Harvard Divinity School (HDS) students will have a new teaching tool at their disposal this fall. In addition to classes in Coptic, classical Arabic, and biblical Hebrew, students will be able to take a course in Spanish that is designed to help their day-to-day communications.
The course hopes to bridge the gap between the world of the scholar and the world of the street.
For years the Divinity School has offered students intermediate and advanced classes in Spanish readings, which include some communication training but largely focus on the translation of selected texts related to theological studies. And while translating scholarly works is a vital part of the curriculum, some students on the ministry track wanted specific conversational skills.
Lorraine Ledford, who teaches the Spanish translation classes at HDS and its summer language program, will teach the new course titled “Communication Skills for Spanish Ministry.”
Ledford, who also has taught Spanish at the Extension School since the 1970s, said students increasingly asked for a language curriculum that would assist them in their future ministry work.
“Students went to the administration and pushed for a class that would cover the grammar and more idiomatic expressions, but also have a component that would address pastoral work in all kind of fields,” said Ledford.
Harrison Blum, a second-year master of divinity student, was part of an effort to get the administration to offer the communications-based course.
“Because I am in a ministry program, I am more interested in gaining a practical tool,” said Blum, who hopes to explore hospital pastoral work after graduation. It made perfect sense, he said, to develop a background in the “most represented language after English in this country.”
For Ledford, the new course will develop communication skills particularly suited to those planning to minister in Spanish-speaking environments such as hospitals, churches, and even could prove useful in correctional facilities.
“People want to work in the schools, the hospitals, the churches, the prisons and in social work. We’ve always had people in these fields in my classes,” said Ledford, who asked her students for suggestions of readings and exercises for the new curriculum. The result was an influx of ideas including language pertaining to non-governmental organizations, immigration issues and emergency aid and assistance, gang and domestic violence, and job training and literacy.
“My students really want to be up to date,” said Ledford, who envisions tapping into the University’s vast Hispanic resources to help her develop the curriculum further.
Ledford said she hopes to reach out to authorities on Latin America and Spanish culture around campus.
“I would like all of these people to come and talk to my class for 10 or 15 minutes, and widen their world,” said Ledford. “There’s so much focus on a global economy,” she added, there should be “a global spirit or a global culture. Let’s all get to know each other.”
Dudley Rose, the HDS associate dean for ministry studies and lecturer on ministry who encouraged creating the class, said the new course recognizes the importance of bringing together the spoken and the theological through ministry.
Rose said, “To have a course in which students are really exercising the vocabulary and forms that are typical or that are used in theological or spiritual discourse makes students much more adept in that rather nuanced kind of situation.”