Thursday, October 13, 2011


Con sangre de atole....comienzo el semestre del otoño sin haber escrito nada en el blog Spanish Sí y quisiera pedir disculpas por mi tardanza.  La llegada de nuestro recién nacido hijo me ha dejado, "girando come una trotola" como dicen los italianos, "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" como se dice en inglés, corriendo de aquí por allá y en poco tiempo podré regresar a la normalidad.  Mientras tanto, sus preguntas, proyectos y opiniones se pueden dirigir a mi cuenta de correo electrónico:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Immigrants Mentoring Students and Vice Versa: The Mutuality of Service

Today as part of the final exam in the Spanish for Service Professionals class, the students will be interviewing a panel of recent immigrants about their experiences in becoming integrated into life in the United States. What are the local institutions and agencies that have been welcoming, and how? What challenges do newcomers to the US and to NW Indiana face? How can we be a community of welcome?
 I am grateful to the students, agencies and local Latino community for their commitment to this learning process, and am proud of what these groups have accomplished since January while working together as a team. The group of twelve committed students have translated dozens of pages of documents for the local public school system, have translated and edited Spanish-language forms for a health clinic, have started an ESL class, have served in two tutoring programs in the community, and have worked in other capacities to make the local community more welcoming to newcomers.  Each student has given between 30 and 60 hours of community service time over the course of the past four months.

Today's exam is an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of our service, and how working in collaboration with the local Latino community we can strengthen the fabric of our city while learning from one another.  I look forward to hearing students' ideas for ways they will carry this experience into their future professional endeavors.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reflexiones acerca del trabajo en la comunidad local

Hoy en la clase de Español para Profesionales de Servicio Social, hicimos una actividad de reflexión y evaluación de varios aspectos del servicio que se está llevando a cabo este semestre en varias agencias de la comunidad local en Valparaiso:  La escuela Central Elementary, la Misión Hispana Luterana Gloria Dei, el Centro Internacional de Valparaiso, la clínica HealthLinc, Porter County Prosecutor's Victim's Advocate Unit, y en unos programas de servicio que varios estudiantes hicieron durante Spring Break en Costa Rica y Honduras.  Hicimos las conversaciones en parejas, y luego cada pareja reportó sus conclusiones a la clase.  Las preguntas que hicimos y las instrucciones que les entregué a la clase siguen: 


Preguntas breves para hacer en parejas (tipo “speed-dating”) para reflexionar acerca del trabajo de servicio en la comunidad a lo largo del semestre.

Pónganse en parejas de dos / Escuchen una pregunta / Contesten la pregunta en parejas / Reporten sus respuestas a la clase.

1. ¿Cuáles son los 2 objetivos personales más importantes que tenías al comenzar tu proyecto, y cómo crees que has logrado esos dos objetivos?

2. ¿Cuáles son algunos retos o miedos que has podido superar a lo largo del semestre?

3. Nombra y explica 2-3 retos o dificultades con el trabajo en la agencia local? (La comunicación, las expectativas, la falta de orientación, etc)

4. ¿Cómo crees que tu experiencia de servicio te ayuda en tu futuros planes profesionales? ¿Cómo quieres servir en tu comunidad en el futuro?

5. Para otra generación de estudiantes y/o trabajadores que te sigan en tu agencia en la comunidad, ¿cómo quieres que se siga el trabajo que has comenzado este semestre?

6. ¿Cuáles son 2 cosas importantes que aprendiste de tu supervisor/a o del proyecto que estás llevando a cabo este semestre?

7. Da 2-3 razones que piensas que el servicio es un componente importante de la vida de un ser humano. (Aspectos posibles serían la experiencia, la educación práctica, el apoyo mutuo, etc.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How Can I Learn Spanish in Northwest Indiana?

There are a many options for learning and practicing Spanish around NW Indiana. When you make the brave step to begin using Spanish with native speakers, you'll get lots of chances to use the language in the local community.  Speaking in a real life context is the fastest way to become fluent.  Grammar and vocabulary foundations that are built in a classroom can boost your confidence and help you become easier to converse with in Spanish.  Think of classes as a courtesy to your real teachers in the world around you:  your Latino friends and neighbors.  Your language skills will improve fast when you practice with others in the community, and others will really appreciate your help in communicating as you practice with recent immigrants and Spanish-speakers living in the area.

I am not currently teaching Spanish in private classes and lessons. I teach full-time at Valparaiso University.  I do miss working with individual students----that is a good way to learn. Classes are excellent tools for learners of all levels, especially to study the formal grammatical structures, the syntax, vocabulary in context, an introduction into cultural topics, in-depth study of literature and history, and regular, scheduled practice and evaluation. 

Some employers pay for classes in Spanish, so ask if your HR department will fund this venture!  The investment in employees and in the community is worth the cost to many companies! 

I have a few ideas for you around the area.  These suggestions are geared for working adults.  I have other suggestions for children who wish to learn Spanish.  I will post those later.

Classes at Valparaiso University are offered four days per week. You would go through the admissions office for taking one continuing education course. 

IUN classes meet 2 or 3 days per week. Lots of evening options are available. The professors and instructors are very good. Summer classes begin in May or July. Call and talk to admissions or the registrar and let them know you want to take one class.

Ivy Tech classes are taught one day per week for a 4-hour class, at Valpo and Gary campuses. You can also take a class online, but for speaking practice I recommend you take a classroom class. Several of the instructors are native speakers. Eight week classes are given every semester, as well as the traditional 16 week classes.

The Valparaiso International Center is a nonprofit here in Valparaiso on Lincolnway. They will set up private tutoring for you:
They have a conversation group and salsa dance lessons in the evenings.

The communities I know best are Hobart and Valparaiso.  Please share more recommedations in the "comments" section.  A few good places to practice Spanish while eating out or shopping include: La Rancherita Bakery / El Ranchero Restaurant in New Chicago, off route 6 in Hobart by the Red Rooster.  Of course, don't miss out on El Salto in Valparaiso, Chesterton and Munster.  We love the horchata at El Amigo on Calumet by Ace Hardware in Valparaiso. El Ranchito is the newly remodeled place that used to be El Charro, across from the university in Valparaiso.  Don Quijote on Lincolnway in Valparaiso is authentic Spanish food (not Mexican)...think Mediterranean, Peninsular cuisine.

Grocery stores are: Tarimoro Guanajuato grocery store / fruit market in Valparaiso at Roosevelt and Evans, behind Phil B's restaurant.  Also, their bigger store is in Lake Station, on Calumet Ave., where you can buy produce at good prices. La Discoteca Morelia in Valparaiso on Billings Street (a tiny place run by a nice family). The grocery stores are a good cultural experience. 

You may learn more from individuals than from a classroom.  Maybe you'll find a recent immigrant family willing to spend time tutoring you or doing conversation practice. You could probably post a sign in the local Hispanic grocery store to ask for people to contact you about teaching you. People love to share what they know.

Attending worship services in Spanish is a good way to learn language in context and to meet friends.  St. Paul's Catholic Church in Valparaiso has services at 1 pm in Spanish. Gloria Dei Mission meets at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso. Worship services are at 11 AM on Sundays in All Saints Chapel at Immanuel.

You can practice Spanish online if you want to do some listening practice, once you acquire some grammar and vocabulary lessons. Two listening activity websites that I highly recommend are:   Here are some listening activities for various levels, with transcripts so you can see what they say.   This is a listening website with a couple from England and Spain. You can pick up some vocabulary and listening practice there.

Tutors can be hired for a reasonable price for conversation classes, formal lessons over chat or Skype, and individual tutorials at and Edufire tends to be classes and formal tutoring. Italki seems more like a dating website but there is certainly the option to be "taken" (whether or not one really is) and to be selective about the language exchange partners that one selects. I belong to these websites but have not found classes in the less-commonly-taught languages that I want to study (indiginous languages, and Catalan and Galician). These websites have been recommended to me by friends who use them and love them.

If you are interested in an individual tutor for specialized vocabulary, prices range widely depending on the education and experience of the instructor, and the class size. I am not taking on any weekly tutoring commitments of my own right now, but there are local tutors in Northwest Indiana.

Best wishes. Please stay in touch with questions as you learn the language. Let me know if you have questions or if you find a great teacher, class, conversation group, cultural immersion experience, or website that I should know about. If you're motivated and willing to practice with native speakers in the community, you'll become fluent over time, you'll make friends, and you will be able to help and be helped by a lot of people.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Pioneer in Self-Correcting Grammar Exercises / Online Culture Activities

Colby College is a college in Maine.  Prof. Barbara Nelson teaches Spanish and for over 10 years she has been sharing self-correcting grammar exercises and culture activities online, for students to practice the concepts they're learning in class.

My favorites are the song "Ojalá que llueva café" and the beautiful images for the Día de los Muertos activity.  On the right-hand column, the grammar activities are listed by topic.  When you complete an activity and submit it, you get feedback about your answers right away.

With Quia and Pearson's My Spanish Lab, many college classes have their workbook lab manuals available to students online, with auto-correct options for many activities.  But Professor Nelson was one of the pioneers, and her simple activities are still some of the best drills available. 

This website also provides instructions for making accent marks and setting up your computer with "international" keyboard settings.    Click on "resources'' to locate these instructions. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Para practicar la interpretación oral / traducción simultánea

Ayer en la clase de Español 308, Spanish for Service Professionals, los estudiantes hicieron una práctica en clase de la interpretación.  Una representante de HealthLinc, una clínica médica local, vino a dar una orientación al trabajo en la comunidad con su organización.  Los estudiantes se turnaron para traducir la plática de la representante del inglés al español para el público de sus compañeros de clase.  Antes de hacer las traducciones, hablamos sobre la metodología de la interpretación.  Les di una lista de trucos para los principiantes de la traducción. 

Algunos trucos para hacer la traducción oral / la interpretación simultánea:

• Trata de hablar con la persona para la cual vas a ser traductor/a. Pregúntale si le han hecho alguna traducción antes, para saber si está familiarizado/a con el proceso.

• Pídele que hable despacio, muy claramente, y que se detenga después de cada frase. Recuédale justo antes de comenzar la conferencia que si puede hacer las frases breves, te ayudaría muchísimo.

• No tengas miedo de pedir que la persona se repita a veces. Es necesario que entiendas lo que vas a interpretar. La audiencia puede observar que el trabajo que estás haciendo es difícil, y ellos esperan recibir una traducción muy clara.

• Si vas a traducir en una reunión o conferencia, puede ser buena idea compartir esa información con toda la gente que asiste, para que sepan por qué estás susurrando o hablando en otro idioma. También, así se puede facilitar el entendimiento y la bienvenida para la comunidad inmigrante que asiste a la reunión.

• Si no sabes la palabra exacta, trata de seguir traduciendo. A veces, una persona del público te puede ayudar ofreciéndote una sugerencia para esa palabra. Si no, puedes seguir traduciendo y si quieres, puedes describir con otras palabras lo que el hablante quiere decir. Si no entiendes la idea o el concepto del hablante, no te preocupes. Píde disculpas y pídele que lo explique con otras palabras antes de que hagas la traducción.

• Trata de dar una interpretación honesta y exacta. Pero no entres en pánico si no sabes todas las palabras. Con tu habilidad y tu disponibilidad para hacer este servicio, estás facilitando la comunicación entre dos culturas. Trata de hacer el mejor trabajo que puedas, y deja las preocupaciones acerca de los errores. Acuérdate que la perfección no existe, y es más fácil pensar cuando estás relajado/a, tranquilo/a, y listo/a con las ganas y la confianza de seguir adelante.