Mildred Cercea has been multilingual as long as she can remember.
“I grew up in a household where my mom spoke Spanish, and my dad spoke Romanian — just a very diverse household,” she said. Each parent learned the other’s language, and Mildred “learned English in kindergarten, which was pretty easy because it was what we heard on TV and all around us.”
This was always an important part of her experience and world view. “You gain so much just from learning a different language,” she said. But when she arrived on the Missouri State campus, she didn’t know that languages would also become her career path.
New languages, new worlds
She’d planned on going into health care, but as she worked toward a minor in Spanish, she felt increasingly drawn to a language she thought she knew. “My first class was composition with Dr. Dowdy,” Mildred remembered. “It was really a shock for me. I called my mom and said, ‘Thank you so much for teaching us Spanish, but there’s so much I don’t know!'”
She switched her major to modern languages, which not only gave her the chance to dive deeper into Spanish, but also allowed her to study new languages, like Arabic. “It opens up a whole new world,” she said. “I particularly felt that way with Arabic because the alphabet and numbers are different, even the way you read is completely different. I learned to empathize a lot more, and I was curious about the culture.”
A graduate program focused on the teaching of languages
Mildred graduated in Spring 2017, and she’s now enrolled in a graduate program that will help take her love of languages even further: the Master of Applied Second Language Acquisition (MASLA).
About the MASLA
The MCL website describes the program this way:
MASLA is a flexible degree program that combines training in topics pertinent to second language acquisition theory and practice, including linguistics, research and teaching methods, and materials and assessment design, with advanced discipline-specific coursework focused on the areas of TESOL, Spanish and French.
It is designed for anyone with an interest in teaching one of these languages, including currently certified teachers.
MASLA graduates will be well qualified to teach languages in a variety of settings, both in the United States and abroad.
Mildred is particularly looking forward to the teaching aspect. She’ll gain experience with a teaching assistantship in the fall, and she considers this an important part of her career path — either as an instructor or as an entrepreneur offering personalized language instruction.
“The need for Spanish is so great, particularly for people who want to work in larger cities. If you know Spanish, you have that advantage, and more and more professionals are seeking to learn so they can better communicate with existing clients or open the door to new ones,” she said.
Mildred’s personal experience bears this out; she currently works as an agent’s assistant at an insurance company that specializes in serving the Spanish-speaking community. She’s witnessed this need grow since moving to the Ozarks from southern California.
“Now there is a huge Hispanic community in Springfield,” she said, and she’s become more connected to it through her work. “I get to meet people who are doing so many great things for the community, and a lot of my generation is getting more involved.”