826CHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.
Many of the students that attend 826CHI writing programs come from Spanish-speaking homes. Their parents are actively involved, but the language barrier between the staff and parents was becoming a frustration.
With only one or two people on staff speaking Spanish, 826CHI was not fully supporting its parent group. When a Spanish-speaker would call the office, many times the person who answered would be at a loss. “I’m sorry, the person who speaks Spanish isn’t here right now.”
Executive Director Barry Benson suggested that the 826CHI staff learn Spanish. Not only would staff be able to communicate with Spanish-speaking parents, they could create stronger relationships with each other through team building.
Benson set up Spanish classes with Multilingual Connections. 826CHI staff attend class for one hour per week at either the beginner or intermediate level.
At first, Benson thought that with everyone’s diverse schedules, choosing a good time for classes would be difficult, and interest would fade. To Benson’s delight the Spanish classes, which began last May, have a 100% participation rate. 826CHI staff find their Spanish instruction so important that they schedule around the class time. Even the board president attends classes!
Benson says every day is a success story, and is thrilled with the results. “It’s gone beyond being a smart investment. We’re improving morale and getting to know each other.”
Multilingual Connections classes always teach language within culture, and the 826CHI staff have plenty of student work to practice from. The group recently translated a complete “I Wish” story written by a fifth-grader. Here is a sample sentence:
- “If I could do anything, I would go on a date with Justin Bieber. We would go to Golden Corral and we would talk about our deepest feelings and our hobbies.”
Not only did they learn useful vocabulary that their Spanish-speaking students might use, that sentence gave the class a chance to practice the conditional and subjunctive tenses!
826CHI recently received an award from the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago honoring their work with Spanish-speaking communities at Global Latino Fest in October. The language studies were part of that recognition.
What’s next for Spanish instruction at 826CHI? Benson would love to extend Spanish lessons to their dozen or so interns. Learning Spanish would not only boost their marketable skill set, it would be a way for the non-profit to reward them for their hard work.
We at Multilingual Connections would love our friends and fans to get involved with this cutting-edge group of writers and educators. 826CHI sports an innovative and lively volunteer program populated by creative individuals. “People who volunteer at 826CHI come here as much for the enjoyment as they do to give back,” says Benson. Volunteers can tutor after school, run workshops and field trips, and even just help in the office with administrative support.
Multilingual Connections applauds 826CHI for embracing the challenge of bilingualism in the workplace. We are so proud to share this success story!
If your workplace is looking for language instruction – in Spanish, English, or any of our 18+ languages, contact Multilingual Connections so we can begin designing a custom language learning curriculum for your business.