Due to limited availability of textbooks in her field, Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Caroline Travalia has used excerpts from texts and created her own materials over the last several years in order to teach “Spanish for the Professions.” This past summer, she began turning those materials into a future textbook with the help of Carolyn Girard ’22.
The course introduces students to the vocabulary and cultural implications of using Spanish in various fields, such as business, health care, social services and the legal system. While there are textbooks that address those specific industries, Travalia notes there is only one that speaks to professions more broadly. “I didn’t feel it was well-suited to what I wanted to achieve in the classroom,” she says.
The goal of Manos a la obra: el español profesional para trabajar con la comunidad, which translates to ‘Let’s Get to Work: Professional Spanish for Working with the Community,’ is to introduce students to various professional fields in which knowing Spanish is an asset. The textbook covers the linguistic and cultural aspects at play in different fields and familiarizes students with community services. Students learn to recognize when resources are lacking and to foster productive relationships within their communities.
“It’s not just about teaching the language and preparing students to use it in their future careers,” Travalia explains. “It is rooted in the spirit of service that’s at the heart of the HWS mission. It’s about increasing communication and collaboration between diverse members of our community.”
To accomplish these goals, Travalia and Girard use a task-based learning approach. Each of the eight chapters introduces the vocabulary and grammar related to a specific profession, requires students to complete short exercises as they learn and culminates in a “fun and practical project that allows students to apply the skills they have learned in that chapter,” says Travalia. For example, the chapter on the legal system has students participate in a mock trial, the chapter on business leads to a pitch and the chapter on communications requires students to create a newscast.
Girard, a Spanish major and bilingual education and educational studies minor, served as a teaching assistant for “Spanish for the Professions.” Her responsibilities then included researching materials to be used in the course, so she was “the perfect candidate to help me with the textbook,” says Travalia.
Developing the chapter on social services was particularly meaningful for Girard. “Although each chapter in the book is about reaching out to the community in a specific field, in this one the field itself is about reaching out to the community,” she explains. Travalia conducted an interview with a Latina social worker from the Geneva community for the chapter, which she describes as “extremely insightful.”
Girard began taking Spanish in high school but never imagined she would be helping to author a textbook as an undergrad. “I always knew I liked Spanish, but being able to say that I’m working on a textbook — especially because I want to go into teaching — is definitely a combination of my interests that I wasn’t expecting to have an opportunity to be a part of,” she says.
With the proposal and sample chapter complete, Travalia and Girard are gearing up to send it out to potential publishers.