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Community-based learning course engages students with Chilean organization, translates curriculum

| Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Four years ago, teaching professor of Spanish Elena Mangione-Lora created the course “Introduction to Translation and Interpretation” with the goal of making a real-world impact on the local community and teaching students through the experience. The course is offered in the spring semester and focuses on translation theory, ethics, procedures and techniques while working with two partner organizations. 

Since the course began four years ago, students have worked with Holy Cross School, a local Catholic elementary school, on various projects. This year, Mangione-Lora added a second partner organization in Chile called La Fundación PAR, which helps people with mental disabilities socially integrate.

For the first project, students translate the Holy Cross School’s preschool curriculum from Spanish to English. 

 Clare Roach — coordinator of the Spanish Two-Way Immersion program at Holy Cross School and coordinator of the English as a New Language program through the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at Notre Dame — said Holy Cross School’s curriculum is being shared with 10 grade schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago that are trying to integrate Spanish language instruction into their early childhood programs. The curriculum needs to be translated for the Chicago schools’ principals and administrators who do not speak Spanish.

In addition to translating the curriculum, Notre Dame students also completed the art projects embedded in the thematic units, Roach said.

“So they didn’t just translate the curriculum — they made it better,” Roach said.

Spanish-speaking preschoolers who learn the literary foundations of their native language have an easier time with English acquisition and make connections with their cultural and linguistic heritage, according to Roach. 

Mangione-Lora said she and her students very ambitiously took on an additional project, which involves interacting virtually with mentally disabled residents at a home called El Hogar Sagrado Corazón de Jesús through La Fundación PAR in Paine, Chile. 

Mangione-Lora was inspired to connect with La Fundación PAR by two Italian motorcyclists who she met at an airport in Chile. The men worked with the organization and encouraged Mangione-Lora to do so as well, she said.

“[They] asked if there was anything that we could do to help support, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try,’” Mangione-Lora said. “And so the project was born.” 

Students have conversations with the residents at the home throughout the semester and create a final book to give them as a gift. 

The book includes a history of the home, profiles of the residents and details of their daily lives. The book serves as an institutional history and can also be shown to community members to fundraise for the home, Mangione-Lora said.

“The silver lining of COVID has been that we’ve learned to use technology differently,” Mangione-Lora said. “Having a community partner across the street looks similar to having a community partner on another continent.” 

Felipe Ruiz Ibáñez, executive director of Fundación PAR, said the residents have greatly enjoyed speaking with the Notre Dame students, especially because COVID-19 has limited how much they are able to leave the home and interact with others. 

Junior Alena Coleman, a student in the course, said she has been able to facilitate connections and communication between people who speak different languages and come from different cultures. 

“What I’ve taken away is that translation really is involved in the community,” Coleman said. “[It] is actually really meaningful and can really make a difference in people’s lives.”

Mangione-Lora said the students are doing an incredible job by completing two semesters’ worth of work in one. 

“I’m so proud of the students who are taking it all in stride,” Mangione-Lora said. “The students rose right up to the occasion and they took the lead.” 

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