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K-State Today

December 3, 2013

K-State Spanish translation course impacts local social services through service learning

Submitted by Chelsea Gerber

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Laura Kanost’s translation course goes beyond the lectures, assignments and paper writing typical of many college classrooms.

In her Introduction to Translation Course at Kansas State University, Kanost seeks to provide a meaningful and empowering experience through her students' work by teaching with a service learning pedagogy. Service learning is an educational practice that allows students to learn and reflect on community based learning experiences. Kanost is an associate professor of Spanish and a champion of service learning on campus.

"Having the opportunity to integrate a project that will impact the community allows students to become confident and gain the ability to push their work toward a greater meaning," Kanost said about the reasoning behind integrating service learning into her courses.

Students in her course are currently working on a group project they began in September with community partners. Each group is partnered with The Crisis Center, Manhattan Public Library or Flint Hills Adopt-A-Family to produce professional quality Spanish translations for materials used by the respective organization. The project began with students engaging with their community partner to learn about the purpose of the translations, as well as the targeted audience.

“We are excited to get students' support and at the same time offer them a professional experience that makes their work real. This allows us to get access to quality translations that are a respectful and accurate representation of our message to share with Spanish speaking families in the Manhattan community," said Danielle Schapaugh, public relations coordinator at the Manhattan Public Library, about the partnerhip with Kanost's class.

Now students are working with a computer assisted translation tool to translate the documents. Kanost and Thelma Carley, modern languages graduate student and local legal interpreter , will revise the documents. Students will then submit their final translations to their community partners in early December.

Liam Reilly, senior in civil engineering with a minor in Spanish, said, "By helping the Manhattan Public Library, we will be able to reach more people and help people who would not otherwise know about the services available. Knowing that we could be bettering the lives of people who would have otherwise not known about a service due to language barriers is definitely the biggest takeaway for me."

Before the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to get feedback and hear the impact their translation documents are having within the community. Through these interactions, the full circle of service learning will come together for Kanost’s students.

Service learning continues to be a cornerstone of the School of Leadership Studies with professors across campus like Kanost being champions for this teaching and learning for citizenship education, community development and growth. Kanost is also a 2013 Kansas Campus Compact engaged faculty fellow. Kansas Campus Compact is a statewide organization that provides guidance for faculty seeking civic engagement into teaching and research and is housed at K-State.

By bringing service learning into the classroom, students become equipped with skills of teamwork and civic responsibility they can take with them into their future careers and communities. Kanost is a pioneer for this work in her discipline. 

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