Spanish and multilingual learners forge bonds through language exchange

Spanish and multilingual learners forge bonds through language exchange
Spanish and English speakers sit at a table in conversation.

When multilingual teacher Lisa Scroggins sought to provide extra support for her students learning English, she recognized Spanish learners as ideal collaborators. Spanish teacher Lisa Sohn readily embraced the partnership.

“It’s very much a two way street as far as what they are getting out of the experience,” Sohn said.

This partnership extends beyond language proficiency; it fosters cultural validation. Once a week, the groups get together to have conversations and help one another with course work outside of language class. Some weeks they speak in all English and other weeks they will speak in Spanish. Conversations will range from talking about their families, sports, and hobbies, or they will discuss an assignment from a science class. The range of tutoring, socializing, and cultural understanding has been beneficial to all students involved, enriching their educational experience and fostering empathy and respect for diverse cultures.

Ethan Galles, one of Sohn’s Spanish students, said he has enjoyed the experience. Since the group switches from speaking in all English or all Spanish, he has been able to improve his Spanish speaking skills while also helping multilingual students with English and tutoring in their course work.

Galles has seen his Spanish speaking skills improve and he has been able to get to know individuals he might not have struck up a conversation with because of a language barrier, underscoring the power of language exchange in breaking down cultural barriers and building connections.

“The more they get to know each other,they’re gonna realize there are more things they have in common than different,” Scroggins said.