A Foreign Language: A Degree You Can Own in High School

Paulina Montaldo
Spanish Teacher, Ursuline High School
Adjunct Faculty, Youngstown State University

The phone in the newsroom of the television station rang, it was an informant from the airport. Mick Jagger had arrived in the country incognito and, we had the news. The editor-in-chief did not think twice and gave the order to go immediately to the Mariscal Sucre airport in the city of Quito, Ecuador, and follow the famous singer’s trail. In the room, there was only one person who could carry out that mission, ME!

That was one of the many adventures that speaking English gave me, and it is well worth saying that this was not my profession or my university career. I was, I am, a journalist, who had learned English in school, and then perfected during a student exchange in Pennsylvania, my senior year in high school.

Time passed, and I worked as a television reporter for over 25 years. During that time I had the opportunity to meet and to interview many presidents, singers, famous people, but English allowed me to distinguish myself from other colleagues and to meet Magic Johnson, The Duchess of York, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Amartya Sen, and so many others.

Twenty years ago I decided to venture out and move to the United States. I had to give up my career as a television reporter and foreign press correspondent for Univision. I came to a small town in Pennsylvania where virtually no one spoke Spanish. I had to reinvent myself because if my English was good, my accent did not allow me to work in front of the cameras. After completing a master’s degree in higher education administration with a concentration in college teaching, I applied as a part time faculty at Youngstown State University. Later I got a position as a Spanish teacher at Ursuline High School to teach AP classes. I kept both jobs.

Among the most important things that I try to instill in my students is that speaking a foreign language, whatever it may be, is like obtaining a professional degree that will open many doors. A foreign language makes a big difference in a resume. It is the ability to be able to communicate by having the perfect words, the precise feelings, and the exact values ​​of a different culture. It is knowing the perfect difference between “amar” and “querer”, both translated into English as “to love”, but so different in scope.

Bilingual is the keyword, the key that opens the doors to success. What makes you different and the only thing that you can carry with you all your life, something that does not weigh or take up space but that will make you shine even more in the world of job competition.

That is to say, I never met Jagger. We never knew if it was true or not, but at least I can say that I was the one who ran after his track, and why? Because I was the only one who spoke English.

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