Minor tragedy resolved: Spanish department will introduce certificate programs

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To muscle your way into the real world, it takes a resume with an impressive flex. In preparation for this tango with the job market, students spend time on internships, research and, of course, learning another language.

“Bilingual” is one bullet point guaranteed to beef up any resume, which is why many college students choose to minor in a foreign language. Spanish is a popular choice for many Texas students and, according to Core Language, is the second most commonly spoken language in the US after English. However, there is no Spanish minor available at UT — for now, that is.

Students involved in the Spanish program during this transition period are frustrated that there is no obvious way to make Spanish a more official part of their studies. When anthropology freshman Alexa Chestnut made plans to add a minor, she was shocked to find that Spanish wasn’t a possibility.

“There’s a minor for every other language, so I was very confused as to why there wasn’t one for Spanish,” Chestnut said. “It just seems like at a big university like UT that would be an option.”

Chestnut decided to add Spanish as a second major as she hopes to speak the language in full by the time she graduates.

For this reason, Chestnut feels the idea of the specialized Spanish certificates degrades the language learning process.

“I feel like having the vocabulary to speak a portion of the language leaves out the cultural components of learning another language,” Chestnut said. “I understand that it’s functional, and I think it’s great people will be able to graduate with a foreign language certificate on their transcript, but I also think people won’t be getting a complete foreign language experience.”

Cory Reed, Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, hopes that these certificates will prove not to be limiting for foreign language education, but rather will instead offer more specialized language skills.

According to Reed, although the certificates will focus on particular skill sets within Spanish, culture won’t be left out. This is particularly true for the Ibero-American Cultural Diversity certificate, which will be more inclusive to students.

“This certificate provides an opportunity for students who don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese to study content courses in our field and in programs such as Africa and African Diaspora Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Latin American Studies,” Reed said.

Reed said the new programs are designed to reach beyond the pool of students learning Spanish out of interest in the language to connect with students interested in Hispanic culture and looking to gain relevant skills.  

According to Jossianna Arroyo-Martinez, chair of the Department of Spanish, these changes within the department mean there will soon be opportunities for students to make Spanish a more official part of their transcript and resume.

“The department is working to introduce new certificates that students can present when they leave UT as an official record of their studies,” Arroyo-Martinez said. “There will be certificates for medical Spanish, business Spanish and a more culturally focused certificate.”

Arroyo-Martinez said the Spanish department experienced a drop in the numbers of students engaged with the Spanish department as they’ve made this transition to a more specialized curriculum.

“The changes have been frustrating for some students, but it’s important to adapt the department to better serve the needs of the time,” she said. “With the Dell Medical School opening, the University is looking at how it can serve students best across all disciplines, including Spanish. We think the new certificate programs will give students the best experience now and the best knowledge for the future.”