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.