Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing the Use of the Spanish Language in a Service-Learning Environment

Sydney Belcastro, Wheeling Jesuit University / Dixie State University (United States)

Briana Moorman, Wheeling Jesuit University / Dixie State University (United States)

Allen Marangoni, Wheeling Jesuit University / Dixie State University (United States)

Luis Arévalo, Wheeling Jesuit University / Dixie State University (United States)


Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of teaching Spanish to Physical Therapy students while on service learning trips in Peru and Mexico. The study focused its attention on practical uses of Spanish while delivering of Physical Therapy services. A secondary purpose of this study was to enhance students’ cultural competency during service learning. By implementing the Spanish program, we hoped to improve the exchange of information between student and patient, ideally leading to overall improved cultural competency of the students. Researchers hypothesized that students will subjectively have a significantly (p<.05) better command of the language during therapy sessions at the end of their trip when compared with their performance at the beginning of the week. 
Methods: Doctor of Physical Therapy students and medical personnel who participated in service learning trips to Spanish speaking countries were asked to engage in an intensive practical application language program throughout the trip. They participated in 20-minute language modules at the beginning of each day and each evening. In order to assist students in remembering the vocabulary and phrases, a number of reminders were provided to participants. Participants were asked to rate themselves on their ability to speak the language and interpreters tested the participants by quizzing them on common words and phrases both at the beginning and end of the trip. The scores were compared.
Results: Fifty-five DPT students and medical personnel met the inclusion criteria with an average age of 31-years-old. The average intake rating on the participants ability to speak Spanish was 1.73 out of 10; and at the end of the program, the average outtake rating was 4.25 out of 10. This demonstrated a significance between the pre and post-test scores (p≤ 0.01) on the participants ability to speak the Spanish language. After completing the objective analysis of the participants ability to speak the language by the interpreters, the mean difference was 14.67 (p≤ 0.01). Researchers also found no difference between different interpreters’ ability to teach by comparing the different groups’ pre and post-test scores. Participants reported a common appreciation regarding the repetitions of the newly acquired words and sentences, the practicality of the information taught, and group interactions throughout the language program.
Conclusion: Learning modules were found to be an efficient and effective tool of acquiring the Spanish language of the host country in the setting of Physical Therapy.  By the end of the week, students increased their proficiency in the Spanish language and required less assistance from the interpreters. This indicated that the program significantly improved results objectively as well as subjectively.

Keywords: Language acquisition, service learning, proficiency, full immersion.

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