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Why You Should Major in Spanish at SJCC

According to the Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population of California reaches nearly 15 million. That makes California the state with the largest number of Hispanic (Latinx) individuals. And 74% of those surveyed live in a household where a language other than English is spoken.

Thanks to the rich Chicanx/Latinx culture that this comes with, most Californians can boast a high level of exposure to the Spanish language, even if they have no family connection to it. Instincts will tell any Californian to make the y sound when pronouncing the ubiquitous tortilla.

So being a native Spanish speaker or a resident of California is a huge plus. Why not take further advantage of that?

At San José City College, our Associate of the Arts Degree in Spanish gives heritage speakers and new students alike, the opportunity to embrace this geographic perk. Here’s how getting a degree in Spanish at SJCC opens doors for your career and provides endless opportunities for personal growth.

Spanish is a Top World Language

It really shouldn’t take a lot of convincing when it comes to learning Spanish, because there are nothing but benefits. Let’s take a look at the biggest one. 

Recent statistics show that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. It’s also the number one non-English language spoken in the United States. In fact, the Cervantes Institute predicts that by 2050, the United States will be the largest Spanish speaking country in the world.

It’s also the official language in 20 countries (plus Puerto Rico). So if you choose not to study Spanish, you’re missing out on connecting with a huge percentage of, well… humanity.

“I fell in love with the language. I decided to take the next level of Spanish because not only was the class interesting, the professor made it fun!”

SJCC Spanish student, Jimmy Nguyen

5 Reasons to Get Your Degree in Spanish

There are so many advantages to learning Spanish. And these benefits increase drastically when you reach proficiency or fluency in the language. 

One of the best ways to get there is by getting your degree in Spanish. Now let’s explore just a few of the many reasons you should become a Spanish major.

Boost Your Employability

One of the biggest benefits of speaking Spanish is a highly practical one. Since there are so many Spanish speakers worldwide, there is a huge need for professionals who are proficient in the language. In every field.

In an increasing number of industries, knowing Spanish can greatly enhance your chances of landing a job. This is true for roles in education, emergency services, healthcare, social work, transportation, marketing, and foreign services (to name a few).

And of course, the more obvious jobs for Spanish majors. Professions in translation, interpretation, language instruction, and international business are quite common. So if you really want to give your career a boost, Spanish is a wise choice.

Gain Access to Foreign Cultures

Did we mention that Spanish is the official language in 20 countries? On three continents?

Learning Spanish will give you access to an extremely diverse list of cultures across the globe. You’ll be able to travel in a more meaningful way when you visit a Spanish speaking country. 

You won’t be just a tourist — you’ll be able to engage with the culture on an entirely new level. Not to mention connecting with the vibrant and varied Latinx communities in the United States.

San José City College’s 2019 Día de los Muertos celebration. All Spanish students are encouraged to attend or participate.

Increase Your Empathy & Self-Esteem

When you learn another language, you remove the linguistic border that exists between you and the cultures that speak it. But the access that you get to these groups shouldn’t (and isn’t) just about self gain

Knowing a second language contributes to the collective empathy in your community. Because when you understand a different language, you will understand the individual people that comprise it just a little bit (or a whole lot) more.

Not only that, you also gain confidence. Because any language class forces you (gently) out of your comfort zone and into the humble role of a beginner. And for heritage speakers, the Spanish classroom may be uncomfortable in different ways at first. But formally learning Spanish is sure to be a validating and rewarding experience.

Customize Your Education with a Double Major or Minor

If you know you want to become fluent in Spanish but you don’t necessarily want to get into a traditional language career like teaching or translation, you can still major in Spanish. How?

It’s simple, no matter where you study for undergraduate education, there tend to be fewer Spanish major requirements overall. When compared to more restrictive degrees like Chemistry or Accounting, Spanish allows you a great deal of flexibility in your coursework.

This is especially true for heritage Spanish speakers, or students who have completed Advanced Placement Spanish courses in high school, who can complete lots of pre-requisites before setting foot on a college campus. All this wiggle room gives Spanish majors the flexibility to easily double major (or minor) in almost any humanities degree. So you can create the perfect pairing for your future career and goals.

Get Fluent with Ease

Learning a foreign language is hard work. It requires students to get vulnerable in a way that other disciplines don’t.

But for anyone who can read this, there’s another plus to learning Spanish. Due to the structure and etymology of the two languages, if you’re an English speaker, Spanish won’t be too challenging on a technical level.

It’s the third easiest language for English speakers to learn (Mandarin Chinese being the most difficult).

Improve Cognitive Function

There is extensive research that links learning a second language to some really significant brain benefits.

An article in The New York Times, cited at least three studies that link bilingualism to improved cognitive function and resistance to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The Guardian highlighted another study that suggests that these benefits aren’t just for heritage speakers. They also hold true for those who learn a language later in life.

“In my classes I use a lot of pair and group work, which I hope creates a sense of community among quite a diverse group.

SJCC faculty member, Rebecca Gámez
SJCC students and faculty in Costa Rica, January 2020. The Spanish and Global Studies Departments collaborated with Education First Tours to give students an immersive experience.

Thrive as a Spanish Major at SJCC

San José City College is the ideal place to study Spanish. We’re a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). And as a Bay Area community college, we’re surrounded by a rich Latinx culture. Our dedicated community, brilliant faculty, and unique academic opportunities are sure to help you thrive here.

Students Engage in an Interactive Classroom

“While each instructor has their own pedagogical style, we are all committed to teaching about the language and the diverse communities that speak it, in addition to offering the tools necessary to acquire communicative skills in the language,” said long-time Spanish faculty member, Rebecca Gámez. “I really enjoy facilitating students’ exploration of the Spanish language and try to make it as fun and anxiety-free as possible.”

At SJCC the classroom is a joyful community space. Current student Jimmy Nguyen said, “I fell in love with the language. I decided to take the next level of Spanish because not only was the class interesting, the professor made it fun!”

Nguyen has already graduated from SJCC with an Associate’s Degree in Communication Studies. He has since transferred to a 4-year university in southern California. But he still takes classes with señora Gámez virtually. “It is not just a typical class where the professor lectures and you take notes. The professor makes you get up and interact with other students in Spanish, […] we get to test our knowledge out,” Nguyen said. 

Another student, Kathy Bauman said of Gámez, “She is compassionate and makes learning fun by encouraging her students to talk in small groups, and incorporating music, poetry, and video into each lesson.” 

“In my classes I use a lot of pair and group work, which I hope creates a sense of community among quite a diverse group,” Gámez said

Heritage Speakers’ Experiences Are Valued

SJCC knows the importance of centering Latinx students’ experiences in the Spanish language classroom.

“A high percentage of our students are heritage learners with a wide range of proficiencies and linguistic in/securities. As instructors committed to student-centered approaches, we strive to meet all our students “where they are” while respecting and celebrating their life experiences,” Gámez said. “And given my own experience with the language, I am keenly aware of the struggles of heritage learners and I make every effort to celebrate their experiences in the classroom.” 

Heritage learners’ experiences also elevate the class as a whole. “Many students in the class speak Spanish at home, which means that people like me, those raised with only one language, have a number of natural tutors in the class,” Bauman said. “It’s unique and really helps non-native speakers hear language as it’s spoken in real life.”

Study Abroad & Connect to the Community

In January 2020, Spanish Department collaborated with the Global Studies Department and Education First Tours on a trip to Costa Rica. SJCC hopes to continue to offer these types of immersive experiences when the campus (and the world) opens back up for travel.

In addition to the opportunity to travel abroad, Spanish students can participate in lots of enriching cultural events on campus. Over the years, and sometimes in collaboration with METAS, they have participated in World Languages Week, Latinx Heritage Month, and Día de los Muertos events.

Students are also encouraged to participate in service-learning, to engage with the broader Latinx community. “In our intermediate classes, students are given the opportunity to give a presentation on a local organization that serves the Spanish-speaking population, or to conduct and report on an interview with a recent immigrant,” Gámez said.

“While each instructor has their own pedagogical style, we are all committed to teaching about the language and the diverse communities that speak it.”

Rebecca Gámez
SJCC Spanish students and faculty pose with their tour guides in Costa Rica.

Save Money & Transfer to a 4-Year University

At SJCC we offer affordable courses and a wide variety of financial support programs. Check out all of our financial aid programs here.

Like all of our other Associate’s Degrees for Transfer (AD-T), the Spanish degree at SJCC partners with California Community Colleges to offer the Degree with A Guarantee Program. So when you complete your general and major requirements with a 2.0 or higher, you’re guaranteed a spot at a select number of California State Universities (CSUs). 

Choosing one of our two year degrees will drastically reduce your education costs if you plan to transfer to a 4-year university. It will also safeguard your future!

Unleash Your Brilliance with an Associate Degree in Spanish 

When you choose to get your Spanish degree at SJCC, you’re making a wise choice. You’ll be learning a top world language, expanding your global community, and setting yourself up for professional success. But studying Spanish at SJCC is much more than a practical decision.

Because one of SJCC’s greatest strengths is its small, tight-knit community. Here, your Spanish instructors, peers, and the larger community will always be there to support you in all your academic goals. We are here to help you unleash your brilliance, much like a familia.

Check out our Spanish Program today! And if you’re already thinking about your double major or minor, here are some other humanities degrees for transfer that might interest you: journalism, communication studies, and theatre arts.

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