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Learning Spanish to Build Community and Glorify God

This is my tenth year of teaching at JBU, and every single one of them has been a milestone for me in understanding that learning a language—besides helping you earn credits for college and getting a job—can more importantly equip you to be a witness of God’s love. JBU’s Spanish program involves different classes that range from the study of vocabulary and grammar rules to more complex topics involving Hispanic culture and literature. However, in all these classes there is an essential component that makes our program unique: the idea of community.

In Matthew 22:37-39, we find God’s greatest command of all: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and the second like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we were living in a homogeneous community, learning a language would not be necessary, but we live in a community where people speak more than one language; thus, learning the language of the people around us is a great application of God’s command to love our neighbors. In addition, a person’s language is connected to their heart and to the way they see, feel, and react to the world. Speaking a person’s language, therefore, is reaching into their heart and into the way they experience their world.

The Hispanic population in the United States has increased dramatically during the last decade, and its members can be found almost in every corner of this great country. As Christians, Americans have a great opportunity to be witnesses of God’s glory by talking directly to the heart of members of the Hispanic community. Northwest Arkansas is not the exception, and we make it our goal in our Spanish program at JBU to equip our students with both the language and cultural skills to be able to build community with our NWA Hispanic population. In my ten years of teaching at JBU, our students have integrated themselves with the Hispanic community in various ways: visiting local churches, working in Hispanic restaurants, attending social events, and publishing academic articles in La Prensa Libre (NWA Hispanic newspaper).

In Genesis, we are reminded of God’s love for creation. Languages are also a great part of creation, teaching us how to best express ourselves with beauty and how to respect the people with whom we speak. There is definitely a different sound of beauty when we praise God in Spanish than when we praise Him in English. When learning Spanish at JBU, our students also learn to appreciate the wonders of diversity exemplified through the ways in which Hispanics feel, think, and live in the world. It gives our students a different sense of justice for what is fair and unfair in the world. Topics such as immigration, poverty, and discrimination have a complete different meaning to our students once they have been able to look at these topics through the lenses of a minority group like that of the Hispanics. It somehow works as a form of redemption for our students, who praise God for their privileges but also pray for the provisions of those in need.

Finally, JBU’s Spanish program aims to offer its Spanish majors the possibility to learn about what their profession and future job might look like. Our Professional Spanish class provides our students with a variety of topics related to the field of professions and the workplace at a general level. They learn practical skills in Spanish, such as writing a resume, applying for a job, learning how to perform in a job interview, identifying their job skills, leadership qualities, and recognizing their personal and work philosophies, among other activities. All these skills are always studied and guided under the ethical principles of a Christian life intended for personal growth and personal benefit, but more importantly, for the growth and benefit of the community at large.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of the Defendant or its staff members.

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