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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events
News and Events

More Than Just a Class, A Community
March 19, 2020

Hi! I am your occupational therapist. Are you ready to participate in today’s activities?

Academics and Courses Clinical Diversity, Access, Equity Faculty Students

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By Student Ambassador Kat Hylton

¡Hola! Soy su terapeuta ocupacional. ¿Esta listo para participar en las actividades de hoy? (Translation: Hi! I am your occupational therapist. Are you ready to participate in today’s activities?)

This is an example of the phrases we are learning in OT 566 “Healthcare Communication with Spanish-Speaking Clients,” taught by Dr. Jesús Díaz. Dr. Díaz explained that the main objectives of the course are “to build conversational skills, become more comfortable with using the language, and to help build rapport and relationships with Spanish-speaking clients.”

All levels of Spanish are welcomed in the class. Currently, the levels of Spanish proficiency range from fluent to beginner. The class is balanced by dividing students into small groups, with each group having at least one advanced Spanish-speaker to help with assignments, during lectures and through activities. This ensures beginning students have access to a person who feels more comfortable navigating the language, as well as allowing the advanced student the opportunity to enhance their skills.

“My favorite thing about this class is the broad range of language levels in the class because it makes me feel comfortable to try,” said second-year master’s student Maggie Markley.

Dr. Díaz starts the course by teaching primarily in English. As the semester goes on, he gradually incorporates more Spanish into lectures to help ease students into an immersive experience. 

The Spring 2020 cohort of OT 566 with Dr. Díaz

The Spring 2020 cohort of OT 566 with Dr. Díaz, pictured in second row in blue shirt. (All individuals pictured agreed to be shown with this article.)

The Duolingo app is a big part of balancing the spectrum of experience with the language as well. We have a weekly requirement to earn 100 points per week on the app. The app allows each student to complete activities and lessons at their own pace and with vocabulary that matches their current Spanish fluency level. We also have guest speakers that present to our class and teach us vocabulary and terms more commonly used within their respective specializations. A few presenters we have had so far include Dr. Celso Delgado, who presented on mental health, Dr. Erna Blanche, who presented on sensory integration, and Dr. Allison Chu, who presented on adult rehabilitation.

Here is some practice-specific vocabulary we have learned so far:

Centros comunitarios : community centers
Expresar emociones : to express emotions
Integración sensorial : sensory integration
Sistema vestibular : vestibular system
Actividades de la vida diaria : activities of daily living
Establecer metas : to set goals

“Once I heard this class was being offered, I knew I wanted to take it, said second-year master’s student Jessie Louie. “Having this class keeps me more accountable to furthering my Spanish learning. I think this is important because I think I want to practice OT here in LA and Spanish will be helpful in this area.”

Personally, I identify as a student who speaks Spanish fluently. I am taking this class because I want to fine-tune my Spanish medical terminology, and I want the opportunity to practice in a safe space. The environment that Dr. Díaz has created in OT 566 is one where students can feel comfortable to practice their Spanish and ask questions freely.

My friends in the class and I actually have our own study group outside of class. We usually go to someone’s house or apartment, practice our lessons from class, laugh, eat and have a good time! Food is a must in this study group! Some study sessions are more productive than others; it just depends on the vibes and the snacks.

OT 566 has allowed me to find a community within a class. Being able to speak Spanish amongst my peers and to be surrounded by students who are eager to learn my second language makes my Latin identity feel important and validated within the Chan Division. The carryover from class to dinner study sessions with my friends is an incredible experience. Food, drinks, laughs, good vibes and practicing Spanish . . . what more could I want? I am #winning!

My study group. Better yet, my community.

My study group . . . Better yet, my community. (All individuals pictured agreed to be shown with this article.)