Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sign Up Today for SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"

Sign up today. We need ten students in the 4:00 section!
by Ann Abbott
  • Would you like to take a Spanish course that is different from all the others?
  • Do you want some real-world experience in professional settings? 
  • Want to create a resume section titled "Bilingual Professional Experiences"and stand out on the job market?
  • Sign up now for SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"! 
  • We especially need students in the 4:00 section. 
  • If you haven't taken SPAN 208 but you want to give this class a try, go ahead and sign up
  • If you're still not sure, watch this video in which I explain the course. (It's short; less than five minutes.)

Why should you take SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"?

You will speak Spanish. Lots of it.

Students often complain that they take Spanish classes but rarely have the chance to actually practice Spanish in them. In class you listen to the professor and to a few students who raise their hands. There's lots of reading, and while the texts are important, they don't necessarily reflect the students' own interests. And writing? It's high-pressure, high-stakes writing for tests and papers. But where is the speaking? That's what many students really want. They want to be able to speak Spanish so that they can interact with Spanish-speakers, not just to answer questions like, "¿Qué pensaron del artículo que leyeron para hoy?"

In SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" you'll speak a lot.

In class, every student speaks in Spanish, every day. Does that sound like a lot of pressure? Actually, it's a lot of fun. You'll be sharing your ideas with your classmates who want to know what you did in the community, what you think about immigration reform, how does bilingual education actually work, *not* whether your grammar is perfect or not.

In the community, you'll use Spanish to accomplish something: help kids do their math homework or improve their reading fluency; decipher a complicated insurance claim form and explain it in Spanish to someone who was robbed; make a phone call in English on behalf of someone whose landlord won't respond to their requests; or something as simple as greet clients in Spanish and with a smile--you might be the only person that day who didn't give them dirty looks for speaking Spanish or accented-English.

You will prepare yourself to be a bilingual professional--whatever that profession might be.

Yes, you need a solid based of Spanish vocabulary and grammar to be able to use Spanish in your future profession. And all the Spanish courses at Illinois should give you that. But you need something more. You need to build some intercultural competence by actually working with people of different cultures. You need to see that you can make mistakes in Spanish and still be understood by native speakers. But you also need to see that there are some cases where you really need to get it right; and that requires you to be resourceful, to use on-the-spot quick thinking to look things up on-line, make a quick phone call to an expert, or call your supervisor over for help. 

Being a bilingual professional is all about negotiating meaning. Working among--and in between--languages. Building up confidence in your Spanish but also learning strategies for those times when you have reached your limits. Understanding that it's not just the words you speak but what they mean to the other person, because words and culture go hand in hand.

You can talk about that in a classroom. (Does anyone really talk about that in their classes though?) But you'll experience it when you work in the community in SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community."

You can bring your feelings about social justice to life. Or just think things through.

Do you think social justice is about marching? Making signs and yelling? Being self-righteously moody about trendy causes? Do you think it's about thinking critically about what's going on in the world, whether you decide to do anything about it or not? Can we tweet our way toward social justice? Can just being a student in SPAN 232, doing your work in the community and completing your assignments have an impact on some of the most vulnerable communities in Champaign-Urbana?

If you are already passionate about politics, immigration and Latin America, this course will be a perfect fit for you.

If you hate the news and never talk politics, it's still a good fit for you. We talk about study abroad, how schools work in other countries and how to figure out the rather complex Hispanic naming system. We watch music videos, write thank-you notes and analyze some census data for Illinois counties. You don't have to become a radical! You'll just come out on the other side of the semester more informed. 

You'll be in an engaging class with a professor/instructor who is a passionate, creative expert.

No boring lectures! You'll be working in groups. Sometimes you'll be walking around the class, asking your classmates questions. You'll work with partners, but never the same one all the time. You'll use your smartphone (or your partner's) in class to look up information on the web, take pictures and upload them or even make a short video.

If you sign up for the 1:00 section, you'll have Rejane Dias. She's taught the course before and has loads of experience both teaching Spanish and doing community-based work. Students love her.

If you sign up for the 4:00 section--please, please sign up for the 4:00 section because we need ten students--, I (Ann Abbott) will be your professor. Not to brag (ack! how can I say this without sounding like I am bragging?!), but I am an award-winning teacher who also shows up consistently on "the list"--you know, the list of excellent teachers based on students' ratings at the end of the semester. I write strong, detailed letters of recommendation for my students, even long after they have graduated. I love teaching, respect my students and enjoy watching my students learn and grow.


  1. What an exciting class! If I could, I would send all my Belgian students to take your class!

  2. Gracias, Carolina. I wish we were closer and could actually build student collaborations. :)