Second Year > Spanlang 13SL

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About This Track:

Spanish Language and Service Learning (SPANLANG 13SL) integrates the opportunity to engage in Spanish with native speakers, reinforcing the relevance of students' coursework to everyday life and community. This course is designated as a Cardinal Course by the Haas Center and is also a Ways course that fulfills the Engaging Diversity (ED) requirement.

The community connection takes place at a Redwood City civic-based organization, International Institute of the Bay Area, where students work together with Spanish-speaking immigrants who do not speak English. Students engage with these older adults, who are learning the 100 US government and history questions of the citizenship exam. Students also learn about their community partnersí experience as immigrants in the U.S.

Offered Tuesday and Thursday 1:30 to 3:00 pm (on campus). For further information, contact Vivian Brates at

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What Students Say:

What's it like to work with adults at the Institute?

By Kelley Gomez, Spanlang 13SL Student (Winter, 2015) and Course Assistant (2015- 2016)

May 20, 2016

The first week at the International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA), you can definitely see some hesitation from both sides. Our Spanlang 13SL instructor, Vivian Brates, prepares us well to enter this space; she coaches us all on how to interact. Yet despite reassurance, our students voice two concerns: (1) most don't use Spanish on a daily basis; they fear not understanding or, worse yet, not being understood. (2) Most have not really interacted, on a routine basis, with people who live through daily hardships. Thus, to ask about home, family, and work is awkward. Stanford students are very considerate in that they don't want to offend with insensitive questions. But, once at IIBA, students realize their worries are unfounded. The transition, then, from the first to the following weeks is quite remarkable.

Even though both groups have just come from either a long day of work or a long day of classes, our time together is always filled with laughter and renewed energy. The partnership we have created has fostered an environment where both Stanford and IIBA take on the role of learner and teacher. I see the Stanford students contributing a newfound vigor and confidence to the IIBA group so that they're ready for their citizenship exam. And we from the Stanford group become more comfortable in our speaking ability as the IIBA students share their stories.

And this learning translates back to the real classroom. As a Spanish language class, I see the students blossom over ten weeks, from hesitating before completing a sentence to carrying out full conversations with native speakers. Knowing people's stories enlivens discussion and enhances the passion for the material reviewed in class. The papers we read and write about immigration status and access to healthcare, education, and good working conditions now possess a realness to them. As we drive home from our visits, the students talk about the stories they heard, stories that validate what they read and learned in class.

The opportunity to go to IIBA afforded through SPANLANG13SL irrevocably changes students. Perhaps the most impactful benefit we receive is gaining an awareness of an "invisible" presence, an awareness of the invisible workers who are the men and women of IIBA. They are people with stories and rich lives who might otherwise go unnoticed until we students, with a newfound learning, passion, and commitment to the program, start a conversation in Spanish, showing the care, concern, and respect that every member of our society deserves.

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