Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spanish in the Community: Dream Act, DACA and DAPA

by Ann Abbott

Last semester I set myself up for blogging failure: I said I would share all my lesson plans on my blog. Didn't happen. Too much going on, so I didn't always have time to sit down and write and share every single lesson plan.

So this semester, no promises. When I can, I will. And I'd love to hear from you about your courses, lesson plans and class projects. Just as a reminder, you can contact me:
And here's what I did with my students today.
Students using their earbuds, listening to the videos.
It's hard to see, but on the board I wrote:
¿Qué? ¿Y qué? ¿Ahora qué?

¿Qué? Informarse

First I asked students if they knew who our Illinois Senators are. One student knew--he's a political science major. They are Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R).

Then I put these words on the board: Dream Act, DACA and DAPAI asked students if they knew what they were. Students who are doing their community service learning work at the Refugee Center and had an orientation this week knew something about them. But most students didn't have any background knowledge about them. I explained that Senator Durbin was one of the authors of the Dream Act and what it consisted of. I then pointed out that since the Dream Act has never been passed by the legislative branch, Obama took executive action and created DACA and more recently DAPA.

We went to our Facebook page. From there they clicked on the link to Senator Durbin's website. Once there, we went to the page on "Issues," clicked on "Dream Act" and listened to the short video. I called out the following: the family was from Korea (not all immigrants are from Mexico, as the common discourse claims), the girl didn't make the choice to come, we don't know if she speaks Korean (she might not), and she's certainly never been back to Korea because without papers you can't get a passport, and without a passport you can't fly.

¿Y qué? Analizar

I asked students to then read the written information on Dick Durbin's page on the Dream Act. Afterward, they got into groups and shared their reactions. I heard a lot of support, and I also heard some students say that they don't like illegal immigration. (That's okay; I have the whole semester to help them see undocumented immigration as something more complex than most people have ever imagined.)

Next we went to Dick Durbin's Facebook page. I assigned each student a number, either 1, 2 or 3. Number one had to watch the video his office posted about Juan's DACA Story, Number two had to watch Ola's DACA Story. And students with the number three watched Oscar's Dream Story

I then asked them to skim through the comments on the Facebook posts. (I'm sure there are plenty of similar comments on the YouTube videos.) We talked about the tone of the posts (very hateful, angry). What the people who are against the Dream Act were actually against. We talked about debating using our "racioncinio," facts, and emotions.

¿Ahora qué? Tomar acción

I then called their attention to the board where I had written the three stages of reflection: ¿Qué? ¿Y qué? ¿Ahora qué? I told them that for the first stage of reflection, we simply informed ourselves about the Dream Act, DACA and DAPA. For the second stage, we looked at what those policies meant to immigrants and specific cases of Dreamers. We analyzed reactions against these bills and policies. For the third stage, I emphasized that in this class, this semester, yes, we will study, yes, we will write papers, yes, we will take exams, but that our learning will also lead to action. In pairs, the talked a few moments about what they could do to support (or not) these bills and policies. 

I then showed them what I have done. I sometimes participate in these Facebook discussions.
Finally, in pairs, they had five minutes to write a something short that they could post on Dick Durbin's Facebook page under the DACA and Dream Act posts. They had to post it to our Facebook thread. They could also post to Dick Durbin's page, but they weren't required to. (Some students just aren't ready to make that step yet.)


Well, I wish there was a more elegant way to present all this information. Despite the clunky look of this post, the class was dynamic, fast-paced, and I know the students left the room knowing some things that they didn't know before.

We´ve talked in my department about defining our goals for Spanish majors: what should they know before they graduate. Some people say they can't graduate without knowing about El Quixote and Cien Años de Soledad. Some faculty feel that all Spanish majors should graduate knowing about morphemes. Well, what are we actually teaching them? Although students might not read El Quixote and Cien Años de Soledad, our current curriculum ensures that they will have at least one literature class. Same with linguistics.

What we aren't teaching our Spanish majors is the on-the-ground socio-political realities of Spanish speakers in the US. I know this because my students have usually taken many Spanish classes, several of them have even studied abroad, and yet they don't know the most basic information about issues of concern to millions of Spanish-speakers in the US. And it's not the students' fault!

So, feel free to try this lesson with your students. And please leave a comment with activities that you do with your students to teach them about political policies regarding immigration. Or about Dreamers. Or about ways to model civic engagement to our students.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Team Projects in My "Spanish and Entrepreneurship" Class

by Ann Abbott

Today was dedicated to ensuring that all my Spanish community service learning students (~50) were signed up and set up for their work with a community partner. It's so nice to see that students have taken advantage of many, though not all, of the various organizations available to them. Click here to see the list of community partners. I was especially excited when I heard from a student that he would like to work with the Latino Boy Scouts because I haven't had a student there for quite some time.

Now I have turned my attention to the team projects in my 300-level course--Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Language, Cultures & Communities.

Each project allows students to develop teamwork skills and apply the entrepreneurial concepts we learn during the course. Take a look at all the projects that are available to them.

And here is the email I sent to students:

Dear SPAN 332 students,

Now that everyone has signed up for a community partner, there is something new you must sign up for: your team project.

Then, be thoughtful about which project you sign up for.
·         What skills would you like to develop?  For example, if you would like to work on your public speaking, sign up for Project #4. If you would like to be able to put on your resume that you have experience with grant-writing (that would look great on resumes in certain fields!), sign up for Project #5.
·         What talents/skills do you already possess that you can utilize? If you have done lots of fundraisers for your RSO or sorority/fraternity, put your name under Project #6. If you have taken classes in marketing, join any of the social media marketing projects (#1, #2, #3).
·         What’s your personality? If you’re highly social, choose a project that involves speaking and interacting with others. If you like to research, why not research grant opportunities?
·         What’s your life like? Do you need to get things done early this semester because you know you have tons of projects and exams due in May? Sign up for #4. Do you like to spread out your work at slower, more steady pace? Do the weekly social media marketing.

When we meet for class on Thursday, Cheelan Bolin will give us a class on teams and teamwork. (She gives a longer version of this class to MBA students, so she really knows what she is doing.) She wants everyone to know what team they are working on before the start of class (1:00) on Thursday.

As always, if you have any questions or problems, just ask me. This is the last thing you have to sign up for! Things will be smooth—and fun—the rest the semester.

Ann Abbott, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Office hours for Spring 2015: 2:00 T/R in 4006 FLB 217-333-6714

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Student Spotlight: Katrina Steffes

Katrina and her lovely family--soon to include one more.
by Ann Abbott

Do you love languages and cultures? Do translation and interpreting interest you? Ever thought about starting your own business?

Then Katrina Steffes and her business, Steffes & Associates Language and Translation SALT, will inspire you. Take a look at SALT's business website, check out Katrina's LinkedIn profile, and consider connecting with her on LinkedIn.

I really admire that Katrina's business does this: "SALT donates 10% of its profits to charities, including CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging), World Vision, and Heifer International, allowing SALT to build hope and offer support through language and communication."

Here's part of a message I recently received from Katrina. She's doing exciting work, so be sure to reach out and connect if you would like to include in your network someone who transformed her language studies to a language business.
There are a lot of exciting events going on with SALT Translation that I would love to share with you as well as catch up on the work that you are doing and what is happening within your department.

I am preparing to release my first book translation (a murder mystery) shortly, hopefully within the first quarter of 2015 (before the baby is born!). SALT is also going to start a research study with participating businesses in the legal, medical, and financial sectors to discover how much time their employees spend each week on non-job-related language service duties (translation, sight-translation and interpretation). We hope to use the results to better educate area businesses on the benefits of using a language service provider.

I have been using all of the skills I acquired working with you throughout my internship, study abroad and thesis experiences to prepare the study! I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.

Thank you again for your support and for all that you have taught me! I look forward to catching up soon!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spanish Service Learning and the MLA Job Market

by Ann Abbott

A graduate student just returned from the MLA convention and sent me this note:

I just got back from the MLA and wanted to let you know that out of the 9 interviews I've had over the past month, six of them asked specifically about my experiences with service learning, often at length (including both research 1 schools). I think this is a really encouraging sign, not only in terms of my possibilities for getting a job and teaching service learning courses in the future, but also that a lot of schools are looking to incorporate service learning into their curriculum. Thank you for your mentorship in this area!
I firmly believe that our graduate students deserve at least one course on the scholarship of engagement and languages for specific purposes.

What are your thoughts about graduate students, Spanish community service learning, graduate education, and the job market?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Student Reflection

by Nicole Tauster

Mi corazón está en Granada por siempre

I wrote about studying abroad in general in my last post and about travel before that, but now I just have to share my specific experience. Almost 2 years ago, in the spring of my sophomore year of college, I spent a semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain and my life has never been the same.

I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country to be able to complete my Spanish minor while I was abroad and focus on class for my major upon my return. I ruled out Latin America just because there were so many other places I wanted to visit in Europe and I knew it would be easy to travel from country to country over there. So I settled on Spain, but the next question was which city to study in. I wanted a pure experience; I didn’t want the influence of Catalan that was so strong in Barcelona. I didn’t want an especially big city because I wanted to experience Spain, not a tourist destination. So that left Bilbao in the north of Spain or Granada in the south. Both looked appealing, but the thing that really convinced me was the living situation. Students in Bilbao lived in dorm-style housing or apartments but in Granada students were placed with host families. This sealed the deal for me; I would be totally immersed in the culture and the language if I lived with a Spanish family, which was exactly what I was looking for.

I filled out an application about my preferences (did I care if my host family smoked? Had pets?) and about my dietary needs. I am vegetarian so I was a little concerned I would not get an accommodating family, but when I finally got the e-mail in December telling me about the family I was placed with, it sounded like a perfect match. I couldn’t wait to meet them when I arrived in January. When my whole group of about 70 students from 3 different Big Ten universities arrived in Granada, we all stayed in a hostel together in the center of town. Our program directors took us on tours and taught us things we needed to know in orientations over the next few days and then it would be time to move in with our host families. The day before our families would pick us up from the hostel, we gathered together and received maps of Granada with our homes marked on them. When the secretary of the school got to me, she said she needed to explain mine to me… I was worried, and a little offended. Did I really look so dumb that I couldn’t read a map?! But she handed me an envelope along with my map and explained that there had been some kind of emergency and my host family couldn’t put me up anymore. I was being assigned a new family—less than 24 hours before I was supposed to go live with them! As you can imagine, I panicked. The Wi-Fi at the hostel had broken, Verizon set up my international phone plan wrong so I couldn’t make phone calls. I had no way to get in touch with my parents and tell them everything had changed and give them my new address. My freak-out continued pretty much until I arrived at my host family’s apartment the next day. By then I was just nervous, my host mom was hard to read and I couldn’t tell if we’d get along. I was so disappointed; I thought my other family was the perfect fit, so how would this one be?

My “madre” lived with her youngest daughter, who was 25, and her other 2 daughters lived nearby. Her husband had passed away several years ago, but all her daughters came over to her place for lunch and “siesta” that day to meet me. Now, like many people, I had studied Spanish in school since 7th grade, so I thought that meant I knew it. Right? WRONG. There is nothing like having lunch with 4 fast-talking native Spanish-speaking women to make you realize you know NOTHING. I am someone who has never been shy, I am the girl who was voted “Most Talkative” in high school, but I could barely carry on a conversation with them. Fluent I was not. I also tiptoed around the apartment for the first few days (okay, weeks). Even though I was living there and had my own room, I felt like a guest in their home.

Eventually, though, that feeling began to dissipate. They were very sweet, welcoming, and understanding. My host mother and sisters smiled through my “umms” and “uhhhs” as my brain struggled to translate my thoughts from English to Spanish. They patiently waited when I held up a finger and consulted my dictionary countless times. They also corrected me sometimes, which was embarrassing as it sounds, but it really did help. As the semester progressed, my confidence and proficiency in speaking and comprehension rose so much my host mom even commented on it. One day, as we were sitting on the couch talking and having a snack after I got back from class, she mentioned how much I had improved. She said I didn’t pause as much anymore, I spoke more fluently. This was the best compliment.

Besides just being able to talk to my host family and have them better understand me, I grew close with my family. I went out with the 2 younger sisters and their boyfriends and friends, I got invited to family parties, I watched cartoons and colored with my host mother’s sassy 5-year-old granddaughter… I really became a part of the family and this shaped my entire study abroad experience in a major way. I realize I was one of the lucky ones; not everyone on my trip got a great family or bonded with them in the way I did with mine, and for that I consider myself very fortunate. And to think, this wasn’t even the family I was originally supposed to have! As my real mother said, maybe some things happen for a reason and I was really meant to live with the second host family I got.

Like I said in a previous post, some of my best experiences happened when things did not go the way I planned. I guess Granada is just the best example of that. I still write to my host family from time to time and I plan to return to Spain after I graduate this May. And you can bet I will be visiting the people and the city that changed my life more than once! I hope everyone gets to visit the beautiful and enchanting city that is Granada someday. There is a famous line by the Mexican poet Francisco de Icaza: “Dale limosna, mujer, que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.” It translates to: “Give him alms, woman, for there is nothing sadder in life than being blind in Granada.” I can honestly say this sentiment is true, it would be an incredible shame to be unable to see the beauty in Granada, and I can’t wait to see it again.