Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures

FLL Students teach Spanish in the Auburn community

Dr. Jana Gutiérrez launched a new service-learning initiative entitled Unidos en voz y acción / United in Voice and Action in the Fall of 2010. The purpose of this effort is to extend the learning experience beyond the traditional classroom and to educate the community beyond the university campus about the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. This civic engagement venture allows AU to continue its strong legacy of service while also giving faculty and students the opportunity to learn from local Lee County residents.

Students enrolled in FLSP 3030 Spanish Conversation chose from a variety of individualized volunteer programs. Some met weekly with elderly residents of Azalea Place Assisted & Retired Living to give basic Spanish conversation lessons and to explore Hispanic culture through music and food. Other students helped the volunteers at Lee County Food Bank find ways to communicate more effectively with their Hispanic clients. A few students gave their time and expertise to Spanish language learners at Auburn High School. And one technologically savvy student edited a Spanish video takeoff on the popular the Auburn Creed commercials. All the while the class explored the link between civic engagement and Foreign Language learning through using Annie R. Abbott's service-learning Spanish textbook Comunidades: Más allá del aula (Prentice Hall, 2009).

The student testimonials speak for themselves. One student observed, "I loved teaching and working with the senior citizens. Learning Spanish helps keep their minds active and sharp. While many of them don't know Spanish, they are so respectful and earnest in their desire to communicate with Hispanics in their community. Now they can speak with a lot more confidence." Another remarked, "I loved role-playing situations between the Hispanic clients the food bank workers. It was nice to see that, although they got just as frustrated as I sometimes do when I can't find the right word or verb tense. But with them it seemed to matter more. I mean, if I mess up in class, it is just a few points off my test. With them it can be the difference of someone getting to put food on the table for their family or not. I like that some kid can eat a good meal because our contribution. It made me proud that I could pay my education forward, so to speak."

The adventure continues in 2011. Students from Auburn University visited Azalea Place for Cinco de Mayo celebrations in May They explained the historical origin of the holiday, sang some traditional Mexican rancheras, and ate a South of the Border inspired meal with the residents. Even though the date fell during final exams period, the Auburn University students did not want to miss out on this multigenerational and educational fiesta. Students enrolled in Dr. Gutiérrez's FLSP 4210 Obras maestras hispanoamericanas will participate in a Book Club, or Círculo de Lectores, with the senior citizen readers. While their Spanish is not quite advanced enough to tackle advanced literature, the elderly residents will glean through works in translation a greater understanding of Hispanic culture. The AU students can then explain differences between the Spanish original texts they read in class and the translated versions presented at Azalea Place. Our first Book Club / Círculo de Lectores selection will be selected chapters from Laura Esquivel's novel Como agua para chocolate (1989).

Last Updated: July 03, 2012