How has studying Spanish enriched your life?
Without a doubt, I could not work in my current capacity in sales/marketing for the Latin American region at Mueller Sports Medicine, a leading sport medicine accessory company. Spanish language studies have provided me a level of comfort and mastery to conduct business in Latin America. This not only means speaking fluently but also understanding regional and local histories, customs and culture. Thanks to this, I am able to travel extensively through Latin America. Spanish studies have allowed me to realistically peruse my goals.
What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?
The professors maintain a high standard, which pays off with better language skills in the end. It also helped me appreciate the value of studying literature for the development of analytical and writing skills — both fundamental skills in my profession.
What advice do you have for current language students?
I would recommend students to make every effort possible to study abroad and immerse themselves in their fields of interest. If possible, study abroad for a full year, as it typically takes a semester to adjust to the new setting and a second semester to really improve your language skills. I recommend students try to separate (but not isolate) themselves from their English-speaking friends while abroad by renting with the local student or family population and making local friends. It might take you completely out of your comfort zone first, but the positive effects on your language skills and the new friendships will be long-lasting. Also, consider living on the Spanish floor in the campus dormitories to practice your Spanish on a daily basis after you return from study abroad.
Anything else students should keep in mind?
Globalization is increasingly requiring Americans to become at least bilingual. If your future career focus is on Latin America, I would recommend taking at least an introductory course to Portuguese, as Brazil is a quickly growing and dominant player in the region, and more employers are desiring Portuguese as well for Latin American positions.
Story courtesy of Languages at UW-Madison.