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Featured Bilingual Bronco: Paige Wooten, Spanish Major

Portrait of Paige Wooten

Meet Paige Wooten, Boise State Spanish Major alumna. After graduating from Boise State, she has spent the past two years teaching English in Valencia, Spain. 

What do you like about the Spanish Program at Boise State?

While I attended Boise State, there were a few things I really enjoyed about the Spanish program. First, I liked how small some of the classes were. Although it guaranteed everyone would be able to hear the mistakes I made, it also allowed me to feel more comfortable with my classmates and thus speak Spanish more. I believe feeling comfortable in any language class is important in aiding the learning process. There’s an added pressure to speaking a second language, especially in the classroom setting in front of your peers, so knowing those peers definitely makes it a bit easier. Having a safe space to comfortably make mistakes in is crucial– or at least it was for me. Smaller classroom sizes are of course helpful in other ways as well, especially for those who like a more individual approach to learning. Having the time and ability to speak to a professor and ask specific one-on-one questions is definitely a privilege in the Spanish program.

Another one of my favorite parts of the program was how they offered other language courses within the Spanish department, like Portuguese for Spanish speakers, or French for Spanish speakers. Although I probably felt more anxious than I have in any other class in Portuguese for Spanish speakers, I found the course very interesting and felt like I learned a lot. There are also seemingly hidden benefits to the program if you just look out for them. I would never have known about being able to teach English in Spain if it wasn’t for the Boise State Spanish department. Now, in my second year of living in Spain, I am still eternally grateful for the opportunities presented by the department.

How has learning Spanish impacted your view of the Spanish Speaking world?

I think learning any language really changes how you view the people who speak it. Now that I feel so comfortable with Spanish it is really interesting to see how thinking in a language can legitimately change the way you view yourself. Before my senior seminar class on Spanish linguistics with Kelly Arispe, I don’t think I fully understood how impactful language is to an individual’s identity. I feel like there are parts of my identity I can truly only understand with Spanish– not because English doesn’t have the appropriate words to describe how I feel or who I am, but the energy and meaning the languages have differ. I’m not even sure I could accurately describe how they differ, but it is something that you can sort of sense. Being an English teacher in Spain has also impacted my view on Spanish speakers quite a bit, giving me a more “inside look” at the language, especially how it is used by children under the age of 12. Trying to understand jokes with undertones I can’t pick up on, or understanding odd phrases I hear in passing, opens a window to the language that can’t be understood with just grammar. I think this alone has been really illuminating on Spanish culture and the language itself.

Has learning Spanish helped you in other aspects of your life? What are some benefits to learning Spanish?

Learning Spanish has been extremely helpful in my life, especially seeing as I live in Spain. There are a lot of people in the English teaching program I’m in who speak absolutely no Spanish, and I couldn’t imagine living here and not knowing how to ask for a coffee, or for directions. Other than the obvious benefit of speaking and understanding the language of the country I am in, I have also used Spanish a lot in the United States. I worked at a restaurant over the summer and was often rushed over to someone who could only speak Spanish so I could help them out. Learning Spanish has also made it tremendously easier to learn other languages. Although I only took a semester-long course by Fatima Cornwall, Portuguese for Spanish speakers, I still feel like I can understand Portuguese almost as well as Spanish. I also live in Valencia, and they speak Valencian as well as Spanish. The Portuguese course has definitely helped me understand Valencian a bit, seeing as they share similar sounds. I’m sure if I made a real attempt to learn some of the other romantic languages, like Italian or French, that it would feel like a breeze compared to the first couple of years learning Spanish.

Why would you recommend the Spanish Program at Boise State?

One thing I still appreciate about the program is that it really seems like the professors care about the material and about teaching it. I know that sounds like it should be a given, but a lot of times in college courses it isn’t. I feel like all the Spanish professors I have had are passionate about what they teach. It is really clear how important the language is to them. I think this is not only a testament to the professors in the program, but also for the language as a whole. This one language is spoken in hundreds of different ways, influenced by native languages and cultural differences, but it still connects people all over the world. I also feel like I made the most progress learning Spanish at Boise State; about halfway through my first semester at BSU I felt like there was a click, almost. It felt like I just woke up and understood Spanish way better than ever before. I have only ever felt that “click” one other time, and it was after spending a few months living in Spain.