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How Spanish Will Help You with Your Journalism Career

Updated: Apr 24

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, with over 500 million native speakers. If you're a journalist, learning Spanish can open up a whole new world of opportunities.

I’m currently finishing my studies in international affairs at George Washington University. During this time, I’ve interned at NBC, written for the Baltimore Sun, and corresponded at the United Nations. I was also appointed Blog Editor at WRGW where I helped quadruple output.

Through my three years of journalistic experience, I’ve already seen the benefits of my Spanish fluency materialize. Here are just a few of the ways that Spanish can help you in your journalism career:

You'll be able to communicate with a wider audience. Spanish is spoken in many countries across the globe, so if you can speak Spanish, you'll be able to communicate with more people. This will be especially helpful if you're a journalist who wants to do international reporting.

Take Philip Crowther, an Associated Press correspondent who—whether reporting on the Russian invasion from Kyiv or giving updates on the elections from Rio de Janeiro—regularly reports in six languages! He went viral for his compilation clips, like this one, that he posts on Twitter while on assignment. Notably, the first language that Crowther learned by choice was Spanish—a strong testament to its practical career utility.

You'll have access to new sources of information. Many Spanish-language media outlets publish stories that are not available in English. If you can read Spanish, you'll be able to access these stories and get a different perspective on the news.

I remember in high school debating the issue of the Cuban Embargo. It was 2018 and many of the arguments revolved around the complete uncertainty as to who would succeed Raúl Castro as president. As I researched potential successors, the english-speaking media had nothing to say: no leads and no suspects.

But as soon as I began searching in Spanish, I came across a plethora of sources—some from Cuban state media—that highlighted Miguel Díaz-Canel as the presumed successor to the younger Castro brother. While I wasn’t yet in journalism, it is a clear example of how speaking another language—especially one as prominent as Spanish—can give you an advantage over other journalists.

You'll be able to build relationships with Spanish-speaking sources. If you're a journalist who wants to do in-depth reporting, it's important to build relationships with sources. If you can speak Spanish, you'll be able to build relationships with Spanish-speaking sources who may not be willing to talk to an English-speaking journalist.

I’ve noticed this when reaching out to guests for my international news podcast PINDROP: If you reach out to someone in their native language, you’re much more likely to receive a response.

In my experience, the difference this makes is staggering. I’ve reached out 14 times to diplomats and decision-makers in non-anglophone countries to be guests on PINDROP. Every time I wrote the email in the recipient’s native language (3 times), I received a response. Yet I received no response at all from the other 11 emails I sent in English with a subject line only in their mother tongue.

You'll be able to travel more easily. If you can speak Spanish, you'll be able to travel to Spanish-speaking countries more easily. Indeed, a whole 20 countries speak Spanish as their official language—less than the 60 or so that speak English, but still a lot.

This will be especially helpful if you're a journalist who wants to do on-the-ground reporting. Again, think of Philip Crowther, who has traveled to Ukraine, Brazil, Iraq, Poland, Germany, Egypt, the UK, and many more countries as part of his job. Even by the standards of a normal foreign correspondent, that is a lot!

While my own exact future remains uncertain, I’m looking to travel and cover international events for a wide audience as I enter journalism full-time. As I do so, it is not my existing three years of experience in journalism, but my proficiency in Spanish that will make the greatest impact when entering my career.

If you're serious about your career as a journalist, learning Spanish is a wise investment. It will open up a whole new world of opportunities and help you become a better journalist.

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