in the office
the March 2005 Cabinet mandate to make Spanish the first
foreign language of T&T, every citizen should have assumed
a responsibility to not only learn the Spanish language
but also to learn about the culture behind the language
The benefits to knowing Spanish in the world in which we
live today, and more importantly in the hemisphere in which
we live, are well known and far reaching.
Too often we make excuses in an attempt to justify why we
are not taking any steps to develop proficiency in the language
that contributes more than $1.3 billon annually to our economy,
the language that is driving trade negotiations in our corner
of the world.
A lack of time or due to work constraints is the most common
of these excuses. However, it is possible to learn Spanish
while at the place at which you spend most of your time
each daythe office.
It is no secret that a critical aspect of learning any foreign
language is the creation of an environment that is conducive
to the acquisition of that language: an immersion environment.
One way to do this in your workplace is by introducing bilingual
The first step in the process is to look around your internal
and external work environment and identify the most important
and useful signs that are worth translating.
Upon doing this, a list of potential bilingual signs can
be created and then passed on to a language service provider
for translation. Once the signs have been translated, the
next step is the actual manufacturing of the bilingual signs.
This may be done in one of two ways.
Firstly, professional signage providers can be asked to
submit quotations and one can be contracted to manufacture
the signs. However, the more cost-effective alternative
would be to create in-house signs.
By using the regular office computer and printer, it is
very easy to make simple signs in Microsoft Word or Publisher,
placing the English first and then the Spanish translation.
These signs can then be laminated and placed in the respective
Another way to help create that English/ Spanish atmosphere
at work is to introduce resources that are Hispanic in nature
to the workplace. In their article Culture in second
language teaching, Elizabeth Peterson and Bronwyn
Coltrane of the Centre for Applied Linguistics in the US
support this by saying:
authentic sources from the native speech community help
to engage students in authentic cultural experiences. Sources
can include films, news broadcasts, and television shows,
Web sites and photographs, magazines, newspapers, restaurant
menus, travel brochures, and other printed materials.
Therefore, to achieve this in the workplace, posters, magazines,
and travel brochures from Spanish-speaking countries can
be appropriately placed in the office for the benefit of
If background music is normally played throughout the day
or a radio is available, it is also a good idea to acquire
CDs and play music from Spanish-speaking artistes. More
mellow artistes, suitable for the office environment, include
Alejandro Fernandez, Gloria Estefan, the Buena Vista Social
Club, and Luz Casal.
After creating the right immersion environment, it is highly
recommended that one takes the necessary steps to discover
the culture behind the language one is learning.
According to the Centre for Applied Linguistics: In
fact, students cannot truly master the language until they
have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language
A possible way of achieving this in the office is by creating
a Spanish club. The purpose of such a club would be to promote
learning the Spanish language via fun, interesting and educational
activities. Group outings can be planned to Latin dance
Club members can meet on a regular basis to play board games
like ¿Adivina quién? (Guess Who) and Scrabble,
or watch movies togetherall in Spanish of course.
Members can also share their personal Spanish-language resources
with one another, whether these are CDs, DVDs, books or
magazines, during the normal lunch hour.
Naturally, the most important part of acquiring a first
foreign language is actually learning the language. The
only logical way to achieve this in the office is to offer
Spanish classes to employees by way of a language service
Meet with several providers before selecting the one that
is best able to meet the needs of employees. These needs
include the employees level of Spanish, the most effective
learning method for him/her, the amount of time for which
he/she is available, etc.
Some providers even customise programmes around the needs
identified by their clients, which make it a lot easier
to facilitate employees who are learning the language.
There are ways by which a company can also help its employees
learn Spanish. One or two employees can be responsible for
teaching staff a new Spanish word on a daily basis. Perhaps,
the information technology department can do this by changing
all screensavers or desktop display images to show a new
word a day, along with its English translation.
An alternative method of dissemination is to send the word-a-day
via e-mail to employees. If all employees do not have access
to a computer, do not worry, they do not have to be left
out. The new word can be stuck up on the notice board in
the office or in the lunchroom on a daily basis, or if this
is too time-consuming, a group of words can be stuck up
on a weekly basis.
By the year 2020, every citizen of T&T is expected to
be at a conversant level in the Spanish language. Our nations
children are being taught Spanish in school via the education
system. Isnt it time you also learnt the language
that this country is adopting as its first foreign language?
Now, you can work and learn Spanish at the same time. You
have no excuse!
For more information about the Spanish as the First Foreign
Language (SAFFL) initiative, please contact the Secretariat
for the Implementation of Spanish (a division of the Ministry
of Trade and Industry) at 624-8329/627-9513 or fax us at