The reaction I get from most people when I tell them I’m a Spanish major goes one of two ways. 1. “Wow, good for you! That’s amazing… Such a transferrable skill to have!” or 2. “You’ve absolutely lost your mind! I could never… I hated Spanish class in high school.” With confidence, I can tell you that Option #2 makes up 80% of the reactions I get. Have there been moments where I questioned all my life choices ever? Absolutely. I second guess my decision to major in Spanish every time I have to write a paper for class (ask me about my 15-page thesis paper on the role of women throughout 18th century Spanish poetry). But is the struggle well worth it? Absolutely.
As a Spanish major, I’ve learned so much more than a language. I’ve had the chance to study abroad, conduct an original research project, and participate in different exchange programs with students from South America. Through all these incredible experiences and my classes, I’ve learned so much more than just how to speak Spanish. There’s so many life skills and chances for personal growth intertwined into the process of learning a language.
So, here’s what comes along with majoring in a foreign language.
- You become comfortable with discomfort.
I’ve gotten really comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I’ll be honest, the process of getting there is rough. But I’ve become a pro at “winging it” and making mistakes. You’ll sound silly, you won’t know words, and you’ll communicate using A LOT more body language than you’re used to. Don’t even get me started about studying abroad! I could write a novel on all the times I felt uncomfortable while I was in Spain living with a Spanish-speaking host family. But the times I’ve felt most uncomfortable are the times I’ve learned the most. Get out of your comfort zone!
When you don’t know a word, you have to figure out something else to say to get your point across. You’ll need to think on the fly and come up with another way to phrase something. The ability to be flexible and think quick on your feet carries over to so many other parts of life.
- You learn about other cultures.
Learning about other cultures is one thing but learning about other cultures in their native language is incredible (but really, really freakin’ hard). Through my classes, I’ve learned about art, music, history, and more entirely in Spanish. I then had the opportunity to go witness all these things in the most authentic way possible while in Spain. Last semester, I took a class entirely dedicated to South and Central American comic books, and through the analysis of comics I learned about the central values of different cultural groups. We spent time comparing and contrasting the comics themselves, and in doing so comparing and contrasting cultural values!
- You learn about your own culture through a new lens.
This goes beyond just learning about other cultures, and it’s extremely humbling. When I was abroad in Spain, I learned so much about how Americans and our culture are viewed from another perspective. There’s a lot about our culture that makes absolutely no sense! You learn to think critically and compare cultures in a respectful way, and that’s so important in our world today!
- You’ll build the best friendships.
I met some of my best friends while studying abroad and in my Spanish classes. To this day, they’re my go-to’s! You bond over the struggle, and that bond sticks with you. You completely understand what the people around you are going through. You support each other through the moments of frustration, and celebrate the moments of pride that come along with learning a language.
- You’ll learn transferrable communication skills.
The communication skills you learn in Spanish will 100% transfer to English. I’ve noticed that I’ve become better at explaining and defining things in English, built stronger writing skills, and better understood the English language overall since studying Spanish.
- You learn to not take yourself so seriously.
Mistakes and not knowing are a part of the process of learning another language. It’s so important to have a sense of humor about just how much you don’t know! I’m a perfectionist/ control freak in most areas of my life and learning Spanish has helped me calm down an accept that it’s okay to make mistakes and taught me how to brush them off. You can’t be too hard on yourself!
- Others’ passion will inspire you.
I’m going to be a teacher, and I’ve learned that you learn the most from people who care- Not only about what they’re teaching but care genuinely about their students. I’ve been really lucky to have some incredible professors who clearly love their jobs. They want to be there teaching you about their language and culture! I’ve had a professor who invited the whole class to his house twice for a home-cooked, authentic Spanish meal. He cared so much about teaching us Spanish, but also cared about us as people. My host family in Spain is another example of this. They took me under their roof, sat and ate every meal with me, talked with me, read with me, showed me around their city, and I learned more from them than I can even express.
- Learning is never done.
Language is something that you’ll never know the entirety of. There’s always a new phrase to learn, a new book to read or a new movie to watch. If you’re someone who loves learning and is innately curious, language-learning is something I think you’ll love!
- Your hard work will pay off.
There is no cooler feeling than going to a foreign country and being able to understand what’s going on around you. Learning a language is hard, I’m not going to sugarcoat that! But, you’ll see your hard work pay off, and it feels good!
So, if you’re considering majoring or minoring in a foreign language, DO IT! And enjoy the ride!