Learning a Foreign Language

Foreign Language Fluency Bridges Barriers, Opens New Business Opportunities

By Michael Conlin, Elizabeth Gustum, Benjamin Rindone, Alyssa Rood

Being fluent in a second language is becoming significantly more important in today’s expanding global business environment, according to UW-Eau Claire professor Teresita Ronquillo. “If you are bilingual in English and Spanish you can communicate with more than half the world’s population,” she said. Ronquillo recommends that business graduates should consider pursuing a foreign language major, minor, or travel experience during their studies in order to better meet the demands of global companies and the needs of their clients.

The most valuable language to learn beyond English is Spanish, according to Mark Hosmann, Cargill IT talent coordinator. While most Europeans and Asians learn English as a second language during their primary education, many Latin Americans do not, according to Hosmann.

"Although knowing Spanish (and any other world languages) would be extremely helpful, understanding cultural norms and differences are sometimes more important than being able to speak the language," he said. People forgive others for saying the wrong words. Doing something culturally wrong, however, could be a different story.

Two-thirds of Cargill’s business is conducted internationally, said Hosmann. This includes a large satellite IT branch in Barcelona as well as facilities throughout Latin America.

Cargill is not the only company expanding globally. Companies in South American countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are starting to increase their business with the United States, according to Ronquillo. Learning Spanish can prove useful for those wanting to pursue careers or advance in a global environment.

Learning Spanish On-Campus

Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world. For students nervous about learning a second language, Spanish is a good choice for further study as much of its vocabulary is similar to the English language.

Students at UW-Eau Claire have several options to pursue Spanish as a second language, including majors and minors in Spanish. Most of the Spanish majors offered require 36 credits beyond Spanish 102, while minors in Spanish require a minimum of 24 credits.

In addition to studying Spanish, the university also offers numerous study abroad options for Spanish speaking countries. Several of these options do not require any language competency.

For more information on Spanish language study abroad programs, visit the Center for International Education website. Visit the foreign languages department for more information on course offerings in Spanish.

Michael Conlin Elizabeth Gustrum Benjamin Rindone Alyssa Rood

Michael Conlin, far left, is a junior information systems major from Maple Grove, MN; Elizabeth Gustum, middle left, is a senior accounting and management double major from New Auburn, WI; Benjamin Rindone, middle right, is a junior marketing major from Rochester, MN; Alyssa Rood, far right, is a junior marketing major from La Crescent, MN. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class.

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