Español de Colegio Comunitario Butler: Benefits of learning a foreign language

Jayden Stanley

Reporting 2 Student

Learning a second language is not something that most people do. They may find it to be too difficult or too time-consuming, but not for Butler Associate Professor of Spanish Leslie Pierson.  

Pierson grew up on a ranch in eastern Colorado.  

“In high school, I remember my dad telling me I could shovel out the barn or I could take a Spanish training program at the state department,” Pierson said. “So, of course I decided to watch the Spanish tapes.”  

Pierson recalls learning more practical phrases at first, things you would not start out learning in a normal Spanish class.  

“The cultural aspects are interesting to me, after learning a little bit I was hooked,” Pierson said.  

Pierson studied aboard in Guadalajara, Mexico for a summer program. She received a cultural ambassador scholarship from the Rotary foundation, where she studied in Quito, Ecuador for six months.  

“In Ecuador, we went on many beach excursions,” Pierson said. “We also visited the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River. We would help with humanitarian projects.” 

Then she went to the University of Kansas for graduate school, and after that, she spent some time in Arizona.  

“The town of El Dorado and the campus of Butler reminded me a lot of Lawrence,” Pierson said. “I was ready to be closer to home, and it is only a six-hour drive from here.”  

Pierson had a few years of teaching experience prior to teaching at Butler. She taught in Arizona at West Wind, a college preparatory school and at an entirely online high school.  

“I taught at Butler for three years, and then I had to leave due to some health conditions,” Pierson said. “When I came back, I worked in the library for a year and a half and before going back to teaching. In all, I have been at Butler for six and a half years.”  

The enrollment numbers for all classes have shrunk because of Covid-19, but Spanish classes had been shrinking before that. In the fall of 2019, Pierson said she had 21 students in a single class. This semester, at the most there have been nine students. For Covid-19 purposes, this was ok. Because of the limited number of people in a room, she did not have to split up classes.  

“People take a foreign language because of their major or program, not because they are interested in learning it,” Pierson said. “I think many people are afraid of foreign language.”  

Learning Spanish, or really any second language, is beneficial. Research studies have shown an increase in scores on performance testing. You have a higher critical awareness, you become a smarter and more flexible thinker and it is also good for jobs.  

The applicant who has a background in Spanish is more attractive than the applicant who does not a foreign language. Knowing Spanish is also great for different professions as people have a higher value and regard for others that have diverse backgrounds.  

Being bilingual or even monolingual gives you more of a global citizenship. It also gives you more exposure and a unique way of looking at things. Learning a different language gives an unfamiliar perspective in other cultures, an empathy towards other cultures and allows you to be more open to and with other cultures.  

“I am interested in different parts of the world, not just Spanish speaking countries,” Pierson said. “When I was in my early college years, I had the opportunity to go to Guadalajara, Mexico. This experience made me even more interested in the Spanish culture. It made such an impression. There are other entire realities of how they see things, it opened a whole bunch of opportunities for me.”   

Studying abroad is a dream many students have but little make it come true. Studying abroad holds many opportunities for young adults. You can learn so many new things and have so many experiences in different countries. You learn a lot about a country when you are living in it and experiencing their culture.  

“While studying abroad, I learned Spanish literature and how to read in Spanish,” Pierson said. “Learning to read in a different language does not always translate. The Spanish language is very expressive and emotional and would be called ‘cheesy’ in the U.S. language.”  

When studying abroad, you realize just how different other cultures are from the United States. 

“The people are so welcoming, warm and friendly and hospitable,” Pierson said. “Even though I was very far away from home, and I did not know anyone, I never felt lonely. The people are more concerned with relationships than making money, and they are also freer with their time in other countries while the United States is very time oriented.”  

Studying abroad really helps you learn the language and experience how they live in a normal day to day life.  

“Everything comes together,” Pierson said. “Studying grammar and vocabulary as a subject is a lot different. You aren’t thinking and dreaming in this native language. When you are there, you really start speaking it, you actually use the language.”  

The best way to learn the language is to experience it being used.  

“It wasn’t until I went abroad, that I really understood the language,” Pierson said. “I used way more Spanish than I thought I would.”  

Many colleges and universities can fund money and go on various kinds of trips, especially Spanish departments going to Spanish-speaking countries. But to Pierson’s knowledge, Butler’s Spanish department has not gone on any trips. Pierson said she would love to take the Spanish classes on a trip.  

“I have been to several places in Mexico, like Guadalajara, Nogales, Mexico City, Puerta Vallarta, Juarez and Manzanillo,” Pierson said.  

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