Featured photos: Adjunct American Sign Language (ASL) instructor Rey Castillo signs to a student. Spanish instructor Connie Vera dances with students at a cultural event. (Photos by Rich Keen, Marketing and Communications Dept.)
Marketing and Communications Dept..
Communication is the basis of daily life. While communicating well in one’s mother tongue is valuable, multiple doors open after additional languages are learned, from cultural understanding to the potential for increased income.
This is why Blue Ridge Community College offers a variety of foreign language courses, including American Sign Language, Spanish, French and German.
American Sign Language (ASL) instructor Rey Castillo’s personal experiences led him to teaching. Castillo, who is deaf, was airlifted to a hospital at the age of 17 for a medical emergency, but the staff had limited knowledge of ASL. A nurse was able to sign three simple questions to him: are you allergic to any medication, are you on any medications, and what is your emergency contact number? Without answers to these questions, the medical professionals would not have been able to provide a necessary procedure.
“I thought about my children experiencing something like that and wanted to teach others ASL because it could save someone’s life one day,” Castillo said.
Language teachers, including Castillo, see changes in students’ cognitive abilities as they study language.
“It helps students be able to problem solve,” Castillo said. “Learning a language can really improve your academic skills.”
Spanish instructor Connie Vera has also seen students grow, particularly in their cultural understandings.
“For example, to call somebody fat in the United States will be very offensive. In Spanish, it is a token of appreciation or love for that person,” Vera said. “Knowing that not all of us can travel overseas or go around the world, at least when you meet people who speak the language you learned, you can converse a bit but also know some of their culture. It’s a door that opens.”
Vera encourages her students to grow in their language skills to open other doors as well, like financial earning opportunities.
“It is going to be a very good asset for them professionally speaking. Many jobs offer more money to those who are able to speak multiple languages,” Vera said. “A foreign language is always a plus.”
Castillo also urged students to see the benefits of learning another language and said it can be fun despite the initial struggle.
“Some people feel intimidated by learning a new language. It’s a skill and it takes persistence and a lot of practice,” he said. “Learning another language is not work; it can be fun and an enjoyable experience.”
Learn more about languages at Blue Ridge at blueridge.edu/programs-courses/languages/.