Que Pasa? Learning Spanish Online
Q. What is the best way to learn Spanish?
A. Practice, practice and more practice!
Q. What is the best instruction delivery method? A. It depends on the individual’s learning style and schedule, the instructor’s teaching skills and the course resources.
Q. In terms of course design, what are the goals or learning objectives?
A. It all depends on the sponsoring agent – the organization or institution that is paying for the course.
At elearn, the company that provides online learning capabilities to the Center for Financial Training Atlantic States, a new and unique product was recently launched: Online Spanish for Front-Line Staff. The product was developed as a result of a request made to CFT Senior Vice President Karen McMullen by one of CFT’s client institutions. McMullen, in turn, reached out to elearn for course design and development. As they began the research process, the first questions they asked themselves were those stated above, and what resulted was a new approach to learning a language online.
In terms of research, elearn found two major approaches to online course delivery: Webinars (which are Web-based and instructor-led) and a CD-ROM/audio CD-based, standalone program (non-instructor-led).
The results: The Webinar course was deemed too technical in terms of requirements, and instructor- versus learner-focused. What does that mean? Simply stated, it means that our representative learner spent more time trying to “hear” and follow the instructor’s helpdesk troubleshooting activities rather than learning the language.
The CD-ROM approach didn’t fare much better – the representative learner sampled a few courses, made a selection, ordered the course – and literally went to school! The primary learning materials were very good; the CD-ROM allowed the rep to “see” and “hear” the language, and the audio CD was useful to practice in the car. It didn’t take long, however, for the student to realize that they would need to be active – similar to playing a new video game. In other words, a student will have to “do it” and learn by their mistakes! One other component was a very small manual – not a textbook. The 5-by-4-inch, 29-page handbook strengthened the argument that a student was not going to learn this material in a passive manner.
elearn concluded that instructor involvement was imperative to the success of an online Spanish course. Combined with excellent learning materials and an emphasis on banking-specific terms and phrases, elearn was poised to create a better choice. But the course needed a specific design to work online, an organizing element – a way to apply this new type of learning.
The approach was to create an entirely new way to learn Spanish online. elearn added four components: online lectures; interactive assignments, including discussions and an interactive game; banking-specific terminology; and instructor/student weekly phone conversations. This effort was spearheaded by Dr. Daniel R. Sierchio, an experienced banker and training manager. Sierchio is CFO of elearn, CFT’s partner in developing instructor-led, online learning courses.
The new Spanish online course includes:
• Learning objectives to help students focus their learning,
• Directions on which CD-ROM or audio CD to insert into the PC, and
• Practice assignments.
• Scenario-based discussion topics, and
• Forum for trying new skills (read, interpret and respond to other students).
Banking- and finance-specific terms and phrases:
• CD game: play and learn banking terms, and
• Practice daily banking transactions.
Instructor/student weekly phone conversations:
• 15-minute weekly one-on-one phone conversations, and
• Opportunity for learner to present questions to instructor, and instructor to evaluate learning progress.
The goal of this course is not to prepare candidates for foreign-language translating positions at the United Nations, but to create a quality, convenient and effective online course that focuses on the following:
• Attend to the human side of banking by personal greetings and salutations: “Hello, how are you?” – “Que pasa?”, and
• Address the business side of banking by understanding and attending to the product and service needs of our Spanish-speaking customers.
What’s next? As students complete the course and share their experiences, elearn will adjust the course – based on student and instructor feedback – to support your overall goal, namely to communicate to the Spanish-speaking community that you want their business and that you are willing to do some homework to get it!
For more information on enrolling in a CFT Atlantic States online Spanish class, please contact Marta Liimatainen at the CFT office at (800) 795-5242, ext. 2, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.