Spanish minor, certificate to offer online courses

Carmen King de Ramirez, coordinator of ASU’s Spanish for the Professions program, works as a medical interpreter for St. Joseph’s hospital. (Photo by W. Scott Grey)

An online minor and certificate in the Spanish for the Professions program will be available beginning August 2013.

The program allows people who already have conversational Spanish skills to apply them in a professional environment.

The minor program is designed for enrolled ASU students, but the certificate can be completed by anyone who is interested.

Program director Barbara Lafford said the decision to offer an online option was made to accommodate students’ needs.

“There’s still a place for in-person classes, but with the online classes it will be more accessible for the community,” Lafford said.

The first class in the program was taught at the Downtown campus in 2008.

“The whole idea began when I moved to the Downtown campus,” Lafford said. “I wanted to have upper-division (Spanish) classes that would prepare students for the workplace.”

Lafford, who teaches the grammar and stylistics course, said the minor would give students an advantage when searching for a job.

“The program focuses on professional and cultural themes,” she said. “Our bilingual students will get much more than conversational skills.”

Professional Spanish courses coordinator Carmen King de Ramirez said the minor is not a traditional language program.

“Those programs focus on literature and linguistics,” she said. “In reality, most students want to see their skills used in a practical environment.”

The online courses are necessary, King de Ramirez said.

“Most of our students are busy and have full-time jobs,” she said. “We have been offering night classes, but we want to offer students access to the material on their own time.”

Students have to participate in an internship either locally or internationally to complete the program.

“This summer, we’ll go to the Dominican Republic for eight weeks,” she said. “We’ll place students in community programs according to their interests.”

The students will live with host families to practice their Spanish, King de Ramirez added.

“The experience will give them cultural competence,” she said. “Speaking a language isn’t enough. You have to relate to the culture and make a connection that’s not just linguistic.”

Bilingualism is an important advantage in Arizona, King de Ramirez said.

“Professionally, you want to communicate with clients and patients,” she said. “But you also want to make a connection to them.”

The program partners with different ASU colleges and schools to accommodate students’ needs.

“We have three health care classes,” she said. “Starting next semester, we will offer an introductory class to legal and medic interpretation.”

The minor and certificate is ideal for people who grew up bilingual, King de Ramirez said.

“A lot of our students grew up speaking Spanish,” she said. “But the program can help them polish their writing skills and learn professional vocabulary.”

Nutrition senior Manuel Carrillo said he is interested in the program.

“It sounds very useful, especially here in Arizona, where there are so many Hispanic communities,” he said.

The minor could help bilingual students develop non-conversational skills, Carrillo added.

“You grow up speaking Spanish, but you still need to practice it — particularly on a professional level,” he said.

 Correction: The caption for this article misstated Carmen King de Ramirez’s title. It has been updated to reflect the correct information.

Reach the reporter at dpbaltaz@asu.edu