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¡Apréndete idiomas nuevos!

One thing you may not know about me is my passion for the Spanish language. I have taken Spanish courses since I was in eighth grade, and it is my second major here at Bucknell. Last spring I studied abroad in Granada, Spain, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. One of the things that attracted me to the Spanish language was how widely used it is, especially in the United States. In fact, Spanish is the second most used language in the U.S, and there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. then there are speakers of Chinese, French, German, and Italian combined. I always thought that knowing a second language would be helpful, and I even considered learning Chinese (I’m pretty sure manicurists  talk about me the whole time I get my nails done- how cool would it be to know what they are saying?)

















(This picture shows the percentage of people in each of the states that speak Spanish)


Going abroad was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I have never felt so insignificant as I did when going to all of those amazing cities of cultural and historical importance. It is crazy to think about all of the different cultures there are in the world and how they are so drastically different from one another. Take Granada, for example. My host sister went to work at 9 am every morning and returned at 3 pm for lunch (the biggest meal of the day) and a siesta (nap) right afterwards. This is not to say that every working person has this same luxury, but I found it fascinating how slow the pace was in relation to the morning “rush hour” here in the U.S. It often bothered me how slow everything was there, but I learned that it is this way because Spanish people actually take the time to appreciate every encounter they have much more so than we do in the U.S.













(La hermosa Alhambra de Granada)

I have read many Harvard Business School cases throughout my years at Bucknell and one of the recurring themes that causes problems is the multinational corporation. Not only must these companies consider the rights of the workers, but they must also consider the specific cultural norms they may have, and be able to adjust their policies accordingly. For example, one of the cultural norms in Granada was that people take their time going to work, and timeliness is a rare quality. I attended classes where I waited 15 minutes for my professor to arrive. Overall, the culture is much more relaxed. If a company went in and immediately became angry at the lack of urgency, the people would simply not understand. These differences must be the key component of an international corporation’s ethics and standard procedures. This is why it is so important to communicate well, especially in a global company.

This also brings up the issue of language barriers. There will undoubtedly be a language barrier between people in Spain versus people in the U.S., however we can help to combat this. By learning other languages we make ourselves not only well-rounded, but also more valuable in business. Sure, English is a global language and many know at least some words and phrases. But why should we be the chosen ones? It is ignorant of us to assume that others know our language, and that we do not need to know theirs. I remember when I applied for colleges that Tufts had a specific language requirement, just like Bucknell has a lab science requirement. I found this interesting and it made me take a greater interest in the school. I believe in the power of languages and that those people who take the initiative to continuously learn about new cultures and languages will ultimately be the most successful.


About alyssakinell

I am a senior Management and Spanish major at Bucknell University. I am originally from East Lyme, Connecticut and I hope to live in a big city after I graduate. If I could be anywhere, I would be on a mountain with fresh powder and hot chocolate. I am incapable of eating a meal without finishing it off with something sweet (generally ice cream).


4 thoughts on “¡Apréndete idiomas nuevos!

  1. Alyssa – what I particularly latched onto in your post are the great disparities between cultures around the world. This reminded me of the debate we had as a result of Lauren’s class discussion about whether or not Nike should have universal policies that include their operations both in the United States and in the third world countries where they outsource their manufacturing. Although I was on the “pro” side of the debate, I thought the strongest argument for the “con” side was the fact that different regions of the world have very different cultural norms and that it would be difficult to establish a universal standard that takes into account all of these norms. While I don’t necessarily agree with this argument, I think it is a valid one to bring up. Multi-national corporations need to be educated on all the cultures that they operate in so that their policies are sensitive to these often substantial differences. They are saying that “the world is flat,” but there is still a lot of ignorance out there. I think colleges are taking a step in the right directions emphasizing the importance of studying abroad, International Relations, and Language classes, but I wonder if this is enough. It seems this kind of education needs to be extended into the workplace beyond what is learned in school.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | February 22, 2012, 4:40 pm
  2. After posting my above comment, I also saw Joey’s remark and wanted to respond to his question. Tufts was one of the first college campuses I toured, and at the information session, the woman called me out specifically and told me “not to be scared” because apparently my face looked horrified at the intense language requirement. I hate to admit it, but one of the many things that I liked about Bucknell originally was the fact that I didn’t have to take a language. I never liked it in high school, and didn’t want to be forced to take a class that I wasn’t interested in. However, my views have since changed. After studying abroad and taking management classes at Bucknell, I have realized the importance of understanding the global world we exist in and language is a big part of that. What I think is sad is the fact that universities have to make such classes part of the core curriculum in order to get students to take them. I wonder if society will progress enough that students will want to take these classes without being pushed. After going abroad to England – a country that speaks the same language as us – I was shocked and also a little embarrassed at how much more cultured some of the British students I met were compared to myself. I met a guy from Monaco, who lived in the United States for a couple of years, and moved back to go to school in the UK. He speaks five languages. While I originally interpreted this as unique to him, I met many more students throughout my time there who had similar fluencies. It was almost commonplace, whereas it is almost unheard of in the United States to know so many languages. I think this says a lot about our society and how we often isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | February 22, 2012, 4:50 pm
  3. I have to agree with Beth – being fluent in multiple languages is so important nowadays! I studied abroad on Semester at Sea, and I count myself as endlessly, blessedly, unbelievably lucky to have trekked all over 13 countries in the space of one semester. Oh, how my horizons grew. While I sometimes regret not living with a host family and truly immersing myself within a culture, like you did, I still wouldn’t trade my experiences for any other abroad experience (sorry!). Before we hit each country, in every single one of my classes – from psych 101 to business organization and strategy to domestic violence on a global perspective to my literature class, we would study each country and their food, their people, their norms, their culture, on a very specific level. The result is that I entered each country with a wealth of knowledge, across many areas of study, and then applied what I learned to what I saw. It was an unbelievable learning experience and as much as I love Bucknell, there is nothing that I have learned here that I was able to learn so deeply.

    Study abroad fond memories aside, I loved your post. I took 3 semesters of Arabic and am now (or at least, I was…. I’d need quite a bit of refreshing) an Intermediate speaker and writer of the language. While I struggled in the class and was glad I could quit when I went abroad, I really feel like the language is invaluable now! I wish I had been able to take more. I’m glad you explored the necessity of understanding a country’s culture for a global business. Aren’t we lucky to have studied abroad and learned that necessity for ourselves?

    Posted by Caitlin H. | February 23, 2012, 12:00 am
  4. Hi, I`m also really interested in the spanish language, albeit I`m a beginner +. I`m going to Madrid this May to take a DELE exam. Also, with the purpose of learning more spanish, I`ve started my own blog:


    Check it out if you like, if not I wish you a pleasant day anyway 🙂

    Posted by thomasdw | February 23, 2012, 9:15 am

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