A Community of Conversations

The Conversation Table takes Spanish learning outside the classroom

By Samantha Benton

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It can be difficult to learn a new language, especially if they do not have many opportunities to practice their skills outside of the classroom. Imagine if they could participate in fun and interactive conversations with their friends throughout the week. These students would feel more confident in their ability to speak and understand the language, and they would establish stronger relationships with their classmates.

At Notre Dame, the Conversation Table, hosted by the Hispanic Culture Club and Dr. Marcela Valencia, allows students to explore and expand their capabilities in the Spanish language.

Dr. Valencia, a Spanish professor in the Modern Foreign Languages department, advises the Hispanic Culture Club and moderates the Conversation Table. The idea for the Conversation Table originated from weekly conversations Dr. Valencia had with one of her students last year. As their meetings became more regular, Dr. Valencia realized that other students could benefit from such supplementary experience. Because of this idea, students now have opportunities to practice their skills every Tuesday and Friday in FIC 036.

The purpose of the Conversation Table is to create a community of students that can work together to not only improve their Spanish-speaking skills, but to also learn about one another’s experiences and backgrounds. The discussions at the Conversation Table evolve and change with every person’s contributions, allowing the students to help one another to formulate their ideas and enhance their vocabulary. “We are supposed to be laughing together,” Dr. Valencia says. “We all make mistakes, and confusion and frustration are a part of the process.”

The attendees of the Conversation Table have experienced numerous benefits from the time they spend with their peers outside of the classroom each week. Angelie Singh, a freshman international studies major, has more confidence when applying her skills outside of the classroom, such as when she orders Spanish cuisine. Meanwhile, Grace Park, a senior elementary education major with a Spanish minor says, “It gives me a chance to talk without a script and practice what I’ve learned in Spain. It’s definitely made me more confident to speak to native Spanish speakers.”

The hopes for this program continue to grow along with the confidence of its participants, especially as more students acquire the benefits of their dedication and motivation.

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