A look into languages at CSU: One student’s experience

two students practice sign language

Having more than one language to communicate with can be a valuable asset to anyone, but particularly someone who hopes to use their experiences to work with other cultures or educate others about cultures beyond the United States. We had a conversation with a former CSU former Language, Literatures, and Cultures major, who found her particular passion within Spanish and discovered her love of American Sign Language along the way.

How did you discover your interest in languages and cultures?

I knew I loved languages from the day I started learning Spanish in middle school. I wanted to continue learning languages in high school and college because of my love and passion for the Spanish language and culture, but I ended up declaring a major in English for a variety of reasons. And, as almost a necessary prerequisite to college life, I immediately started doubting my choice in the major and wondering how I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This doubt, fear, and stress can be a common experience for students when choosing a major. Luckily, I had support from CSU.

What led you to the Languages, Literatures, and Cultures major?

I remember going into my advisor’s office feeling frantic, trying to figure out my class schedule, worrying (along with everyone in my family), what I would do with my degree. After a calming (and a surprisingly in-depth and attentive) conversation with my advisor, I decided to switch to CSU’s Languages, Literatures, and Cultures major, and came out with a plan not only for the semester, but also for my future career goals. Changing my major to Languages, Literatures, and Cultures with a focus in Spanish was exactly what I wanted to do.

What happened once you switched majors? Is this where your ASL (American Sign Language) minor came into the picture?

I took Spanish classes along with my other core curriculum classes and had the opportunity to learn from extraordinary teachers who inspired me through their passion and dedication. My own interest for language grew, and I discovered another option at CSU: American Sign Language (ASL) courses. At that point in time, there were only a few sign language classes, and ASL was yet to be offered as an academic minor. But, on a whim, I dove into it and fell in love with Deaf language and culture. I was exposed to cultures in both Spanish and ASL, and learned about the challenges faced by other cultures and communities. And I got to explore how to use what I was learning to create real change in the world. In my third year, CSU established the official American Sign Language minor, I was able to incorporate it into my degree, and graduate with it on my diploma. It’s a very do-able program, no matter how busy you are in your academic journey.

How does your language education at CSU apply to your future goals?

I have been given more resources and opportunities than I ever thought possible at CSU because of amazing advisors, faculty, and peers. My goal is to become a Spanish teacher full time, and use ASL to incorporate visual signs with auditory language, which can improve auditory recognition and stimulates verbal recall. I had the opportunity to work as an after-school Spanish teacher while still in college, and I learned to combine my knowledge of both languages so kids could connect verbal language with kinesthetic language. It gave me confidence that I will be able to engage as a future teacher not only through language education, but with awareness, social justice, cultural sensitivity, and combined methods that increase global understanding as well as language acquisition.

Explore languages at Colorado State

Learn more about incorporating a second or third language into your major, minor, or general academic experience at CSU.


Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.