Schulz Information Center

“Service-learning in a community of the language being studied provides the context in which to apply classroom knowledge. Additionally, if students aim to be sucessfully integrated into the community of a language they are studying for professional purposes, it is essential that they gain experience in this community before graduation.” 1
—Aileen Hale

SSU faculty member

Service-Learning in Modern Languages & Literatures

Thank you for your interest in service-learning in Modern Languages & Literatures. The CCE can help you create or deepen your service-learning class. We provide models of other courses, sample syllabi, resources for course construction, reflective analysis tools, and risk management support.

Service-learning activity usually falls into two categories:

TYPE 1) Teaching/tutoring/sharing knowledge from the class
Example: Students at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, took part in a service-learning project called the Migrant Education Program. At the local level in Salem, the partner in the program was the Salem-Keizer School District that has a substantial population of children whose parents work in agricultural-related occupations. The Spanish-speaking university students were able to connect with the migrant children by using a common language and “ accomplishing the set goal of ‘vocabulary building and acquisition of oral communication skills.’ “ Upon reflecting on their experiences students noted “their own fears and values; they feel a sense of solidarity with the child who is afraid of being laughed at: Many have been there before….this creates an environment in which everyone learns because the authority and power granted by knowledge are actively deconstructed, with both the pupil and tutor functioning as learners and teachers.” The efforts of the university students were acknowledged with small tokens of appreciation from the community partner. In the end the “students became aware that we are not value free in our judgments and that language acquisition is part of learning a culture. We cannot learn one without the other.” 2

TYPE 2) Using information in the class to do something with/for a community organization.
Example: Students at San José State University took part in a service-learning course called Basics of Translation. The goals of the class “were twofold: to provide both technical training on the phase of the translation process and a real-life experience in translating for a worthy cause.” Students worked with a variety of agencies including a local preschool, an elementary school, and Portable Assisted Study Sequence (P.A.S.S.) that serves migrant children. The university students translated a variety of things from fact sheets featuring animals to self-help handouts and information on Family Court Services to adapting a Spanish version of the book Stories We Brought With Us. University students “have an opportunity to show initiative and creativity while developing truly motivated commitment to their local communities. Through peer editing, native and non-native speakers of Spanish learn from one another, using their differences in language proficiency as a source of union, rather than division or competitiveness.” Some, but not all, of the agencies expressed gratitude to the translators, with one in particular hosting a reception for the university students. 3

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1 Hale, Aileen. "Service-Learning and Spanish: A Missing Link." Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges): Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Eds. Josef Hellebrandt and Lucía T. Varona. Washington D.C.: AAHE, 1999. 9-25. Print.

2 Varas, P. “Raising Cultural Awareness Through Service-Learning in Spanish Culture and Conversation: Tutoring in the Migrant Education Program in Salem.” Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges): Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Eds. Josef Hellebrandt and Lucía T. Varona. Washington D.C.: AAHE, 1999. 123-135. Print.

3 Lizardi-Rivera, C. “Learning the Basics of Spanish Translation: Articulating a Balance Between Theory and Practice Through Community Service.” Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges): Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Eds. Josef Hellebrandt and Lucía T. Varona. Washington D.C.: AAHE, 1999. 107-121. Print.