Spanish AND Portuguese in Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

So many of my students would love to be bilingual. That's their goal, and that's what they spend years working toward.

But why stop there?

I speak Spanish and Italian. I have studied Catalan, and I can understand a lot of Bergamasco (the dialect spoken in the area of Northern Italy where my husband is from).

You can speak more than two languages.

I work in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. It makes a lot of sense to learn both of these languages.

And one of my students this semester is doing just that. Ken Kleisner is taking Portuguese classes here, and he plans to study abroad in Brazil this summer. Here's what he said about using Portuguese in our Spanish CSL course:
One of the most important things I have learned about the success of social entrepreneurship is that you absolutely must know your client and audience.  This has been directly applied through my time at the Refugee Center, where I have learned a lot about the struggles that some of the immigrants in Illinois go through, with origins ranging from Latin America to the Middle East and Northern Africa to all facets of Asia.  I have been able to not only use my Spanish in translating for some of these immigrants and refugees, but even my Portuguese, which has been equally as rewarding for me!  Now when the directors at ECIRMAC have an Angolan refugee or are in need of any Portuguese speakers, my name is the first they think of.  This is rewarding enough as it is, let alone actually learning the extremely tragic stories of these refugees, and actually being able to play a role in aiding them in becoming political refugees.  Even being able to be exposed to another type of Portuguese has been incredibly interesting, as the dialect I mostly study is Brazilian.

Ken was even so kind as to offer his email for any student who would like to talk to him about picking up Portuguese while studying Spanish, too.


  1. Hello Ann, your article is very interesting. I suggest a person who wants to learn Spanish must practice speaking it very often . He should not leave a single chance of speaking it. The more you practice the better you will become.

    Junu Jinnie


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