How Can You Illustrate Skills On Your Resume? One Example: Writing Professional Emails in a Foreign Language

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 12.18.52 PM.pngWhen it comes to resume prep, “show, don’t tell” is an important mantra.  In other words, don’t list things in a “Skills” section. Instead, describe how you use those skills elsewhere on your resume. For example, if you were treasurer of a student organization and you “managed an Excel database to track $30,000 in funds annually,” that is a great way to show / describe how you used Excel without listing it in a separate “Skills” section at the bottom of your resume. 

Because I work with a lot of university world language programs, we often focus on this skill-related question: What can you do with the languages you’ve studied?  Just like “Excel,” this cannot be listed at the bottom of your resume in a “Skills” section. It also needs to be on your resume in language that employers will understand. Employers probably don’t understand “Intermediate Mid Spanish” like a language educator would. Or even if they think they understand “fluent German,” chances are good that you think it means something different than the employer who is reading it on your resume.

Instead of trying to describe your language level with a single adjective, think about the concrete skills you have in the languages you’ve studied.  For example, email. Email is a common form of professional correspondence. A good email is brief–just covering the relevant who, what, when, where, and why.  The subject line has to provide context to the recipient so that person knows what the message will be about (and hopefully feels compelled by the subject line to read the rest of the email and respond appropriately). You do not need a high language level to compose a brief, professional email. I work on this with Spanish 1 students in the first week of class, following the general guidelines I wrote about in this post.

And by week 4 when students are scheduling their out -of-class oral exams, I point out to them that they now have all the Spanish they need to write an entire professional email in perfect Spanish. Here’s one example: 

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 12.00.14 PM

I replied to this student to say that any professor or professional would be happy to receive such a well-written, professional email from a student, job applicant, or new hire–in any language (they should apply this skill to all English-language professional email writing). I remind students that it is only week 4 of their language study and they can write a complete and thorough email message. They should be proud! And they already have a concrete skill to list on their resume: “Can write a professional email in Spanish with all the basic who, what, when, where and why.” Employers understand what that means–and the limits of that.

To language instructors: there’s also a practical reason to have students do this in the context of a course–in the case of out-of-class oral exams, each student who sends me an email like the above example has all the information in their email sent folder. I won’t get emails on Sunday night saying, “I forgot when / where my oral exam is” (the kind of email I have to reply to with, “I will check tomorrow when I’m back in the office where the sign up sheet is.”)  

These little add-ons that language teachers at any level can layer on to existing courses and content have a lot going on:

1) They help streamline the administration of our courses (no more Sunday night emails asking me for information I don’t have at home).

2) They provide students with concrete examples of how much they are learning and how much they CAN DO with the language (not to mention how they can apply this to other areas of their lives and impress their English-speaking professors and employers with their email writing skills).

3) Students can develop a single resume line for each course they take, building a solid resume while still in college, answering the age-old questions, “what am I going to do with this in the real world?” and “how is this going to help me get a job or once I’m in a job?”

4) It does nothing to disrupt traditional curricula. You don’t have to change a course or a program or get departmental permission to do this for and with your students. Too often, we think of “languages for professional purposes” as designing entire subject-specific courses or programs. It can be these small things that have lasting impact–months and years later, I get emails from students that start with “Estimada Darcy” and end “Atentamente,” and that usually contain exciting news about connecting Spanish to their work in University of Chicago labs or other professional domains.

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How Can Spanish Course Content Lead to a Job?

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 11.35.50 AMEvery spring I teach a “Spanish for the Professions” course at the University of Chicago that is a special section of the final course in the second year sequence. Students are required to create a website and post some of their work there–a blog about Spanish-language content of interest to them as well as the major elements of a course-long research project on their professional area of interest in the region where they plan to live & work.

For first-year students who are not even one year out of high school, the project can be a stretch because it requires them to reach so far ahead into their careers.  As the spring 2019 course was starting, I used the websites from the previous cohort as examples.  The only first-year student from 2018 had continued to develop her website; it had evolved to meet her needs, which is exactly what I hope for–that it will serve a meaningful purpose beyond the course.  

Just as I noticed all the updates to her page, that same student sent an email to let me know she’d been accepted to a program I’d written a letter of recommendation for–and she added this about her website:

“I believe I got my internship this summer as a result of my website. Creating the website has been very helpful in all of my applications. I took what I made for the class and continued to build on my research and portfolio. My internship is with a Jazz record label in Philadelphia which would like to expand their social justice work. After seeing the work on my website, they determined I was fit to intern with the team tasked with creating their social justice website.”

You can see her current website here.

For any language course, it is easy to assign “design of a website” as an early homework assignment, then have students feature some of their work from the course there: essays, compositions, video clips or written reflections from oral exams, cultural activities, etc. This gives students experience with website design, which can be an important distinguishing qualification. At the same time, it highlights their language skills and experiences and it gives them a concrete product with content focus that they can put on their resumes, write about in cover letters, or talk about in job interviews.

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses

Screen Shot 2019-04-06 at 3.39.38 PMLanguage Educators: Are you looking for some light summer reading?

The digital short, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” (don’t forget to use the discount count for 30% off) is a practical guide full of specific activities to integrate into already-existing language courses. The goal can be twofold: to streamline the administration of your own courses while also preparing students for practical, professional applications of the work they are doing in your language courses. Topics include professional written correspondence, gatekeeping, networking, and digital skills.  

Each chapter is organized into sections on “what you’re already doing,” “what to add,” and “specific pedagogical materials and assessments.”  For example, the chapter on professional written correspondence opens with a few paragraphs on the ubiquity of email correspondence between students and their instructors, the parallels between lesson plan writing and agenda writing, and the usefulness of cover memos.  The next section goes into the rationale for training students to use email in a professional manner, to plan for workplace meetings within the context of your planning and execution of class meetings, and to use memo writing to avoid the biggest pitfalls associated with academic writing. Each chapter concludes with specific lesson plans and activities for immediate use in your language courses. Assessment rubrics are included and, where possible, activities are divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels.

All suggestions are meant to be used in a “pick and choose” manner so that you only integrate the materials that will help you with your course goals–and reminders of that appear frequently within the text.

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Incorporate Foreign Languages into Job Search Materials: A Resume-Writing Workshop


This year I rolled out a new workshop entirely on resume writing, per the request of the Head of Department at Arcadia University, Jojo Lucena (we studied abroad together more than 20 years ago).

Normally, I work with students to craft resume entries that highlight their language skills.  This time, we started with a blank page (or a draft if students had one already prepared).

We quickly when over some of the basics:

  • Place your name, in large, bold font, centered at the top.
  • Place your email and phone number below name–one left justified, the other right justified (your snail mail address is not necessary, but okay to include if you want to).
  • Throughout the resume, keep each entry to two lines maximum (the document must be easy to skim).
  • No complete sentences (the document must be easy to skim–delete all those “a,” “and,” and “the”s).
  • Make the resume one page total. For recent grads this is essential to show that you can communicate clearly and concisely (in general, resumes should either be one full page or two full pages–I prefer one).
  • Choose section headings to get the entire one-page resume framed out. Think strategically–you don’t have to have a lot of paid work experience to have a resume that is full of “Professional Experience” or “Workplace Experience” or “Leadership” or “Volunteerism and Causes” or “Leadership and Community Service.” If you have more than one entry to include in a section, go ahead and create sections like “Technological Applications.” “Language Experience” can be its own section, especially if responding to job ads that ask for specific experiences or qualifications related to languages.  The final section, at the very bottom of the resume, should be “Education,” which leads me to the first of the three biggest challenges for undergrads:


1- The entire “Education” section should take up only 2-3 lines at the bottom of the one-page resume.

This is devastating information for students who have spent nearly two decades defining themselves by their academic achievements: your resume just has to show that you “checked the box” and received a four-year degree.  Name the institution, degree, and major / minor areas of study. That’s really it. No GPA (except in certain specialized fields or for graduate school applications). No list of all the semesters you made Dean’s list. No list of courses. Nothing from high school.  

This section should go at the bottom of your resume because the top third is where recruiters and hiring managers are going to spend most of the 6-10 seconds they spend skimming your resume. The top third is where you have to highlight your skills, experiences, and qualifications most related to the specific job you’re applying to* (many of those will come from your four years of college, but it must be framed for professional contexts–around the section headings you chose above).

If you put “Education” at the top of your resume, it will look like you are applying to be a student or that you can only see yourself as a student and haven’t given enough thought to how you will re-frame your experiences for professional contexts. It won’t make a good impression on that 6-10 second skim and therefore your application won’t get more attention than those 6-10 seconds.

What about all the extracurriculars and rich, professional experiences you had in college?  They definitely go on your resume, but not in the “Education” section…

2- You must re-frame your many, many experiences from your four years of college as workplace or professional experience or as volunteer / service or as leadership —anything but “education.”

Here I just want to give examples:

Did you do a research project?


  • Researched, collected data on resources and needs of Hispanic community within Metro-Detroit, and created a website entirely in Spanish:
  • Read, summarized, and analyzed 25 Spanish-language articles, videos, and podcasts on law and human rights

Did you do a service-learning project in the community?


Orange County Department of Human Rights and Relations Field Volunteer 

Conducted 120 surveys about county health service in Spanish; 75% return rate

Did have a role in a student organization (president, vice president, treasurer, etc.)?


Rowing Club of University X 

Used Excel to create and maintain database of 350 members, dues paid, and events participation; presented 3 graphs that tracked growth at quarterly meetings

Did you use your language skills at a volunteer gig?

Answered average of 25 phone calls per week, took average of 15 messages in Spanish for local social service agency


Over two semesters, designed and executed four lesson plans for 25 Latinx youth aged 8-12 in after school STEM program

Did you survive a harrowing situation while abroad?  

Learned to use the Métro de Paris–including alternate routes to avoid traffic and outages–for work, social outings, and guiding visitors

Did you work well with a team on a course project?

As part of a team of four, prepared the “political implications” section of report & presentation on impact of global economic crisis on recent grads in Spain

3- There is no one right way to do things. Students have spent their lives being the best students they can be, taking direction on the one right way to do things, expecting detailed rubrics with which their work can be crafted to align.  Not so with your resume.

You can design your resume any way you want (just avoid using tables or text boxes as the “text-grabbers” that most employers use to process electronic applications cannot always penetrate the walls of tables and text boxes–and make the font 11 point or larger).

Color? Sure, especially tasteful two-colors, with headings in a nice blue and entries in black, for example.

Bold? Italics? Sure! Use them consistently to make your resume visually appealing and easy to skim.

Organized by experience with descriptive entries under each or organized by skill set with multiple examples of each followed by a brief chronological summary of experiences? Either way! Whichever is a best fit for your skills and experiences.

Pictures & infographics? Probably not, unless it’s a design job or your know for a fact the interview likes that stuff.

Two pages? I prefer one, but two is fine.

Format? Nearly anything goes. At Arcadia, I saw lovely two column resumes with brief highlights down a narrow left column (a great place for “Education” since you want to play that down anyway) and more traditional headings and entries in a wider right column. I’ve seen headings in all caps in a narrow left column with corresponding entries in a wider right column.

*P.S. Once you have a final, generic resume, update it for each and every job you apply to in order to incorporate as many key words from the job ad as possible–that maximizes the chances of the ATS reader sending your resume on to a human to review. Customize, customize, customize. 

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Developing Your Cover Letter and Elevator Pitch:” A Job Search Webinar from McGraw Hill

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 9.03.45 AMMcGraw Hill regularly sponsors a webinar series on the college to career transition, which aligns with a lot of the work I do.  To see the offerings, follow this link.  I will be presenting “Developing Your Cover Letter and Elevator Pitch” on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 7:00 EST (6:00 CST).  

My brief presentation will focus on the essentials of cover letters and elevator pitches.  No matter where you are in your job search, this session will dive into the kinds of details you should share in the form of a cover letter and the importance of crafting and practicing a few pitches about yourself.

Cover letters are an opportunity to tell some stories that are unique to you and to engage in a narrative form (to contrast with the short, skimmable phrases you must use in your resume).

There is no template you can use to have an effective cover letter–it has to be unique to you (please don’t use the fill-in-the-blank cover letters you can find on the internet).  

Find job ads in your field of interest and craft anecdotes from your own experience that tie to some of the main qualifications.  

And always find a way to make it ‘about them’–the industry, the organization, the specific job–in order to show how you meet their needs or solve their problems (a bad sign is a cover letter with “I” or “My” as the first word of each and every paragraph).  

In the April 16th webinar, I will provide some specific examples of what these cover letter paragraphs might look like.  

The elevator pitch (or personal branding statement or STAR technique) is all about being prepared to summarize your entire career or job search in 2-3 sentences.

To have a compelling pitch that leaves people wanting more information, you have to plan and practice.  It requires moving away from “I am a…” or “I want to do X” to a concise description of your primary assets, value added, problems you solve, needs you meet.

Once again, you see how it is about you in the sense of describing the problems you solve and the needs you meet, but that it is essential to frame it in terms of the potential employer’s unmet needs and unsolved problems.

Hope to “see” some of you at the webinar on April 16th.

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is There Room for Languages for Specific Purposes in the Humanities?

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 11.35.50 AM


These are not the best of times for the humanities in general and foreign languages in particular.  Budget cuts are the norm on college campuses.  Universities depend on endowments for funding and when that money goes to academic programs, it funds business, ECON and STEM (see articles and stats here, here, here, here, here, and here), then those programs get the lion’s share of incoming students.  We saw BAs in the humanities decline by 10% in the three-year period 2012-2015 (source, Washington Post).  Over a similar three-year period (2013-2016), a total of 651 language programs ceased to exist on US campuses (source, MLA as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education) That doesn’t include language programs that are still in existence on campuses that eliminated language requirements and in so doing decimated the enrollments in those programs, leaving faculty struggling to attract and retain students. At the same time, 2015 saw a record high number (5,891) of PhDs awarded in humanities disciplines while the openings for tenure-track positions in the humanities continued in its precipitous fifteen-year decline (source, InsideHigherEd).

These are facts. You don’t have to like them, but you cannot pretend they don’t exist.


At the same time, there is a lot to be said for the humanities. Underemployment is much lower among humanities degree holders than among those who majored in business and related majors (source, Forbes –this trend surely due in part to the skewed admissions numbers cited above). It has always been argued effectively that students in all disciplines need the skills that come from studying the humanities–Google “why study humanities?” and you will get pages and pages of hits (for example, this and this) that emphasize that the humanities educate the whole person with critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze and synthesize, important written and verbal communication skills, and lots of “soft skills” or “executive function” skills like problem-solving, decision-making, resourcefulness, and independence.

But it’s not fair to tell students that they’re gaining those skills without explicitly talking to them about how they’re doing that and how they might apply the skills beyond the classroom and after graduation. And students know this at some level because they’re not convinced to study the humanities by the simple arguments that “humanities courses educate the whole person,” “you’ll use these life skills” and “lots of important professionals majored in humanities fields” (see “Steve Jobs studied calligraphy” and “billionaire Mark Cuban says the humanities are good“). 

We need to ask ourselves serious questions: how are we going to convince today’s college students–who have been admitted to college by claiming non-humanities academic interests and and who need to enter the workforce upon graduation either to pay back student loan debt or because the prospects of having a career in academia are so grim–that they should also study the humanities? It cannot be by telling them, “Steve Jobs studied calligraphy” or “Mark Cuban said so” and then hoping they’ll sign up for the same classes our departments have offered for literally decades.


This is the part that always seems to go unaddressed in all that has been written on the topic.

We must answer the questions that we demand our students answer on a variety of topics: why? how? How are our humanities courses tied to our students’ futures? They are not going to be college professors. We do not have to get on board with colleges turning into career development, job training / professional preparation centers. But we do have to find a way to talk to students about how what we are doing in our courses is connected to their actual, real futures.

Chances are your department needs robust undergraduate enrollments in its minor and major programs even though your department knows that you could never conscionably send all those students to the graduate programs in French studies or English literature that the major program prepares students for (because you also know it is highly likely that your graduate program is already churning out way more PhDs than the academy could ever absorb with anything close to tenure-track lines–see above).

Our courses, our major & minor programs, our departments have to change to reflect the realities of our students.  We have to face the fact that our students will need to earn money when they graduate and inevitably work outside academia. We have to be explicit with them about what our courses have to do with their post-college reality. If we reject all the students who don’t plan to engage with humanities studies in a lifelong manner, then we effectively eliminate our own jobs. 

This brings me back to my opening question: Can Languages for Specific Purposes programming attract more students to foreign languages / humanities courses?

The first step:  Needs assessment

First, ask yourself: what are your needs–as a department, program, or course instructor? Do you need to attract and retain more students to boost undergraduate enrollments? Do you need to meet student, tuition-paying parent, and administration pressure for ”real-world / readiness skills”? Do you need some kind of PhD+ for graduate students so that they go into the challenging job market with the traditional PhD plus some unique value-added skills that make them stand out against all the competition? Do you need to re-vamp an entire program? Do you need to just do enough to “get through” this pendulum swing that is so tough on the humanities? Or do you just want to be practical about administering your own courses?

Once you decide what needs you have to meet, there are a lot of options.


New programs 

Every year, more campuses expand their offerings to include languages for the professions. The field I know best is Spanish for the Professions and the program with which I am most familiar is UNC-Chapel Hill’s minor. It is an example of building a flexible program that allows the department to adapt to evolving needs.  When the minor was established more than a decade ago, it was to relieve the high demand on traditional courses from an abundance of students minoring in Spanish. The professions minor was designed around the most common majors among all those students flocking to the traditional Spanish courses–and the demand for the new minor was through the roof.  One of the required courses was an “allied” course related to the Spanish-speaking world that had to be taken outside of the Romance Studies department. As enrollments declined in the traditional courses over time, the adjustment was made to allow students to take their allied course within Romance Studies. And the next evolution can be to require that the allied course be any one of the traditional courses in the Romance Studies department.  

The University of Colorado at Boulder has a professions track in their Spanish major that includes the unique offering in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development as well as interdisciplinary programs in business and engineering. At the University of Alabama Birmingham, students can major in applied professional Spanish. The program is a wonderful illustration of blending traditional courses with applied professional courses. Georgia Southern’s certificate program starts at the intermediate (200) level, Arizona State University’s certificate program has a required Spanish in U.S. Professional Communities course, and the University of Florida’s certificate program in Spanish for the professions includes one-credit courses on rotating special topics such as coffee culture, soccer, drug wars, and popular music.

There are as many ways to design programs as there are campuses willing to do so.

New courses

Without creating entire programs, it is possible to attract students interested in the professions by adding several courses that would serve their needs (service-learning, business, medicine, journalism, law, social justice, career preparation / college-to-career transition etc.).

Duke University offers a French course on “Business and Culture in the Francophone World” as well as various interdisciplinary courses cross listed with programs such as theater, political science, and economics.  

To be effective, those courses should count for something–perhaps serving as a mix-and-match with traditional courses so that students still have to populate the traditional minor and major courses while pursuing their “specific purposes” studies.

One off courses or special sections of multi-section courses 

One-off courses in languages for the professions abound–for example, the ubiquitous business Spanish class that is on the books on many college campuses.  Depending on student demand and faculty willingness, you can create these one-off courses that can serve to initially attract students.  In high-demand areas like business Spanish, there are established textbooks (Éxito comercial) and curricula. Note that to attract students, it helps if these courses “count” towards a program of study (and aren’t just electives).

Another option is to develop special sections of multi-section courses. This is particularly effective at the beginning and intermediate levels and can be used to attract students to continued study at the minor or major level (though the minor and major then have to offer something appealing to that students population).  

At the University of Chicago students can take a special section of the final course in the second-year sequence that is “Spanish of the Professions.” The section is offered at the same time as one of the other traditional sections so that students can easily transfer in and out during the first week of classes. Students in the special section keep up with the vocabulary, grammar, and chapter themes of the intermediate textbook and take the same tests as students in the other sections (this to ensure they are equally prepared to go on to the next course). But instead of doing extra literary readings and writing traditional academic essays, students in the special section explore their own area of professional interest, regularly reading, listening, or watching content, then blogging about it and occasionally presenting on it in class. At the same time, they develop a course-long project investigating the resources available for Spanish-speakers in their professional area of interest in the geographic regions where they plan to live and work–with the goal of identifying an unmet niche that they could fill.

Weave professional skills that every employee in every workplace needs into already-existing courses and programs

NETWORKING A lot of the workplace skills that all of our students will need regardless of chosen profession can be layered on to what we are already doing everyday in language courses, where classes are small in size, students work in pairs and groups often, and get to know each other. The content of language classes is often the same “small talk” that is common at networking events: your name, where you’re from, what you do, your interests.

To tweak this work that we’re already doing for professional networking, just make sure students know the importance of:

1- finding out names, remembering names, and using names (they should know how to say, “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your name. I’m ___? What’s your name again?” in at least two languages).

2- professional body language: warm and open, a natural smile, eye contact, and the offer of a handshake (in US culture–teach this also as appropriate to target culture). Avoid crossed arms or negative facial expressions that are often a manifestation of nervousness, but can come across as being cold, unreceptive, and uninterested. This is the activity that can seem a bit silly to practice in a language class–but it’s a low stakes environment that will get students over the learning curve before they are in high stakes environments like job fairs and professional interviewers (where many of their peers will still be sheepish and awkward about eye contact and shaking hands).

3- listening carefully to what others say and asking specific follow-up questions. The goal is to find out what you have in common so that you can follow up later with a link, article, event, invitation, etc. (and thus build those professional relationships over the long term). This can be a good goal for out-of-class oral exams: “have a natural, authentic conversation” that ends when the two parties have identified something new that that have in common.

Note that “networking” is not asking for favors, nor is it all about icky self-promotion. It is about building long-term professional relationships over an entire career. Our professional conferences are three-day long networking event–otherwise, we could just post our ideas to each other electronically and not bother with the physical gathering.

Here is a link to some actual class activities I have used.

WRITTEN AND VERBAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS. The humanities are all about written and verbal communication skills. And we rightfully tout that in defense of the humanities. However, we usually do not talk to students about how all those skills might translate to their professional lives after graduation.  What are we preparing them to do? Because they won’t have to write essays in most workplaces. They’ll have to write memos, emails, agendas, reports.

We can use this kind of professional writing to our advantage; for example, by using email writing to streamline the administration of our courses. It only takes a couple minutes to train students to write professional emails that are thorough, clear, and concise. See a specific first-day-of-class activity here, in which students take responsibility for consulting course documents and contacting tech support to answer their questions and solve their problems–thus saving the instructor various emails from each student throughout the course with questions like, “where is your office?” “how much is the midterm exam worth?” “I can’t access the textbook publishers online quizzes–what should I do?”

At the same time, email writing can help students develop transcultural competence by putting themselves in the role of the recipient of the emails they receive and seeing their own emails as the other might. See my full post on the subject here. All of this improves the administration of our own courses while also getting at some of the most challenging work of language education (transcultural competence). Students develop skills they will need in the workplace–they will tell you how much they use professional email writing in their L1 and L2 –and how well it is received. And employers always say they want independent, resourceful, problem-solving employees. It’s a win-win-win.

GATEKEEPING. Gatekeeping is fundamentally about access. If you can take down a correctly-spelled name and accurate phone number or email in your L2 so that a more fluency speaker can call that person back, you have granted access where it otherwise would have been passively denied. That is an important skill to have anytime, but especially when dealing with vulnerable, language-minority, immigrant communities. I’ve posted on this before.

In learning to leave and take basic messages, students are also getting age-appropriate practice with the building blocks of language (the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s often get short shrift in language education, in part because of seeming lack of age-appropriate practice material).

Students can quickly learn how to take control of the conversation to get and give information by asking, “how do you spell that?”, “one digit at a time, please,” “I got the first name; what’s the last name?”, “I’m going to repeat that back to you; is this correct…?” They learn to avoid global requests for repetition (“what?” “repeat”) that leaves them in “deer in the headlights” mode. I have also posted on this before.

These are just a few examples; you can also use follow up from group work as a way to practice professional presentations and build digital literacy skills into your courses.

Why not tweak content that is fundamental to what we are already doing in our language courses and apply it to those professional skills that every employee in every workplace needs while also streamlining the administration of our own courses? We need to change, but it can be additive; we don’t have to give up anything we’re already doing.  

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Titles for Language Educators from Georgetown University Press


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fifth International Symposium on Languages for Specific Purpose Announced

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 11.13.43 AM

This is a must-attend conference for anyone interested in Languages for Specific Purposes–service-learning, languages for the professions, social justice.  The site just went live on March 19th.

At every LSP conference, I get wonderful new ideas for languages for specific purposes programming and fresh understanding of what people are doing with languages outside of academia and how LSP educators are addressing their needs.

I have always been interested in medical Spanish and here are just two related memories from the symposium last year in Gainesville, FL:

1- A presentation by Glenn Martínez and José Pares-Avila, “From the Medical Interview to the Motivational Interview: Training Health Professionals for Chronic Care Counseling” covered behavior modification treatments, such as smoking cessation or diet and exercise prescriptions for type-2 diabetics, and emphasized the “language resources” required to provide that type of medical care to speakers of Spanish.  The actual grammatical structures needed at the beginning of the treatment are more “advanced” than the ones needed at the end of treatment, but when treated as “resources” required to provide care, language educators can equip health care professionals to work with Spanish-speaking patients. The importance of culture was not neglected, as the field of syndemics, which looks at social determinants of health, addresses issues of culture (among others) as they relate to health.

2- “From Workplace Tasks to Language Functions: An Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Approach to LSP Curriculum Design” by Maura Velázquez-Castillo and Shannon Zeller had it all–it was wildly entertaining as the presenters mimed some of the issues livestock workers experience interacting with cattle and the difficulties of not only communicating with veterinarians with a different native language, but having to do so over a distance from rural locations. At the same time, the issues they presented could not have been more serious–immigrant livestock workers, lack of veterinary professionals, language and cultures barriers, the economic impact of all their work, and the essential grant that was funding the presenters’ work. 

These were just a couple presentations that piqued my interest–many language groups, including French, Arabic, and Russian, were represented and the topics ran the gamut. Here’s a link to the full program from the 2018 symposium.

There is always a ton of support from like-minded colleagues working in LSP fields that can buoy you from one symposium to the next.

The symposium happens every other year and will be at UNC-Charlotte March 5-7, 2020. Mark your calendars now–and see the call for proposals to submit to present.

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses” from Georgetown University Press.  For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Professional Development for the First Week of Class

IMG_4945This is the first week of classes on many campuses and it’s an opportunity for one of my favorite activities: integrating professional development into any already-existing course in such a way that it also improves the administration of the course.

Here’s the tip–take 3 minutes to go over the basics of writing a professional email:

  • use the subject line to communicate clearly what the message is about,
  • use a formal greeting for a first-time communication (“Dear…” in English, “Estimad@” in Spanish, etc.)
  • in the body of the message, concisely answer all of the relevant who, what, when, where, and why?
  • use a formal sign off for a first-time communication (“Sincerely,” in English, “Atentamente,” in Spanish, etc.)

Here’s the assignment:

Use the above to write me a professional email. The body of the message should say:

“I have read and understand the course documents [syllabus, calendar, assignments, etc.”] and I have access to the [campus] and [textbook publisher] online learning systems.”

Grade as you would any similar homework assignment and save in an email folder.

For students, this can also be an activity in developing executive function and analysis/synthesis skills. You may want to point out that:

  • a good message reflects the ability to analyze and synthesize information so that everything necessary is included, but a lot of excess information is not added.  
  • with the two sentences you ask them to send, they are putting in writing the resources that they will independently consult when they have questions about the course (whether it’s due dates, how much a given assignment counts toward the final grade, the location of your office & office hours, the tech support for the various online learning systems). With that message, they are telling you that you won’t be the first point of contact when they have a question, because they know where to find the basic level of resources.

These are skills employers repeatedly report that they want in recent graduates who are new hires: analysis, synthesis, written communication, independence, resourcefulness, problem-solving. 

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses.” For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 2.54.21 PMOne week from today I’ll be in New Orleans for ACTFL 2018.  My book, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses,” will be at the Georgetown University  Press booth in the exhibit hall.

It’s a very practical guide. Each chapter covers a workplace skill that can easily be woven into already-existing language curricula: course management, gatekeeping, networking, professional correspondence, presentations, and digital literacy.  

The format is user-friendly; each chapter starts with an explanation of what you are already doing in the language classroom that is tied to the professional skill, then walks you through what to add to explicitly integrate workplace skills before concluding with specific activities, lesson plans, and sample rubrics that can be adapted for any language or course. If you’re going to be in New Orleans, please reach out ( or stop by the exhibit hall.  

In addition to this volume aimed at language teachers, I’m looking for insights from former students on how they use skill from their languages studies–in expected or unexpected ways–in their professional lives. I’d especially like to know what they wish they had learned while still in college that would have helped in the college-to-career transition or workplace.  If you are a former language student or are in touch with former students, please comment here or send me a private message:

LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of the volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses.” For help customizing your job application documents andnavigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment