Professors: foreign languages valuable in workplace


For students who want to learn more of a foreign language than “burrito,” “hors d’oeuvre” or “karate,” the department of modern languages at K-State offers a wide variety of classes from beginner to advanced levels.

The classes are designed to help students learn a new language, prepare for trips abroad, advance in the career world, or simply acquire a new understanding of their culture and the cultures of other countries.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself, how you think and where you live, and about the history, art and literature in other cultures,” said Melinda Cro, French language program coordinator.

“You can learn a great deal about how another culture perceives something by learning their language,” Cro said.

The department of modern languages offers classes in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish. The department offers minors in all offered languages except Arabic, Czech, Hindi and Latin. It also has bachelor’s and master’s programs in French, German and Spanish. Master’s degrees are also available in teaching English as a foreign language.

While each program teaches a different language, there are many similar benefits of learning a foreign language, said Mary Copple, Spanish language program coordinator.

“The linguistic value of just seeing how another language works allows you to better understand your own,” Copple said. “It allows you to communicate with an entirely new group of people.”

In addition, many of the classes include cultural information about countries where people speak the language. This foreign culture knowledge can be beneficial to students in a variety of ways, Copple said.

“Learning about the cultures of different people around the world is beneficial and can help you in re-examining your own culture and realizing how many of your daily behaviors are driven by established cultural norms,” Copple said.

While the department of modern languages offers more sessions of Spanish than other languages, all secondary languages have value in the workplace, depending on how a student chooses to use the secondary language, Copple said.

“It really depends on the field of a student’s future profession and where it might lead them,” she said. “We have students on campus who study Hindi, and that might not occur to you as a primary language you want to study, but if you are going to come into contact with those who do due to your professional goal, it’s very valuable to you.”

Cro agreed that learning a foreign language can help students when they venture into the professional world.

“Learning a foreign language is about learning about the culture and opening your mind to a new experience,” Cro said. “The more that we are open to other cultures and languages, the more we know, the easier our job becomes to create those bridges with someone else. That’s a quality and skills that are required in any type of job, no matter where you are.”

According to the 2009 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 228.7 million people over the age of 5 speak only English at home. Approximately 35.5 million people over the age of 5 speak Spanish or Spanish Creole at home, making it the second largest category.

In addition, learning a foreign language can make world travel easier, Cro said. This is especially true for Anne Sisley, sophomore in English and Spanish.

Sisley said she hopes to use her Spanish language knowledge to help her in her travels some day.

“I know I for sure would like to travel,” Sisley said. “So I will definitely use Spanish in that way, hopefully traveling to Spanish-speaking countries. I would really like to do some sort of translation or interpretation.”

Sisley said she became interested in learning Spanish during high school.

“I just really enjoyed Spanish. Whenever it got frustrating, I would push through it because I really wanted to learn it,” Sisley said. “I also just enjoy the idea of learning a different language in general. I think it is very useful.”

Students taking foreign language classes will experience a classroom very different from common lecture-style classes, Cro said.

“When a student enters the classroom, they are kind of thrown into the waters of the classroom. We don’t speak English with them. You may take a few minutes to answer some questions in English, but overall it’s immersion,” Cro said. “We follow the communicative theories that place an emphasis on communication. We have to use the language in the classroom because where else are they going to learn it?”

While languages classes are often completely English-free, Cro stressed that students should not be intimidated from taking courses. Perfection is often not the goal, Cro said.

“We know how hard it can be it, but we also know how important it is. If they don’t do it perfectly, that’s not the point,” Cro said. “The point is to make them understood. That’s hard because students always want to do their best.”

Cro said that although students might want to achieve perfection, sometimes the more important lesson is using critical learning skills to adapt to difficult situations.

There are many foreign language classes offered at different skill levels, so students should not be afraid of being in classes that are too advanced, Cro said. She encouraged students who are considering enrolling in a foreign language class to gather more information.

“If they are on the edge, come and find us; we are more than happy to help them,” she said. “We will work with them to give them a personalized experience and help them find where they fit into the program.”

For more information, visit or visit Eisenhower Hall, room 104.