9/18/2019 Tamara Pohle

F&M Celebrates Bilingual Program With Two Events this Fall

For the bilingual members of Franklin & Marshall's professional staff and students, a language-coaching pilot program, sponsored by the Office of Human Resources, was launched in the spring of 2019.  

To build on the positive experience and spirit of the program, the Spanish Department and the Office of Human Resources are co-sponsoring two Spanglish events this fall, open to community members interested in celebrating Spanglish as a phenomenon through guided conversation and food. 

The events are 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 and Tuesday, Nov. 26 in the Weis College House's Great Room. 

This language exchange program is a response to professional staff members in Facilities & Operations who wanted an opportunity to practice Enligsh skills. The program pairs bilingual professional staff members with students enrolled in language courses, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Melanie DeSantis said. 

Associate Professor of Spanish Sofia Ruiz-Alfaro, chair of the Spanish and Linguistics departments, said the opportunity was offered on a voluntary-basis to students taking SPA 202, an intermediate-advanced course, and to more advanced students enrolled in SPA 222, most of whom plan to either minor or major in the language. 

The program was conceived as the best way to integrate learning, culture in a meaningful way that goes beyond the classroom. Student participation in the program was given credit based on attendance and some type of a final report -- final composition, oral presentation --  that reflects the students’ experience. 

The pilot program involved students and staff meeting for an hour, once a week, for six weeks to share conversation in their primary and secondary languages. Initial programs centered around staff members and student introductions. The conversation was dynamic; students and staff members found similarities in their introductions, and they coached one another in the secondary language. Subsequent sessions allowed students and staff members to learn more about the background and culture of their families.

At the end of the semester, students expressed satisfaction with the experience, although there were a few logistical difficulties, i.e. weather and inconsistency in employee participation. Students loved to meet the employees and learn about their lives and culture. 

They also felt empowered by the help they could offer employees with the English language.

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