Recently I got a chance to ask Ms B a few questions about the student trip to Peru that she is organizing for our LaSalle II Spanish Language students. Following are a few highlights.
Why is travel to another country important to learning a language?
Ms Bucciarelli, LaSalle II Spanish Language Teacher
Traveling to another country isn’t important to learning a language — it is why we learn other languages!
Yes, learning a second or more languages is amazing for brain development, and yes it can be an interesting academic exercise for a certain type of person such as myself. But language learning is more than grammar, syntax and semantics. It is history, it is culture, it is people.
Travel affords us the opportunity to interact in the language with native speakers in real-time, in real life. It is through this negotiation of meaning — on a linguistic and on a cultural level — that we truly learn what is means to speak another language, what is means to be of another culture. This understanding has profound implications for the development of ourselves as global citizens and, perhaps more importantly, for a deep understanding of humanity. I will now step down from my philosophical soapbox!
On the lighter side, traveling is just fun and being able to travel as a capstone experience of language learning is a great opportunity for our students.
How many kids have gone and how many do you expect on the next trip?
This year, seven students will be traveling with us — three seventh-graders and four eighth-graders. I expect the numbers to increase in the future as students and families understand the eligibility requirements and we continue to build relationships with non-profit organizations, language centers and/or schools in other countries.
Where do the groups go on the trips, and how do you pick the locations?
The trip to Peru this year grew out of the Fund for Teachers fellowship I received in 2011. The fellowship, which I completed with another teacher, was to research textiles as a social and economic tool within several Peruvian communities. During that trip, I stayed in Patacancha, a rural weaving village, with Awamaki, the non-profit that is organizing our student trip this year.
This year, we will be staying in Patacancha for three days to assist in the building of a greenhouse. In Cusco, we will stay at the Hostal Mágico, the hostel of a friend of mine whom I met on the fellowship trip. He is the creator of an after-school program, Aldea Yanapay, and cultural center for students and their families. All proceeds from the hostel benefit their programs.
Since the fellowship trip, I have returned to Peru three times and think it is a great choice for a student trip at this age — the history and culture are accessible and interesting, the people are welcoming and the scenery makes it feel like an adventure!
What are some of your favorite parts of the trip?
I truly believe that students will enjoy and be enriched by all aspects of the trip! I know my students are particularly excited to take a weaving lesson in Patacancha, to walk through a traditional market in Cusco and of course, to visit Machu Picchu! I am most excited to see them interact with people in the various communities we will visit and be able to have the opportunity to teach them in the places we have discussed in class.
How much does it cost to go on one of the trips, and how are you raising money this year?
The trip this year is approximately $2,800 per student. We have done many fundraisers in an attempt to be able to make the most of our time there, such as being able to opt to do additional activities and tours. This year, we have held several restaurant nights at Peruvian restaurants throughout Chicago. We also did the Equal Exchange and Global Goods catalog fundraisers and we continue to sell bracelets from Peru for $5 each. This year, we also received a generous donation from the PTO.
How much should parents of lower grade kids be saving per year?
Parents should realistically plan for a trip abroad to cost $3,000 — $4,000, depending on the country visited, the length of the stay, the type of accommodations secured and the type of trip — whether it is a school exchange, service trip with a non-profit, or a tour.
While this may seem like a high cost, famalies should keep in mind that we typically have smaller groups of students than a high school, for example, that might be able to secure a less expensive trip through a language institute for 30 students. Because of this, things like activity or transportation costs are spread among fewer students than with larger groups. As well, flight costs to most countries continue to remain high.
How much to save per year is very much a personal decision, so I would say that it is most important to have the figure above in mind by the time your child reaches seventh grade. Whether they travel in seventh or eighth grade will depend on which languages are planning to travel in that year.