Real World, Real Opportunities for Spanish-language Interns
By Kristine Doll, WLC
Katherine Palencia leans over and whispers, “They’ll be bringing in the jury next.” We rise to attention as the twelve jurors and two alternates file past us to take their seats. As the judge addresses them, I notice that the defendant has several people at the defense table, including someone who is speaking in a low voice just seconds after the judge. His speech is so quick as to be an echo of the judge, only the language is not English but Turkish.
Katherine and I are at the Chelsea District Court, where she is interning as an interpreter/translator in Spanish and English as part of her SPN385 Community Placements course. Community Placements interns work four hours per week for the entire semester in a placement of their choice from among the many with which the WLC department collaborates. As many interns before, Katherine has been offered employment after graduation as a result of her placement. In Katherine’s case, she will be working with a lawyer whom she met at the District Court in her capacity as an SPN385 intern. As Katherine notes,
“As I pursue my goal to go to law school, I’m working alongside an attorney because of the SPN385 Community Placements course. Every time I work, I practice a high-level of legal Spanish that was learned through my internship at the Chelsea District Court where I worked alongside certified court interpreters to practice Spanish. During the semester break, as I interpret for clients, I plan on becoming trained to become a legal assistant, learning the steps on legal research. If it weren’t for SPN385, I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door.”
Evangelia Ventouris and Jennifer Smith are busy working on an emergency phrase book in Spanish and English for the firefighters of Salem. Stationed at the main firehouse on New Derby Street, both students have direct contact with the firefighters as they work together to determine the key phrases necessary in emergency and medical situations. The goal is to have a phrase book in every fire truck in the City as well as on every truck’s iPad.
Meanwhile at Leap for Education, Genesis Pérez is helping a Salem middle school student write a poem in both English and Spanish. Their session together is a seamless flow of languages and cultures, a bilingual bicultural cooperation that is the hallmark of SPN385 and the agencies with which we collaborate.
As a service-learning course, SPN385 incorporates thoughtfully organized service and structured reflection that are tied directly to academic objectives. The experience gives students the opportunity to use skills learned in the classroom in a “real world” environment. For students of a foreign language, practicing language skills with and for native speakers enhances their communication skills, improves vocabulary, and exposes them to the idiomatic use of a language in ways that can never be duplicated in a classroom. Working with members of the Spanish-speaking community also immerses students in a rich and vibrant culture, allowing them to gain an appreciation of Hispanic cultures and the experience of immigrants from a broad range of ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds.
If these real world experiences sound interesting to you and if you would like to develop your language and cultural appreciation through meaningful collaborations with community agencies, enroll in SPN385 Community Placements. We offer the course every Fall.