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Translation, Please

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Teacher Ninja, an ESOL teacher, has some fun with Google Docs' translation tool, which he thinks might help him in communicating with Spanish-speaking parents.

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As a junior in high school 20 years ago, I was accepted as a Rotary International Exchange Student. I had had two years of high school Spanish (I got A's, but wish I had studied harder), so I signed up to go to Mérida, a city located in the Méxican state of Yucatán (Iowa's Sister State), a place I'd never heard of, but now love.

My parents were worried, but determined to let me have the experience. So, wearing my obligatory navy-blue blazer, I boarded a plane for Houston, then on to Mérida, where I found a Spanish Colonial city about three times the size of Des Moines.

My host family welcomed me, and I enrolled in Colegio Peninsular Roger’s Hall where I made friends and struggled forward with my Spanish, starting almost at "ground zero." By year's end I was quite fluent. At Roger's I was assigned to a cohort of about 20 students and we attended classes together, moving from room to room to greet our profesors & profesoras with smiles and (on most days) eager minds.

To shorten the story: The experience motivated me to major in Spanish in college (Truman State University, 1995) and applied linguistics for a MA at Iowa State University (1997). I hope teachers encourage study abroad for their students.

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