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Palabras to Words

Each year, I try out a couple new clubs, hoping to meet other people like myself on campus who share my interests. Sometimes I continue going after the semester ends, and sometimes activities get replaced with something new. One of my major extracurricular undertakings this year has been Palabras to Words, our ESOL tutoring club. Adult native Spanish speakers come to McDaniel to work with students on their English skills. I had been interested in joining during my first two years at McDaniel, but I was also scared that my Spanish wasn’t good enough to communicate and help teach English.

I decided to go this year because my spoken Spanish and confidence had risen significantly after spending last spring in Costa Rica. What I learned is that it’s not exactly necessary to know Spanish if you want to teach English, depending on the level of your tutee.

I work with Mateo, a man who lives in Frederick and has been in the United States for the past ten years. He is studying to get his GED and hopes to join the military after he passes. He is also learning to play guitar, is interested in philosophy, and is a big fan of The Doors.

During our hour-long tutoring sessions, Mateo and I have worked on reading comprehension, pronunciation, vocabulary skills, and grammatical concepts. We’ve even done some math for GED preparation. My favorite exercise that we do together, however, has to do with song lyrics. Because he loves The Doors and classic rock in general, I like to pick the lyrics to a song each week and take some important words out. Then, we listen to the song together and he figures out which words are missing. This is a great way to build vocabulary and help him understand the songs he likes to listen to on the radio.

Working with Palabras to Words has allowed me to learn what teaching ESOL involves as I have thought about getting certified after graduation. I’ve also had the chance to keep working on my Spanish and meet some awesome students and community members. All in all, I definitely want to stay involved with this club for the rest of my time at McDaniel!

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