Cool Words in Spanish (Part II): Sobremesa

Translated literally as “upon” or “over” the table, sobremesa describes the Spanish custom of sitting at the table after a meal, enjoying conversation and coffee or other drinks with family and friends. Sobremesa occurs both at home and at restaurants and is why it is considered impolite for the your server to bring you your check immediately after you finish your dinner or lunch. You are expected and encouraged to linger. Sobremesa is great for the body and soul!

Cool Words in Spanish (Part I): tocayo/tocaya

I have at least two sets of tocayos in my classes this semester. It’s been fun teaching them this new word that does not have a direct equivalent in English. A tocayo or tocaya can mean “namesake”, but it is also someone who has the same name as you. If your name is Jacob and your classmate is Jacob, too, you can greet him by saying, “¡Hola, tocayo!” You can explain this connection by stating, “Somos tocayos.”

Sociedad Honoraria de la Lengua Española Chapter Established at NOVA

On December 18, 2020, NOVA’s chapter of la Sociedad Honoraria de la Lengua Española (SHLE) was founded in a virtual ceremony attended by SHLE Executive Director Dr. Mark Del Mastro, students, faculty, administrators and guests. The founding active members (Maram Baider, Dana Graham and Allen de Meneses Medeiros) and founding honorary members (Dr. Martha Davis, Prof. Shonette Grant, Dr. Nakul Kumar, Dr. Jimmie McClellan and Dr. Dali Tan) were also inducted.

SHLE is a program of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, which was founded in 1919 by Ruth Barnes, an undergraduate junior at the University of California, Berkeley. Sigma Delta Pi is the largest world language honor society and has more than 615 chapters at four-year colleges and universities nationwide. The first chapter of SHLE, which recognizes outstanding students of Spanish at community colleges, was founded at Coastal Bend College (TX) on November 9, 2017. SHLE has since expanded to include 12 chapters nationwide. NOVA’ s chapter was the first to be founded in Virginia.

The Mission of the SHLE is to:

  1. Recognize students in community colleges who excel in the study of the Spanish language and Hispanic culture.
  2. Recognize those who have made the Hispanic contributions to modern culture better known in the English-speaking world.
  3. Encourage students to acquire a greater interest in and a deeper understanding of Hispanic culture.
  4. Build and advocate friendship and mutual respect between the nations of Hispanic speech and those of English speech.
  5. Serve its membership in ways that will contribute to the attainment of the goals and ideals of the society.

Applicants for active membership must have a 3.0 grade point average in Spanish classes and a 3.2 cumulative grade point average. Individuals whose professional activities notably reflect the goals and ideals of this honorary society may apply or be nominated for an honorary membership. The one-time membership fee is $15.

Please contact the SHLE advisor Dr. Martha E. Davis at for information about joining NOVA’s chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria de la Lengua Española.

For more information about the national organization and benefits of membership, including summer scholarships to Spain, visit

Arriving Soon to the NOVA AL Library: “Undocumented” by John Moore

Are you interested in learning more about the immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border? Look for John Moore’s book, Undocumented: Immigration and the Militarization of the United States-Mexico Border, coming soon to the NOVA Alexandria Library.

John Moore has spent the last decade taking photographs along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. His photo (see below) of a young Honduran girl crying as her mother was searched by Border Patrol agents was recently awarded the World Press Photo of the Year.

“No pasó nada” por Antonio Skármeta

Are you an intermediate or advanced reader of Spanish? Are you looking for a good novella to read? Look no further! No pasó nada by the Chilean author, Antonio Skármeta,  may be just the book you need. The coming of age tale takes place in 1970s Germany, where Lucho, the young narrator, is living with his family in exile from the Pinochet regime. The novella is a great way to practice your Spanish and learn about Chilean history and culture.

Fun fact: Skarmeta also wrote El cartero de Neruda, on which the Oscar-winning movie “Il Postino” was based.

Looking for a Few (100,000 or so) Good Teachers

A number of states, including Virginia, currently face a critical shortage of language teachers. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, “by 2025, there could be a hiring gap of 100,000 teachers annually.”

Learn more about the requirements to become a language teacher in Virginia by visiting, checking out school districts’ (e.g. Fairfax County Public Schools, Alexandria Public Schools) sites and talking to your counselor, advisor and/or a NOVA language professor. We need you!

Are you interested in a career switch? Information on alternate paths to licensure can be found here:

Kanopy Video: Free Spanish language movies for NOVA students

Acquiring proficiency in a language is like honing any other skill: it requires individual as well as group practice. Just as athletes should run and lift weights on their own when not at practice or games and musicians must practice their instruments outside of rehearsals and performances, language learners grow by listening to the language outside of class.

A fun and free way to do so is by watching movies through the online video streaming site, Kanopy Video. Simply log on with your MyNova username and password and you can enjoy a plethora of Spanish language movies (all with subtitles).

In no particular order, here are some of our favorites:

Malacrianza (El Salvador), Pelo malo (Venezuela), Ixcanul (Guatemala), Return to Cuba, Pequeñas mentiras piadosas (Cuba) and Las analfabetas (Chile).

You can also browse “Global Studies & Languages,” “Latin American Studies” for more titles. (For movies from Spain, search under “European/Baltic Studies.”


Felicidades a los ganadores de “Mejor comercial”

Prof. Davis’s Spanish 101 students ended the semester by presenting “informercials” on a wide variety of original products and services. Then, students voted for the “Comercial más convincente” (“Most Convincing Comercial”).

Congratulations to this semester’s award winners, Ashley Torres, David Adams and Sarah Olsen, pictured above, for their informercial, “La Cartera.” ¡Felicidades!