Showing posts from September, 2014

Why a One-Size-Fits-All Bio Might Not Be the Most Effective

by Ann Abbott

Kim Potowski, a friend and colleague at the University of Illinois and all-around academic extraordinaire, shared on Facebook the bio that goes along with the newest edition of the textbook Dicho y hecho that she co-authored with another friend, colleague and amazing woman, Silvia Sobral.

I love the story that Kim's bio tells: her own story as a Spanish language learner, both in the classroom and abroad.

Kim's bio could have gone many different directions--her research, her teaching, her awards, her advocacy--but for an intro-level textbook she chose to tell a story that was closer to the project itself. And closer to the students who will use the book.

This made me think about how I would write future bios for myself.

For my two textbooks (Comunidades: Más allá del aula and Dia a día: de los personal a lo profesional), I could follow Kim's bio very tightly:

I was raised in a small village in Southern Illinois, where my interest in Spanish was sparked in my cl…

Simple but Important Tips about Making Videos for Social Media Marketing

by Ann Abbott

Every Friday is ¨Taller de asesoría,¨ or Consulting Workshop day in my SPAN 202 "Business Spanish" class.

So what did we do today?

We practiced making original videos for social media marketing.

Our client, La Línea, gave us ideas for posts they would like to have during the month of October which is Immigrant Justice Month, sponsored by CU Immigration Forum. Here is one item:

·What does social justice/immigrant justice mean to you? Interview a few community members and ask them to try to answer this question in one to three sentences. 

Of course you could approach this a number of ways:
Do an email interview and post it as text.Do a telephone interview with the person, write up the interview notes, look up a picture of them online and post the write-up along with the picture.Meet them face-to-face, film them answering and upload the video. From my experience working with students, I have seen that they are very adept at searching online for information, pictures …

Help at Parent-Teacher Conferences this Fall

by Ann Abbott

Whether you're a former student, a current student, or just a person from our community who speaks both Spanish and English, please consider helping at Central High School's parent-teacher conferences!
Here is the message I received yesterday.
Dear Dr. Abbott,
We are once again in need of volunteers to help with Spanish translating during our parent teacher conferences next month.  Last semester your students help was a godsend.
I am hoping you can help us again this semester?  Our conferences are Thursday, October 23rd from 5:00pm to 8:00pm and Friday, October 24th from 8:00am to 12:00pm.  If you know of anyone who might be interested in helping, please have them email me at  or call me at 217-351-3911. 
Thanks in advance for any assistance you can send my way!
Joanie Strater
Main Office Secretary Champaign Central High School (217) 351-3911 (217) 351-3919 Fax

Fresh Ways to Use Traditional Textbooks, A Series

by Ann Abbott

I'm not afraid to admit that I use a textbook in my Spanish for Business course (Éxito comercial). Sure, I wish it was less expensive, but I think that it offers students--and me--a lot of value: he information they have compiled and presented in coherent ways, the vocabulary they have distilled and defined, the audio exercises, video exercises, short case studies, maps, charts and so much more.

Although I know the students will probably sell the book at the end of the course, I wish they wouldn't.

I wish that they would keep it as a resource. That when they get jobs they will look up information about the countries where their company does business. That they'll reflect on the cultural information and strategies the book presents.

But in the meantime, all I know for sure is that I have three 50-minute class sessions with them each week. I try to make those count.

Here's what I did today. It's all based on the textbook, and it's not the boring, &q…

Student Spotlight: Amanda White

by Ann Abbott

I have already featured Amanda White on this blog several times. However, the other day she sent an email about her Fulbright experience in Brazil that just blew me away. It touched on so many things that are important to me and many of you.
Her love of languages.Her nostalgia for the countries in which she has lived and studied.Her abilities and challenges as a student of the liberal arts.Her ability to see how languages, countries and cultures all connect and influence each other.I'll let her message speak for itself. 

Oi pessoal!!!
I've just caught up on rest after two weeks of traveling in Brazil and realized it's time for another update. This one will be a bit longer to share about my travels in São Paulo. To see photos from São Paulo click here. By next week (hopefully), I will send another email about my travels in Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, and Salvador.
The Fulbright midyear seminar in São Paulo last month was really great! I'm happy I got to visi…

Info City CU: A Model of Public Engagement and Technology

by Ann Abbott

Yesterday I attended a meeting with our campus' new CIO, Mark Henderson, and a group of people from an initiative called Info City CU.

It was a positive, exciting meeting with like-minded people. One of those meetings in which you leave feeling really energized and happy that you work in this organization with really good people.

You can find out more about Info City CU at their website, but here are a couple of things that stood out for me.

One of the attendees likened an Info City to the older model of an Industrial City, in which the city was built up around corporations and organized according to their needs. In contrast, an Info City allows us to learn from the mistakes of the Industrial Cities and create a more just Info City. That was very helpful to me.

I also learned some new things and new terms. I had never heard before about:

One Web Day Webliographies, as opposed to bibliographies. Here is an example of a webliography.Digirati, as opposed to the literati.…

Course about Social Innovation with a Trip to Ecuador

by Ann Abbott

Course envy.

That's what I am feeling right now. This looks like such a wonderful course! It's something that I would love to teach.

In fact, it is what I teach! But in English. With a trip to Ecuador.

But my course envy is students' opportunity to do something wonderful. I hope they will sign up for this course and do great things!

Click here to see the course website.

Articles of Interest in The Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes

by Ann Abbott

Thanks to the NOBLE newsletter that Mary Risner sends (email here if you´d like to receive it, too: by, I learned about the Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes.

When I began scrolling through the first issue´s table of contents, it seemed to me that the journal was focused on quantitative, very specific linguistic-type research. That doesn't speak to me.

Then I scrolled some more and read abstracts for these articles that do, indeed, interest me. Click on the links to read the full articles.





Learning about Countries in a Business Spanish Class

by Ann Abbott

In this post I return to the question:

How can you use a textbook in a course in a way that does not become dry and repetitive?
I hear many people complain about textbooks today. They're too expensive. They're boring. Faculty don't actually use them in the classroom. They're heavy. Who reads? Faculty can put together their own teaching materials that are better--and free!
Those are all legitimate observations.
But they don't have to be.
Textbooks don't design your lesson plans. You do. And if you design your lessons using what we know about good teaching practices--and in our case, how students learn a second language--the textbook can be your foundation. 
I love to write curricular materials. But why would I put together materials that are already in Exito comericial? I couldn't even do it if I tried because the book is encyclopedic almost and has been built by three highly-qualified authors over many years. It's on its sixth edition, for cryin…

Business Spanish: Social Media Marketing with a Local Non-profit Focused on Helping Immigrants

by Ann Abbott

My Business Spanish students are working as social media marketing consultants for La Línea this semester. I will add more later about what we have learned so far from their work in the community, their questions and their feedback.

Here are some of the themes that emerged from what Muong and Lisa had to say about the work they do and the Spanish-speaking clients they serve in our local area, where we do not have a long tradition of receiving immigrants.

Rapid growth. The number of Spanish-speaking immigrants was fast-growing, yet recent. In the early 2000s the numbers increased rapidly.

Transportation. Getting a driver's license is difficult for anyone who is an undocumented immigrant. (It's not a walk in the park for immigrants with documentation, either!) Lisa spends a lot of time driving her service recipients to places, and this is especially problematic for Latinos who leave outside of Champaign-Urbana, which at least has a good bus system.

Language Issues/Obst…

Consulting with Community Partners, Part 1

by Ann Abbott

When you hear the word "consulting," you might think of business suits, first-class flights, briefcases and PowerPoint presentations.

But when you do community service learning, consulting with your community partners usually looks very different. It might be:

Chatting about a project when you run into each other picking up your kids from the same art class their kids go to.Showing solidarity when you show up at the same march and march a couple of miles in a cold, hard rain together.Liking and commenting on the information they share on Facebook. Even personal information. It has been heartwarming this year for me to witness one of my community partners fall in love via the pictures she has posted.Hosting a bridal shower for a friend who is friends with one of your community partners and so you get to talk to her and celebrate the bride-to-be at the same time. Staying abreast of activities, problems and celebrations in the community through a Facebook group tha…

Public Engagement and Campus Information Technology at Illinois

by Ann Abbott

For the past two years and now entering the third, I have participated in our campus-level information technology (IT) shared governance. I have learned a lot, met a lot of wonderful experts and felt the stretch and strain of shared governance in a huge, decentralized campus.

Good times.

Here's a simply listing of some of the things I participated in. Later I will give some thought to pulling together patterns, disjunctures and other kinds of insights from these experiences. 

1.I chaired the Extension & Outreach Committee. I wish our committee was called the Public Engagement committee. That said, I think we made some good initial strides toward framing and shaping the relationships between IT and public engagement on our campus. 

2. I served on the IT Executive Committee. All the chairs of the subcommittees and several other representatives for the Executive Committee. This is where the various interests come together and look at bigger-picture items that bind us to…

Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant

by Ann Abbott

My friend Prof. Carina Olaru shared on Facebook that she is bringing the author of Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrantto her campus of Monmouth College.
I had never heard of this book before, even though its is from my university's press. I'm glad I know about it now, and I just ordered it. I'll write more about it when I read it.
I love the book's tagline:  The valiant memoir of a man living the "good" life--illegally
With all the talk on my campus these days about "civility" and never "devaluing" anyone or anyone's viewpoints (what does that mean?), it is refreshing to see Carina tackle an issue that can be very emotional and divisive: undocumented immigrants in the US. Here is how Carina put it:  Bringing a person to campus to talk about undocumented immigrants, I hope, will start a necessary dialogue between students, staff and faculty who have various views. My hope is that this person will be received we…

Service Learning at the University of South Florida

by Ann Abbott

Yesterday I had a very exciting conversation with Dr. Lance Arney, Dr. Harold Keller and Dr. Soria Colomer from the University of South Florida. They had invited me to speak at their annual Service Learning Day in November, and in yesterday's conference call we explored various themes that I could address and how they might resonate with the interests and needs of the USF faculty.

We decided on the following.

In my keynote talk I will cover:
1. Transcultural competence. What are some issues and concrete examples of the need for transcultural competence in service learning?
2. Advocacy/Activism. How do we teach about advocacy and activism in a service learning course to better prepare students to go beyond volunteerism when they are students as well as afterward.

In a later conversation:
Technology. How can we use online platforms and information to engage with communities.

Soria forwarded me the newsletter that Lance's office sent out yesterday evening, and I was…

Medical Spanish: Do You Know What M-Health Is?

by Ann Abbott

I don't teach medical Spanish, but many of my languages for specific purposes (LSP) colleagues do.

And many students are interested medical Spanish, even though our department does not currently offer a full course in it.

So when I was reading Mujeres de empresa today, her post on M-health caught my attention.

Do you know what m-health is? Watch the short video above and click here to read the report and find the 50 best medical apps in Spanish.

Día a día: My New Textbook Is Now Available

by Ann Abbott

Hurray! Huge news! A textbook project I have been working on is now available.

Request an exam copy of Día a día!

This is just a quick post to show you the cover, the title and the link. I'll write more about it in the upcoming weeks.

For now, I'm just sharing the good news. Hurray!

A Fresh Way to Use a Traditional Textbook

by Ann Abbott

Using the textbook doesn't mean that your class has to be boring!

I use Éxito comercial in my Business Spanish class. It has a lot of very good information and activities in it, but I have to be honest and say that students (and sometimes instructors) take a look at page after page of text and feel a bit overwhelmed.

I love to read. I got a PhD in Hispanic literature and actually read every single book on the reading list. Every single book. I dislike magazines whose articles are too short. I lugged huge novels to high school with me and read them in study hall.

But even I know that it can be easy for people to disengage with textbooks.

So here's what I did to shake things up.

1. Before class I prepared two laptops and three file folders.
In one laptop I loaded the audio disc that comes withExito comercialand put the photocopy of 1-3 Al telefono (p. 12) in the file folder. In the other laptop I loaded the video disc that comes withExito comercial and put the photo…