Glendon Campus
York University
2275 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4N 3M6
Spanish on the Rise on the Glendon Scene


“The growing importance of Spanish in North American life, combined with Canada's economic and commercial relations with Latin American countries, indicates an expanding potential for professional opportunities.” That is the introduction on Glendon’s Hispanic Studies website, and the meteoric growth of that department closely parallels the rapid increase in importance of the language spoken by the second largest number of people in the world (after Chinese).

Professor Caridad Silva, recently promoted to full professorship, arrived at Glendon in 1975. She is a specialist in Latin American literature, contemporary women’s narrative, and Spanish and Latin American cinema. As one of the earliest members of the Glendon Hispanic Studies department, she was instrumental in transforming what was originally the Spanish Program, situated within the French Department, into a full-fledged department of its own. “In 1975, the Spanish Program at Glendon consisted of approximately 65 students. Today, our department has close to 600 students registered in our courses”, says Silva. She has chaired the department at various times for a total of 18 years. During her tenure, great strides have taken place as the department – now known as Hispanic Studies – established a major, and expanded further into the Certificate of Spanish/English and English/Spanish translation.

Silva has been actively involved in developing the department’s curriculum. Among these, the introduction of French as a teaching language for Spanish courses is a perfect fit with Glendon’s mandate, allowing Francophone students to work from Spanish into their own language and to complete their course work in French, if they so wished.

A collage of famous figures in Hispanic culture.

“What makes Glendon’s Hispanic Studies stand out is that it is a full-fledged department, rather than a subsection of Modern Languages - 1 of only 2 in Canada - with many exceptional opportunities for tailoring a program of studies to individual needs”, says Esther RaventÚs-Pons, the current chair of the department and an interdisciplinary scholar on contemporary Hispanic literature, art, women's literature and critical theory. She will be doing groundbreaking research this summer in Barcelona on Spanish women’s photography and new ways of re-framing the body.

An M.A. program, currently being presented for approval, will be unique in Canada in offering the choice of English or French as the language of reference. The highly popular Certificate in Translation, offered by Hispanic Studies, is recognized as a practical application of the language, leading to jobs. “Graduates of the Certificate Program are recognized as professionals by ATIO – the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario - a tremendous advantage on the labour market”, adds RaventÚs-Pons. And a new Research Centre for Spanish will start in the fall of 2007 with the support of the government of Spain, with a conversation assistant available to Glendon students, providing additional opportunities for language learning.

All that is quite something for an emerging department, but there is more, much more. Created in 2005, Antares, the only trilingual (Spanish/English/French) publishing house of Spanish culture in North America, is housed on the Glendon campus under the direction of Hispanic Studies professor emerita Margarita Feliciano. Feliciano, an Italo-Argentinian poet and specialist in literary criticism and translation, is also the coordinator of the Certificate in Spanish-English Translation.

Another faculty member, Professor Jerzy Kowal is a specialist in general and applied Spanish linguistics, as well as in new technologies in foreign language teaching. Currently on a sabbatical leave, Kowal’s project is the writing of a new university-level text for Spanish language learning, with French as the language of reference.

Several new appointments have recently enhanced the list of faculty and specializations within the department. MarŪa Constanza GuzmŠn, at Glendon since 2005, straddles the Department of Hispanic Studies and the Glendon School of Translation, bringing expertise in translation theory and pedagogy. She has practical experience as a translator and project manager in the field - invaluable assets for students aspiring to a career in translation. Her cross-appointment in the two departments is an example of the interdisciplinary nature of Glendon’s Hispanic Studies, with several combined specializations which are excellent preparations for work in the global job market, for example, Spanish and International Studies, Spanish and History, Spanish and Political Science, Spanish and French Translation, to name just a few.

Another new professor joining the ranks this fall, Alejandro Zamora will add a further multicultural aspect to the department as a specialist in comparative literature, teaching in Spanish and French, but examining other literatures as well, such as Polish and Finnish. Zamora will also teach a Spanish language course with French as the reference language – affirming the department’s trilingual nature.

But Spanish is not only heard in Glendon’s classrooms, it is a living language on campus, with numerous other opportunities for language learning and just plain fun. The very active, student-run Spanish Club offers music, conversation, poetry nights, movies, literary and artistic events. Among these, the Semana Hispana (Spanish Week) is one of the Club’s most successful activities. The recent student-run literary and folkloric evening, Spanish without Borders featured students’ own poetry, as well as those of the ‘masters’. Sž Sž Cine – Toronto’s Latin Film Festival, and the annual Cultural Celebration of the Spanish Language (CCIE) are integral parts of the Glendon Spanish experience as well.
Students and graduates of the Hispanic Studies Department express their appreciation of the education they receive. Says Hispanic Studies major Marissa Gregoris: “...Since starting in Glendon’s Hispanic Studies, my eyes have been opened to literature, art and cultures in countries around the world. I know that I will leave Glendon with the portable skill of speaking Spanish, as well as a better understanding […] of the many peoples who speak and live in that language.” Adds Joan Shnier (M.A. & M.B.A.), a freelance Certified Spanish Translator already working in the field: “I chose the Glendon Certificate Program in Spanish/English Translation because of its reputation of excellence. I realized that with the rapid growth in demand for Spanish language services in Canada due to NAFTA, and increased levels of immigration from Latin America, I needed to […] enhance my knowledge and credibility as a Spanish translator and find a gateway to career advancement. […] The Glendon program offers a learning environment where everyone […], can feel comfortable and is encouraged to strive for excellence.”

This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on September 7, 2007