John M. Woodruff, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Spanish, Valdosta State University
 

Spanish Language & Culture

Spanish is an official language of twenty-one sovereign states and an increasing demographic within the United States. The practicality of studying Spanish is an important consideration, but Spanish is not simply a medium of communication but rather a gateway to engaging other cultures more fully. From history to literature and from arts to economies, the ability to communicate in the language is perhaps the single greatest advantage. It can be summed up in Sir Francis Bacon's apocryphal quote: Scientia potentia est (knowledge is power).

Spanish is one of the five romance languages (the others being French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian). The romance languages are known for their artistic heritage, but even in the modern era the languages continue to employ expressive forms that they uniquely possess. Federico García Lorca was an avant-garde dramatist and poet of the 1930s who challenged social and political constructs with his correlated imagery (la pluma/la navaja/la espada; el caballo/el pene/el hombre). In Argentina, Alfonsina Storni was an outspoken feminist who also used Spanish's genderization to reinforce and contrast her imagery (la muerte:la noche, la lámpara:la luna, una constelación:el sol, la cabecera:el horizonte).

In the twenty-first century, Spanish proficiency represents an considerable advantage for careers in business. Considered by most corporations to be an in-demand skill, Spanish speaking ability easily results in a 10 to 15 percent salary incentive and offsets credential disparities between applicants. In combination with a college degree, Spanish speaking ability is a major consideration for promotion to team leadership and management roles.