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Elevating Language Learning | The Best Advice for Students with a Passion for Language Learning

Updated: Mar 22

Elevating Language Learning Series: Elevating Conversations Between Language Students and Multilingual Leaders

About this Conversation:

 JNCL-NCLIS is proud to introduce the first conversation in our Elevating Language Learning Series. In this conversation, William Gordon, a student with a passion for languages at Georgia State University, joins Jillian Bonner, a multilingual leader using her talents as the Manager of US Operations at the Pulsera Project, to discuss the value of language learning and cultural exchange.

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The transcript for the episode can be found below.



William Gordon (00:32):

So I'm 21 years old and I'm a speech communications major because my interests vary a lot. I love math, physics, theater, and Spanish, and it's hard to figure out how those would all go together. I've looked at journalism, I've looked at radio, I've looked at teaching. There's a lot of different things that I've looked at. And so I guess my question to you would be, what advice do you have for me or any other student who has a passion for language learning but isn't quite sure where they would want to go with that yet?

Jillian Bonner (01:08):

Yeah, so there are a few things there, but I feel like the best advice that I was given at the time of graduation was just to have an open mind. It's one of those stories where if you had asked 21-year-old me, if you had asked Spanish major college me, where do you think this will take you? Teaching classroom style teaching was all that was present in my imagination. But especially working in an organization like this and meeting all the people I have the branches of language learning specifically, not companies that have Spanish speakers in it, but companies and programs that exist for language learning. Such a vast industry, and there's so many opportunities there that teaching open the door for me into this industry. So I think being willing to take risks and knowing that even doing something for five years at the end of that, you'll have so much more perspective, even if that doesn't end up your permanent landing place.

William Gordon (02:16):

I'm familiar with what Pulseras are like the bracelets, but just in that space, working with artisans and connecting them with students, how has multilingualism made a difference in your work?

Jillian Bonner (02:28):

Part of what we do in schools in the United States is sell the bracelets for the proceeds to go back and benefit artisans and different programs in Central America. But another big part of what we do is provide educational materials to students for Spanish teachers to use in their classrooms. I would say probably the most difference that I've seen in my work is when I travel in Central America, because we don't have to rely on a translator to connect with people. So we get invited to people's homes. We've been served meals in people's homes, we meet their children and we talk about what can be pretty personal, impactful stuff. And I feel like being able to have that conversation in Spanish without having a middleman just changes how you're able to feel that sense of friendship on top of professional connection. So I think that's when it's the most valuable because we can walk into a meeting and communicate professionally about the numbers, like the dollars and cents of something, but then also you can go out to lunch with someone, the same person you had the business meeting with, and learn more about them and their past and their passions.

Jillian Bonner (03:47):

Yeah. Okay. So tell me about a time when being multilingual made a difference in your life.

William Gordon (03:55):

There are certainly several times when being multilingual has made a difference in my life. I think the one place that I'd have to cite the most would be my workplace. I used to work at Office Depot and then I worked at Target, and then I work at Starbucks now and in every single space it's been great to be able to communicate with Spanish speakers and even people beyond just Spanish speakers who may have a different cultural background, speaking with them and being able to relate to them, communicate with them, and then at the pinnacle of using language in the professional space. I recently took my first trip outside of the country in May as part of a study abroad program. It was an international business study abroad program. We went to Panama and Costa Rica, and speaking Spanish with the business leaders at the companies that we visited was amazing.

William Gordon (04:47):

It was amazing to see their faces light up. It was amazing to see the way that they related to me after they saw that I spoke their language. In one particular example, we went to the Alianza Empresarial Para El Desarrollo, it's a nonprofit in Costa Rica that deals with sustainability and business and the connection between them and some of the people there. In Costa Rica, there are a lot of English speakers because it's taught in school and it's taught at a very high level. But there were some people there who were having trouble getting their ideas across, and sometimes they would say in Spanish, and I would just say it, I would just blurt it out. And so at the tail end of that, they were like, Hey, if you ever want to apply for an internship, we have internships, not just in Costa Rica but internationally. And so that was just something that really showed to me how much of a benefit it can be to be multilingual, especially in the professional space.

Jillian Bonner (05:55):

Yeah, yeah. So it sounds like you have a lot of experience with being able to use language in work and not just in your personal life. So do you feel like that is the plan for you? Is that your ambition to have a job where you'll be able to use different languages?

William Gordon (06:13):

Yeah. Oh absolutely. Whatever I do, I know that I want to have language be an important part of that, be an important center point.


This series is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Vista Higher Learning. To learn more, please visit 


About JNCL-NCLIS: Established in 1972, the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS) unites a national network of leading organizations and businesses comprised of over 300,000 language professionals to advocate for equitable language learning opportunities. Our mission is to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to learn English and at least one other language.

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