Saturday, August 30, 2014

Business Spanish: Wrapping up the first week

by Ann Abbott

I have two goals for my teaching this semester:
  1. On Sundays, plan my classes for the upcoming week.
  2. Post those lesson plans on my blog.
Bold? Inspired? Lunatic? I'm not sure. But I do know that planning ahead, like I used to when I was a TA, will help me feel less crazed during the week. With 23 years of teaching experience under my belt, frankly, I can pull off almost anything. But I'd rather not.

These were my lesson plans for last week. The first week of classes.

Business Spanish, Week 1


1. Names. After calling roll and doing a few activities, I always quiz students on the other students' names.
2. Your idea of the course. In pairs, students introduced themselves, then talked for five minutes about why they signed up for the course and what they thought the course will be like.
FACEBOOK Students got out their laptops, tablets, phones and went to our Facebook page where I had put up all the links ahead of time. Feel free to like the page, too! UIUC Spanish Service Learning
3. My vision of the course. Students read my blog post about the three things I want to focus on in Business Spanish this semester. Then in pairs they had to share their reactions to the blog post. Together, they wrote one comment on our Facebook thread for the day, describing their reactions.)
4. I showed them this platform for professionals to share their information and showed them how it is more visual and creative than LinkedIn. I tried to show them how to search it using key words that interested them (e.g., ingeniería, informática, Honduras, Madrid), but my connection to the internet kept coming and going.
5. Consulting project. We looked at our client's current Facebook page. Students gave their first impressions and gave suggestions of things we could do to help them with their page.
6. Details of the course. Students quickly saw the details of the course in our university's learning management system.


Éxito comercial. We began with the "lectura comercial" in the first chapter of the textbook, but as I had suspected, almost none of the students had bought the book. That was fine, though, because I had prepared the day's lesson with that in mind.
1. Globalización. I talked to students for several minutes about the story of Giuseppe, my brother-in-law, and his businesses. Students had to take notes, and at the end prepare one question for me. Here are the main points I covered, designed to highlight how globalization is not just about huge multinational corporations.
  • My in-laws had a small sewing factory in northern Italy where they did prêt-à-porter work. 
  • When labor prices became too high for the contracts that the designers were willing to pay, they closed their "laboratorio" just like so many other in the same area.
  • With some friends, Giuseppe went to Hungary and started a clothing factory there. His "socios" were in Italy and got contracts from companies like Benetton and Armani Exchange. (This was a move from pret a porter to more mass-produced clothing with designer labels.) This was not a smooth transition!
  • The textiles often came from India and China. The machinery came from Italy. The workers were Hungarians from a small town.
  • When Hungary entered the European Union and labor costs rose again, Giuseppe and his partners kept the factory in Hungary but expanded into Ukraine where, among other things, they make motocross leather jumpsuits and accessories. 
  • Cultural notes: At the very beginning, the workers asked to be paid in food items (potatoes) instead of currency. When Giuseppe would cross the border into Ukraine, he would be driven by security professionals because of the bandits on the highways. He encountered corruption. (I won't publish the details!) 
  • The current political crisis in Ukraine (with Russia) is occurring in a different region of the country, but of course the political unrest has economic repercussions: the western European countries from whom they receive the contracts are leary about giving their contract to a factory in such an unstable situation.
2. Liderazgo y ética. Frases célebres. The book includes some famous quotes about leadership, and I had students google "Frases célebres liderazgo." One-third of the room had to look that up using, the other third used and the other third used They compared their results, which were indeed pretty similar. My point was for them to see that they can miss good information in Spanish if they only ever use Then in pairs they had to share their favorite quote and explain why they liked it. I told them we would choose one of the frases célebres as our class slogan.
3. Los números. The textbook has a great section on numbers, and the cultural differences one encounters with numbers. Here are the numbers I put on the board and the questions I asked:
  1. 2/5/68. What month was I born in? If I were in Argentina, what month would people think I was born in?
  2. 120 kilometros. Is Chicago 120 kilometers away from Champaign? Less? More?
  3. 42 degrees. In Madrid, is that hot or cold?
  4. 8h15. In Madrid, is that the morning or the evening? What about 20h15?
  5.,00. How much is this? (Hint: no, it is not one billion; that is what we say in English.)


1. Nuestro lema. As a follow up from the previous class, students got back together with their partners and chose the one frase célebre they wanted to pitch to the class as our class slogan. Their instructions were to get in front of the class and read the quote (with energy!) then explain why they think it should be chosen. They did a great job. One student tallied the votes, and the winning team will email me the quote so that I can add it to our Compass homepage and in other materials throughout the semester.
In pairs, students had to stand in front of the class, present the famous quote they chose and explain why they thought it should be our class's guiding slogan.

These two students are pitching the "frase célebre" that they chose.

2. Social media. Students indicated which social media platforms they use. Important: the only platform they all were on was Snapchat. Vocabulary: they needed to know almohadilla # and arroba @.
3. Twitter. We did a worksheet about Twitter that I prepared a few years ago, and it went really, well. At the end of the worksheet, we tried to distinguish between social media and social media marketing in the tweets included in the worksheet.
4. Social media marketing. As a conclusion, I emphasized that we have to distinguish between social media and social media marketing. That is what we will concentrate on this semester. I gave them two examples of possible posts and asked if each one was marketing or not.
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Many in the class correctly said that they were both marketing messages. I told them that marketing can be very creative, but it is also fundamentally about letting people know you exist, what you do, how you can be contacted and how you can make clients' lives better.

One student told me after class that she had an internship this summer as a social media marketer for a local company. Exciting! She will add a lot of wisdom to the course and our consulting project.

I hope this information will be helpful to other Business Spanish instructors. Please let me know if it is, if it isn't or if you have any questions. I'd love to read your comments.

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