Arts and Culture

Putting a foreign language to work


Dr. Giuliana Fazzion Language Table

Knowing how to speak another language is valuable, but knowing how to apply it to a profession is exceptional. 

The Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures recognized this and developed a professional minor program that focuses on the practical understanding of language and culture within a given field. There are eight minors offered- Business French, Business German, Business Italian, Business Spanish, Law Enforcement Spanish, Legal Spanish, Medical Spanish, and Spanish-English translation and interpretation.

“The program is unique because every course is aimed directly at a specific profession, allowing students to not only learn a language but also understand how to use it in a professional setting,” said Dr. Giuliana Fazzion, head of foreign languages, literatures and cultures.

Similar to standard foreign languages minors, the professional minor program requires a deep understanding of grammar and culture. However, the professional minor program creates an interactive environment that prepares students to use the language in the real world.

 “I feel that this minor has better prepared me for the professional realm by focusing on medical vocabulary and learning about the human body in Spanish, “ said Emily Pelto, a senior biology major. “I am more comfortable with the idea of working with patients who speak Spanish because I have learned skills in a formal setting, instead of just picking up the medical language in Spanish along the way."

The department collaborates with respective academic colleges at JMU to ensure the coursework is relevant to the field.  “We noticed that offering just one Medical Spanish class for the minor was no longer enough, so we developed an advanced class to incorporate more relevant terminology,” said Fazzion.

In order to immerse students in their chosen field, instructors turn to the community. Fazzion takes her Business Italian students to local Italian restaurants to learn the business aspects of running a restaurant. Law Enforcement Spanish students have the opportunity to participate in demonstrations with local law enforcement officials.  This semester Law Enforcement Spanish students get to tour the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Combining a traditional foreign language education with real-world application provides students with a unique understanding of language and culture. “I wanted to find a way to apply the language to real life and I found that a professional minor helped me reach that goal,” said Pelto.


March 31, 2015

Jordan Bogner (’15)

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Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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