4/24/2014 10:28:09 PM

The Value of Foreign Language

Monday, March 04, 2013

By Elise Fernandez '13

Speaking foreign languages may enhance your knowledge about different cultures and can be a beneficial skill while traveling abroad. That skill can also provide career opportunities.

Siena College gives students many platforms for learning and speaking foreign languages. Along with taking courses in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and even American Sign Language, Siena students can study abroad and participate in numerous foreign language clubs.

“I would recommend any sort of foreign language immersion. I took full advantage in high school with four years of Italian classes and two different exchange programs. I continued that with close and in-depth classes at Siena as well as a study tour in Italy,” said Lauren Marenzana ’12.

“Hablás Español” is a conversation group lead by two assistant professors of modern languages and classics, Lisette Balabarca, Ph.D., and Marcela Garces, Ph.D. The goal of the group is to provide students with the opportunity to learn and practice their skill in speaking Spanish. “We speak Spanish the whole hour and often break into groups,” said Balabarca. “We want everyone to feel comfortable and not intimidated.”

The “Hablás Español” group gathers in the Sarazen Student Union for informal conversation that connects with students of all skill levels. “The Spanish speaking group is a great way to improve your language skills and it is really fun,” said Claire Frank ’13. “I love the fact that everyone who goes is at a different speaking level, but everyone is understanding, patient and eager to help you learn.”

Balabarca said earning a degree or pursuing a minor in a foreign language has many benefits. “A major or minor in a foreign language is not something that you learn and forget when you graduate.” Balabarca said. “It’s something that you can take with you; it opens your mind.”

Knowing a foreign language is also one way to become more marketable while applying for jobs. Katherine Romero ’11 is fluent in Spanish, which has already helped her career. “As a social worker, there is a demand for bilingual speakers in the field.” Romero said. “I am currently working with a client that only speaks Spanish, so a lot of our paperwork needs to be translated along with accessing services for the client.”

Being at least conversational in a language can set students apart from other job applicants. According to Career Center Director Debra DelBelso, there is a broad range of employers who need bilingual applicants. “I think for a potential candidate to stand out, if they can reach a moderate level of fluency, that would be best,” DelBelso said.

Whether taking classes, studying abroad or participating in conversation groups, Siena College offers several opportunities to learn new languages, experience different cultures and develop marketable skills that will prepare students for career success.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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