Class offered to help students gain reading and writing skills in Spanish

Irene Schmidt is the professor of the new Spanish for Heritage and Advanced Speakers of Spanish courses. These course are for Heritage Spanish speakers to learn grammar and second language Spanish speakers to learn how to communicate with heritage speakers. Photo by Spencer Carey, The Campus Ledger.

Carina Smith

Features editor

A new class was added for the Spring 2017 semester called Spanish for Heritage and Advanced Speakers of Spanish, or FL 288. Adjunct professor Irene Schmidt teaches this class and other Spanish classes at the college.

The idea of this course is to teach heritage speakers, people who grew up learning Spanish orally but never formally, to learn the proper grammar and writing of Spanish and to also help people who learned Spanish as a second language to build onto their reading and writing skills. For most heritage speakers, they have never taken a Spanish class and struggle when it comes to reading and writing in Spanish.

This class came to be after assistant professor of foreign language, Christina Wolff was teaching Spanish and noticed a lot of heritage speakers weren’t doing so well in the classes or in the reading and writing sections of the Legal and Healthcare Interpretation Programs.

“I started here as an adjunct and many times I would have students in the class who already spoke Spanish…,” Wolff said. “And at the end of the semester I just normally saw that these students failed or stopped coming or they might get an A in the class, but they never changed their bad habits.”

Schmidt learned in Spanish when she lived in Guatemala, but didn’t take a Spanish course when she moved to the U.S. until high school. Once she was in college, she struggled with learning the grammar of Spanish due to not having a formal education in it.

“I go from that weird introduction in first grade in Guatemala and then skipped everything and went straight into the AP Spanish test my senior year,” Schmidt said. “I took the test, did fine, got my credits, but there was still a lot of potholes and a lot of things I didn’t know until I started teaching at KU as a grad assistant. And that’s when I really had to wrestle with where you put the accent marks — ‘Is it a silent ‘H’ or no ‘H’?’ — so I know really well what some of our students go through.”

FL 288 isn’t just offered to heritage speakers who want to learn about the proper grammar of Spanish, but also for people who have learned Spanish as a second language and want to further their skills in reading and writing in Spanish or who want to work on being able to communicate more in Spanish with heritage speakers.

“When we came up with the description of the course we wanted to stay with the spirit of the school, which is all about open access,” Schmidt said. “So we wanted to make sure we didn’t exclude students who are very capable of functioning orally and communicating with other students.”

This class isn’t an alternative to Composition I, but is instead structured like the class in the manner that students can improve their reading and writing skills in Spanish. Currently, it is an elective that is recommended for students who are a part of the Legal and Healthcare Interpreting Programs.

FL 288 might not transfer to another college or university, depending on if the institution has a course like the one offered at the college.

“Transferability depends on the receiving institution, but JCCC is always working towards having agreements allowing that transfer of courses,” counselor Gloria Rosso said. “That is so important for students to understand. It may or may not transfer, but it should transfer as an elective if it doesn’t transfer as an equivalent.”

Students have a range of reasons for taking this class. Student Natalie Robinson has been learning Spanish since she was in elementary school and decided to take this class to see if she would want to join the Medical Interpretation program at the college.

Student Sandra Velazquez decided to take this course after Wolff recommended she do it to further herself in the Legal Interpretation class. Velazquez has learned Spanish from home but she has never taken a Spanish class.

“It’s definitely really challenging, just from the first day because you’re learning all the rules that I have never learned Spanish formally,” Velazquez said.


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