In our increasingly globalized world, learning a second language is becoming more important than in the past— and employers are recognizing that.
Businesses are moving more offices overseas, which increases the need for bilingual workers. However, even in the U.S., the need is rising.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37 million Americans (approximately 12 percent of the population) speak Spanish at home.
In order to meet the needs of this growing market demand, bilingual workers are paid 5 to 20 percent more per hour than monolingual workers, according to Salary.com.
Students and faculty at Virginia Tech are catching on to this trend, as more opportunities are being offered to learn a second language for free, to complement a regular course load.
Here are some of the free programs available through Tech that focus on second language learning.
La Hora Hispanica
Wednesdays 5:30-6:30 p.m.
El Rodeo Restaurant (North Main Street)
The Spanish Department has about 500 students in their program, and professors have been making adjustments to meet those demands.
One of those adjustments, which has been around for several years, is La Hora Hispanica, an informal conversation hour that encourages students to practice their Spanish-speaking skills.
Amanda Salinas, a senior food science and technology major, had never taken a Spanish class at Tech before, but her Bolivian background made her want to learn and practice more.
“Conversation is where you really learn,” Salinas said. “If you just study the grammar and the teacher just speaks at you, you’re never going to learn. You’re never going to become fluent.”
Last spring, Salinas studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she was able to practice her Spanish for about four months. When she returned, she was given the opportunity to lead the conversation hour.
“The goal of (La Hora Hispanica) is to better your Spanish-speaking skills, but also to be in an environment where you talk to peers and make friends,” she said.
The group changed its meeting place to El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant to keep the atmosphere small and intimate, according to Salinas.
While the group was much larger at the beginning of the semester with almost 20 students attending, it’s lessened to about eight regular attendees.
For Salinas, learning a second language is not just a new skill, but also a way to gain a leg up on competition in the working world.
“It opens so many doors,” she said. “There’s a saying, ‘However many languages you know is how many worlds you live in.’ It’s so true.”
Salinas said she hopes to use her Spanish to work in South America at a food science and technology company after graduation.
Russian Conversation Hour
Wednesdays 3-4 p.m.