On Monday I went to a meeting of the Spanish club, an organization I joined last semester. This meeting was probably my favorite yet, and definitely the most informative. They brought in Enrique Villar-Gambetta, the Honorary Consul of Peru in Oklahoma, to speak to us about the use of Spanish in a professional setting. This is something I had wondered and worried about constantly since I came to OU. I knew immediately that I wanted to major in Spanish. I had come so far since I began learning the language, and didn’t want to lose what I had. Also, I knew I enjoyed it—having a few Spanish courses each semester has kept me sane through a harrowing math major. However, I’ve been concerned that I’m wasting my time. Double majoring isn’t always easy, and I’ve never been confident that I can find a way to use my Spanish professionally.
Villar-Gambetta laid these worries to rest. He spent the first few minutes dazzling us with facts about the Spanish language and world: There are more Spanish speakers in the US than Spain (and this number is rapidly growing); Spanish is the second most spoken language on the planet; and there are plenty of rising industries in Latin America that many US companies are eager to tap into. Hearing this certainly made me more optimistic. He explained how he used his bilingualism constantly as a lawyer travelling between Peru and Oklahoma. His accent was thick, but very easy to understand. He told us how he had worked hard to learn English for his career, and was not at all disappointed with the doors this opened for him.
A good deal of his talk was economic. He explained how important it was to employers that their employees are able to communicate with as many people as possible. Spanish speakers open up dozens of nations for business, and are often called on to travel a good deal. This was good to hear. Whatever I end up working in, I want to travel. Also, I want to have plenty of opportunities to exercise my Spanish. My father is from Colombia, and Spanish is his first language. However, he is never required to speak Spanish in his pharmaceutical job, and I have noticed him losing a bit of his fluency. This is so sad to me—when I finally get to a point where I am comfortable in Spanish, I’ll make sure to practice regularly.
For a good deal of his talk, Villar-Gambetta explained to us what he does professionally. This was hard for me to follow, as I’m not too familiar with legal terms. However, I could tell that he was constantly going back and forth between the US and Latin America. He also mentioned that he was sometimes required to travel in Brazil, and had been learning Portuguese. He said this was not too difficult for him, as Portuguese is so similar to Spanish. He emphasized that nowadays many employers are looking for employees that are not only bilingual, but trilingual. The way he put it, “Bilingual is required; trilingual is desired.” While learning a third language won’t be easy for me, I look forward to it. My Spanish major actually requires that I take 5 hours in an additional foreign language. Maybe I can use this as a stepping stone to Portuguese, French, or Italian. These languages use very similar latin roots, and it might be possible for me to become familiar with all of them. No matter what, I’m excited to continue learning languages at OU, and hopefully to use them someday in a professional setting.