Spanish Immersion at Georgetown College gives students a leg up in global market

Lexington, KY – In today’s global economy, individuals with broad global perspectives find the greatest opportunities. Georgetown College’s Spanish Immersion program in the liberal arts is designed to provide a leg up in this regard: Students experience a different version of study abroad right in Scott County, all the while improving their spoken and written Spanish skills.

“The more foreign language you can take, and the earlier on, the better,” said Rebbecca Pittinger Kaplan, Spanish Immersion coordinator at the college.

Students need not be Spanish majors to participate in this program, so the usual focus on literature and culture is changed. Core content courses for immersion students are taught in Spanish by bilingual faculty members who teach other courses in English. Current immersion students study diverse fields such as business and health sciences; some are pre-medical or pre-veterinary. Some students aspire to careers involving travel, while others want to live abroad for a period of time. All see the program’s value for opening doors.

Census data and the success of immersion programs at schools regionally and nationally helped convince faculty and administrators at Georgetown that both need and demand existed. The corporate community in Lexington agrees: Employees who are fluent in languages beyond English have special value.

Alltech prizes languages

“Cross-cultural experience, a global mindset and familiarity with other languages are features of strong applicants for employment at Alltech,” explained Susanna Elliott, corporate public relations manager for the company. “As a global company with colleagues and business in 128 countries throughout the world, our employees must be able to think and communicate beyond their own cultural framework. Currently, the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions are the fastest growing in our business, and, as such, applicants with language or cultural familiarity are attractive to the company.”

Multilingual employees are so valuable to Alltech that free Spanish lessons are available over the lunch hour; 115 employees have participated in Level 1 through Advanced Spanish to date. Instructor Arabella Tully said, “The large majority of employees taking Spanish classes realize that in order to be a major participant on the international stage they must be bilingual.”

Inside an immersion course

Adam Glover, visiting assistant professor of Spanish and general studies at Georgetown College, teaches Philosophy 150, a general education course for freshmen in the Spanish Immersion program. Eighty percent to 90 percent of course readings are primary sources; Glover’s course does not use a textbook.

Students bring varied levels of speaking and writing ability in Spanish, according to Glover. The course moves quickly; all discussions and written assignments are in Spanish. Emphasis is on constant use of the language and mastery of the course content.

The goal, Glover emphasized, is “laying the foundation for future critical engagement in a second language.” All students in the program will have the traditional strength of the liberal arts behind them when they graduate, and they’ll have the ability to apply what they’ve learned in Spanish as well as English. Graduates should be “more agile, more flexible, better able to adapt to different circumstances,” Glover said.

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