College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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More Realistic, More Targeted: Spanish in the Professions Revamped with CIBER Funding


In business, the world is getting smaller and smaller. The College of Business has stepped up efforts to prepare students for the increasing globalization found in business. The Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), funded in the College by a US Department of Education grant, provides support for educational programs that emphasize the need for global knowledge and cross-cultural skills. CIBER funding made possible one recent advancement to a Spanish course that has changed to better meet the needs of students entering the business world after graduation.

Darcy Lear.With CIBER support, Assistant Professor of Spanish Darcy W. Lear, revamped Spanish 142, “Spanish in the Professions.” The focus of the course used to be on business skills for people working in a Spanish-speaking country. One of three classes that could fulfill the campus foreign language requirement, the course was not fulfilling the needs of its students, many of whom never intended on furthering their Spanish skills. Lear shifted the focus of the course onto language skills in the professional world at a domestic level. “This course meets students’ needs and desires to learn language skills that will be applicable to their future careers,” Lear said. These students are now able to have a better understanding of how to use their basic Spanish skills past their college education.

Course modifications started with the production of a course packet entitled Spanish in the Professions: Bilingualism in the United States, which includes readings from various Spanish periodicals that were provided because of CIBER funding. The financial support also made possible audio and video recordings of bilingual professionals discussing how Spanish has helped them in their careers. The Spanish 142 grammar and language lessons were then built around these real-life narratives.

The course has also been technologically enhanced so that half of the students’ coursework is completed online, thereby cutting the amount of classroom time from four hours a week to two. Lear said this allowed the administrators of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese to increase the number of sections available without increasing teaching staff. “We were able to increase our numbers from three sections with a total of 66 students to six sections with a total of 122 students,” Lear said. She also anticipates that the number of students this course will be able to reach will continue to climb as demand grows.

Jignesh Amin, a current student in Spanish 142, appreciates how the course emphasizes vocabulary and language skills that can be applicable to his daily and professional life. “I like the fact that they teach how to speak Spanish in today's world, for example teaching us modern terms in Spanish,” Amin said. Other students agree that overall this course has been a positive experience.

Lear hopes to continue in this direction of globalization education, and she is currently working on a 200-level course entitled “Spanish and Entrepreneurship: Language, Culture, and Communities.” For that class, students will go out into the community and use their Spanish to enhance social entrepreneurship.

Lear stresses the importance of a bilingual education in the United States. “It doesn’t matter what you think about immigration or the role Spanish should play in the US. Spanish is a reality. It is part of our country and our professional world.”

–Melissa Paraf

UIUC College of Business