Updated: Oct 20, 2022
JNCL-NCLIS Insights: Language at the Intersection
About the Episode:
JNCL-NCLIS is proud to introduce the seventh episode of our Language at the Intersection Insights Interview series. In this episode, we are joined by Gabriel Albano to talk about the intersection of language and engineering. Gabriel Albano is an associate Principal and structural engineer at EDG Architecture.
The transcript for the episode can be found below.
Amanda Seewald (00:09):
Hello, and welcome to the "JNCL-NCLIS Language at the Intersection Insights" Interview Series, where we talk with professionals from many fields to hear their perspectives on how multilingualism moves our world. The Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Language and International Studies proudly presents this series with generous sponsorship support from Vista Higher Learning.
I'm Amanda Seewald, current president of the Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Language and International Studies, JNCL-NCLIS. And today we introduce you to Gabriel Albano, an associate Principal and structural engineer at EDG Architecture, who will help us explore the intersection of language and engineering, and how multilingualism moves his world.
Gabriel Albano (01:05):
Hi, my name is Gabriel Albano, or Gabriel Albano, as you prefer. I'm a professional engineer and my language intersection is language and engineering.
Amanda Seewald (01:17):
So the first question that I have for you is, how do you use more than one language in your life and in your work?
Gabriel Albano (01:25):
I constantly use both languages. In construction, it's extremely important for communication with the workers, especially when we're talking about medium to small projects. The Spanish speaking community is majority. And you can literally be ahead of everyone because the level of understanding is above and beyond what any other only-English speaker can can have.
Amanda Seewald (01:53):
And what parts of your life, personal and professionally, would not be possible if you weren't multilingual?
Gabriel Albano (02:01):
With the technology these days, you can get away with a bunch without speaking other languages. But one thing is get away with, and doing some stuff, the other thing is doing it right. And I noted one simple example. I got help from my office, from my boss and he's just English speaker, and cause I was out of town, and they couldn't understand him. I came the following day and I fixed everything because the direction was not clear. That means every day for me, I use both languages.
Amanda Seewald (02:37):
And would you say that some of that is not just an understanding of the directions or the specific pieces, but also really kind of an understanding culturally of how to communicate with someone?
Gabriel Albano (02:49):
Yes. They feel more confident with me than with my boss, that is only English speaker. Yes, that's exactly what happened. It's in my own experience, in my own house, with the service, especially with the services, then they trust. You can have better service and cheaper service daily. This is one thing that I noted.
Amanda Seewald (03:13):
So how have you found that in society as a whole and the things that you're doing specifically in your field, in engineering, how have you found that language connects to what you're able to achieve in your outcomes, in your goals for the projects you're working on specifically?
Gabriel Albano (03:31):
I wanna do a reverse, no using Spanish. When in my youth long time ago I received, I got lucky and received a work offer to work here in New York. Mostly in Spanish speaking countries, but based in New York. And I arrived almost with no English and I learned English with just fighting hard and listening and studying. And even if it's not flawless, I noted the importance of the language. If I had the English as my second language before than immigrate, my life would be way easier and faster growing. It took me easily 10 years to reach the point that I'm now probably could to reducing in half.
Amanda Seewald (04:20):
And, you know, it's interesting. So if we were to take that and also reverse it, like you're here, you've been in the United States for a while and you came, you know, and learned English here. Right. And think about, you know, we've got so many Americans, right? Like millions of Americans who are monolingual and don't speak another language. And so maybe talk a little bit about how societally and, you know, culturally in the United States, how you see it would be different if we looked at things through a multilingual lens. Que debemos ser más multilingües aquí en los Estados Unidos y por qué?
Gabriel Albano (04:55):
Absolutamente. The level of understanding that you have with a multilingual people is way bigger than with only single-lingual. I'm having conversation with contractors that are Americans and they grew up in Spanish speaking families and they speak in Spanish with me on site, because it's the level of the communication in construction, based in Spanish for this level of buildings. I have coworkers, then they say, "I'm kind of envy you that you can have a better communication with other coworkers or other professionals for that reason." Sometimes when I have a simple experiences, then the foreman in on site is only monolingual, and I'm helping this foreman because he or she is not, it's really hard for them to communicate with the other workers. Sometimes I know a lot of then, even if it's chop, chop, and they have grammatical mistakes, but they try so hard to speak other languages because they know, and they realize, then they can do better, quicker and cheaper job if they speak both languages, but at least two languages.
Amanda Seewald (06:20):
That's wonderful. Entonces vamos a hacer un poquito de esto en español ahora sí...
Gabriel Albano (06:28):
Perfecto. Hola, mi nombre es Gabriel Albano, or Gabriel, if you're an English speaker. Soy ingeniero. Uso a constantemente español e inglés. En mi profesión es fundamental para mí hablar las dos lenguas e incluso con tengo compañeros de trabajo que también hablan español y les sugiero que hablen español con los trabajadores, aunque tengan mucho acento, porque son nativos americanos, pero se manejan bien y. Y después de la primera vez que lo usan me dicen Tenías razón, es mucho más fácil. La comunicación a veces es mitad y mitad, a veces sólo inglés o a veces es solo español, pero se llegan a resultados mucho más elevados y de calidad.
Amanda Seewald (07:19):
Perfecto, perfecto. Entonces también quiero saber para ti cómo te sientes, hablar tu idioma, bueno, nativo cada día de tu vida aquí en los Estados Unidos... te da más... bueno, cómo te hace sentir?
Gabriel Albano (07:37):
Tengo que confesar que en los primeros años me sentía como limitado. Sentía que me juzgaban por que hablaba español o que se notaba que hablaba español. Hablando inglés lentamente me di cuenta que es una ventaja, no una, no una, un escollo. No me preguntes como se dice escocés en inglés, porque no lo sé. Y lentamente me di cuenta que si no me parece inapropiado que hable dos idiomas. Es el problema de la persona que tengo delante. Para mí es todo lo contrario. Tengo resultados a mucho en mi profesión, mucho mejores resultados, gracias a que hablo dos idiomas. Una es una pequeña experiencia que tuve, incluso mi jefe cuando tuvieron un problema con una obra. El trata de defender. El contratista trató de defenderse que sus trabajadores no hablan correctamente inglés y mi jefe dijo No, el error no es de ellos porque las instrucciones fueron dadas en español por mi y yo soy Fluent, hablo perfectamente español y estaba correcto lo que el que estaba mal era el monolinguo, es muy importante, aunque sea hablar mitad y mitad no importa, pero comunicarse en un idioma que es mas confortable a todo el mundo.
Amanda Seewald (10:10):
Muy importante. Y también si tú estabas hablando con estudiantes que quieren ser ingenieros un día. Entonces por qué puedes decir a ellos por qué es tan importante ser multilingüe?
Gabriel Albano (10:10):
En ingeniería, en es fundamental si trabajas en cualquiera de las. Lo que tengo experiencia yo en las dos costas y en América Latina, incluso en los países que no hablo el idioma pero en los que pude usar el español, es fundamental en mi experiencia, especialmente en Miami, en la construcción de la estación terminal del tren de Alta Velocidad. Note que si no hablas español estás perdido. Toda la comunicación es en español. Es cómico, pero los los emails se van en inglés. La comunicación oral va en español. Es interesante. Sí. No sé si sea un tema legal, pero es. Es. Es común. Y es muy común empezar en inglés y seguir. Y he visto a gente. Recuerdo un jamaiquino o con un acento muy fuerte en español, pero la única forma que tuvo de él de poder trabajar en Florida fue aprendiendo español.
Amanda Seewald (10:14):
So it's a Jamaican guy that worked in Miami, and the only way that he was really able to work was to speak in Spanish.
Gabriel Albano (10:22):
Amanda Seewald (10:23):
Gabriel Albano (10:24):
Conocí una sola persona que no hablaba una palabra de español trabajando en esa obra y tuvo muchos problemas, muchos problemas de comunicación, pero todo el mundo tenía que hablar algo de español, sino era imposible. I don't know if you know that I taught for a long time in high school and engineering and I love to continue doing it and I'm doing it. I'm taking the time in English or Spanish, with the workers explaining why each direction are made. My decision is made based on what, right. I don't like people just because I say so I always explain to them, and that is, yeah, take me 15, 20 more minutes. So what? This has saved me hours of repairs on redoing stuff.
Amanda Seewald (11:12):
Teachers are going to be watching this, right? So, and one of the challenges that we face in the United States in education is that teachers who are not language teachers don't value language, right? It happens in high schools. It definitely happens in the universities. You go and study engineering, you're not required to take a language. And that's why I asked you that question, right? Because you know, what we are trying to do with our advocacy, is to convince universities, convince legislators, how important it is to fund programs that support multilingualism, because ultimately it serves to help every area of every career and every area that we're trying to, you know, what we're trying to achieve. So, "as a teacher, I see the value of multilingualism is..." Why don't you complete that statement?
Gabriel Albano (11:53):
Perfect. As a teacher, the multi-language is... I think the word "important" is short. Fell short. It's beyond fundamental. Anybody should have understanding of multiple languages and be at least fluent in two. And even if you have mistakes and grammatical, but it's super important. I know that not only for to be professional, it's just to enjoy, it's not the same, just visit a country speaking the language and just be a tourist. The experience is completely different. Enjoy a movie in the language that you can speak. You can enjoy details, then get lost, right? The translator the translator always will be betray you, right? Because it's his decision and use one word or other word, and when you manage to do both languages, it's important. I'm, for example, I cannot use, I cannot watch a movie with subtitles in English because I'm correcting this or that. "That's wrong. That's the wrong word." Right.
And that means it's not only from the professional point of view, have multilanguage, being a multilanguage person is for cultural purposes as well. And coming back again to my profession is, even if you don't manage the technical language of being engineer in Spanish or be an English engineer in English... I went to school in Spanish, and one of the credits that you need to pass is one language: Italian, French, or English, you decide. And I was surprised that here, they don't ask for that. And I passed, but I decided to go with Italian, and I learn a bunch of technical terms in Italian. And that used to be really fluent, and the way I immigrate, was a coworker in my first job here from Albania. Then her English was way better than mine, but she was fluent in Italian, I was fluent in Italian, and we worked together in Italian, in New York. And thanks her, I was slowly learning English, speaking Italian with her. That's is kind of my story. I used to be really fluent, but the last 15 years, I didn't speak Italian. I need to really catch up again. But see, for me, my limitations if I didn't have one language, at least, and half of the other, I couldn't achieve what I achieve.
Amanda Seewald (14:39):
If you could talk to a legislator about why it's important to support language education, what would you say? "It's important to support language education because..."
Gabriel Albano (14:50):
In my youth, was really hard for me to really learn another language. My first language that I really learned was Italian because I had connection with my family. And it was hard to learn English, but I keep insisting, insisting. And finally I got it. Thanks my husband was a big part of it. Of course, I'm still struggling to be improving every day. And have another language to work with is fundamental. You are not only a better professional, you are better person because you can reach other people in a social level, more connected within the social level, right, of each person. People feel more comfortable if you speak their language. You feel more comfortable because you fully understand those people. And I cannot really have an excuse to don't learn another language.
Who insist English is enough, easily realize quickly in life that it's not. You need to know another language. And when you travel, you have it. And when you work, you have it. Coworkers then learn just to have a friend. Sometimes, it's the only way to have a friend, a close friend, because as they're both speaking different languages, they find one language in common. And otherwise you wanna miss that friend because you are not gonna have a connection. The necessity of have languages is social, economical, and professional. You are better person if you can communicate in different languages. That's my understanding.
Amanda Seewald (16:58):
That concludes today's featured story from our "Language at the Intersection Insights" Interview Series. For more information about the advocacy work of the Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies, please visit www.languagepolicy.org. To learn more about this interview series, hear stories from other professionals, and explore how language moves our world, visit www.languagepolicy.org/languageattheintersection. Thank you to our interviewees for sharing their stories, thank you to our series sponsors Vista Higher Learning, and thank you all for listening.
This series is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Vista Higher Learning. To learn more, please visit https://vistahigherlearning.com/.
_____________________________ 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. Contact: email@example.com