Learning Goals in Hispanic Studies
Research in linguistics and psychology consistently demonstrates that learning a second language develops the ability of students to reason abstractly, and therefore improves their capacity to learn in other fields. Research in psychology and education has shown that students who acquire a second language are more successful in interacting with foreign cultures and situations, and have a higher capacity to engage in fields of knowledge previously unknown to them. Several other facts have been clearly demonstrated: that language acquisition is age-sensitive, that languages acquired in non-academic settings develop faster when students receive further academic instruction, that bilingual students acquire additional languages more quickly than monolingual students, and that students of a second language vastly improve their critical reading and writing skills in their first language.
Professionals who have expertise in more than one language are consistently preferred over those who do not in jobs that require international connections. These same language skills play an important role in admission selections for graduate, law and medical schools. Professionals interested in working in education and social work, as well as the medical fields, are often expected to know a language other than English. By the mid-century, it is projected, Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the United States.
In a global society, if it is to be a socially just one, intercultural understanding is essential. A genuine intercultural exchange requires literacy in various languages and ways of life, thereby increasing the capacity mutually to influence and transform one other. Monolingual education will not be sustainable in an international world of mutual respect. Philosophers, writers, and historians posit that navigating more than one language has been crucial to the survival of communities in exile and under extreme forms of oppression.
We train students to be capable of critical intercultural thinking. This prepares them to become professionals able to engage successfully in a complex world. Hispanic Studies majors and minors might continue graduate studies in any field of the Humanities and the Social Sciences; they pursue careers in law and the public sector; they become health professionals and businessmen and women; they do creative work, applying themselves to the arts, to community organization, to media communication.