extra credit should just spend more time working on the "regular credit." But then I saw how motivated Giulia was by the extra credit system in her Arabic course. Yes, she was motivated to get the points, but not just for the sake of accumulating points. You earned extra credit by attending extracurricular activities and writing about them. She really did learn "extra" with her "extra credit." And mentally, emotionally, the extra credit system was like a cushion that helped her accept less-than perfect grades that inevitably occur when you're learning a language. That didn't make her a "lazier" learner, though. No, it made her a more engaged learner. I want to re-think what extra credit could do for our Spanish program.

3. Emotions matter. I knew this. I knew about the affective filter. I knew that I wanted my classroom to be a safe place, where you can make mistakes, struggle and not feel too embarrassed. But I had never seen the emotional turmoil the learner goes through when they're not with me! As much as Giulia loved her course, her teacher and her classmates, those eight weeks were an emotional roller coaster for her. The first days of classes she broke down in tears and said, "Everyone gets it except me!" (Which wasn't true, of course.) Her confidence waxed and waned all summer long, but the days leading up to quizzes and exams were filled with anxiety. We can't take away all anxiety, but we can create a supportive, friendly environment before, during and after classes.

4. It's good to learn in English, too. I speak the target language 100% in my classes. That won't change. But I saw the real value of the information Giulia received in English. Most of the extra-curricular events were in English (also because people in the program were also studying other languages). As one example, Giulia enjoyed a talk about Arabic influences in Spanish. If presented in Arabic, she would have understood very little. Instead, throughout the program Giulia came away with a lot of cultural knowledge that was presented in English. That knowledge matters! Is it more important that our students are perfecting the past subjunctive or that they gain a deeper, more nuanced knowledge of the cultures represented through the language? They're both important, yes, but I saw this semester that there are real benefits to providing more information in English. It's not just important in later classes. It's important from the beginning. We don't do nearly enough of this in our Spanish program. I'm going to start thinking about how we can thoughtfully incorporate it.

5. Create a sense of community. Language classes naturally create a sense of community. Classes tend to be smaller. Your teacher always knows your name. You work in small groups with your classmates often. The activities that you do--the information you exchange--usually involves sharing opinions and experiences, so you eventually end up knowing your classmates quite well. But Giulia's sense of community extended to the whole program--she felt supported by her teacher, the tutor and the other teachers she met during the extracurricular activities.And her community extended to those students in SILMW who were studying other languages, too. This was accomplished in several ways:
  • Classroom spaces being near each other.
  • Extracurricular events that included all the students in the program.
  • Friendliness!
  • T shirts. Yes, t shirts! Giulia has worn her SILMW t shirt with pride during and after the course. 
Beth Chasco, the Spanish undergraduate advisor, and I have been giving a lot of thought about how to create more of a sense of community among our Spanish majors. She has worked a lot on Mi Pueblo conversation groups, and I kicked of Mi Carrera workshops last semester. But we'll need to do even more.

6. Provide tutoring. Giulia knew that she could go to her teacher before class, after class and during office hours. But she also liked having a tutor who was available and who was different than her teacher. She could sign up for tutoring through the learning management system (Compass) and get extra help. She needed that. And sometimes she just needed to know that it was available. Once, Giulia went to the tutor to get help with the sounds of Arabic. And it's so important that tutors also be positive and encouraging. The teachers get to know their students very well, so being encouraging comes naturally, I'm sure. Tutors don't have that sustained relationship with the students they see, but they also need to be positive and encouraging. Spanish has (had?) a tutoring room, which was great. But it was under-utilized, and I don't know how well TAs were trained in taking on the role of tutor. I'm sure we can do a better job with this.

7. Extra-curricular activities really do matter. Do you think that having a cooking demonstration for students is fluff? Would you consider organizing a potluck dinner at a local park to be a waste of your teaching time? From what I saw this summer, I can tell you that those things truly matter. They matter to students because they're interesting and fun. But they also matter because students learn. They do! Giulia learned food vocabulary during the cooking demonstrations. She "experienced" the cultural importance of socializing with friends when she went to the coffee shop conversations. Understanding Ramadan by going to a potluck dinner at 8:00 p.m. at Crystal Lake Park was eye-opening. The program also set up a way for students to have language partners with IEI students, and Giulia really enjoyed the time she spent with her language partner. (And at home we all enjoyed the figs from Saudi Arabia that he gave her!) In fact, she's still meeting with him, even though the course is over. We don't do any of this in Spanish. We should.

8. Give quick feedback. Giulia waited anxiously for the moments when her grades were posted to Compass. And it never took too long. (Although of course, after students have spent a lot of energy studying or writing a paper, they would love instant feedback. That's not possible, of course.) This made me realize that I take too long. Again, I saw how encouraging this was to Giulia. And it truly wasn't about grade-grubbing or caring only about the grade. She put a lot of effort into studying (most of the time...), and just wanted to see the results.

Here are a few improvements I would suggest.

9. Look at every thing from the perspective of your student/client. I found the information on the web to be a little thin and a little confusing. Certainly, the website and flyers did not reflect the richness and high quality that Giulia experienced. In other words, I don't think the program sold itself as well as it could have through its informational and promotional materials. And I, as the parent who was paying, found the registration and payment process to be pretty opaque and confusing. I would have like a price clearly stated on the website. Instead, I had to go through several different steps and phone calls to work through everything. I know that is difficult for a program like this--other offices on campus handle registration and payment. Still, every program should do a "walk-through" of their entire process from the client's point of view. Don't let your potential students/clients give up because they can't find the information they want or the payment process is too complicated.

10. Stay in touch. Giulia's knowledge of Arabic went from zero to 100 in eight short weeks. Her interest in Arabic and the Arab-speaking world went through the same transformation. Now what? How can SILMW stay in touch with its students, provide them with interesting information, sustain their learning even after the class is over? This is important because Giulia will want to take the intermediate level in a future summer. The other students might do the same. But out of sight, out of mind. I have found that my Facebook Group for my students ("like it" if you want!) is a great way to stay in touch with students who might take another course with me, or even alums who might someday donate their time or money to my programs. During the summer, especially, I like to post music videos, fun pictures, comics, links to articles, all kinds of little things that keep Spanish on their minds.

So that's it. Ten things I learned about Spanish programs from my daughter's Arabic course. And I learned this because I had an insider's look at the student's experience. These ideas didn't come from sitting around the table at a faculty meeting. And they didn't come from a student survey. I'm not saying that surveys aren't important, but they don't always ask the "right" questions. And my daughter wouldn't have been able to articulate everything that I just stated above. I brought my experiences as a language educator and as a parent together and was rewarded with really important insights into how to enhance our students' engagement in our courses, increase their learning, and attract even more students.

And I'm certainly not advocating that we have "taco dinners" and pass around sombreros for our students to wear. We can do these things with intellectual rigor.

Congratulations to Ercan Balci and the Illinois Department of Linguistics for providing such a wonderful learning experience for Giulia--and for me!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Learning Styles and Spanish Community Service Learning

Click here to take a quick quiz to find out your learning style
by Ann Abbott

I took this online quiz about learning styles and scored highest on "Intrapersonal." As someone who has committed her work to Spanish community service learning, it's no surprise that reflection is one of the hallmarks of this learning style. Self-reflection is one of the hallmarks of the CSL pedagogy.

But are all the learning styles compatible with CSL? There are students who are very uncomfortable with ambiguity, messy problems, evolving timelines, and emerging issues. Those are the very characteristics of CSL and, for me, what makes it such a rich and vibrant learning experience.

What is your learning style? How does that mesh with teaching CSL? Handling the relationships with your community partners? Explaining your work to colleagues?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Business Spanish: Turning Students into Social Media Marketing Consultants

Students might know about social media, but most do not know about social media marketing. That's what I'll be teaching them this semester, and that's what they will be doing for their consulting clients.
by Ann Abbott

It's been two years since I taught our "Spanish for Business" course. I missed it.

Business Spanish is, according to my friend Darcy Lear, a "hot-potato course:" it's on the books on many campuses, but the faculty don't like it, don't want it and aren't really sure how to teach it.

Not me. I love this course. Because I love business, and I love Spanish. Let me be clear, though. I love business not in a business school kind of way. Certainly not in a Republican, free-enterprise kind of way. And I don't love it in a business-is-better-than-the-humanities kind of way.

I love the creativity of business. The problem-solving involved in business. I absolutely love how it is solution-oriented. If you truly know about about business (not just stereotypes), you know that being successful in business requires critical thinking, an ability to recognize and appreciate multiple perspectives, excellent communication skills--all things that we tout as hallmarks of the humanities.

So coming back to teaching "Business Spanish" feels like an opportunity for me to do more than just teach what I love. I'm taking this as an opportunity to use all those things I love about business...and treat my course like a business!
My Business Spanish students will be social media marketing consultants.
When I described my plans to my friend Holly Nibert, she told me I was brave. Yeah. I like that!

Here's my plan in a nutshell:

  • I have 20 students.
  • I will form five teams of four students.
  • Each team will manage one social media account for one client.
  • I will teach students about social media marketing, and they will implement the concepts into posts for their clients.
  • In addition to their posts, students will produce three items: 1) a consulting contract; 2) a social media marketing plan; and 3) a poster that represents their work and their learning.

There are many other details, of course. I'll share those as I post throughout the semester.

Do you think students will like this? Do you think they will learn from it? Are you teaching Business Spanish? Are you changing things, too? Let me know!