Language students build fluency with online international conversations

When Campbell classes moved online last year, Conversation and Composition Spanish classes faced a dilemma. Taught by Dr. René Ibarra an Associate, professor of Spanish in the Foreign Language Department, the classes rely heavily on student  conversations to build fluency. Not only was in-person interaction limited, but with a number of restrictions to travel, all Study Abroad plans came to a sudden stop, and the “Study in Spain Program” for summer 2021 was cancelled. These challenges prompted the question: What can we do to bring culture, and expose students to the Spanish language when we cannot travel or socialize on or even outside campus?  

Together with Global Engagement Office, the Foreign Language Department is now connecting students with native speakers thanks to the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Costarricense and Visión Educativa Comunicativa. Campbell students will have five conversations online with several Spanish instructors from Costa Rica throughout the semester. 

“I feel so fortunate to be receiving the total support from the Global Engagement Office at Campbell, and Coordinator Emily Pelka’s swift planning and organization made it possible,” said Ibarra. “My students will not only practice their speaking skills, but will be able to build relationships with people across the world who speak Spanish as their first language.”

The programs will teach students to manage time, technology and inter-cultural competence— all of which are desirable traits that employers look for in future applicants. Students will have to put the vocabulary they learned in the classroom into action and respond spontaneously to questions in Spanish. 

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the demand of foreign language skills is greater than ever before. American employers are operating increasingly multilingual and multicultural economy, in which 65 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English.  Consequently, a command in multiple languages is a valuable asset for U.S. employees and students. It is no surprise that speaking a second language is more important than ever.