Students hone Spanish skills in casual environment

Students have an opportunity to learn Spanish in a new way through La Tertulia, which means “the discussion group” in Spanish. The group, which is sponsored by the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi, holds discussions to encourage students to casually converse in Spanish, advance their level of fluency and better grasp their speaking capabilities.

Tamara Agger, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and the head of La Tertulia, said the discussions can help students gain confidence while attempting to learn a new language.

Agger said La Tertulia is not completely new to campus. It was restarted after she returned from her semester abroad in Chile to find that the discussions had fallen off the radar. The discussions started up again in the Office of International Education on Sept. 20.

“I proposed to my fellow Sigma Delta Pi members that it would be a good idea to start it up again,” Agger said. “They agreed, and since then, it’s become both a pet project and a passion of mine.”

Agger said as a former La Tertulia student, the lessons provided great preparation for her studies in Chile.

“At the end of the day, La Tertulia is about making connections with other Spanish speakers, creating a space for intercultural exchange and fostering the use and practice of the Spanish language on Marquette’s campus,” Agger said.

Agger said La Tertulia students must identify themselves as beginner, intermediate or advanced so speakers with equal conversational abilities can gather and have conversations at their own pace.

Agger said the guidelines for discussions are never forced or strictly adhered to.

“I believe that the best discussions are often the organic, unplanned ones,” Agger said. “That’s kind of an ideal, though, especially when you’re a non-native speaker.”

Jesse Mark, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and the head of public relations for Sigma Delta Pi, said La Tertulia is intended to improve already practicing Spanish speakers but is open to all Marquette students, regardless of language experience. She said native speakers are encouraged to join, as they provide valuable help for non-native speakers.

Mark said each La Tertulia session is organized around topics for discussion and conversation prompts that members prepare but which allow the discussion to flow wherever seems comfortable.

“The discussions are organized so that students can speak to other students who are at a similar level of Spanish,” Mark said. “We try to switch it up every week, and the topics can be anything from pets to travel or even politics.”

Mark said students’ abilities greatly increase after regularly attending discussions.

“The nice thing about La Tertulia is that there is no pressure; we all understand that we are learning a new language, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” Mark said.

La Tertulia hosts about 10 to 15 students at each weekly session.

Sean Mahon, a senior in the College of Business Administration and treasurer of Sigma Delta Pi, said the central idea of La Tertulia is the relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s not like a classroom,” Mahon said. “You’re not being graded but simply working on the language for your own proficiency.”

Mahon said he believes there is an extensive Spanish-speaking contingent across campus and that recruiting such individuals is paramount. He said the turnout some weeks is good while other weeks’ turnout is lacking, and he said the discussions are a work in progress.