Bolivian & American Conversation Partners: An Intercultural Experience

During the Spring 2017 semester, I am offering a new course titled Cultural Conversations: Bolivia, in which I provide students the opportunity to not only gather an interdisciplinary taste of the historical, political, geographical and sociocultural aspects of the country but also to work toward further acquisition of the Spanish language and intercultural identity by pairing up with conversation partners in a classroom in La Paz, Bolivia who are learning English.

This presentation purports to demonstrate to language instructors how they might enable their students to form international, intercultural bonds to provide students with maximum exposure to practice their spoken and written Spanish in a setting that comes as close to being an immersion experience as possible without leaving campus.

The researcher will show student samples from ePortfolios in which students have been posting weekly to practice exploratory, journalistic and argumentative writing to reflect on course reading material and the language-learning process itself throughout the semester.

The course was open to students from all fields as long as they had above an Advanced Intermediate level of Spanish; it filled within two days of registration opening with a wait list of 24 students (for a course with a cap of 18 seats). Questions proposed to students from the outset of the semester were: How does a heterogeneous society live and thrive on a daily basis and how does it mediate diversity? What are the challenges that face a society enriched by ethnic and socioeconomic diversity? How do varying shades of culture blend to create a “society”? How do political and geographical histories affect modern-day political trends, public policy decisions, health care experiences, educational systems, and GDP? The study of Bolivia offers a wealth of material to the interested spectator who desires to increase his/her knowledge of Latin American countries and is particularly fascinating to Americans, whose country has traditionally not held the best of political ties with the nation.

Track: 

  • Intercultural Studies