New Spanish Certificate helps students land better employment

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In Quebec there is a popular joke- Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? A: Trilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages? A: Bilingual. Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language? A: An American!

A lot of Americans at SWC are gifted with a second language and, like sophisticated Europeans, can move back and forth between two (even three) languages fluidly. Like the scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” these talented multi-linguistic students only need a piece of paper to let the world know of their gifts.

SWC’s School of Language and Literature offers the Spanish Proficiency Certificate, a passport into the professional world.

This certificate helps students with bilingual talent to channel their skills into well-paid careers.

A chance encounter between Spanish Professor Deana Alonso and a real estate broker in need of a translator led to the program’s creation in 2006.

“He told me that it was hard for him to distinguish between a person who speaks Spanish fluently and one who speaks Spanglish,” she said. “He asked if there was any type of certification by which students could show that they are fluent in both Spanish and English.”

School of Language and Literature estimates concluded that students with bilingual certification make $7,000 more per year than monolinguals.

Students are required to take Spanish 215 and 216 (Spanish for Bilinguals I or II) or Spanish 216 (Spanish for Bilinguals II), as well as Introduction to Literature, Spanish 221, and one Spanish Translation business courses 225, 226, 227, 233, 234 or Legal 257. These classes prepare students for the business side of interpretation and translation in the medical, legal and immigration fields, among others.

USD Spanish professor Martha T. Oregel is a fan.

“What this does is that it makes you more qualified to translate legal documents and news articles that are directed to a non-Spanish speaking audience,” she said. “I recommend that students join so they can see the impact of Spanish on our community.”

Alonso said many students choose not to receive the certificate, which she insists is a mistake.

“Unfortunately, there is a large number that insist on taking Spanish I for the fear of failing some of the more advanced Spanish courses,” she said.

Earlier this semester the School of Language and Literature hosted an informative gathering in front of the Cesar Chavez building about the benefits of the Spanish Certificate. Department Chair Dinorah Guadiana-Acosta called it a success.

“The objective was to make a gathering where students could get to know who we are and create an environment where students feel free to knock on our doors,” she said.

Accounting student Diana Castaneda said she looks to benefit from the Spanish Proficiency Certificate.

“Being bilingual opens a lot of doors and opportunities,” she said. “I think it is excellent that we can prove our bilingualism through this certificate.”

Alonso says students need to channel their skills intelligently.

“I recommend students take advantage of this blessing,” she said. “They have mastered speaking Spanish, now all that is left is learning to write it and formalize their vocabulary a bit so they can turn this into an economical tool.”

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