Ramapo College Professor Leading Nationwide Effort to Connect Language Learning and the Workplace

Natalia Santamaría Laorden, a professor at Ramapo College in Mahwah N.J., has been tapped to lead a new language teaching initiative. The Languages of Specific Purposes (LSP) Special Interest Group was created by the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) to facilitate the teaching of language with context in professions on a nationwide scale.

The ACTFL is an organization for language educators of all stages of education to help support the ever-changing field of foreign language instruction. It also works to reimagine and innovate new applications for language learning.

Formed due to increasing student interest and the growing needs of the workplace, the goal of the LSP Special Interest Group will focus on the cultural humility within language learning.  This group will be the only of the ACTFL’s Special Interest Groups to provide students with real-world language skills that can be transferred and utilized in the workplace.

“The formation of the Language of Specific Purpose Special Interest Group at ACTFL is an optimistic sign of a broader cultural shift towards an interdisciplinary approach,” said Professor Santamaría Laorden. “Whether it is health equity, climate change, sustainability, or accountability, I firmly believe that the way we teach world languages can humanize interactions and better outcomes across industries.”

Collaborating with educators, industry experts and professionals, the group will take an interdisciplinary approach to formulate the best ways to educate the larger socio-dynamic context of learning language. This group hopes to set the standard on how language is continued to be taught in higher education across the country.

“I am thrilled to serve in this position and extend the interdisciplinary work we already practice at Ramapo to the whole country,” added Santamaría Laorden. “We are currently expanding the Spanish program at the College through potential certification by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters. This will allow us to join efforts with county colleges to strengthen the mission of educating well-rounded foreign language teachers.”

This isn’t the first time Santamaría Laorden has aimed to transform the way language is taught. Previously, she introduced a new certificate-based program with an interdisciplinary approach to Spanish and Healthcare. The program, created with the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, grew popular at Ramapo College and led to the creation of new courses, an increase in Spanish minor enrollment, and the birth of new study-abroad opportunities for students.

In addition, Santamaría Laorden grew her concept by publishing a co-authored textbook in 2022, “Spanish for Health Care and Human Services: An Interdisciplinary Approach”. Santamaría Laorden’s curriculum continued to grow after being adopted by 12 universities including Northeastern University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Cincinnati and more.

Santamaría Laorden believes her work is helping support a larger nationwide movement towards language learning, “My work with colleagues at the ACTFL will contribute directly towards addressing recent concerns by US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona about the needs to promote bilingualism as a gift and to educate professionals to compete abroad,” said Santamaría Laorden. “In such a diverse country and world, the work will foster a better understanding by the education and business industries of the connection between world languages fluency and success.”

For more information on Professor Natalia Santamaría Laorden, click here.