World Languages for World Changers

Lauren Debussy '10

Lauren's advice to students studying languages is that a language class is not merely another course for which to study, but a tool that can be used to communicate with whole groups of people different from themselves. “Languages are a way to experience new places, new thoughts, new cultures, and new ideas. They’re a passport into a different world view.” She also advises students to put down their books and use the language. “Perfection is not important – communication is! Don’t let that stop you from using the words you know to express yourself in the best way you can, even if it’s fragmented or full of mistakes.”


Kate Herman '11

Kate Herman concentrated on French, Psychology and European Studies while at SMU. She is now teaching English to non-native speakers in Prague. Ms Herman's experience learning French at SMU has allowed her to better understand her student’s needs.

She cautions students that learning a new language is challenging but that it is worth the effort as it prepares them for living a life outside of their comfort zone. “You’ll be better equipped to brave those awkward or difficult situations once you’ve floundered your way through a French-only literature discussion or preformed a skit in Italian. Once you have done something in a foreign language, conquering the challenging things in English is a cinch!”


Samantha Cornelius '11

Samantha Cornelius received her degree as a French major at SMU although she also took German, Japanese and Linguistics classes while a student. These courses helped her better understand structures of languages which was invaluable to her when she began to pursue a Master’s degree in Linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Ms Cornelius has been conducting research on the Cherokee language for several years. "I take one to two trips a year to Tahlequah, OK, to work with native speakers of Cherokee. I both investigate aspects of the language from a theoretical perspective, as well as record materials to document this endangered language. I am specifically interested in the way the sound system of the language works, and how it interacts with the complicated word formation processes of the language and relatively understudied syntax. All Native American languages need documentation, so preserving Cherokee is a crucial task, and I am glad I have the opportunity to help in the ways I can."

Ms Cornelius encourages students studying languages at SMU to take advantage of every possible opportunity- whether studying abroad, helping organize a foreign film festival or finding someone with whom to practice the language. “Language is something that must be 'done' to be learned – you can’t just pick up a language by passively letting it come to you! In addition, people who can speak multiple languages have cognitive advantages over monolinguals."


Elizabeth Zamora '12

Elizabeth Zamora graduated SMU in May 2012 with a major in Spanish Language Arts and minor in Religious Studies. Since graduating from SMU, she has pursued a career in public relations and social media where she has worked with Fortune 500 clients. Her degree in Spanish Language Arts has given her the edge at work and has presented her with the opportunities to work with brands such as Avocados From Mexico, MasterCard Latin America, FedEx Latin America, and Corona Extra. Most recently, she had the opportunit to work with Muzo Emerald Colombia, which is a company that conducts business in South America. Being the only team member to speak Spanish, she had an advantage and the opportunity to build a strong relationship with her clients to conduct business between two countries.


Miller Walker '13 

Miller Walker majored in French at SMU. He is currently in his second year at the Episcopal School of Dallas upper school teaching Spanish and French. “This has been a hard road, as no amount of classroom instruction prepares you for what being a teacher is like.” However, he is thankful for the good support network from his many former language teachers at SMU with whom he took classes. His biggest challenge has been finding ways to engage students who do not have a passion for learning languages. It is hard for him to relate to those students because of his love for languages, but he is working hard in better understanding them.

His biggest piece of advice for students is to keep in contact with those who have helped them get to where they are today. “That network of support is so important and I can confidently say that without them, I would not be the man I am today. They are there to help me when I have concerns and questions, or when I just want to vent.”


Brandon Bub '14


Brandon Bub majored in English, History, and Political Science, with a minor in Spanish at SMU. He was hired upon graduation to teach Social Studies at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and in the fall of 2015, added second year Spanish to his course load. Brandon’s favorite classes in the Spanish department were those on linguistics taught by Alberto Pastor and Gabriela Vokic. “I learned so much about language acquisition and how people process language, so it’s really informed the way I structure lessons and homework for my high school students.” Brandon encourages students interested in studying language to start taking classes as soon as possible and take advantage of study abroad opportunities while in college.On the placement test, Brandon tested into the advanced level, which make completing his major much easier. However, taking advanced level classes can be intimidating.
He advises students not to be intimidated by peers even though you may feel like they know more than you. “By the time I was in 4000-level Spanish classes, lectures were only conducted in Spanish and we basically never used English in the room. It can be scary if that’s a new experience for you, but really there’s no better way to learn the language than through those kinds of natural conversational interactions, and you’ll find your fluency will increase tremendously in a short period of time.”


Jean Paul Desterac '13

Jean Paul Destarac moved to France after graduating from SMU in '13. He worked for several months in the wine industry after which heaccepted a position in NYC in a multi-family office private equity firm. Jean Paul uses his Spanish skills with his clients on a daily basis.Jean Paul is pursuing a MBA in Spain and hopes to starts his own private equity firm focused on the Latin American demographic upon graduation.