Ron on Mont Blanc between France and Italy
Why Study a Foreign Language?While earning a B.A. in French from Baylor and working full time, Ron Donigan discovered that his passion for languages was matched by his passion for business. After receiving his degree in 1969, Ron went on to gain experience in a number of interesting business enterprises. When he accepted an assignment to move a manufacturing plant from Santa Ana, California to Tijuana, Mexico, he was finally able to combine both of his passions in an ideal opportunity. That project was his first chance to see the real value of speaking a foreign language. Though not fully prepared to speak Spanish (one year of study at Baylor), his fluency in French dramatically streamlined the learning process and enabled him to work very effectively in the creation of a brand new business in a Spanish-speaking part of the world.
Later, while working for Nestlé USA in Glendale, California, the ideal opportunity that Ron had long imagined presented itself when he was assigned to a project at the corporate offices of Nestlé in Vevey, heart of the French-speaking region of Switzerland. Though the project was formally managed in English, Ron's ability to communicate in the local language immediately established a credibility and trust with his team which contributed immensely to their effectiveness and collaborative success. The fact that an American could speak two foreign languages was so unique that it immediately created an environment of respect and understanding, critical to their ability to stay on a fast track with the largest global project ever undertaken by Nestlé.
"We will find this world a warmer, more welcoming place if we respect its diversity by being a bit more diverse ourselves..."
Since returning to the U.S. in 2004, Ron has moved on to lead the establishment of a regional procurement team in Latin America – the first of its kind for Nestlé. And again, this time in Spanish, Ron's fluency in another language has dramatically accelerated the establishment of this team. As V.P. and Head of LATAM Regional Procurement, Ron frequently travels to the major capitals of Latin America (Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Bogot , Lima, Panama City, Caracas and others).
Ron and his wife Donna now live in South Pasadena, California. During the three and one-half years that they spent in Switzerland they traveled all over Europe (from Switzerland to Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Spain and Africa). Ron and Donna have also traveled throughout Latin America. As a result, they have had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people from numerous countries-people with richly diverse backgrounds and experiences, people that will remain their friends for life.
The Donigans have recently become donors to the French and Italian Division fund which supports student travel abroad. Mr. Donigan attributes much of his success to the study of foreign languages. In his opinion, "if we are to be considered good citizens in this very large and diverse world we inhabit, we need to take the trouble to learn more about it. We will find this world a warmer, more welcoming place if we respect its diversity by being a bit more diverse ourselves, by learning to speak someone else's language. In practical terms, communications skills are probably the most important skills we have – and communicating in a foreign language has easily been one of the two or three most important factors in my own personal career satisfaction."
Foreign Language Study at Baylor
Ron Donigan is only one of many individuals whose careers have been advanced or whose lives have been enriched by the study of foreign languages at Baylor. Study of a foreign language has always been, and continues to be, an integral part of a liberal education. Proficiency in a foreign language has, in fact, become a necessity for full participation in today's multicultural society and global community.
The imperative for the study of foreign languages, literatures, and cultures derives from Baylor University's own Mission Statement: "The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community" (emphasis added).
In addition, Vision 2012's Imperative 11 specifically recognizes that, since Baylor's sphere of influence is global, it must commit its resources to strengthening efforts in international education, including study-abroad opportunities and state-of-the-art programs in world languages, literatures, and cultures. The Department of Modern Foreign Languages therefore bears the responsibility "to prepare [our] graduates to enter a pluralistic and global society" by "enrich[ing] the quality and application of the study of modern foreign languages."
Benefits of Foreign Language Study
Aside from the obvious ability to read, write, understand, and speak another language, students benefit in a number of other ways from their study of foreign languages:
- Cultural Awareness. Through foreign language study, students learn that language is more than a means of communication between people-it is a vehicle for cultural transmission. By breaking down linguistic barriers, the study of language enables one to explore cultural perspectives from within, as a knowledgeable insider. The resulting awareness of similarities and differences between cultures, in turn, leads to a better understanding and appreciation of one's own culture.
- World Citizenship. In today's multicultural, inter-reliant world, the development of cross-cultural sensitivity can serve as a bridge to a common ground of understanding between different cultures in all kinds of venues-educational, political, legal, and social-both within the U.S. and abroad.
- Career Opportunities. As in Ron Donigan's case, students who have attained intermediate or higher proficiency in a foreign language have broadened career opportunities in education, business, government, journalism, the health sciences, social services, law, transportation, computer technology, telecommunications, transportation, and religious service. Interviewers on campus actively seek graduates with foreign language skills and are often willing to pay higher salaries to individuals with such training.
- Critical Thinking Skills. As an added benefit, foreign language enhances critical thinking skills by presenting students with the mental exercise required to form logical correlations within a creative context, limited only by one's talent, ability, and imagination. The study of literature and other language-related manifestations of culture offers the student constant interpretive challenges in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Participation in a study abroad program, which is fast becoming essential to a well-educated person's background, is one of the best ways to acquire a sense of cross-cultural awareness. Of course, training in a foreign language and knowledge of a foreign culture is the key to deriving the greatest advantage from such an experience. For more information on the many study-abroad programs offered by Baylor, visit the study abroad page.
For more information on foreign language programs at Baylor, contact the Division Director for your language of interest or the Modern Foreign Language Department at (254) 710-3711.