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I'm working on my PhD in Rhetoric & Writing (Dept of English) in the US. I am also a writer with enough qualifications to teach creative writing at a US university.

I speak enough Spanish to get by as a tourist but am nowhere near fluent. Would it be possible for me to get a position at a university in a South American country or Spain? I would be qualified to teach rhetoric, composition, and creative writing.

Any pointers on where to start researching would be appreciated!

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  • I attended a university fair once with Spanish representatives and they said it's not a good idea. It was many years ago though, things might have changed.
    – Allure
    Dec 2, 2021 at 2:23

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This surely depends on the position as associated qualifications.

In the Canadian province of Quebec for instance, there are many universities where the language of instruction is French; I have several colleagues who emigrated to Mexico for position where the language of instruction was Spanish, and they were not initially fluent in Spanish.

So yes you can apply for such positions, but you might be asked to meet certain fluency requirements post-hiring.

Keep in mind that, even if you specialize in English creative writing, there is no guarantee you will be asked to teach in English. Presumably you will need to interface in Spanish with students (and staff) who are not necessarily fluent or so comfortable with English (why would they be?).

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I recommend you think about this from the perspective of a student, if the shoe was on the other foot --- i.e., while you were doing your undergraduate degree, would you have been happy being taught rhetoric, composition, and creative writing (in an English-speaking university) by a university lecturer who is competent in these fields in their own language, but who is not fluent in English? I certainly wouldn't.

Having said this, I don't think you should give up on the idea --- I just think you should practice your Spanish and become fluent. In particular, practice doing some compositions and creative writing in Spanish, and explaning the techniques you used in Spanish, until you feel that you can teach the subject with appropriate fluency.

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  • Your final advice is sound, but I question the motivation: I don't think we should be so accommodating to the whims of students. When I was an undergraduate in the Netherlands, my lectures were largely taught by Russian professors in heavily accented English. The better students will rise to such a challenge. If we think from the perspective of a student, and ask what would make them most happy, there are far too many students for whom the answer is: to get credits for courses with the minimum level of effort.
    – user116675
    Dec 2, 2021 at 10:12
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    It is not really a "whim" to wish to be taught composition and writing by a person fluent in the very language of instruction for said composition and writing. In the present case it is not merely that a lecturer does not have fluent command of the language, but that they are teaching a subject that is intimately tied to fluency in language.
    – Ben
    Dec 2, 2021 at 11:03
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It's better to contact the university where you are applying for a job and ask them about Spanish fluency requirements. It seems obvious, though, that if you are teaching in another country, that you should be fairly fluent in the local language.

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  • That is not mecessarily true. There are quite a lot of programs in English in otherwise non-English speaking countries. Contacting the university in question still is a good idea.
    – Sursula
    Mar 6, 2023 at 7:40
  • But whether or not they require knowledge of the local language is not known. Not only will a person be teaching in these programs, but they will be interacting with staff who may not speak English and living in that country.
    – vr518
    Mar 6, 2023 at 23:07

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