CSU launches Spanish certificate in animal health and care

Jorge Espinoza

Animal health and care students can now learn how to better communicate in their work settings.

The Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures has created a new certificate program in Spanish for animal health and care, with the goal of helping students learn how to better communicate with Spanish-speaking workers in farm settings.


“This is important because Spanish speakers are the primary caretakers for these animals,” said Shannon Zeller, curriculum developer and Spanish instructor

According to Zeller the need for this program stems from the fact that Spanish-speaking people make up the majority of those working livestock farms.

The 12-credit program was started by Zeller and Spanish professor Maura Velazquez-Castillo and is open to all undergraduate students with an interest in working with animals.

Velazquez-Castillo says that another reason this program is needed is due to the lack of Spanish proficiency in the field of agriculture.

“For me, the interest was that this was a unique field,” Velazquez-Castillo said. “The foreign languages we have across the nation are usually limited to one or two courses in business Spanish or Spanish for medicine.”

Velazquez-Castillo also said that this program is something that can’t be contained into just one class, which is more the reason why the program was needed.

“One single course won’t get you the proficiency that you need in order to do this and it’s really important work,” Velazquez-Castillo said. “It has to do with human well-being, animal well-being, food safety and sustainable agriculture. There are a lot of things at stake having to do with this language gap.”

To put the program together, Zeller said that they used a comprehensive analysis of work conditions to assess and understand the specific language used in the job environment.

“One thing that definitely distinguishes the program is the fact that we did an in-depth needs analysis,” Zeller said. “We went out there and spoke to all stakeholders involved in animal care, owners, operators, managers, translators, veterinarians and foremen, in order to find out what are the most common to the most complex tasks that take place on these farms.”

Administering in-depth need analysis was helpful in understanding the needs of Spanish-speaking workers, Zeller said.


“We also collected a language corpus, so all of the Spanish-speaking interviews and observations that we saw, we recorded and collected. So we’re teaching the language that is spoken,” Zeller said. “This is not language you traditionally find in a textbook.”

Classes for this program are online. However, Velazquez-Castillo said residents can take a hybrid version of the course in which they meet face-to-face one a week. Velazquez-Castillo said that students who take the hybrid course will complete the same activities covered in the online class.

Velazquez-Castillo said that making the certificate available online makes it more accessible for anyone who wants to take the course.

We decided on a format with four courses and we also decided that in order to make it available to the wider population, we would put it online,” Velazquez-Castillo said.

Jorge Espinoza can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jorgespinoza14.