Spanish Club offers English classes to non-natives
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 13:10
For 20 years, the Spanish Club at UTM has been promoting the Spanish language and the cultures in which Spanish is spoken.
The Spanish Club offers movie nights free of charge and dance nights where students can learn dances such as the salsa. If you hang around with them, you will probably get to eat some salsa as well, because, as part of their attempt to show West Tennessee aspects of other cultures, they host events in which they cook foods from Spanish-speaking countries and let students sample them. They also regularly host discussions about the Spanish-speaking world.
However, this year, they are doing more than hosting events to enlighten students about the Spanish-speaking world. To celebrate their 20th anniversary, they are offering free English classes to any Spanish speaker who wants to learn.
It’s not the first time the Spanish Club has offered an opportunity like this. The organization taught free English classes in the past, but that stopped a few years ago when the club’s faculty sponsor left the university.
The classes resumed this year thanks to St. Jude Catholic Church and the Spanish Club. The president of the club is Tyler Fitzgerald, a Junior majoring in Spanish. He says he noticed a large number of Spanish-speaking people attending mass at St. Jude. Over time, more and more began to come. There were actually so many that St. Jude began offering mass in Spanish.
After seeing that, Fitzgerald decided it was time to bring back the English classes.
The classes are taught by volunteer members of the Spanish Club. The only pay they get is the experience of helping another human being. Currently, there are enough volunteers so that the student to teacher ratio is about one to one. There are three levels of classes: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.
“By helping these people learn English, we are helping them have a better future in the United States, because now they will be able to stand up for themselves, help their children out with school work, along with being more aware with what is going on in their children’s lives, and we are also providing them with the speaking skills to help them be successful in their jobs,” said UTM sophomore and Spanish Club secretary Noreli Méndez.
The classes don’t just benefit the people who go to learn English, though. Members of the Spanish Club who decide to devote their time to volunteering get to have one-on-one time with the people they are trying to help. It is a deeply fulfilling experience that will help them in the future, even if they don’t get any money for it in the meantime.
“I think that the free English classes the Spanish Club is offering for the Hispanic community in Martin is a great thing and very needed. It is also a great opportunity for us to not only give back to the community but to get some practice on our Spanish as well,” Noreli said.
Most of the people the club works with are at the beginning level of understanding English. They don’t speak English very well and most don’t know how to read English. Some can’t read Spanish. Despite the obstacles, the volunteers seem to genuinely enjoy what they do.
“The harder it is to teach, the more rewarding it is to do so,” Fitzgerald said.
Spanish Club meetings are once each week in the Humanities building and are open to anyone who is interested in Spanish or cultures of the Spanish-speaking world.
If you would like to find more information about the meetings, the free English classes, their translation services or anything else the Spanish Club does, go to their website, www.utm.edu/spanish.