UH Moment: "Value Added Spanish"

Speaking Spanish adds value to your degree and to your chosen professional work.

Language challenges impact those needing information as well as those charged with giving it.  Still, learning a new language is more than learning new words.

"Effective communication is more than just a list of catch phrases," said Maria Perez is with the University of Houston Hispanic Studies department. "To get your immediate point across, you have to do more than that."  

Perez says a new course recognizes the value of learning Spanish, particularly for those professions that function in multi-cultural environments. Her class, Spanish for HealthProfessionals, represents a movement to train future professionals how to fully engage, connect and communicate with Spanish speaking clients.

"Much of the  focus has been on learning quick and easy Spanish, but usually that doesn't move beyond telling somebody 'sit down.' You have to do a lot more," she said.   

More than a list of stock phrases, her class includes role playing, dialogues, assigned reading, cultural lessons and medical studies. Additionally, students from the class participate in area health fairs (with students from the College of Pharmacy and the College of Optometry) to translate and explain caregiver and client information.  

"I translated what the health professional wanted to say to patients and questions the patients had for the professional," said Pascao Vo, a chemistry major whose goal is to go to medical school. "I took this class to learn the language and to learn more about the culture because I want to have a connection that ismore than just translating."

Perez, who has a background in nursing, says Spanish for Health Professionals could mark thebeginning of a track of courses to provide cultural and linguistic support for students adding value to their business, law or education degrees.  

"There is a trend for the development of these courses—Spanish for specific purposes—throughout the U.S.," she said. "It is matching the demographic changes in the country and the need for Spanish because communication is a two-way street."