coworkers complained it’s not fair that I miss meetings, boss makes awkward comments about money, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. When a job offer will require learning a new language and is 5,500 miles away

My spouse was invited to apply for an academic professor job at a university 5,500 miles away (different continent and hemisphere!). He passed the first interview with the department he’d be working in, and passed the second interview with the heads of the university and HR. They invited him for a campus visit/tour of the city/informal interview. In their words, he would be an asset and they hope he loves the campus, and want to make sure he is comfortable during his two-week stay there.

The pros: the opportunity is amazing — he would never find this opportunity in our own country or in a closer location we could drive to. This university wants someone permanent and long-term, and he wants the same. He has worked on a large project with the head of one of the departments (this was who invited him to apply).

The cons: they want him to teach in Spanish. We don’t speak Spanish but did start learning after he passed the first interview (only on Duolingo for now).

The university admitted that they are not sure what the first year would look like for my spouse because they have not hired someone who will need to learn Spanish. I need more than that: Spanish lessons at the university (their dime) or is it his own time/out of his pocket. What are reasonable goal posts, how is success measured, and if this doesn’t work out what happens?

He’s very worried about the language part. My spouse is brilliant, and capable of learning a new language if the resources and structure are there. He is expecting to start his career as a professor. He is well-spoken … in English. He pictured developing his lecture skills and communication as a professor in his field … teaching in English. Lecturing requires command of the language and we both don’t know what a realistic timeframe to achieving this goal would be.

He’s also insistent on me visiting this campus to see if I am comfortable with the city, new country, culture, climate before accepting any offer (if there is one). Is this an appropriate expectation and fair request?

The university seems to not be worried about the finer details, but we need details so we understand every aspect of the job (cost of living, benefits, relocation, salary expectations, support) and can make an informed decision. It’s quite a big risk for both sides and I’m wondering what we should be considering and discussing at this point (before an offer) and beyond.

I’d be worried it’s a bad idea on multiple fronts! First and foremost, developing the level of fluency needed to teach a college-level course is a major and time-consuming endeavor. If your husband has a talent for languages, maybe he could pull it off — but I can’t imagine how it could happen without at least a year of intensive, immersive learning before he starts teaching. (I’m no expert on language learning, but I’d want you to consult someone who is and get a very realistic idea of what it would take.) Second, if the college wants someone who will be permanent/long-term, this is a surprising choice since it’s so common for people who relocate to a new country to realize they don’t want to stay. I’m curious what’s making the position so hard to fill that they’re turning to this solution, as well as whether they’re being cavalier about the challenges, and just generally what the story is there.

It’s a very reasonable request for you to visit before he accepts an offer, but the rest of it worries me.

2. My coworkers complained it’s not fair that I miss meetings

I sometimes miss team meetings without letting my boss know ahead of time. He recently gave me a clear talk about why I need to attend or at least let him know. I completely accept that he is right and this is my responsibility. However, he also brought up fairness — apparently some of my coworkers have complained to him that it’s not fair that I miss meetings.

We very rarely have the whole team present at a meeting, and I don’t know my coworkers’ situations so it would never occur to me to complain about their absence, if I noticed at all. I am a senior member of the department, but the most frequently absent person is the director, my boss’s boss. Obviously I am responsible for attending team meetings, my boss is completely right. But does fairness really come into it?

It can, yes, particularly if people are waiting for you at the start of a meeting and hearing things like, “Should we give Jane a few more minutes before we start?” If that happens (and it probably does, if you’re not giving anyone a heads-up that you won’t be there), you’re both holding up the meeting and making people think, “I couldn’t repeatedly just not show up for meetings without telling anyone; what’s up with Jane doing it?” That’s where unfairness is coming in.

3. Retired coworker keeps coming back to gossip

I work in a state office. I had a coworker who would spend all day going to other people’s offices and gossiping. He finally retired, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But now he is still coming into the office at least once a week to gossip! I don’t have time for this. I have ended up inventing meetings just to get away from him, but then I have to leave my office to go to the pretend meetings. I don’t know what good reporting this to HR would be since he no longer works here, so they have no authority over him. The building is open during the day; anyone can walk in.

If he’s distracting people, and it sounds like he is, your manager really should be shutting it down. Is she aware it’s happening? One option is to point out how distracting it is and ask her to intervene. But otherwise, the answer is to be really good about setting your own boundaries. That doesn’t need to mean inventing fake meetings that you need to leave for; it can simply be, “I’ve got a ton to do today and can’t talk.” Or if he’s talking to someone else and making a lot of noise, “Would you mind keeping it down? It’s tough to focus with the noise.”

how to tell a former employee he can’t visit us weekly

4. My boss makes awkward comments about money

I’m writing to ask your opinion about a relatively small issue I’m experiencing with my manager. She used to be in the same individual contributor position as me, but has always been open about wanting to move into a managerial role, and when our previous supervisor left she was promoted.

On the whole, she is very kind, thoughtful, and understanding, but sometimes says things that are a bit awkward — oftentimes, stuff about money. For example, when we were talking about upcoming bonuses during a team meeting, she said, “I’m really excited this year because the manager bonuses are even bigger than the IC bonuses!”

Another time, during our 1:1, she let me know that they’re still determining whether we’ll be doing raises this year; she went on to say, “Luckily, since my husband and I are both at the manager level, we don’t have to worry about money right now.”

Am I overreacting to feel mildly pissed off when she talks openly about making more money than the rest of us? Part of me wonders if maybe it’s just sour grapes on my part, but it feels tactless to talk about how well you’re doing financially to your direct reports who may not be in the same boat! What are your thoughts?

You’re not wrong to be irked by this! It’s more than tactless, really; it shows a cluelessness and lack of ability to put herself in someone else’s shoes that isn’t great in a manager.

If you want to say anything about it directly to her, “Probably not something you should share with us” is one fairly low-key option.

5. Explaining changes in procedures due to a change in boss

Part of my job is purchasing new specifications for our products. The specifications change a good amount and there are a lot of different specs we need for different kinds of products, etc. Originally the duty was meant to just be purchasing specs for my small department, but I ended up becoming the go-to person for purchasing new or updated specs for just about anyone in our company, it seems. My former boss, Colin, was good but overworked and was never very involved in this.

I recently got a new boss, Samuel, who is more involved (possibly due to duty restructuring). Samuel has been very concerned with how various specification purchases are being financed: Are these purchases coming out of our small department’s funding? What about when I purchase standards for other departments? What about specs that multiple depts or groups need access to? Etc.

I take this as a positive sign — these are all issues I have expressed before to Colin — but it has meant some changes in the purchasing process and in some cases, changes mid-process. One current project has stalled during the order process due to this, and I have had to field multiple questions from multiple people asking why I’m asking more questions, why the process is suddenly slower, why is a project still stuck at “got quote, waiting for signed purchase order,” etc.

How do I address this? I want to explain we’ve had personnel changes and my new boss needs more information because of finances, but that gets long and involved and I don’t want to give too much information, but I want to explain why suddenly things are changing. In one case, I need to now get new quotes after the vendor has been waiting a month for a response; how do I explain to my contact why the wait has happened and why I am now requesting new quotes? I don’t want to come off as negative toward my new boss OR to my old boss, and I don’t want to be TMI but I don’t want to just suddenly change things without addressing that things HAVE changed. And then there’s the very good chance that maybe I’m overthinking things…

I do think you’re overthinking it! You can simply say, matter-of-factly, “We’ve had some process changes on our end.” Or, if that’s not going to be enough, “We’re taking a closer look at X than we have in the past, so Y is taking longer this time.” Or even, “We’ve had a leadership change and they’d like more info before approving this.” It would also help to note whether it’s temporary or a permanent change to your process.

It might also be useful to mention to Samuel that you’re getting pushback from some contacts and ask if there’s a specific way he’d like you to handle it.

{ 526 comments… read them below }

  1. New Jack Karyn*

    #1: This just seems like a bad idea. I’m not in academia, and I know it can be extremely difficult to get a tenure track position. But uprooting to move overseas when there’s such a huge barrier (your husband not being fluent in Spanish)–well, that’s pretty chancy.

    That said, if your husband really really wants to keep exploring the option, I’d say that you going for a visit is imperative before committing to a move.

    1. Anon for this*

      I’m in academia in a non English speaking country, and this is a terrible idea! It’s unfair to your husband, and really unfair to the students. I’d plan on at leat a year of full time language studies, plus special training in academic vocabulary to even think about starting. and that’s only because Spanish is relatively easy for English speakers to learn.

      1. Polly*

        I used to be in academia in non-English speaking “developing” country. Yes, it is a terrible idea. We had some faculty coming from other countries, but they gave lectures in English (to graduate students; undergraduate students often would not have good enough level of English to attend lectures by foreign professors). And foreign professors’ positions were research-focused, not teaching-focused.
        Also, sometimes it is hard to fill faculty positions, especially is niche fields of science, especially in “developing” country that does not have a large academic network internally. So it is normal to encourage someone you have collaborated with in the past to apply for the position. So “I’m curious what’s making the position so hard to fill that they’re turning to this solution” is not a red flag at all. The fact that they expect OP’s spouse to give lectures in unfamiliar language after only (!) one year of learning said language, however, is a red flag. And I do not think it is possible to learn the new language to that level in one year, especially on top of other responsibilities typical for a new faculty

        1. Anon21*

          It’s even worse, because it doesn’t seem like they’ve even said he can take the first year to just learn the language–they’ve said they’re “not sure” what his first year would look like, which makes it sounds like they are leaving the door open to the absurd plan of him teaching a class in Spanish while simultaneously trying to learn Spanish?

          1. fhqwhgads*

            If they’re desperate enough that this seems like a good idea, I wonder why “he teaches in English with a professional translator” isn’t an option they’re considering….or who knows, maybe they are considering it for that first year.
            This really does sound like an absurd idea on the university’s part though. Maybe MAYBE if he were conversational in Spanish and just needed to level up to be able to teach in it it might not be so far fetched an idea. But dude speaks zero Spanish? I completely question their judgement for going this far is part of their plan is not “there is a translator in the room.”

            1. Silver Robin*

              I was waiting for somebody to mention translation – translators do not have to be experts in the field to do a great job and while it may be clunky at first, it seems the only feasible way to do lectures in the first year. Possibly for the first three!

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Or only allow students who are fluent in English to sign up for his class the first couple of years, even. Which would be out of the question for some places/fields, but weirdly commonplace in others.

                My dad was a professor in a field where students around the world do all of their grad school work, including writing their thesis and thesis defense, in English. I can’t even read a newspaper in a foreign language!

                1. Shelley*

                  An Italian friend of mine had to deliver her phd thesis in English while living and working in Belgium (where they speak French). So the main body of the work was English and the “thank you” part was in French. It seemed so hard to me, as an English speaker who has tried and failed to learn both French and Italian!

              2. ypsi*

                Well, I don’t entirely agree with your statement that translators don’t have to be experts in the field. First of all, it would require an interpreter (translators translate written texts) and it really depends on the field. I once had to translate for two full days at some off-site seminar and the issue was economics. You would think it’s a pretty general field but there are tons of terms and you need to know their equivalents in the other language in order for the interpretation to make sense (and in order not to make a complete fool of oneself). Imagine the issue is molecular chemistry or physics, or mining industry – you really need to know the terminology.

                1. DyneinWalking*

                  Molecular chemistry wouldn’t be nearly as bad! The important bit here isn’t how specialized the field is – it’s how much overlap the field has with everyday concepts and language. And with e.g. economics, that overlap is huge. Also, the field is really old – as in, finances were calculated even thousands of years ago. Plenty of time for languages to each develop their own specialized vocabulary.
                  But molecular chemistry is a young field and stuff like electron orbitals doesn’t regularly come up in everyday conversations, so there wasn’t a notable amount of pre-existing vocabulary to use – between English and German, for example, the terms are very, very similar. Also, at least in the natural sciences the majority of recent research is published (and read) in English anyway, so sometime people never bother to even come up with a translated term. For example, the German word for a DNA alignment is… “DNA alignment”. The German word for “DNA” is actually “DNS”, but no-one uses that anymore (apart from non-biologists who write biology articles for other non-biologists using very old textbooks).
                  On the other hand, I would hate to translate anything economy-related between English and German, because for that German definitely uses a huge amount of specific German vocabulary.

                2. Paulina*

                  Technical vocabulary often transfers well. But the potential for a small but critical error — especially if answering a student’s question rather than just delivering prepared lectures — is extremely high. He’s going to need an extremely competent assistant, which is also a lot to ask of someone that you’re only making an assistant. This looks like an insane situation, being put in place for unclear reasons; maybe that department head is empire-building, hiring based on what he wants for research staff/collaboration rather than considering the overall needs of his unit and university.

            2. Kate*

              Yep, this is how the pontifical universities in Rome handle it. A new faculty member writes out their entire lecture, someone else translates it into Italian, and they just have to know enough Italian to be able to struggle through reading it out phonetically. However, it’s a very old school environment where a lot of Q and A is not expected.

            3. Abundant Shrimp*

              EXACTLY. One of the more embarrassing facts from my past, when I was 24 and lived in my home country, I attended a two week Bible study course organized by the Campus Crusade for Christ, called Institute of Biblical Studies. They put us up in a nice hotel on the outskirts of Moscow, two people to a room, three meals a day all paid for, classes in the morning, free time to socialize in the afternoon/evening. It was actually a good time, not counting the weird evangelical/proselytizing component. We were all college students or recent grads and had a great time hanging out together. (Even the mandatory going out on the streets to preach and convert somehow worked out great for me – we had to each be paired with a US missionary and on my first time out, I was. We met a young woman who was interested, and came up to my hotel room for more talk the next day. Well my missionary couldn’t make it, so the two of us had a nice chat about life instead. She’d just gotten divorced and I was about to get married. She gave me a lot of solid marital advice. The name Jesus never came up. I am now back to being happily Atheist.) Anyway –

              where I am going with all this is that the organizers flew the lecturers in from the US. The lecturers obviously did not speak a lick of Russian. They all used translators. The translators were college students, foreign language majors. The lectures went swimmingly! I have no earthly idea why this school cannot do the same for OP’s husband. No earthly idea. The quality of his lectures will suffer and a few months of Duolingo aren’t going to be a great help.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                That’s amazing, and not at all how I expected that anecdote to go! Glad that experience worked out well for you, and hopefully for her as well.

          2. LCH*

            the fact that they aren’t concerned that he doesn’t already know the language they expect him to *work in* is weird. really weird. i’m so curious what his specialty is that they want him so much they don’t care that he doesn’t know the language.

            1. Crooked Bird*

              Is it possible in this kind of environment that they want him more for the prestige of his qualifications than for his real contribution to the students? Or that some foolish highly-placed individual, at least, is thinking that way? That’s the only thing I can think of…

              1. Paulina*

                Having dealt with various admin faculty in academia — there’s a chance that his collaborator, the department head, is trying to build up his own area because that’s what will serve his own goals best, not what will serve the university or its students.

                1. Paulina*

                  IMO this isn’t just about the language issue but also the weird confluence of it being an amazing opportunity for someone who is otherwise having difficulty getting a tenure-track job, and the university having difficulty filling the position. That suggests that the expertise involved is highly specialized and not something that most places are hiring for right now.

            2. Sloanicota*

              If it’s a culture where a lot of people speak a number of languages, they may underestimate the difficulty of someone who speaks only English picking up even just one relatively closely-related language.

            3. Lauren*

              I don’t think it’s uncommon in a lot of academia, especially the math and the hard sciences. I had a lot of professors that either didn’t speak English well, or at all really – they weren’t hired for their teaching abilities, but for their research. I had a stats professor one semester that spent the entire course drawing circles and some numbers on the board and say “this probability” over and over again. I don’t think he even know the English numbers completely.

      2. Random Dice*

        The problem with Spanish, though, is how wildly country- and region-specific it is. The accent, the vocabulary, whether they arbitrarily don’t pronounce the last part of every word…

        No way in heck is he going to succeed with this setup. I’ve spent 30 years on Spanish, and there is no way I could teach a class, much less be colloquial enough to understand questions well enough.

        1. RC*

          Yeah if you’re talking Chile, give yourself an extra year to be able to understand what the students are saying with the fast-talking and the random colloquialisms lol

          (Joking, but only a bit)

          That said, I *do* know people who have done something similar, but I’m pretty sure they were teaching in English at least for a good while in the beginning. Many fields (e.g. STEM) default to English for bleh reasons, but the fact that it seems they’re not telling him he’d teach in English even just at first is.. puzzling. And technical Spanish is way more involved than Duolingo Spanish!

        2. ypsi*

          Absolutely! I am not stranger to learning foreign languages and I am trying to learn Spanish (also on Duolingo). I have been at it for a year and 2 months (every single day, I think I skipped only once). Despite that, I am capable of only very basic conversation in Spanish (I find it easier to understand written text).
          The problem with Duolingo is that their Spanish is not necessarily Spanish Spanish (i.e. from Spain), you find bits and pieces of Mexican English etc. (but it is not explained).

        3. Arts Akimbo*

          I was thinking this, too. Incredible amounts of regional variability to Spanish. Not just the accents, the idioms, or the speed, either– a problem I ran into was commonly-used word choices. Different countries/regions would use words that weren’t the ones I learned in Spanish 101. For just one example, in rural Costa Rica people would routinely use “tomar” instead of “beber”. I had never heard that word before, and when I looked it up the book said it meant “to take.” Even on the internet the meaning of “to drink” is like 3 levels down, LOL.

          I can imagine carefully crafting college-level lectures in a language I am learning, with the help of translators. What I cannot imagine is successfully interacting with students while I am at such a rudimentary language level!

        4. Steve for Work Purposes*

          Yeah I’ve spoken Spanish most of my life (not a native speaker, but I grew up in a region with a lot of native speakers) and I even have a degree in it and have worked as a translator in the past before moving to STEM research. Duolingo ain’t gonna cut it. The differences in dialects can be huge. I have a friend who speaks Mexican Spanish and there was once a very confusing misunderstanding before we realized that the word “ahorita” had completely opposite meanings in our respective dialects (mine being a mix of Carribbean dialects bc of where I grew up). Heck, I’ve given technical lectures in Spanish and I -still- run my notes past a native speaking colleague just in case before I do in case there’s nuance I’ve missed if it’s an audience speaking a dialect I am less familiar with.

          This is primed for disaster. I think either OP’s husband isn’t giving the full details or the department isn’t but this is not going to be fair to either him or the students. And there’s the difference between academic Spanish and colloquial/conversational Spanish to boot….this seems like a total mess.

      3. Specks*

        Exactly. I don’t even work in academia, but having been an immigrant (to the US as a teen), a student in a foreign language, and an expat for work later in life, this is just such a clueless approach to language learning on the university’s part. It is not going to work.

        OP, unless your husband is incredibly gifted with languages (like speaks 6+ and picks them up super easily, which I assume you would’ve mentioned), it will take him years of intensive study and immersion as an adult to learn the language well enough to teach in it. At the very least, he would need an assigned professional translator for all his classes for the first 2 years, a plan to learn the language that probably involves tutoring or a class 4-5 times a week and a full immersion program for several months, and a TA or someone else who speaks both Spanish and English fluently to do the grading and help prep materials. It’s going to be incredibly difficult mentally and emotionally for him, for you, for your kids if you have them. It’s also not going to be fair to his students.

        Not to mention every country doesn’t suit every person. I’ve lived in countries I loved from day one, ones that really grew on me, and also ones where I hated everything about how life was organized and couldn’t wait to leave. You just have no idea where every person in your family will land, and to commit to it for a long term without having lived there for a few months at least is a big, big mistake.

      4. CowWhisperer*

        As someone who works with ASL learners, he’s looking at a ten year process to become fluent at the “distinguished” level expected of college professors.

        Part is learning the language – but an equally large part is learning cultural norms and rhetorical uses.

        I personally see red flags in the university’s “we’ve never done it – but it’ll be fine!” stance. He’d need a specialist interpreter for all contact hours plus for creating materials. That’s very expensive.

      5. BaffledBystander*

        I’m in academia in the U.S., and I would be very hesitant too, but it really depends on what he’s teaching. In undergrad I had Chinese/South Asian/other international students who were not great at English teach statistics. It wasn’t *ideal* but it was ok. If it’s not math though I don’t think this would work well at all.

        Also tenure track positions used to be much more difficult to get—but they seem to be more common post-COVID as a lot of people retired.

        1. Gumby*

          Even in math, it’s not a slam dunk. I know the math grad students who taught discussion sections were super smart. I know they passed the TOEFL. However, I dropped one class entirely because I couldn’t understand the lecturer due to a combination of a strong accent and not entirely fluent English. And no shade on him for that – I am far less fluent in either of the foreign languages I took classes in and I still can’t roll my r’s even after 6 years of Spanish classes. (A different person taught the next quarter so it was fine except for taking both linear algebra and diffy q at the same time and that wasn’t horrible.)

      6. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

        Yes. I’ve had plenty of professors/TA’s who spoke English as a second language but very well/fluently (totally fine!) and one professor whose language skills were just not up to par. He was clearly a very smart man who knew his subject well and I’m sure he had no problem communicating in daily life, but explaining complicated concepts to confused students was extremely difficult, because we didn’t always understand what he meant and he didn’t always understand our questions. There were some other difficulties with that class but the language barrier made it a nightmare.

        You cannot Duolingo your way out of this one. Even a year of very intense immersive study, which could let you learn to communicate socially just fine, will not give you the ability to teach at a university level.

    2. Bananagram*

      Another academic here, teaching in a non-English-speaking country. The only way this makes sense to me is if the students have decent English comprehension, and the expectation is that he will be able to switch to Spanish after two years. Still a very tall order, mind you, but that’s the common standard in places like the Netherlands. If he provided comprehensive study materials that had been translated into Spanish, that could (sort of) work. LW, IMO you’re right to be worried about the fact that the committee has no experience with this process. If he’s already got the offer, I’d get the accommodations for supported English-language teaching before accepting it. And… good luck!

      1. Anon for this*

        In my case, my institute works in English – the support staff all speak English, as do research staff, and graduate students are expected to work mostly in English; this was done so that we can hire internationally – there’s not a large enough pool of hireable researchers to build a world class institute in the local language.

        I know colleagues who have positions where there isn’t teaching, the research staff are all fluent in English (this is standard in my very international field), but the support staff/admin aren’t. This is a lot more challenging, and involves a lot more help from colleagues.

        If teaching and student interaction is in English, it would be much less of a red flag – moving overseas for a tenure track position is quite normal in my field, often to countries where you aren’t fluent in the local language.

        Academic/technical vocabulary is specialized enough that I have friends who can’t comfortably give a technical lecture in their native language, because they did their university education in English and don’t have the vocabulary.

        1. Specks*

          Oh, 100%. I got all my higher education in English and I wouldn’t know where to start in my native language if I had to work in it professionally. Ironically, I do know most of the terms in languages I barely speak because some of the teams I work with don’t speak English. But we are remote and can white-knuckle it through supporting them with a lot of google translate and some basic language understanding (like a year or two of duolingo, not a few months).

        2. Minji*

          Not in academia, but similar experience where I’m a native English speaker/expat working in a non-English speaking country in a very international field. The professionals in my workplace all operate in and speak English, but all of the other departments (HR, accounting, marketing etc. not to mention the business folks and higher-level executives) do not speak a word of English. So folks who are hired here need to have 1-2 years of studying the local language in order to comfortably operate, but do not need to be at the level where they can fully do business in that language.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, actually, I’m a bit surprised by the answers because in my world, that would be a pretty common thing! Like, teaching inside the research groups is typically in English, anyway, but new professors are indeed expected to learn the local language within the first years and then also pick up undergrad teaching in that after awhile. Not even just in academia! I have multiple colleagues who did the same thing, moved internationally, started working, expected to learn the language soon-ish so they’d be able to talk to some of our lab scientists who don’t speak English so well. It generally works out well.
        I’d really clarify the expectations though – how soon would he be expected to teach his first course? Will all courses have to be in Spanish or just undergrad level and he could start with the Master’s students who speak English? Do the students generally also understand English and you could start with a bit of imperfect Spanish/resort to English if needed?

        For the long-term perspective thing – hm, at least in my field, tenure is really, really hard to get and anyway, people look much more to the academic reputation of the institution than to the location. Moving around the world is pretty much par for the course and I wouldn’t say it’s more likely that somebody local would stay than an expat – honestly, there aren’t that many true locals, anyway, the least most people do is move across the country/continent, but even to and from the US to Europe is really common!

        Also, becoming fluent in a year of immersion in an environment where English isn’t super common and you use Spanish on a daily basis seems… fine? Like, it’s a very different story than just learning a language at home and never using it.

        So in general: for me personally, that would not sound unreasonable at all and I’d go for it, as I’ve also seen many people do similar things successfully! But of course, it depends, also for instance on your field – if you’re supposed to teach literature or philosophy, I’d assume it would be much harder than in my scientific field, for instance.

        1. ProfP*

          American academic here, social science area, have taught in a bilingual university in a non-US country. Some of my English-speaking colleagues complied with the requirement to teach in the “other” language despite low ability by preparing very carefully. It’s possible to plan out a lecture – especially with all the tools available now – even if your language skills are not great. Where it gets tricky is if students ask questions! So, from my perspective a lot of the feasibility of the position depends on the specifics of the teaching load and the culture: are classes interactive (as in US) or more just lecture (as in many countries)? As for LW, they have to decide if this is an opportunity for an adventure or more than they want to take on.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Perhaps they could arrange for a translator, even if it’s just a volunteer (a TA?) for the q&a portion only?

          2. Crooked Bird*

            This is a great point. My French isn’t what it used to be, but through thorough preparation and the use of Google Translate whenever I hit a phrasing snag, I was able to give a very personal talk in French last year and actually ended up getting a laugh (from Parisians!) at my statement that my French wasn’t what it used to be. After awhile of this, also, one would steadily improve. I wonder if (as long as–as you say–the classes are lecture-oriented enough) the students would be forgiving of some awkwardness in answering questions, with that evidence of effort in the lecture. As long as the answers ended up comprehensible. Maybe like Sloanicota said, with the help of a TA if they run into difficulties.

            It still sounds incredibly hard at the same time as intensive language learning. I picture mental exhaustion. The university *definitely* needs to find a way not to throw him in the deep end with a full teaching load.

          3. Abogado Avocado*

            Lawyer here. Have been learning Spanish for 30 years, love the language, and am a competent speaker and writer. I have given presentations in Spanish to lawyers and professional audiences and it’s actually easier than you’d think because latinate words tend to be cognates.

            That said, the question I have for LW is: how employable is your husband in your own country? Finding employment at a university can be very difficult, even with a Ph.D. The competition is intense and it can be extremely difficult to find a position that is tenure-track and decently paid. Setting aside the need to learn Spanish, if the job offer otherwise will allow your husband to build a significant career in his area of expertise, it seems to me that it has to be strongly considered, as well as what happens to his career if this doesn’t work out.

            1. Paulina*

              This consideration also needs to be adjusted for what may happen to his research if he has to spend most of his time and energy learning Spanish. For initial positions it’s important to consider what alternatives they enable or block.

        2. Phryne*

          Eh, I work in higher education and we have people from other countries teaching in Dutch and I know people who moved abroad for an academic career, and learning a language while immersed in them is certainly easier but a year would really be pushing it. Two, three years, yes, probably, but one year is very short to get to that level.
          Agree though that it would be much more feasible for the sciences than the humanities. I don’t think this is about humanities though, cause in the humanities applicants fight for the few available positions, not the other way around.

          1. amoeba*

            Hah, well, that’s certainly also the case in the sciences, unfortunately, at least in my part of them!

          2. Been There*

            Teaching in a language that’s not your native language or a language you’re fluent in feels very unfair to the students. As a student it can get very hard to understand some accents, making it much harder to grasp the material being taught.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. I studied in Germany and we had an Italian professor who was teaching in German. His accent was interesting to say the least and even the German students struggled sometimes to understand his lectures.

              1. HailRobonia*

                This reminds me of an issue that arose in my university, in which there were classes, often STEM classes, that had TAs from non-English speaking countries. Students complained about one particular TA whose accent was extremely difficult to understand, but that ballooned into accusations of racism against the students.

                1. HSE Compliance*

                  We had the same issues when I was a TA. At least 50% of our TAs were from China, and some of them had a very, very strong accent. None of us had any teaching training, either, which then made it even more difficult to understand some of the TAs.

                  Some of the complaints were clearly past the line, but many of the complaints we got about being able to understand what was being taught were legitimate. I was pretty sympathetic towards that TA – that had to be hella difficult – but also pretty sympathetic towards the students, as it was hard to understand even if you knew the material. Another Uni hiring grad students for research but requiring them to teach.

                2. AngryOctopus*

                  Which is not really fair, re: racism accusations. I’ve worked with some Chinese colleagues who are very very nice and very very smart, and also have accents that are so thick that it’s VERY hard to understand them, especially when they get excited about something and talk faster. Learning another language is hard, and accents are not something people have a lot of control over! It’s something the LW should consider, because it can make communicating clearly in a non-native language more fraught.

            2. ChiliHeeler*

              I had issues with this in the Netherlands while studying social science topics. Professors would translate things literally in their heads which made sense to them and other native Dutch speakers (and Dutch is big on idiomatic expressions). However, social sciences are infamous for taking a known word and then assigning a very specific meetings to them. Sometimes you could figure out what was intended but definitely found myself very lost at times. I did well in my courses from doing the readings and taking what I could from lectures.

            3. Q*

              I struggled to understand one professor for whom English was not his first language. My advisor taught in the same field and told me that in staff meetings they struggled to understand him sometimes, so “don’t feel bad about it”. Easy for YOU to say but I have to say that in a major-level class where the basic concepts were more familiar it was much easier!

            4. Polaris*

              Definitely unfair.

              We spent the better part of six days trying to figure out what a “jume” (Emphasis on the “M”, u pronounced “ooooo”, definite “J” at the start) was. Our section leader, who introduced this term, and barely spoke comprehendible English, could not explain the term in English. She never wrote on the board, so I have no idea if she had a grasp of spelling or if that would have helped. There was NOTHING in the text about it, there was nothing in the supporting literature we were reading about it, nothing.

              Dome. She was mispronouncing dome to the point where it took a discussion on the Hagia Sophia to figure out that she was talking about a dome.

              It was super frustrating to pay that much per credit hour to have part of a required class be led by someone who could not convey information in the language that the course was taught in, and this was very angrily taken to the department chair by multiple people. She was nice enough, and I’m sure she was knowledgeable, but she needed to be able to provide instruction in her own language.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                I’d be more concerned that she didn’t think to just draw a dome or list famous buildings with domes until someone cottoned on, doesn’t sound like she’s got a flair for explaining things
                (I mean, I was making animal noises at the butcher’s to explain what the various cuts of meat were for my mother-in-law at one point – you do what you can to explain!)

                1. Polaris*

                  I completely agree that it was baffling that she didn’t just draw or write the word out. She never ever ever used the board in our section (sections were smaller group breakouts from the wider lecture. 20-30ish students instead of the full 200ish. Mandatory as a part of the overall class.). Ever. In a class about design elements and history thereof.

                  I honestly suspect that she HAD to be a TA as part of a financial aid package and didn’t really want to be one, so did only the absolute bare minimum. Whether that had to do with the lack of language fluency or “just didn’t want to”, who knows.

            5. Snow Globe*

              I’m having flashbacks to a couple of college professors I had that didn’t speak English well. I got through the courses by studying the textbooks, but didn’t gain much information from the lectures at all.

            6. Ruffen*

              But it is also unfair to the students to be taught in what is not their native language… Not all students all over the world are fluent in English…

              1. Anon21*

                Yes, exactly. In this example, the LW’s spouse is the professor who doesn’t know the word for “dome” in the language he’s expected to teach in.

                1. Teacher of languages*

                  If LW’s husband is a better communicator than dome TA, he will be able to get his message across through gestures or images. It really depends on teaching style, communication style, etc. If it’s more lecture-style teaching with lots of slides and less student interaction and off-the-cuff speaking, it will be fine. Labour-intensive to prepare, but fine.

                2. amoeba*

                  I think it’d be much less of a problem in that constellation because if he just tells them the English word, chances are 90+% of the students understand anyway (and translate for the rest of the class/tell him the appropriate Spanish version so he can use it in the future).
                  That’s apart from the fact that simply writing on the board would have very easily avoided that particular problem…

            7. KaciHall*

              when I was in college, I had a TA from Ghana. He was nice, and sore entourage well but with an accent, and I could understand him if I paid very close attention. However, he couldn’t understand our questions, and no one ended up doing very well in his recitation sections.

            8. Tiger Snake*

              Accents can be very frustrating, but is simply something that everyone has to deal with. It’s when the professor’s grasp of the language means he isn’t able to actually explain his subject/understand and answer questions that its unfair.

              My subject had lots of foreign lecturers. Accents were super hard. But the only one where it was unfair was the one who didn’t know how to *teach*. And that was frustrating on both sides; he was so much more in love and passionate about teaching students his subject than anyone I’ve ever met it wasn’t a contest, but he just couldn’t make the connection.

              For LW1; that means I’m also concerned about how demoralising it can be to be in that position. To know what you want to do, to want to share and teach that information, and yet find yourself completely unable to get that information across… it’s not a nice feeling.

            9. Cunning linguist*

              LW’s husband is likely to be much more focused on research, rather than teaching. While he should be in the same page as the university as to his language skills, “unfair to the students” should not be his criterion in deciding whether to take the job. His research agenda should be.

        3. Bad Hair Day*

          Another academic checking in — this is extremely common in my field too! People totally move to countries they’ve never been to, that they don’t speak a word of the local language of, and it usually works out fine. Not a red flag at all; jobs are scarce, but global talent is also scarce.

          (Also, “the university does not seem worried about the finer details” is *so* academia. I really wonder how we get anything done.)

          But! That isn’t to dismiss the downsides of this. While it’s actually not that bad to give a lecture in a language that you’re learing, if you have *lots* of time to prep, it’s very, very hard to teach in a language you don’t speak well. And living in a place where you aren’t fluent in the local language can get very lonely very quickly.

          1. Marketing Boehmian*

            I’m not an academic but I’m married to one, and all of this seems pretty standard to me. A lot of universities in South America have these sorts of requirements, and there are few enough TT jobs to go around that people will take them.

            My spouse and I moved continents for his career and they were also very unconcerned with the details surrounding visas, finding accommodations, all that. They didn’t even have a final salary number for him until a few weeks after he signed the contract. Logistics and timelines are just…not a priority?

          2. Cunning linguist*

            Bad Hair Day is absolutely right. If this is the husband’s sole tenure track offer, it’s a no brainer to accept.

        4. NotSoEasy*

          Maybe a year would be fine for you, but certainly not for me. And I’ve had professors who’ve been in the US for years who were barely intelligible and very problematic to take classes from.

        5. TechWorker*

          I also know friends who’ve done this, but they’ve been expected to mostly teach in English. I would also worry slightly that language learning might be more difficult for a (non British) European who is already bi or tri lingual compared to an American or Brit who only speaks English… my friend who taught in Sweden went in already speaking 4 other languages..

          1. GermanGirl*

            It’s the other way around. The more languages you know the easier it becomes to pick up a new one. Yes, you might mix them up occasionally, but it’s usually not an issue especially when you’re mostly immersed in the language you’re supposed to speak.

        6. Also an academic*

          I just want to amplify this comment, which is very helpful and clarifies some of what I think is misunderstanding in Alison’s answer!

        7. Also an academic*

          I just want to amplify this comment as I think it really helps to explain this situation, which is not very full of red flags, actually.

      3. Clisby*

        I wondered about that possibility, too. My 22-year-old college senior son is spending his last semester studying at Korea University in Seoul. All of his classes are taught in English, and according to the information about the university I read online, roughly 40% of classes are as well. I would imagine that makes the university attractive to any number of foreign students who have at least some level of proficiency in English but not in Korean. (My son’s roommate is from Finland, and one of the friends he’s made is from Italy, and apparently they both speak English quite well.

      4. GringainChile*

        As an American who has been living in Chile for the past 2 years (also married to an academic), I would strongly encourage you to not only visit but really give a lot of thought to what it would be like for YOU to make this move. I was pretty much fluent in Spanish before I moved here and even so the adjustment has been very, very hard. And it’s not just language but also cultural considerations that can be challenging. For example, in Santiago where I live, people tend to stay here their whole lives and are also very focused on family. That means that on weekends and holidays, people are hanging out with family and/or friends they’ve had since elementary school; they aren’t necessarily interested in making new friends. So foreigners (even those from Spanish-speaking countries) often end up socializing mostly with each other. That isn’t isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I would definitely want to know what the “expat” community is like in the place you’re thinking of moving to. Facebook groups specifically for English-speakers living in the city you’re looking at can be a good resource for finding out more.

    3. JSPA*

      Whereas I find this very normal in the sciences. (Might also be colored by coming from immigrant family backgrounds… probably also over represented in the sciences.)

      Science departments tend to be highly stocked with international students, post docs and faculty. And per the state department, Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn. And lectures are not uncommonly pre-written and delivered from notes, by international faculty.

      And it’s the default for people in a specialized academic position to take a position that opens in any reasonable spot around the globe. A good university with a supportive collaborator and a reasonable teaching load (often no classroom teaching for the first semester or year, if you are expected to set up a research program and aquire grad students and write for grants and interview post-docs and/or a tech) in a strange country, absolutely wins out over a lower quality university with higher teaching load, in terms of career trajectory.

      It’s also a completely normal for there to be perhaps 50 truly competitive candidates for that one job, worldwide. And if it’s the only one or two relevant programs in the country, it would land as nepotistic, strange, frowned-on (as well as bad for the career of the young scientist in question) to hire one of your own students (someone who had been a grad student and/or post-doc in the Department). Well, there are cases where I’ve seen an advanced post doc explicitly hired with the intention of the position morphing into a faculty position. But those are iffy… And in any case, you’re unlikely to offer them to someone from within your own academic pedigree.)

      That said, it’s unusual and difficult if the “trailing” spouse isn’t also academic or academic-adjacent or (say) an artist or novelist who can either be integrated into the University as well, or essentially work anywhere, (so long as they are careful about what they sell where).

      I have certainly seen couples split up after such a move. But I have also seen couples split up after moving three hundred miles within the country. And I have seen couples split up while living in the same house in the same city they were born in.

      IMO, a grand displacement or two (or three or more) are an intrinsic aspect of marrying an academic, and I’m startled this was not on your radar.

      We’ve literally went through a process where when every year’s positions were listed in the main journal(s) for our specialties, we discussed the pros and cons of five to twenty cities around the globe, qnd the relative ease of operating in the local culture and language.

      Spanish, as opposed to Chinese or Polish? Piece of cake.

      Focus on safety, culture, your employability / right to work, teaching load (as you would anywhere) And rest assured that in academe this is normal.

      1. NoName*

        I work in researcher development in a non-English speaking country. It’s a thing people are expected to do and do successfully, often repeatedly. It’s not about not being able to fill a role, it’s that you recruit world-wide.

      2. Blue Horizon*

        Former research student in mathematics here. I would say this is also pretty common in mathematics, especially at the very prestigious universities.

        The truth is that he will probably be a pretty bad teacher for at least a couple of years. However, top universities tend to think long term, and – bluntly – they often don’t much care about having a few bad teachers, as long as they have a strong research reputation. I had a few lecturers that should never have been let within a mile of a classroom (and poor to barely adequate language skills actually only rated around the middle of the awfulness scale if they were decent teachers otherwise).

        It depends on the university to an extent – some pride themselves on their teaching, and wouldn’t tolerate that kind of thing. I don’t think you are dealing with one of that kind, from what you’ve said.

        Where I studied, it was also pretty common practice that if a professor felt their grad student needed to learn more about a particular subject, they’d assign them to teach or TA a class in it. This produced decidedly mixed results in terms of teaching quality as well.

        I will not name the university, but it was Ivy League.

    4. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, this seems very tricky. But it does make a difference what subject it is – if it’s maths then *maybe*, subject to what everyone else is saying about no teaching for a year, university providing intensive lessons (for him and spouse, ideally) and all the rest. If it’s something like history or philosophy, I can’t see it.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah in science the terminology is usually pretty easy to grasp and scientists try to keep sentence structure simple. They’re not linguists, they don’t have to prove their grasp of the language.
        In humanities, people tend to become more verbiose, so it’s much more difficult.

        1. NotTrue*

          No. Maybe in physics for poets classes they do this, but in classes for science majors the concepts are extremely complex and require good communication skills to adequately discuss.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            This. Science does try to be simple language-wise, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be very quick to get into the weeds when you’re trying to explain concepts like how CRISPR-CAS9 actually works, or the actin cycle in muscle cells, or how you separate stem cells, or how you transform iPSC cells. That can be tricky in your native language, and having the words to be able to teach all these concepts is likely to take longer than a year of language learning. Not to mention that when you’re trying to learn another language, they start with basics and grammar. Not how to give in-depth science explanations.

            1. RC*

              Yup there’s a lot of jargon in all fields of science especially, and if you’re teaching it, you’ll have to learn those specific terms in Spanish in order to communicate concepts to students (and like someone said above, sometimes not even native speakers know the terms in their own language if they study abroad somewhere speaking English). Some fields of humanities might be even more challenging since e.g. literature analysis would depend on the rhetorical flourishes in whatever you’re reading, and that’s advanced-level language learning. But I’m presuming this is a STEM field.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                There’s a reason that so much voting literature will offer ballot questions in a range of languages. It’s hard enough to understand the whole legal text in your native language, never mind trying to read in your second/third/multiple language!
                (Yes, most ballot questions have a “yes vote does X, no vote does Y”, but many people want to read the whole thing to see how it works.)

            2. Nina*

              Honestly, depends how you’re studying the other language.
              I can mostly read technical Russian, because I deliberately learned the technical Russian that belongs to my field (Chinese papers are usually translated – Russian ones are not). I could have a fairly successful email exchange about topics from my field in Russian. I cannot, at all, understand spoken Russian or read Russian novels.

          2. Nesprin*

            The terminology tends to be in directly transliterated English terms (with the exception of french that insists on developing its on lexicon), and math translates simply.

            That’s not saying it would be easy to teach a STEM field in a different language but not impossible either: a solid 1/2 of my past professors and current colleagues are not native english speakers.

      2. NotBetterInMath*

        As someone who went to school for physics and also met requirements for math degrees, this is just not true. Plus there are major cultural barriers not just language barriers. I once reluctantly decided not to take a math class I really wanted to take that was only offered once every two years because I’d gone to a lecture by the assigned professor and no one could understand a word he said. Forget the students, none of the other faculty in the same subspecialty could understand him.

        1. SpaceCadet*

          yeah I had to drop my first calc. class because i couldn’t understand the prof. you still need to be able to clearly explain the concepts in the students native language, regardless of the subject area.

          1. StarTrek Nutcase*

            I also dropped, but because the TA had such poor English that he could only explain concepts in one way. So if I couldn’t still understand, I got zip. Next time, the TA was equally horrible so I skipped those sessions and found a friend who was a math wiz who informally tutored me. That said, I really respect multilingual people but not such much when I’m paying.

        2. Minji*

          It depends on the subject — I wonder if OP’s husband is in a field that is pretty much fully conducted in English worldwide. Some branches of mathematics are like this.

      3. YetAnotherManager*

        LW1: A lot of people have already shared their own relevant experiences; I’ve only skimmed them, but I wanted to add in another anecdata point since I’ve seen a few people talk about how it’s different/fine in STEM.
        A close relative of mine is a well-respected senior medical researcher, and he had to get a translator when he guest lectured for a semester at a Chinese university……despite the fact that he was born and grew up in Hong Kong.
        He went to an English-speaking med school and works in an English-speaking country, so he’s not used to the specific scientific vocabulary he needed. Lab work is one thing, but he literally has NATIVE FLUENCY in Mandarin Chinese, and he *still* didn’t feel like he could give a sufficiently robust experience to students because that’s not the language he learned his field in.
        Like I said, he’s pretty senior and does have a rep to uphold, so he’s probably a little more careful about image than he would’ve been earlier in his career. But he was also unusually qualified to make that determination based on how well he felt the med students could absorb the technical material given his lack of field-specific language skills, despite his effortless grasp on pronunciation, grammar, and conversational idiom.

      4. Dahlia*

        Interestingly enough it can cause difficulties even in math. My best friend is very good at math and yet they struggle to help me in my math class because they never took math in English so they don’t know what anything I’m doing is called.

    5. Lokifan*

      YEP. OP, I’ve been a teacher of English as a foreign language for over 10 years, who’s lived overseas twice; my dad is an academic who taught in a non-English-speaking country for seven. Imo this is a bad idea.

    6. DinoGirl*

      Agree, I’m in academia and this seems like a huge red flag. There is no way he can be one fluent enough to teach and interact with native speakers on that timeline, so for the institution to be willing to try is …. curious, at best.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah. If he already spoke a conversational Spanish, I’d feel better about it, but it doesn’t seem like a great idea to me.

    7. Media Monkey*

      while i was a student studying business and french (in the UK) i studied in france at a Grande Ecole (sort of a business focused post-graduate school although we were undergraduates). some of the classes were taught in English to a cohort of french speakers and there were enough of these for non french speaking international students (these were mainly american) to have a full timetable. without that sort of expectation of increasing fluency in english for business or other reasons it seems like it’s a lot of pressure for your husband to flip to teaching fluently in spanish in a year.

    8. used to be a tester*

      I’d want my spouse to have a serious doscussion with the university about what the options are if he can’t get his Spanish to an academic level in X amount of time.

      My son’s FIL is an academic in an English-speaking country, but English is not his first language. After several disastrous attempts to teach lectures or do one-on-one student support at a couple of different universities, he’s moved to a research-focused position. To me it should have been a warning sign that he could barely make it through the job interviews in English, but I guess if you have a very particular set of skills universities are willing to try and make it work. The school he’s at now had a plan to move him to research if he couldn’t lecture to the level they needed, but the 2 or 3 schools he was at before that just kicked him loose at the end of the semester. I’d hate for OP to uproot her life just to have it turn into “sorry, it’s not working out”.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yeah, what happens if after 5 or 6 years, he isn’t proficient enough in the local language and doesn’t get tenure?

        1. catlady*

          and what are the tenure requirements– to publish in Spanish, or just to publish full stop?

          1. Nesprin*

            It’s worth noting that the predominant language of the scientific literature is English.

          2. RC*

            FWIW, I think it’s still that most “high impact” (the air quotes are for another conversation) journals are published in English. (I think there are some efforts to broaden that for many accessibility reasons, but STEM defaults to English if you want to be recognized as a high-value paper-writer).

    9. Smithy*

      I’m not an academic, but I did take a job where it was understood that I would work primarily in English – however it was desired that I improve my capacity in another language (which I’d already been studying for 2 years at that point, and it was to become professionally functional).

      The reality of onboarding in a new job and language learning was a disaster for my language learning. I had night classes two nights a week after work, I showed up exhausted and would have needed elementary school hand holding and discipline to remain properly engaged. Which is just not how any adult language course is set to run. I knew I wasn’t going to pass the final test, so just signed up to take the same level again during the next session. That also didn’t help.

      For my day to day job, ultimately things aligned where the benefit of what I did in English made up for what I couldn’t do in the local language. However, it did also mean that I had no promotion pathway (which 10000% fair). So I’d just flag that while this job may seem like a way to gain security and longevity, if the language pieces work out wonky – the leadership and advancement opportunities may not be as available. Which over time may make that long term posting less attractive.

    10. Former academic*

      As other academics have chimed in, the only thing that seems unusual is the expectation for him to teach in Spanish in the first year. My sense is that it’s more normal for the expectation for foreign faculty to teach in English for ~2 years while taking courses in the local language and then be able to teach at least some local-language courses by year 3-4. (At the Dutch university where I was on sabbatical, the university offered Dutch classes that were free to university employees and offered in the evenings. I don’t know the specifics elsewhere.)

      I’d also look at the tenure process. If teaching is weighted at all, I’d be very concerned that the inevitable result will be that students ding him for language skills in evaluations.

      Similarly, I’d make sure he’s had some candid conversations with other senior faculty and the dean (or equivalent– boss of the department head) to get their concerns about his hire. If there’s resentment that the head is bringing in a collaborator who doesn’t speak the language of instruction, and that’s going to be a battlefield in the long run, it’s important he takes that into account. Academic grudges are one of the strongest forces on earth and you definitely don’t want to start out in the middle of one.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Indeed. University departments can be remarkably like high school, with cliques and grudges. In grad school, a friend had to restart her work on her comprehensive requirement because the two evaluators didn’t get along and couldn’t agree about anything. They wasted a year of her time on petty nonsense.

    11. Garblesnark*

      As a former ESL teacher, if your spouse has not learned a new language before, I would not accept a goal timeline of teaching fully in Spanish of less than three years, and I’d insist on Spanish classes and tutors being provided by the school for both of you. Maybe he’ll get there faster, especially if culture shock doesn’t hit you both too hard and you really immerse yourselves, but that’s the shortest timeline I would accept.

      I’d probably also want to negotiate a three month language intensive to take up most of the summer before his first semester of teaching. And as another commenter mentioned, a significant portion of instruction should be completed by someone with expertise in teaching academic Spanish to English speakers.

      1. Teacher of languages*

        What concerns me is LW hasn’t mentioned that her husband has already mastered a second or third language, and implies that his Spanish is very basic at the moment and that they are not much exposed to Spanish wherever they live now.

        It’s fairly common in academia to teach in a language not your own, with varying effectiveness, so the expectation will likely not be excellent, fluent Spanish like some folks here seem to think. But there’s a big difference between teaching in a language not your own when you’re already used to learning languages and functioning in a multi-lingual environment, or just improving a language that you already speak to a certain level, and starting from a basic level when you also have no real experience in language learning and don’t know if it’s something you can do easily.

        That is not to say it’s impossible. Spanish is usually a pretty easy language to learn, too, depending on your first language (pretty easy for English speakers, for example), but LW and husband should be very very clear about what they are getting into.

        I would also point out to the other commenters that husband may or may not be doing the rest of his job primarily in Spanish. LW only mentions teaching in Spanish, but depending on the field and the institution much of the research and collaboration with colleagues may be primarily in another language, likely English. Or it may not, and husband should be aware of that too.

        1. Teacher of languages*

          Oop, this was supposed to be a standalone comment. It sort of responds to what Garblesnark was saying but I felt I’d gone off topic a little so meant to post as a standalone! Sorry

          1. Garblesnark*

            No worries! But I agree – it matters a lot whether LW’s husband has ever learned another language as an adult before now. I had one college professor who was on, I think, her eighth (?) language learned in adulthood. Brilliant woman, if it were someone like her, I would have no concerns or questions – but that’s because high level subject matter vocabulary has a strong tendency to transition between highly cognate languages, and she would already know which grammatical structures she would need to focus on to get to teaching level proficiency, and a students can generally deal with an accent to learn from an incredible mind.

            And if this is his second language ever… he needs to allot time and intensity to the process.

    12. Daisy*

      Data point 1: One of my friends (American) moved for a postdoc to a country where she did not speak the language (Greek). A year and a half later, spending all of her evenings on intensive language classes, she just gave her first public lecture in Greek. It was still a real stretch, and she needed a lot of help from colleagues. She’s in a field that already requires knowledge of 4+ foreign languages.

      Data point 2: Next month I’ll be giving a talk at a German university. In English. I have one intensive German immersion course under my belt and have spent an additional two months living in Germany and this has more or less equipped me to get around at the level required of a casual tourist and carry on small talk conversations. I am a linguist by training and have studied about seven different languages at this point.

      Conclusion: there are some people who pick up foreign languages very easily and if your husband was one of them he would know this by now. But operating with the level of fluency required is probably going to take AT LEAST 2-3 years of SERIOUS effort on his part.

      Who pays for it? How available are classes? (I moved to a foreign country with a non-English language and was told on signing up that the university offered free language classes. I get there, and guess what? Booked solid a year in advance. The city claimed to offer free classes but no one wrote back when I asked for details. Paid classes were unaffordable on my salary.) What part of his responsibilities does that time come out of, hmm? Early years as a professor are very intense to begin with, so what gives?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Good questions. Are they going to give him a reduced teaching load for the first year or two so he can get proficient in the language?

    13. Beth*

      Agreed. It would be one thing if the university was looking to hire him as an English language lecturer or in a research-focused position. That’s normal enough in academia, especially if they’re trying to hire in a niche specialty that’s hard to fill in the local language.

      But expecting a non-Spanish speaker to be lecturing fully in Spanish after the first year (or maybe earlier, unclear!), with no clear language learning plan and no acknowledgement that running a college course requires a really high degree of language fluency? That gives me major pause. Even for a language like Spanish that’s generally agreed to be easy for English speakers to learn, I don’t think it’s realistic for him to be on “teaching a college course” level in a year or less. The lack of plan makes me think the university doesn’t understand what they’re asking of him, and may be setting him up to fail by handwaving the difficulty of this–which is a big risk for you when you’re talking about making an international move for this job.

      1. Garblesnark*

        As an ESL/EFL teacher “easy to learn for English speakers” means “easy to achieve intermediate proficiency in, for English speakers” and not “easy to achieve academic lecturing level mastery in, for English speakers.”

    14. Bread Crimes*

      Good god I’m not sure I would do this, even though I’m an academic trying to find a tenure-track job, AND when I was a child I was pretty fluent in Spanish. But between being decades out of practice, the variants between countries, and the higher requirements for clarity and technical vocabulary when it comes to lecturing at even an undergrad level… That’s just a recipe for a brutal first few years, minimum, when TT academic positions are already known to be brutally stressful and time-consuming until that tenure review is passed.

      Unless OP’s spouse already has high academic-specific speaking fluency in a language of the same family (like Italian or French) and expects to be able to come up to speed in Spanish pretty fast with that additional boost, I would not risk it. Just far too much chance of this being stressful, expensive, and bad for the academic reputation when it falls apart.

    15. Prof_Murph*

      I’m in academia and if you are talking about a tenure-track job, the first few years are hard enough! Never mind learning a new language. I know it would be hard to turn down that type of job but I would caution not to underestimate how much change it would involve for both of you. (I moved across the country for my tenure job, and it was really, really difficult and I spent the first few years looking for other jobs closer to my family.)

    16. Hyaline*

      I feel like whether it’s a bad idea or just potentially challenging depends enormously on what kind of work they are expecting him to do. If it’s a full teaching load, especially right out of the gate, that sounds very dicey…but if it’s mainly a research position, especially working with a consortium that operates partially or completely in English, that’s a different story. (The fact that he’s worked with the department chair before in this capacity leads me to wonder if they may be seeking him out for research rather than teaching.) If his work was literally “work on this project most of your time and teach one class, oh and by teach we mean your name is on the course and you set the material up but you have eight grad assistants” (which, by the way, is not unusual for a prestigious university), and they’re willing to give him a year before he begins teaching, it seems feasible, actually. Frankly, I had quite a few professors whose English wasn’t completely fluent, but they had no problem teaching the material…and the idea that a professor’s job is mainly “lecturing” is not really accurate in a lot of fields anyway.

      Transparency really seems to be the key here, so I think LW’s husband should be asking all these questions and both should absolutely visit, but they shouldn’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.

    17. GreenDoor*

      #1 on the flipside, I’m an English speaker who attended a college that had foreign grad students doing instruction. Imagine trying to take an advanced math class where the instructor keeps mixing up “average it” and “add it” or “median” and “minimum” or “permutation” and “percentage”. Ugh. The challenge of college is made infinitely harder when your instructor jumbles up the language. Your husband needs to insist on having answers to the questions you’re asking. Also…are there any other instructors from your country/primary language teaching there? Can he talk to them and get a feel for their experience teaching when they are not proficient in the language?

  2. Rara Avis*

    LW1: it is crazy that the university is even considering hiring a professor with zero fluency in the language of instruction. I’m a language teacher, and even an intensive immersion program would need a significant time commitment to get someone to a basic conversational level. To get to university instruction level? Not going to happen in time for the fall semester. I think there would be a lot of pushback from the students and negative reviews, and rightly so — not fair to them. Not necessarily a good start to an academic career.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Yeah, I’m wavering between ‘sketchy’ and ‘a lot of wishful thinking from the hiring committee’.

      1. Tracy*

        I’m thinking the same thing. I worked at a US university that hired a highly talented professor into a hard to fill position with many promises. He left after 18 months because most of them were completely empty. The dean was just really good at blowing smoke and in fact they convinced everyone (including the accreditation committee) that they were building new facilities up to a groundbreaking. 10 years later there are ZERO new facilities and more of the qualified academic staff has left. I don’t know how they’re still open, honestly.

      2. Annony*

        I am leaning towards wishful thinking. “He’s smart. He has a PhD! Learning Spanish should be easy!” They know a lot of bilingual people (and are probably bilingual themselves) and aren’t thinking about how difficult it can be to learn a second language as an adult and that learning field specific terms is a step beyond even that. I knew several people in graduate school that had Spanish as their first language. They could not give an entire scientific presentation in Spanish because they did not know the technical terms. They could probably learn them relatively easily since they already had conversational Spanish down, but starting from nothing seems pretty daunting.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      Yeah, I wonder if the OP’s spouse teaches something very specific, and it’s incredibly hard to find a professor to teach it? That’s the only reason I can think of that the university is considering it.

      1. Birch*

        In my experience as an academic, that would be even weirder. When teaching resources are slim, the department usually focuses on the core programme courses and gets rid of the more unique and specific courses. unless there’s something else going on and there’s a reason they can’t find enough instructors in general because they’re all leaving which is another red flag.

        1. CityMouse*

          I have family that moved abroad, and one of the kids was able to pick up the language through an immersion program well enough to switch to the local primary school after a year, but the other kid needed two years. The adults say they still tend to get English back in interactions.

          I don’t see how this is possible. You wouldn’t just need intense immersion, you would also need it in the relevant subject matter. That would take years.

          1. UKDancer*

            Also things are a lot easier as a child to learn. I mean I soaked German up as a child because I didn’t think it was a language, it was just what I spoke when I visited my Onkel and Tante in Cologne. So I found it easy to feel comfortable in it. And I still struggle in university in Germany because living somewhere and studying academic subjects is hard.

            I’m trying now to learn Polish and it’s really hard because I have a lot less time to learn the language (because adulting is hard and occupies me) but also my mind isn’t as able to pick it up as it was when I was 5 years old.

        2. Molly Coddler*

          1000% on what Birch said. Academia admin loves to get rid of programs. In an institution I worked in when there were no more “X” experts, they pivoted to “Y” which is under the same umbrella, but “X” is no longer being taught as part of that humanities program. For a program/dept/institution to hire with sketchy (“let’s try this”) requirements, from anywhere, even another country, says a lot about their concept of what’s doable vs what’s desirable vs what we really wish would happen. Don’t let their not thinking through the details create a situation for you. And just on its own, with nothing else to do, and all the money in the world, it’s still hard to move to another country to live.

    3. Teacher of languages*

      Yes, I’m a language teacher too and unless he’s a lot more advanced in Spanish than is implied in the letter, it is so extremely unlikely he’d be able to reach a level to lecture well within a year. Perhaps if he is already a strong speaker of a similar language like Portuguese and was in an immersive situation, ie living with a Spanish-speaking family for a year (not his spouse) AND was taking intensive lessons (15-20 hours a week for a year) AND was very good at languages. But the LW does not even say specifically if he speaks any other languages.

      It is a thing sometimes in academia for institutions to suddenly require their lecturers to lecture in another language that they may not be fluent in (usually English) and it can work, but 1. the lecturers are far more likely to have some English, even if it’s just from high school, and a certain amount of reading in their field has probably been in English so they know a little that way and 2. The field is often one that is less language-heavy and the teaching would often be very reliant on slides and reading off them. So, not ideal teaching at all. And still, it’s VERY HARD and some people, even if they’re clever, just will not be able to reach that level of language ever.

      Don’t do it, LW1.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I left academia after my PhD, but I’ll say that English fluency, specifically, is now definitely required (at least in MINT). Articles, conferences and posters are all in English (plus the networking). Postdocs and docs will frequently not speak the local language, so everyone switches to English to communicate. And in recent years, universities have started to require some courses be given in English. It’s assumed everyone can magically do this.

        I have to say also – articles and conferences and conversations are one thing, but giving a whole lecture series in a foreign language is a different beast, and the quality of teaching often does suffer.

        I’ve also seen people hired who don’t speak the local language, and lecture in English, and the students just have to deal.

        1. Myrin*

          I absolutely love your “it’s assumed everyone can magically do this” becaus I’ve found that Germans in particular – don’t know about the situation in other countries – vastly overestimate their own as well as the general population’s proficiency when it comes to English. Just because it’s cool to make every third word you say an English one (often used incorrectly) doesn’t mean you are actually able to speak the language.

          When I was in university, even I sometimes had trouble with English papers (I studied German so this was a very, very rare occurrence, but it happened a handful of times in my minor) – most of my classmates, all educated and articulate, by their own admission understood about half of what they said. At my current workplace of over 70, there is me and one other coworker who are fluent, three who are solid, and the rest are happy when they can form a halfway decent sentence. I really think this is a topic where reality and wishful thinking/aspirations clash violently but somehow no one ever says that out loud.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I’m a physicist, and also in Germany, and for us it does work… because it has to. There’s no option to not speak English. Even now in my job in industry, it’s expected that people can switch at a moment’s notice. We recently received some training from a vendor, and the person scheduling was all apologetic that the first slot she could offer, it would have to be in English – she was surprised that I was pretty casual about it, like, yeah, of course.

            The interesting phenomenon that occurs is that when you get a group of people speaking a language that is none of their native languages, it starts to develop a sort of pidgin language that deviates from how natives speak it. There’s definitely a Euro-continent-English that’s developing, quite fascinating. Also, with English, as a language, when you start from a Germanic or Romantic language, it’s pretty easy to get to a level where one can make oneself understood. The difficulty comes at a higher level.

            1. amoeba*

              Yup, and when you start mixing in Asian languages as well, it gets really fun! Honestly, my English probably got much worse from spending two years in a lab with a central European and two Asians. Especially as a lot of some people’s English is learned from academic papers, so I’d catch myself saying things like “oh, I found desired product!”

              Fun times.

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              “There’s definitely a Euro-continent-English that’s developing, quite fascinating”
              Yes, I’ve heard many a tale of Brits working at the EU pre-Brexit, and finding that everyone spoke English and understood each other just fine… except the Brits.
              Somebody even drafted a glossary for the Brits at one point…

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                Fun fact: I learned years ago to guess the origin of a writer from the, let’s say peculiarities of their English even in written material. Dutch native speakers write differently than Scandinavians (although both tend to be much more fluent then my German compatriots who don’t grow up on subtitled US TV fare but on fully dubbed stuff), so even fairly similar backgrounds shine through enough to be discernible.
                Brits sometimes have issues understanding other Brits (Geordies, Brummies, or Glaswegians sound very different than a lady from Swansea or a gent from Portsmouth, to be sure!); when talking with known non-native English speakers, one unconsciously settles on something approaching a least common denominator while other native speakers are expected to make sense of what you say.

            3. BothLanguageAndCulture*

              Speaking as someone who was physics student at top US universities many moons ago (Chicago, Penn), my handful of classes taught by non-native English speakers (other than, to some extent, Germans) were a complete and utter disaster. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t speak in an understandable way but that they couldn’t understand a word anyone else said to them.

              There was also a huge cultural disconnect, especially with the Japanese visiting professor I had for second term E&M. He got furious whenever anyone tried to challenge him in any way. Even though he had horrendous English, it was a personal affront if you asked him to repeat or clarify something, and he got furious when anyone pointed out a mistake or questioned anything he said even if he misspoke. This would have been a problem anywhere, but was such a cultural mismatch for Chicago where students were taught to question everything. Total and complete disaster. Our poor teaching assistants basically retaught the class during office hours.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                You say many moons ago, so you may be interested that this is changing. Germans were about a generation ahead of, f. ex. the French/Italians/Spanish in their English speaking capabilities, but the people finishing their studies now are much better on average. You probably didn’t have Dutch or Scandinavians, because they’ve been very good for ages.

                East Asians are a different ballgame (learning English is harder starting from their languages, obviously), but I bet they’re also getting better every generation.

                You can thank the internet.

                1. amoeba*

                  Yeah, this has not been my experience at all! Maybe with some of the East Asians just after they arrived, but after a few months, they were also absolutely fine to understand/have (scientific or not) conversations with. And I’ve worked in groups with 14 nationalities for 20 people or something like that, with Germans, French, Italians, Swiss, Baltic, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Brazilian, Spanish, Japanese… and some I can’t remember right now. Language was never a (huge) problem.

          2. Pdf*

            > doesn’t mean you are actually able to speak the language

            Speak, in particular. My English reading, writing and listening skills are of a very high level, and while my speaking is C2 as well, doing it for more than a minute makes my tongue feel too large for my mouth and the physical act is tiring.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yeah I can read Flemish / Dutch fairly well if I know what the context is because there’s enough similarity to German that it’s usually clear what is being intended. I have no ability to speak it interactively because I never learnt it properly. So I could probably deliver a lecture in Dutch with time to practice the intonation. I have no ability to hold a proper conversation and I tend to sound like I’m trying to speak German.

            2. ItDepends*

              This depends on the individual – I was always much better at output (writing/speaking) than input (reading/listening). I was better at reading than listening but both were an order of magnitude worse than writing or speaking.

            3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              It seems to depend on the type of instruction, though. It was generally believed in my school district that students who did French immersion from a young age ended up as solid conversationalists, with kinda questionable written grammar. Students who started French in high school had excellent written grammar, but absolutely could not have a proper conversation. As a French immersion student, I can say that there was a lot of time spent on conversation and on interacting in French.

          3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            It sorta makes sense, though, because you don’t know what you don’t know. The skill you need to figure out how good you are at something is the same skill you need to actually be good at it. So, people who aren’t very skilled are the least able to assess their skills accurately.

          4. Teacher of languages*

            I have taught English to academics whose institutions have suddenly decided that they must teach in English. These people usually already have some English but depending on a lot of things, particularly language-learning ability, subject taught, support from the institution, and unfortunately age of the person, it can be HARD. I still remember one poor Russian guy who was a professor of medicine at a Russian university and had been doing the job for years in Russian. He was not having an easy time, he was older (age doesn’t prevent you from learning a language but it is often a lot easier if you are younger), and the pressure didn’t help. Poor guy.

            I’ll also never forget him because he asked me to look at one of his PowerPoints for a lecture back home it was full of photos of malformed fetuses. I’m pretty squeamish and did not enjoy that!

        2. amoeba*

          Huh, interesting – I’d say English is definitely the core requirement of any Science job (and yeah, everybody does need to learn) – all my groups were so international, there was absolutely no chance to get by in German during your PhD or even Master’s thesis! And in my groups, everybody was aware of that and fine with it…
          So to me, it makes a lot of sense to teach Master’s level courses in English (apart from the fact that at my last institutions, the majority of Master’s level students don’t actually speak the local language), because this is what you’ll need for your career. Even if you leave academia, maybe half of my colleagues in Industry now actually speak the same language… if you can’t do science in English, you probably won’t be able to hold any kind of job in my field. Not because of any weird requirements, but just because you won’t be able to talk to your colleagues… it’d be much worse than not speaking German.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Yes, it’s a requirement (to the point that it’s sometimes difficult to talk about one’s research in one’s native language – a very strange feeling). However, people aren’t really taught how to, they are just expected to be able to do it. Find their own immersion opportunity or whatever.

            Lectures by a non-fluent speaker are a form of torture, and I stand by that. I know they’re kind of necessary for international students and lecturers, but still. I can deal with conference talks and one-off trainings, but whole lecture cycles – nooooo.

            1. amoeba*

              Hah, yeah, I used to be really annoyed with those (by native German speakers) – but I’ve definitely come to appreciate them more since living somewhere where I’m not fluent myself! Still, I always feel I’m much less tolerant hearing a strong German accent than any other – not sure whether it’s because it’s basically my own, but exaggerated, or whether a German accent’s just uniquely horrible? (I *think* it’s the former as I’ve heard similar things from French and Italian colleagues!)

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I think we’re often more annoyed by accents from languages we speak well ourselves. I can’t stand an English accent in German either, for example. Maybe something about it triggers the wrong area of the brain and that feels dissonant.

                I used to know a professor who not only had a German accent when he spoke English, he specifically had a recognizable Saxon accent (when he spoke German as well, of course). That was fascinating.

                1. amoeba*

                  Hah, that does sound interesting! I also find it fascinating that Swiss German speakers have a completely different (much nicer, to me!) accent when speaking English than Germans…

                  And now I’ll stop with the OT spam. It’s just really interesting, sorry!

        3. Lokifan*

          Yeah – my guess is that they’re thinking he can do it because their English is pretty good. But academic & formal English is often easier to guess for a Spanish speaker than vice-versa, they will almost certainly have learnt English from childhood, and they may be underestimating both how hard language acquisition is and the difficulty of reading in your subject versus lecturing on it (not to mention any seminars, jfc). I actually don’t think this is sketchy at all but I do think it’s a bad idea!

      2. Emmie*

        This job is not asking your husband to be fluent in Spanish. They are asking your husband to obtain a mastery of speaking, reading, and writing at the college level. This will require your husband to speak Spanish fluently enough that he can explain his academic concepts in several ways for hours each week. It may require a mastery of the language allowing him to write academic papers. It takes years of education for an English language person to master English academic writing. Academic writing is an additional vocabulary that is not used in common everyday interactions. He will be required to do this while acclimating his family to an entirely new country with new cultures and customs. The opportunity to live in a Spanish speaking country and advance his career is wonderful. It will, however, be challenging to reach the level of mastery he needs in only a year. If he takes this job, he must have a more realistic timeframe and understand the metrics required to keep his job / reach the next level. He must also understand if the university has hired those with no Spanish language experience recently, and what the outcome was.

    4. Katherine*

      Yeah. I teach English to English learners, and I work with the lowest-level beginners. My students get 12 hours of instruction per week, which is a pretty intensive program. Even so, it can take multiple terms for them to move up just to high beginner status. Learning a language is not easy, and becoming fluent to the point that you could teach a college-level course in that language is an incredibly difficult task.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      We’ve got some EAL students in Autumn, and they’re making great progress considering they’re teenagers but some other teachers have been making me gasp with how much they underestimate gaining a new language. One PE teacher expressed that if it was him, he’d know a new language after a few football games, one teacher asked my Arabic student, who is only just learning the sounds of single letters in Roman alphabet, to “just copy this text from the board”. It’s absolutely jaw dropping, but they simply don’t understand language acquisition.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah, that’s the same level of blissful ignorance as the men who reckon they could beat Serena Williams in a tennis match.

      2. Teacher of languages*

        Yup. This absolutely tracks. Ive seen it on the student side as well. I’ve had students who thought they could learn English quickly simply by memorising vocabulary lists. And then put all their energy into that. Absolutely no concept that you need to know grammar, syntax, idiomatic language, etc, and that these are going to be very different to their own language. Or that memorising words on their own with no context is the least effective way of learning vocabulary!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah, my mother learnt German from family friends who lived there. In the German couple the man spoke some English (from being a POW in England) and his wife spoke practically none. My mother would sit in the kitchen with the wife and they’d go through the spice racks and ingredients and name them in German and English while cooking together so they developed a really good ability to understand each other and a close friendship surpassing words. They would also go to the kegel club and drink with the other village women.

          So my mother can tell you how to make a black forest gateau or prepare sauerbraten and is very good at reading menus. She also has a range of idiomatic expressions and Cologne dialectal sayings that she’s picked up along the way (and some rather rude songs) but has no grammar and makes the sentences up as she goes along. Surprisingly she can make herself quite well understood but it’s the most hilariously grammatically awful German you could imagine because she never learnt the rules.

    6. amoeba*

      It’s really, really common in Science! I’m in Switzerland and I’d say speaking the local language (which can be either German or French, depending on where you are – I’ve lived and worked in both parts) is generally considered a nice bonus, but absolutely not required. The language of science is English, and yeah, fluency in that is crucial.

      You are supposed to pick up the local language after a while though, because typically undergrad courses are taught in that, and you can’t dodge teaching those forever… (although my professor certainly tried – took him years to admit he was actually fluent in French and start teaching in it. He just always spoke English – and his partner told us that his French was actually really good, he had been to a bilingual high school and had basically been fluent before he moved there!)

      1. FrenchIsParticularlyHard*

        French is really tricky, though, as there are huge differences between French, Swiss, Canadian, Caribbean, African, etc French. I took French in school and every one of my teachers/professors was from a different part of the world and it was almost like starting over every year, but with the expectation of K years of experience. It was awful and turned into my one area of academic mediocrity.

        My mom was fluent in Parisian French but had trouble communicating in Montreal and ended up reverting to English.

        1. Nina*

          I used to work with a Parisian French guy, a Côte d’Ivoire guy, a Quebecois, and a couple of English-speaking Canadians whose French was whatever is normal for English-speaking Canadians to learn in high school. My French is a) all Samoan and b) quite bad. The Parisian was furious.

    7. K*

      The university is probably interested in his research, which will continue to be in English probably, and only needs him to teach to check a box for funding. I don’t think it’s that strange especially if this is a country where there are few academics in his field.

      1. Dido*

        To him, the course js “checking a box,” to the students, the course is the basis of their education in their chosen subject

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        But it’s not fair for him to grab all the postgraduate classes and leave his colleagues to do the undergraduate classes. I mean, I always prefer teaching advanced students compared to beginners.

        1. Also an academic*

          I just don’t see how this responds to the letter or to K’s comment? There’s not an indication that he’s going to do this.

    8. Santiago*

      Check out Middlebury Language Schools OP. They are the premier language immersion program in the US at least (this is my field). Maybe his new employer can send you there the summer before.

    9. sookie st james*

      I’m not a language teacher but I agree – as someone who has lived in Spain for several years and is *still* not fluent (tho I don’t need it for work), I can confidently say that most adults who speak only their native tongue VASTLY over estimate how easy it would be for them to learn a second language. Many people seem to have the idea that a second language can be learned by ‘picking it up as you go along’ – which mostly only applies to children, whose brains are much more sponge-like!

      1. Teacher of languages*

        Yes. And some people, even very clever people, only ever reach a certain level. Even if the desire to learn is there. There is really no way of knowing if someone is a good language learner until they have had a go at learning languages.

        With the caveat that one may have had a terrible time learning a language at school, because the way languages are taught in school is unfortunately still very bad in some places, and then later discover that a different way of learning combined with a true will to learn makes language learning a lot easier! For example all the nerds I know online whose English is excellent because of fanfiction and video games, lol

    10. ampersand*

      Chiming in that this sounds disastrous. I’ve had friends who have left academia because it’s such a difficult environment to work in–there seem to be so many unfulfilled promises (often tenure related). Even under good circumstances it can be difficult.

      LW, when you add in a move to a new country AND having to learn the language, and your husband needing to be fluent in that language with no real idea of how that’s supposed to happen–sounds like trial by fire? Do not ignore the red flags!

  3. Zombeyonce*

    #1: If they enjoy the time visiting and want to try, would the employer provide an interpreter for the first year while he gets fluent (with very intense study)? I don’t know how well this would work in a college lecture, but it could be a stopgap measure.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I used to arrange interpreters for our events in a previous job. This is unlikely to be viable unless they have a huge budget because:
      1. Good live interpretation services aren’t cheap.

      2. If they don’t want to double the length of the lecture to allow time for the lecturer to talk then the interpretater to interpret, they would need to buy headsets for everyone attending the lecture to listen into the live translation, or have the lecture theatre fitted out for an audio broadcast channel that people can tune into on their own.
      Interpretation equipment is incredibly expensive and (at least the ones that we had) needs to be charged regularly so the broadcast unit works. The headsets are often flimsy and easy to damage.

      Also, 3. They would need to find an interpreter who was both familiar with the language on the academic subject and comfortable translating it into Spanish.

      1. KateM*

        If that translator was so fluent in the subject, they could just give the lectures themselves.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Fluent enough to understand the jargon and context – not fluent enough to teach it independently.

      2. linger*

        The sort of stopgap that might make sense is if there are postgrads in the specialist subject area who are bilingual but require supervision from an expert. In which case, they could be taught in English, but work as TAs/translators for undergrad classes in related subjects normally taught in Spanish. To be at all realistic, this plan would require that level of support. Without it, and starting from scratch? Hell no.

      3. Catherine*

        I had to arrange interpreters for an event at a previous job once. It cost the equivalent of a little more than $2000 USD per day. I cannot imagine any school shelling out for this!

        1. Teacher of languages*

          Grinds my gears how people don’t appreciate the skills of a good interpreter! Or translator. I’m dealing with a legal matter that requires document translation and the number of people who think you can just toss it into Google translate and job done is kind of staggering! This isn’t a restaurant menu (I do love a good machine-translated menu, though, I have to say!)

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Using an interpreter would simply make him reliant on the interpreter instead of learning the language for himself. Like you don’t remember the route when you’ve relied on the GPS on previous occasions.

      1. Check cash*

        Yeah, but you can’t use class when students are there to learn as your time to “practice” The interpreter would be there more for the benefit of the students.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Well, no. It’s to separate the need for him to learn the language and the need for the lectures to be provided in the language before he’s learned it.

        1. Teacher of languages*

          Having a translator to rely on to do the very work on the language that they absolutely had to learn would likely slow down the learning process immensely, if not stop it altogether. The absolute best motivation to learn a language is to simply need to have it to do what you need to do. To have no choice. If you know you can rely on a translator you will simply not learn as fast, or maybe not at all.

  4. Elk*

    OP1: I’m a native English speaker who started studying Spanish in middle school, was a Spanish lit major in college, and spent 6 months studying abroad in Spain. My first teaching job after college was a Spanish language kindergarten class. Since the , I’ve taught in both English and Spanish. Even being able to pass all the qualification tests, teaching in Spanish is just a lot harder. It’s exhausting to work in a second language all day, and it’s exhausting to be on stage for students all day, and doing both at once is HARD. I love that I can teach in bilingual classrooms and I wouldn’t give it up for just English, but it’s worth considering not just whether your husband could do it but whether he wants to.

    It’s not just planned lectures, either; there are also conversations with students and coworkers, which in some ways are even harder because you can’t rehearse or look anything up in advance. I think you’re right to really want to think it through.

    And, obviously, there are people who teach in their second language all the time, and do it beautifully! So it’s totally possible, just worth going in with a lot of awareness of what you’re getting into.

    1. Awkwardness*

      Letter 1 sounds like a recipe for desaster to me.
      There is so much more work in preparing lectures! You have to have all the specific vocabulary, conversational vocabulary to express opinions, explanations and reasoning and you have to have enough of it to not be required to constantly look up words.
      I cringed a bit when duolingo was mentioned. The spouse seems a bit too optimistic for me unless it is such a hard to fill position that the university would give him a lot of leeway and him remaining in the position would be guaranteed for some time.

      1. Teacher of languages*

        Yeah, despite their heavy marketing, Duolingo is just not a real way to learn a language. To me it signalled a naïveté about what language learning actually entails.

        1. Jill Swinburne*

          Yeah, I’m currently learning two languages in Duolingo, having previously formally studied a different one, and I can tell it isn’t going to get you much more than tourist-level ability. There’s a place for it, but this isn’t it.

          Imagine a non-English speaker coming to a university in an English-speaking country. What quality learning would the students get? It can be hard enough to keep up with demanding material with a perfectly fluent lecturer who speaks with a heavy accent, let alone one who barely speaks the language at all. I wouldn’t try it!

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I’m a language teacher and I’m doing 3 languages on Duo (one that I had 0 knowledge of, one that’s a Creole of a language I’m fluent in, 1 that I studied in high school). I have a 1300 day streak so I have been diligent and I’m just getting to the point where I can sort of read and “write” with a word bank in brand new language.
            All this to agree that Duo is great for a) a hobby b) people who like to have some skills in a language when traveling as a tourist c) supporting a more intensive language program. I guess I could also add d) trying to find out how quickly and pleasantly you pick up the basics for LW and spouse.

        2. Tau*

          I often defend its use as a support tool, but yeah, Duolingo on its own is flawed, limited, slow, and the fact that that’s the husband’s first reaction indicates he doesn’t know what this would actually entail. Coupled with the university’s naivete, it’s a recipe for disaster.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I would say it would be fine if you move to the country where the language is spoken. You can pick it up very quickly once you’re there, and then having some instruction to introduce you to the grammar in a structured way is good backup for the learning as you go about your daily life. You do need to get out and about, no point introverting at home! (I say this as an introvert: I do consciously make huge efforts to talk to people in order to learn the language of the country I’m in.)

        4. HairApparent*

          Do you mean to tell me that the phrase “my horses do not eat bread” does not regularly come up in conversations among Russians?! ;)

      2. JustMyImagination*

        I wouldn’t judge the mention of Duolingo. The LW said “only in Duolingo for now”. He’s still in the interview stage and exploring what he would need to consider the job. The ‘for now’ implies that they know there will be more to learning the language if this move become a reality. Duolingo, to me, seems like a good start to get the basics and then negotiate for an intensive language course as part of any job offer.

        1. Teacher of languages*

          You may be absolutely right. I have to admit I’ve used Duolingo as a tool and I’d probably check out Duolingo if I were in the same boat as LW husband. But I’d also have watched a few YouTube videos, maybe got a basic grammar and a few other books or websites, maybe a language-learning podcast. Many resources that are easy to find and far better than Duolingo. The fact that only Duolingo was mentioned is just a flag that LW and husband may be a little uninformed about language learning. But as you say, may be nothing.

        2. yeah*

          I think the judgment is fair since it suggests that the husband may not have any experience with language learning at all. He may be brilliant but plenty of brilliant people struggle with language learning, and I’m concerned that the statement that he is “capable of learning a new language if the resources and structure are there” is not actually supported by any of his past experiences. I would only even begin to consider this if he has previously learned a second language to fluency as an adult — preferably a related Romance language — and has a good grasp of the amount of work it entails.

          The reality is that even if he puts in 5-6 hours of focused study per day (which is unlikely) I would still expect it to take multiple years for him to be able to teach in the language.

          I’ve spent a lot of hours in Duolingo, and many more hours doing serious language learning. Duolingo at its core is really a game, not a language learning tool. It’s fun. It’s a great tool for dabblers. It’s completely useless for someone who needs to learn a language to fluency as quickly as possible. Almost any time spent in Duolingo would be spent more productively elsewhere. It has some use as a supplement to a language learning program or for moments when structured, focused learning isn’t possible (like waiting in line or during a commute). In my experience it works best as a maintenance tool for days where your motivation for real learning is flagging.

    2. stratospherica*

      Yeah, I’m a native English speaker who works a regular office job mostly in a language that is Not English, and if I have a lot of meetings that day I’ll basically be mentally tired to the point of not functioning at about 4pm (in a day where I’d be working until 5:30), and I’m speaking as someone who is very fluent in my L2. Being a lecturer in a foreign language would be exhausting, even before we factor in only having a year to learn. It’s really not a good idea imo.

    3. Dorothy Zpornak*

      The one positive is that as a university instructor he could probably organize his schedule so he only teaches one class of about 1.5 hours each day, which would be a lot less grueling than what you describe. But otherwise, you’re totally right about the challenges.
      I will add that typically postings for academic jobs will list a salary range, but apart from that it’s extremely unusual to have any discussion of salary before the offer, so I wouldn’t see it as a red flag that they haven’t given any specifics on that. But it’s bizarre to me that they would do a campus visit that’s just an “informal” interview, and it’s really REALLY weird that they had HR interview him.

      1. amoeba*

        Maybe that’s also really field-dependent, but in my field you’d actually teach much, much less than that! The majority of your time is typically for research, I’d say you’d typically have maybe one or maximum two biweekly lectures to hold during the semester (which is only half the year, during the break, no lectures at all). So, maybe 4 h of teaching a week? Anything beyond that would be a specific “lecturer” position, not a “real professorship”. And yeah, I wouldn’t do one of those without knowing the language well. But one lecture a week after a year or so seems doable…

        And I assume that he’d be able to do the rest of his work in English (talking to his research group, group seminars, etc. – you typically have international grad students, anyway! Don’t think I’ve ever seen those done in the local language anywhere…)

      2. ChiliHeeler*

        There’s a lot more going on than teaching however. While this varies widely by country and field, there’s often a significant level of admin type stuff like committee meetings or local academic conferences/gatherings, etc. There may be more flexibility to speak English there but also the Spanish used would be more likely to include tricky things like idiomatic expressions and local lingo.

        1. amoeba*

          In my field, those would 100% be in English. (Like basically everything except undergrad teaching… OK, and possibly talking to janitors about cleaning schedules or whatever.)

    4. Jackalope*

      I actually thought that Letter 1 sounded like a lot of fun and would totally have been something I would have done had I been interested in a life in academia. I was an exchange student in high school and managed to make it to decent fluency in the second language by 4 months, and by the end of the year I was participating in classes to my full capacity, including literature classes. As a young adult I moved to another country and took lessons for the first few months I was there, and while there were other English speakers around so it took a bit longer, but maybe 5 or 6 months until I had decent fluency? So I’ve done similar things and enjoyed doing them, and had a lot of success.

      That being said, if LW1 and spouse decide to go for it, here are my suggestions. If the LW is in the US or Canada, which I’m assuming based on the fact that the other language is Spanish, then it’s so much easier than if it were other languages or they were somewhere else. Sooo… here are some ways to do your best at learning a new language when not in the country where it’s spoken. First of all, if you have any way to do this, see if there’s someplace nearby (a local university, perhaps) where you can take Spanish lessons. Do your best to find something that will be as intensive as possible; every day if you can, a few times a week if at all possible. If you can’t do that in person, see if there’s a way to do it online. The importance of this step is that if your spouse is going to be teaching in the other language, it will be so helpful to have someone actually teach the grammar foundations so the two of you can make grammatically intelligible sentences.

      Then do your best to immerse yourselves. Find a Spanish speaking community near you and see if you can join. Churches are a good place for that because they tend to be welcoming, but if there’s a group that engages in a hobby you enjoy (or are willing to take up) then often they’ll be open to newbies. Listen to the radio in Spanish; there’s a website called Radio Garden that will let you tune into radio stations around the world, so you can listen to a radio station in the country you will be moving to (again, this is assuming you decide to go) and listen not only to Spanish, but the specific local accent of Spanish. There are online communities where native speakers will practice their language with you for a small fee, or for a language exchange (ex., an hour in Spanish and then an hour in English so they can also practice). Put up flash cards around your house labeling everything in Spanish. Use every other day to be a Spanish-only day with each other so you can get used to using the language fluently. Online also has simple Spanish radio and (I think) videos that you can watch if you’re learning; don’t worry about catching everything, just try to understand what you can and have it on in the background as much as you can. If you can, get a specific musical artist that you can find on CD/Spotify/Pandora/your listening venue of choice, and find the lyrics online so you can sing with them. I have found it very helpful for my accent in my two non-English languages to sing along with a native speaker and try to match my pronunciation to theirs as much as possible; for whatever reason it’s a lot easier for me than just trying to remember the correct way to say things off the top of my head. When you’ve gotten a little way into learning Spanish, you can find books at libraries or buy them at used book stores or online, and then try to read them (with a dictionary; I personally recommend wordreference dot com, but I’m sure there are others). The easiest way to do this would be to find something that you’ve read before and already kind of know so that it’s easier. If there are textbooks in your spouse’s field that your spouse is familiar with that have already been translated into Spanish, then if your spouse can get their hands on them this will help immensely in creating the field-specific language learning. When I’ve done this (with books that I own, obviously, not library books) I’ll footnote words I had to look up and write the translation at the bottom of the page so it will be there if I come back.

      And this last one will depend on the welcoming university, but I would also strongly request if this is at all an option (and it’s a university, so I would guess that it is?) that your spouse insist that as a part of the package for agreeing to move, that they include intensive language lessons when the two of you arrive. This would be much better in the country where you’ll be living, since accents are different in each country, but see if there’s something where the two of you (I’d insist on it being for both of you) can do language boot camp for, say, the first month or two that you’ll be there or go to a nearby country if it’s not available where you’ll be living. Classes in the language (and also local culture if possible; lots of language teachers toss that in for free because it’s so tied into the language) for several hours per day with someone who is used to teaching Spanish to newbies, so you can get a jump start. And when you’re in the new country, definitely have a few days a week (or every other day) be Spanish days so you can practice it together.

      I’ve thrown a lot of ideas out that I hope will be helpful. Obviously some of them won’t be relevant to you, but try as many as you can, if you decide to do this. I strongly encourage you to go the route of using at least some of the passive learning (radio or TV on in the background), because even if you don’t pick up vocab words your brain will still be learning the ebb and flow of the language, what tones are used (especially w/ TV), and other things that will make it so much easier to learn in a classroom setting.

      1. Jackalope*

        I Will add that if you do move there, find ways to get involved in the local community and do NOT have your community consist entirely of English speaking ex-pats. If you move there then you’re planning to be there for awhile, so find nationals you can get to know. Again, church and hobbies are a good suggestion, someone who wants to learn English and will spend an hour in both languages, lectures at the university, whatever. Just find a way to make friends with people who are actually of that culture and your Spanish will naturally improve. Plus you will feel much less lonely (although some loneliness will always be associated with moving to a new culture, especially one that speaks another language).

    5. HannahS*

      Yeah, to add another data point, I’m Canadian and was in a French immersion program for nine years (so my daily schooling instruction was in French) then I took some French in university. I can speak basic conversational French; I traveled alone in France and did not need to speak English while there. But even that doesn’t translate to being able to do my job in French. I would need a solid year of instruction to go from basic fluency to medical fluency. Sure, I can manage a restaurant, but I can’t talk about nuanced topics; I don’t have enough slang and figurative language; I can speak only to French speakers who speak in the accents that are familiar to me. I could learn to practice medicine in French (and I might someday), but it would take a lot of time and effort; it’s not something you just pick up as you go.

    6. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

      THIS. I’ve heard this so often from non-native English speakers (I am in the USA) that talking/communicating in a language other than their native language is extremely exhausting!

  5. Zombeyonce*

    #2: I don’t think fairness matters here. Why are you missing the meetings? If you don’t think you need to be there because you’re not involved in the agenda items, or have higher priorities, then “fairness” shouldn’t come into play. People shouldn’t have to attend meetings just because other people need to be there. Talking to the boss about it with concrete reasons should help. I’m hoping this isn’t one of those agenda-less meetings where people are just there to get face time with each other and it’s really a waste of everyone’s time or could be an email.

    But if you’re not going because you don’t feel like it and are leaving coworkers in the lurch on decisions and discussions you need to be present for, that’s a problem (but still not about fairness).

      1. Zombeyonce*

        That’s another part of it. If you’re not going to attend a meeting, it should be declined ahead of time with the reason given, but that reason and its validity heavily depends on why LW is skipping meetings in the first place.

        1. Ghostess*

          This is the part I can’t wrap my head around. Maybe I am an old, but I cannot imagine just repeatedly not showing up to meetings without saying anything. Granted, I work at a smaller org where it would be very obvious that someone was missing, but even so – it seems bonkers to me to not give a heads up that you won’t be there.

          1. JTP*

            I’m an “elder millennial” and I also was a bit taken aback by the cavalier attitude OP #2 seems to have about missing team meetings.

            1. StressedButOkay*

              Same here – as an elder millennial and a manager, I wouldn’t be pleased if my folks were skipping meetings without a heads up. I am more than fine if someone tells me they have a conflict and can’t make it (heck, that’s what the decline reaction is for, you can send a response and you can use it on individual instances of a meeting!).

              Because if I was expecting OP, I WOULD hold the meeting up for a few minutes to give them time to appear/give me time to send them a message to check in. It’s frustrating for everyone in the meeting instead of just being able to say “X isn’t going to be joining today because of a conflict”.

              Also, is OP skipping meetings that they’re marked as optional or required? It sounds like they’re marked as required.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Same here; if you’re going to miss a meeting, it takes two seconds to message the organizer or a team member who can let everyone know and say “Hey, I’m stuck in X and won’t be able to make it.” I can’t imagine NOT doing that.

          3. Garblesnark*

            Yeah. I did have one job that did scrum style stand-up meetings every morning, which made sense for everyone else on the team, but my job was to do the same tasks every Monday, then the same tasks every Tuesday, etc. I definitely resented those meetings (since there was no reason to be at them) and there were earlier points in my career when I might have just skipped them. And maybe LW’s situation is similar, but the solution is to discuss it with the manager, if they’re reasonable, or to suck it up and attend the meetings if they’re not.

          4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I work at a 30,000 person organization and I can’t imagine repeatedly no-showing meetings where my boss is also in attendance without addressing it at least with them, if not anybody else.

          5. Galentine*

            I work in a pretty young-skewing company and this would not fly at all. If you’re not going to attend a meeting where your presence is expected – even if you aren’t contributing! – you let the meeting organizer know in advance. It would also not go over well if your reason for no-showing was “I was busy” or “I had higher-priority things to work on.”

          6. wavefunction*

            I’m among the oldest of Gen Z, and I would never just not attend a meeting without saying anything. The attitude of the LW is a bit unfathomable to me.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        ^This. It invites the interpretation “OP has decided it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” and that is actually an extremely frustrating quality in a coworker.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          This. If I have to miss a meeting, I tell the organizer, so they’re not waiting on me. Maybe not for a really large staff meeting (I might just tell a coworker “Oh, I can’t come because this deadline came up”, in case they’re waiting for people), but otherwise a quick “Hey, can’t make this one because of other work” is quick to send and then they’re not waiting on you. Although it sounds like the boss is expecting OP to attend these meetings, so OP needs to do some schedule reworking to make sure that they are there, not letting other things crowd it out at the last minute.

      3. Smithy*

        I’m wondering if this dynamic is coming from a missed interpretation of a meeting that starts when there’s “quorum” vs one that is looking to be as inclusive as possible.

        In my current job, it’s our department wide meetings – but in my last job even the team meetings had so many people that whether in person or on Zoom you wait for a critical mass and then start. If you supervisor notices you’re constantly missing and not sharing why, that might be a 1 on 1 convo – either because they want to know why or because meeting attendance has been light and there’s pressure for more people to join to fill that ambiguous “quorum” of enough people to start.

        However my team meetings now, do try to wait for everyone expected to join. And no-showing, no reason given would be notice and be deemed as disrespectful to the group. Particularly if done frequently.

        If this meeting has gone from a quorum style to an inclusive style, or it’s always been inclusive style and the OP was assuming quorum style, then both the OP’s behavior as well as their supervisor’s correction make sense. Because if I was told that missing/skipping our department meetings now required me telling someone – I’d admittedly be surprised that I’d missed the change in meeting style. But it doesn’t mean my earlier behavior was coming from a dismissive place.

      4. PeopleDriveMeNuts*

        I schedule and conduct a lot of meetings as part of my role. I HATE when people respond yes initially but then never show up. It is disruptive, counterproductive, and sometimes wastes 15 minutes of everyone’s time as we then need to reschedule. All I ask is a response. If you suddenly had a day of travel come up then decline any meetings that day. I had that happen last week, and I was out but specifically changed my schedule for the meeting and one the key people was traveling for business instead. I was ticked. The week prior I was out for a family emergency and declined or moved all my meetings the first chance I got.

    1. Msd*

      It’s also odd that they used their boss’s boss not attending as justification. Except for special cases I didn’t invite or expect my boss to attend my team meetings. I did expect my team to.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Agreed. Boss catches Grandboss up in their 1:1s, and Grandboss just needs the highlights (and at the moment, one of the highlights is “LW skipped this meeting and I don’t know why.”).

        LW should not be taking meeting-attendance cues from someone two levels above. They have their own calendar of higher-level meetings to attend.

        1. Support Project Nettie*

          I think in part it would depend on the attendance list. If someone is listed, there is an expectation that they will attend the meeting. It could be that the boss has already sent an apology or has told the organiser to invite but assume they won’t be attending.

          I was pondering whether there is some envy from colleagues in that they have to attend but OP doesn’t.
          Either way, the easiest way to deal with this is simply send an apology when you know you won’t be attending (which I would argue is a workplace expectation).

          1. All Het Up About It*

            Yeah – I think the Envy / morale is where the fairness comes into play. Team meetings can frequently be a pain in the patootie, if the team is large and/or it feels like a lot of non-valuable information is shared. But there’s still a general expectation of all Team members attend unless they have a very good reason not to. Seeing a person regularly skip a “required” meeting, without giving a reason and not facing any repercussions. Yeah – that doesn’t feel fair to your teammates. Essentially it’s as if the OP is just allowed to not do part of their job and gets away with it. I’d be pretty darn annoyed too!

            What I wonder, and we’ll probably never know, but are the meetings pretty pointless? Should the manager have taken the question of fairness and looked at it a different way of do we need to have the team meetings so frequently or at all? Am I wasting everyone’s time if everyone wish they could skip off the meetings like OP? Or it’s like other people mentioned and the meetings actually are valuable, so OP is hindering the work by not being there to add needed information, which makes the blowing the meetings off, even more egregious.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        One of the perks of being a higher-level manager is being able to decide which lower-level meetings one wants to attend or not without having to justify it. Often if grandbosses are invited to team meetings, they’re not expected to show up every time, just when they want to. It makes sense, because occasionally there’ll be a topic they want to discuss, or an update they need, and the rest of the time they just skip it.

        1. Greg*

          This, plus what I have found is it is better to not show up to my direct reports meetings. I trust them to run their show and then communicate up any issues that may come from their meeting (plus I don’t inadvertently contradict or undermine them).

      3. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, boss’s boss is likely invited in case they have information they need to pass on, then they have that standing forum to show up, have all the people from Dept X there, and pass on what needs to be passed on. But I doubt they are actually expected at the meeting all the time.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think “it’s not fair that OP doesn’t have to attend these meetings” has an implied/unspoken second part of “… and not have any consequences from it, because I bet there would be consequences for me”.

      1. KateM*

        “It’s unfair that Jane gets to just skip a meeting when I scrambled to be in time, didn’t even get a coffee or go to bathroom! But here I am, sitting and waiting for Jane so we could start the meeting, and that means I will have to scramble for next meeting as well.”

        1. Agent Diane*

          Yep. And the “let’s give Jane a couple of minutes” means that a team of, say 10, is losing 20 minutes of working time. If it happens often, that would build up some tension.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          THIS. Like Alison said, if it is delaying meetings then it is unfair to everyone else. It is also very disrespectful of people’s time.

          The issue isn’t skipping the meetings. Stuff comes up or you realize its not a meeting you really need to attend. The problem is not giving a heads up. I really cannot imagine being expected to attend a meeting and then not letting my boss and/or the meeting organizer know I won’t be attending after all.

        3. Office Lobster DJ*

          Especially true if Jane and I have the same or very similar roles, I have to catch Jane up after the meeting, or Jane’s direct boss doesn’t really care but mine sure does.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        And it’s one more step to “If OP can skip these meetings with no notice, I can too!” which her boss might understandably find unideal.

    3. Caris*

      It’s absolutely about fairness for the very clear reasons Alison mentions. If OP doesn’t need to attend these meetings that’s an entirely different issue – and one they gave no indication of. Indeed, they repeatedly stressed their boss was right that they need to attend these meetings.

    4. Allonge*

      OP acknowledges that fairness is just the terminology they were thrown by, not the only / main reason they need to attend the meeting.

      I would say fairness also comes in where it’s extra work for someone to fill in OP after the meeting on any action items / info points they may have missed.

      But on meetings in genearl: it’s not always possible to know with 100% certainty what evolves into a discussion and what will remain info that could have been an email. Face time to each other matters and can help a team work together. And yes, meetings should have agendas, but ours at least almost always have an ‘any other business’ point at the end, in case something comes up, because often something does come up.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I think your second point’s key. Is the meeting less effective for others because Jane isn’t there? Is the rest of the team spending time on cross-office things and Jane’s just leaving all that work to others?

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Is Jane missing out on things that the team has to share (information, splitting up new tasks) by skipping these meetings? Is Jane not hearing things that the rest of the team now has to explain to her at a “oh, that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, they told us at the last meeting” time? It may not feel important, but it could very well be so sometimes, so you’ve got to attend or say that you can’t go and will ask Juan to catch you up on what you missed after you meet deadline.

      2. Observer*

        OP acknowledges that fairness is just the terminology they were thrown by, not the only / main reason they need to attend the meeting.

        And that’s good. But it’s not so good that they don’t understand that doing something that is both noticeable and looks like slacking off when others don’t *is* going to look like unharness, and justifiably so. And that fairness is a reasonable thing for people to expect.

        And yes, I get that fairness does not always mean that everyone always does the same thing, no matter what. But there does need to be a real reason why one person gets treated differently than another person.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I do think that it was a bit odd that the manager brought up the complaints coworkers were making instead of just saying the issues or changes that need to be made.

        For example, “Josh complained it wasn’t fair that he had to take notes again because you weren’t there” sounds a bit childish or gossipy, whereas “Another team member had to take notes this morning when it was your turn, which isn’t fair to the team” lays out pretty much the exact same issue without creating any drama between team members.

        Even if no one is named specifically, my manager saying “Your coworkers are complaining about you not doing [x]” would make me far more anxious than “You need to make sure you’re doing [x]”.

    5. Yellow sports car*

      I disagree about fairness. Bosses insisting that participating in something is essential while they can skip because they’ve better things to do is an issue in workplaces. Same goes for senior people in an organisation even if outside reporting line.

      Since their boss is unhappy with their non-attendance it also sounds like they are unilaterally deciding it’s not worth their time, and it is not fair on other employees if they also don’t get to ignore the boss’s instructions to attend because they have better things to do.

      Things like this can have significant impacts on workplace culture and morale – and that affects performance of the organisation, retention and turnover, and health and wellbeing of staff – all of which impact the budget. Fairness comes into most things in the workplace. And while we can tell people to mind their own business and not think about things that don’t directly affect them etc – we all know humans don’t operate like that, and they will notice favourites or unequal treatment – and if they notice they will have some response to that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m all for limiting meetings to the people directly involved with the topic.

        That said, ignoring what the boss instructs because employees have better things to do with their time is not the way workplaces function.

      2. Raw Cookie Dough*

        Concluding that the bosses are skipping meetings because it’s not worth their time is a big assumption. They could be putting out fires elsewhere, interviewing candidates, talking to investors. However, your first sentence – that they have more important things to do, is very likely. It’s their job to handle *the most important* things, isn’t it?
        OP simply can’t justify their pushback on this. Their attendance is required. OP described themselves as a senior member of the team. It sounds to me that the supervisors are telling OP to start showing the leadership skills expected of the role.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, I mean, there are definitely bosses out there who simply blow off meetings or deadlines and it can be really frustrating for staff stuck dealing with the bottlenecks. But with any good boss I’ve had, if they miss something it’s usually bc of something like you said — they’re dealing with bigger fires, juggling competing priorities, etc. It can still be super frustrating in moving my own work forward, but…my work isn’t the only priority around here.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Also, if the boss is asking to be invited, but doesn’t attend–boss trusts the team to have the meeting and update/assign/what have you as needed. Boss can then get a meeting summary from someone who was there, or hear in 1:1’s what was assigned/discussed/whatever. If boss has time or has to speak to the team, then they already have it blocked on the calendar with everyone expected to attend.
          I routinely used to run lab meeting when my boss (the director) couldn’t attend. It wasn’t because she was too good for us or just didn’t want to, but that she got pulled into other priorities where her expertise was needed on projects, or she had to be there to update collaborators on several initiatives. I’d just update her afterwards.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        This depends a lot on what the meeting is and what each participant’s role is. That’s why there’s a “mandatory” and “optional” setting for invitations in Outlook, and I’ve most often seen grandbosses being invited to team meetings optionally.

        What is the LW expected to do in this meeting? What is the grandboss expected to do? They’re probably not the same, and it’s not unusual that the LW’s attendance is the mandatory one.

    6. DinoGirl*

      As I literally woke up today Fuming about a certain series of meetings a colleague seems never to attend that take up a quarter of my week, I completely get that people may question the equity of meeting attendance. maybe it impacts their decision making? If it’s unnecessary, talk to the organizer about what might warrant changing.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It becomes is “fairness” if OP’s peers have “gotten in trouble” for the same behavior. That’s something her manager wouldn’t share –especially if it came up in someone else’s performance review.

    8. K*

      It’s unfair because other people are likely wasting their time waiting for her to show up and they are expecting her contribution which she never gives. It’s incredibly rude. If OP felt that she isn’t necessary at these meetings it would have been mentioned in the letter. OP mentions several times her boss is correct to require her to attend. Let’s take her at her word.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah, I can imagine I would be really peeved if my colleague were that disingenuous. Waiting to see if she’ll turn up, having to fill her in afterwards, wondering whether she might not have had some valuable input on an item because she’d already worked on it, not getting updates on how her work had progressed, worrying about whether she’s OK, maybe she’s missing the meeting because she’s sick… all that adds to your mental load.

        As you say OP admits that her boss is right to expect her to attend, and she doesn’t even give a reason for not attending! I was expecting her to say that she had some kind of minor handicap that meant she couldn’t sit in the meeting room chairs without being in great pain, or her workload was such that these meetings seemed like a waste of time because they could mostly have been an email, but nada.

        She’s only focussing on whether or not it’s fair: no OP it’s not fair for all the reasons listed in my first paragraph. Be a team player!

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I was expecting the non-attendance to be some kind of accomodation her coworkers didn’t need to know about. Instead OP is just skipping meetings without giving a reason other than other people do it. Without giving a heads up to her and or the meeting organizer.

          OP that’s just rude and unprofessional. If you can’t make a meeting or even if you just can’t deal with another meeting that day, week, whatever, you must give a heads up. This isn’t about fairness so much as your reputation.

      2. Baunilha*

        All this, plus if someone has to fill OP in after the meeting, that’s just extra work for this person and I can see how fairness comes into play. It sounds like OP’s absences are impacting the rest of the team one way or another, no wonder the coworkers are complaining.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is where I land. No show/no communication for scheduled meetings is incredibly rude. I work in a client-services industry, so getting a last minute, “I’m so sorry, but I’m stuck on a client call/a rush project came up/etc.” is entirely common in my office – everyone gets it, and we’ll reschedule or make a decision without that person whenever possible. We would drive the punctual/schedule driven insane, but you ALWAYS message the other attendees/organizer to let them know you got stuck somewhere else and won’t make it.

        LW2 seems to be missing the bigger picture that it’s not fair that the other attendees have to waste their time sitting around waiting form them to no-call/no-show, not just that it’s not fair they don’ have to participate in meetings.

    9. Observer*

      If you don’t think you need to be there because you’re not involved in the agenda items, or have higher priorities, then “fairness” shouldn’t come into play. People shouldn’t have to attend meetings just because other people need to be there.

      The LW doesn’t get to decide if the need to be there – and their manager said that they do need to be there. And the LW seems to agree that it makes sense.

      But if you’re not going because you don’t feel like it and are leaving coworkers in the lurch on decisions and discussions you need to be present for, that’s a problem (but still not about fairness)

      That’s not true. Fairness does come in to it. It’s legitimate that people would be upset that one person can just not show up and cause problems for other people without repercussions, while others can’t get away with it. If there were a reason why the LW should not have to be there, then sure, the manager should tell people that he’s got it under control and that there are valid reasons for that. But otherwise? No.

    10. morethantired*

      Even if the meetings are useless, that’s a separate issue. The coworkers are upset because one person always missing the meeting with no notice feels disrespectful of others time and could suggest a “the rules don’t apply to me” attitude. The coworkers also probably weren’t upset right away, but anyone who reads this site knows annoyances can pile up and create animosity even if it’s not impacting the work directly. You want to feel like the people you work with are team players.

    11. Leenie*

      The manager may have really meant that it’s not considerate when they said it’s not fair. So not meaning “fair” in terms of equity, but just in terms of thinking of how your actions impact others and treating your colleagues well. I could easily see someone saying, “It’s not fair to keep your coworkers waiting.” Which doesn’t have anything to do with being allowed to do something that someone else can’t do. It’s just about valuing others’ time as having equal importance to your own. It does seem that the LW is missing the mark there.

    12. Kel*

      I was like….listen, if one of my coworkers was just flat out missing meetings we all had to be in, for no good reason? I’d be pissed too, so it is a LITTLE bit about fairness.

    13. EC*

      This letter was mind blowing to me. I can’t imagine just blowing off a major part of the job with no explanation to the boss, especially after the boss has told LW that its an issue. Why would LW ever think that kind of behavior was acceptable? At work you can’t just unilaterally decide that you don’t feel like doing part of the job.

      Whatever LW thinks about fairness is 100% irrelevant. LW needs to stop blowing off their meetings unless they have a valid reason that they okay with the boss first. That’s it.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Or at the very least communicate you’re not going before the meeting! They aren’t even doing that. Don’t make people sit and twiddle their thumbs wondering if you’re coming.

    14. Tiger Snake*

      Team meetings aren’t usually about whether you fit into the agenda, though. They’re for sharing information in the team, letting everyone know what you’re doing, and to ensure collaboration. They can be a pain but they are important for everyone in a team – and LW2 is a teammate rather than a director. Sometimes you miss a meeting, but it shouldn’t be consistent. Otherwise no one else knows what your doing, no one knows whether your work relates to their work.

      Fairness does come into play, because these meetings can be a pain but they’re important. Most people don’t enjoy them, but they’re a necessary labour. LW2 regularly missing the meeting without permission would impact on other people connecting to her, and mean that she’s getting to avoid a chore no one wants but has to do anyway, and that hurts morale and collaboration across the team.

  6. nnn*

    #1: Something for your husband to try: see if he can find videos online of academic conferences in Spanish in his subject area. Watch the Q&A sessions, and try to answer the questions himself, verbally, in Spanish.

    When he can do that, he’s ready to consider trying to be a professor in Spanish.

    (I’m a language nerd myself, with my brain wired for multilingualism since infancy, and I wouldn’t even consider trying to work in a new language until I’ve had at least 2 years of intensive study. And for some languages that 2 years isn’t enough, and for others I simply don’t succeed at learning at all.)

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Another advice column I used to love had a similar question about a family wanting to move to another country on a bit of a whim with no fluency in the language. The commentariat also suggested watching movies in the language to gauge their level of comprehension at the language speed and flow they would need. It quickly became clear that the family was Not Ready. At All. (They had a number of other issues, but language was a pretty big one.)

        1. Polly*

          I do not know. I moved to an English-speaking country in my early 30s because I was offered a job. This was 2015 and I have been successfully working, living and making friends in English-speaking environment since. Still to this day can’t watch movies in English without subtitles. Understand less than 50% of what being said in the movies. It is just too different from how people speak in real life: manner, vocabulary, accents.

          1. allathian*

            Have you tried switching to English subtitles (hard of hearing)? Those could help your listening comprehension and vocabulary.

            1. Polly*

              Yes, I do watch movies with English subtitles, but once the subtitles are off (or a particular movie that interests me does not have subtitles available at all) I do not understand the large oart of what is being said, to the point that it is hard to follow the plot.

            2. WantonSeedStitch*

              This makes me think that I should try watching some French movies using the French subtitles to help brush up on my rusty language skills!

          2. Bast*

            English is my first language. I watch with subtitles because sometimes certain scenes they start whispering to a degree where I can’t understand them, or they have ridiculous sound effects, music, or whatever to the point where it makes it harder to understand what is being said. Forget about certain accents. I tried watching Harlots and had an extremely difficult time with some of the characters’ accents despite the fact that they were speaking English.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It’s not your imagination: it’s getting harder to understand dialogue on TV. A large part of it is because movie sound is designed for a theater’s sound system, and when it gets squished down to your TV’s speakers it loses a lot of clarity. Not to mention the rise in popularity of naturalistic “mumble” actors (looking at you, Tom Hardy) who I can’t always understand on the big screen either.

          3. PhyllisB*

            Yes. There is a lady in my church who is German. Her husband loves watching WWII movies speaking German with English subtitles. She says she has to leave the room because the subtitles and actual dialouge are so different.

          4. 20 Points for the Copier*

            Agreed. I’m a native English speaker and have lived in the US my whole life. I watch everything except live sports with the captions on. I’m not hard of hearing (at least I don’t think I am). It’s just easier to follow the details that way.

        2. Varthema*

          You can totally move somewhere without speaking the language, commit to learning it and ride that wild massive learning curve for a year or two until it gets comfortable, especially if work isn’t a factor. What you CAN’T ethically do is make the poor university students enrolled in your class ride that learning curve with you and get a really subpar/confusing/nonexistent education as a result. Even if the country is one that makes university free, college is still expensive in terms of opportunity cost and it’s not fair for them to have a professor who is incapable of communicating the material properly or answer their questions.

          1. Emmy Noether*


            People relocate all the time without speaking the language and learn once there (and some never learn it). But this job requres fluency, so that’s not an option.

          2. LCH*

            agree. i’ve had coworkers whose fluency in English is definitely so-so at best. which is fine, we can work through that. but if your job is standing in front of a room teaching and needing people to understand you so that they can pass the class to get a degree? that is very different.

            with my coworkers, we can have a back and forth so i can figure out what it is they are trying to tell me and vice versa. students in a lecture can’t do this for every sentence with a professor.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            And living in a country where university is free for many people, that means it is quite competitive to get in. A lot of people would spend their final year at school studying 10-12 hours per day (7 hours in school, then 3-5 hours of homework and study). Many get extra tuition outside school as well, taking up an extra hour or more each week. It’s intense.

            And of course how “free” it is depends partly on where you live. Somebody living in a city or near one can likely live at home whereas somebody in a more rural area is likely to have accommodation costs (if the student is entitled to a grant, that will cover part of those, but probably not all).

        3. EvilQueenRegina*

          We had one here once where someone applied for a job that needed French, but didn’t speak it – that OP got through a few interviews having been upfront about not speaking it. The manager who hired her (who was covering the usual person’s maternity leave) had said something about “How quickly can you learn French?” and OP had thought it was kind of a joke – got there, the training manuals were all in French, she had to spend a lot of time in French-speaking African countries (more than had been communicated at interview) and a coworker was saying “Usual Manager will be horrified that Temporary Manager hired you!”

          We never did get an update on that one – OP, are you out there?

    1. allathian*

      Seconding your parenthesis.

      I live in Finland and I’m a member of the Swedish-speaking minority (about 5 percent of the population, mainly concentrated in large cities and the coastal regions). My family of origin is bilingual, and Swedish is the second official language here, with education in Swedish available from daycare to university. When I was a student, this included Master’s degrees at least in theory, but my university had an English program, initially to accommodate exchange students, but the classes were popular among Finns as well. In the last 20 years or so, practically all Master’s degrees are at least partially taught in English. In practice, the English skills of my professors were so-so at best, and attending their lectures was sometimes painful.

      We moved to the UK when I was 12, and at the time my English vocabulary was probably somewhere around 500 words, having taken English classes at school for two years before the move. After the first three months at an English school, I could follow lessons and take notes without assistance from a student tutor, although I still got extra lessons twice a week from a Swedish-speaking Finn who’d married an Englishman and moved to the UK. At the end of the school year, I got an A in English, and my vocabulary was relatively large even compared with my classmates, all of whom were English. I later estimated that I learned about 50 new words *every day* during our time there, partly because I read a lot of books very fast. I visited the school library so often that the librarian once asked if I’d actually read all the books I’d borrowed, IIRC we were allowed to borrow a maximum of three books for two weeks, I was there pretty much every week. (I switched to US English when I first went online in my early 20s.)

      I took French in middle and high school, and continued at college. I was fluent enough to follow lectures and pass exams in French when I went to France as an exchange student in my second year, and became even more fluent during the 6 months I was there.

      When I got back, I started taking Spanish classes (my alma mater had a heavy secondary focus on language studies and encouraged them). I took them for two years, largely helped by the fact that French and Spanish are both grammatically fairly similar but different enough that my fluency in French helped rather than hindered my attempts to learn Spanish, and in the summer and fall before starting to write my thesis, I went to Spain as an intern. Granted, I had a noticeable accent, but I never used any other language except Spanish at work, and I even got to work as a Spanish-English-Spanish
      (consecutive) interpreter at a trade fair because my English skills were better than those of my coworkers, and luckily the vocabulary was both very limited and specialized so I could prep.

      Now my French and Spanish skills have deteriorated to “tourist” levels through a lack of use, but I expect that I could reactivate them fairly easily if I spent some time in a country where I’d be exposed to them daily.

      That said, I’ve never attempted to learn a non-European language, or a language that uses a different alphabet. As children, our brains are wired to learn new languages, and the younger you start, the better the result generally is. I expect that I’d need far longer than two years to learn a completely new language well enough to use it to communicate at work now in my 50s than I did in my early 20s.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That said, I’ve never attempted to learn a non-European language, or a language that uses a different alphabet.

        I feel you on that one. I can sort of make sense of some Greek when it’s written in the Latin alphabet, but Greek written in Greek is all Greek to me. I find Cyrillic similarly opaque.

        LW1, if I were in your or your spouse’s shoes, I’d be concerned about an exit strategy/plan B should things go sideways. From what I read, it sounds like everyone is trying to move forward only assuming this is going to work.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I think about this a lot. Folks always mention it’s easier to learn languages the younger you are, or in immersion, or better yet both. And then here we are expecting adults to learn a totally new language in a year or two. How well does a two year old speak their native language? Or even a three year old, if you ignore the first year since most kids don’t talk at all before one. Now I know it’s not entirely apples to apples since the adult knows all the things they know and just need to learn the words, whereas toddlers are learning all.the.things as well as the language at the same time, but still I’m like…ok yeah if I have the fluency of even a kindergartner in a language, can I get around in a country where that’s the only language? Sure. Can I teach a class? Hell no.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Hot damn this is a smart idea! We’ve got engineers who occassionally go out to various european countries and think a week on Duolingo is enough preparation for conferences – it usually isn’t – and if I can find videos of the conferences etc. in the local languages this is a great fluency gauge.

  7. Zombeyonce*

    #3: I always wonder what kind of work environments people are in where someone who doesn’t work there can just come in and take up everyone’s time. It doesn’t sound like a retail kind of place where you can’t get away from customers (it would be hard to invent meetings in a place like that), so who is letting this person in?

    I need LW to suggest a volunteer opportunity to the retired guy to give them something better to do…and maybe meet a new partner like that annoying office visitor from another letter that fell in love with the LW’s aunt.

    1. Myrin*

      OP says it’s “a state office” so I assume some sort of government. That’s where I work, too – the local townhall -, and this could 100% happen here because, well, by defintion, it’s a building open for the public.

      (Also, that’s exactly the letter that came to my mind while reading, too.)

    2. Lexi Vipond*

      I was going to ask if the LW had any aunts they could introduce the co-worker to :-D

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I used to work in a provincial newsroom that was open to anyone on the street. They wanted the community to come in and “share stories and tips” so we were set up in a former retail premises with a glass front and a door leading straight into the office – a bit like an estate agent’s or travel agent’s. We were absolutely plagued with time-wasters.

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, I’ve worked for 4 newspapers in my first career and it was exactly like that. We weren’t trying to keep the general public out – we were hoping they’d come in with a juicy story.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      Oh, I can see anyone letting in a recent retiree into my office. It would be much more awkward not to!

    5. samwise*

      It’s really very easy in many workplaces.

      I work at a large university, offices for our department take up one floor of a building. Visitors are supposed to check in at the reception desk on our floor –for security purposes. If it’s busy, or if the visitor is someone who the receptionists have seen working here, or even if someone walks in confidently and looks like they belong, or if the desk is briefly unstaffed (bathroom breaks, etc), then people who are not current employees can walk right in. Mostly people wait, but every so often there’s someone (usually a mom or dad of a student) wandering around the offices. And people in a work uniform just walk right in without being stopped.

      Lots of offices are like that — plenty of places do not have a locking door between the lobby or reception and the offices.

  8. vsco*

    Some questions to ask when you visit. (You should visit):
    – Has the university hired other faculty who didn’t speak Spanish? How did that work? Is there a level of english proficiency among the student body that would allow your husband to get by in Spanglish when needed? Can they arrange for you to meet with faculty who didn’t speak with Spanish when they were hired and talk to them about the experience?
    -I don’t know about the university you’re moving to, but I’ve now been at universities in 2 countries, and it’s not uncommon for faculty not to teach much in their first year. This is the kind of thing that can commonly be negotiated as part of a start up package. The language shift would (I think) be a good basis to argue for a year without teaching at all so that he can have the first year to do intensive language study while continuing to do (a lot) of research. This could look like full time immersion for the first two summers and 1/2 day classes during the academic year, or something like that.
    – I also had the university my husband joined pay for a full year of intensive language instruction for me when I was a postdoc at the same university. So this is possible too. good luck!

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, it might be an idea for your husband to see if he can get informational interviews with other faculty who were hired without speaking Spanish, and with other faculty who were hired from the same language and country as you’re coming from.

      1. Mairead*

        It would be good, but it seems not possible
        “The university admitted that they are not sure what the first year would look like for my spouse because they have not hired someone who will need to learn Spanish”.

        I think I’d be rather concerned by the level of hand-waving that the university seems to be doing. It might all work out fine, or it might be a complete disaster.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      If they do decide to move, the OP should make sure that the university also pays for their Spanish lessons. My aunt and uncle moved to the Netherlands for his job (he worked for Unilever) and they paid for both of them to have Dutch lessons.

  9. phira*

    LW 1, I spent over a decade in academia and I cannot imagine how this opportunity would be a good idea. You’re right to be concerned–not just about how on earth your spouse is supposed to learn Spanish quickly enough to teach college level courses speaking it, but also how the rest of the move is supposed to work. And just that alone, I’m having so much trouble wrapping my head around.

    You really, really cannot teach a class speaking a language you’re not fluent in. I really mean that. How can you assess your students’ work? How can you convey concepts effectively? How can you pivot in the moment when students have questions or the topic shifts in a way you weren’t expecting?

    Finally getting a job as a professor would be stressful enough on its own. Your spouse does not need the added pressure of doing it in a language he doesn’t know well, and his potential students deserve an instructor who can communicate effectively with them. You’re right to trust your gut here.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      How will he be able to grade exams if they are anything other than multiple choice? And who will write the exams even if they are? What about assignments? Reading a language (and being able to write responses in it) is very different from being able to speak fluently and hear it. As an opposite example, my mom can read quite a bit of German (from singing in German when she was young, to doing geneology research today) and she can’t speak it/hear it at all. It’s a totally different skill set.

  10. Current academic*

    #1 As an academic, this seems pretty par for the course. I have seen it happens usually with universities in Quebec (so french speaking). They do pay for French lessons and you are only expected to teach after your second year. Negotiating a year with little to no teaching to get up to speed (and paid langage lessons), could definitely be doable. Asking for reduced teaching load at the beginning so you have more time to establish your lab is very common, even without the langage barrier.

    1. fueled by coffee*

      Yep. Also, if he’s being recruited for a tenure-track position, this is likely on the basis of research (with teaching as a secondary obligation). This would also explain why they are having trouble finding someone to fill the position – it’s likely not about what classes he could teach, but wanting someone who specializes in some niche research area.

      Now, this still might be a terrible idea – especially if the husband doesn’t have much facility with language learning or doesn’t *want* the added pressure of teaching in a new language, but it’s probably possible to negotiate for something like limited teaching in the first year to allow for some time to build fluency.

    2. Treena*

      I’m actually kind of enjoying all the gasp and horror reactions to this very normal situation. I think a lot of people, especially Americans, don’t realize academia is not really focused on teaching, since their primary experiences with academics are their university professors.

      Also, to answer Alison’s wondering why the university would be willing to hire someone who doesn’t speak the language of instruction, there are two main reasons. 1) Brain drain and 2) International collaborations are becoming more and more highly valued. I bet they’re hoping to leverage this prof’s network/English capacities to do more cross-country projects. After all, they met him in a collab.

      1. Ridiculous Penguin*

        Uh… it *highly* depends on what discipline you’re in. I was in academia for more than 15 years and I most definitely had a heavy teaching load (I taught writing). Languages, the arts, math, business, computer science can also be teaching-intensive.

      2. Bananagram*

        Agreed on all counts, and I’d bet this is where going on. That said, if the hiring department is doing this for the first time, he really needs to get up to speed on what to ask for at offer signing time. He should be talking to everyone he knows who’s done this in places where it’s more established. I think not just the reduced load that matters, but also money/staff for Spanish support material production, especially if he’s teaching at Bachelors level.

      3. Polly*

        As a former academic in a developing non-english speaking country, I totally agree to al of this. The bigger problem is that the hiring committee does not seem to understand that it is not possible to teach in the unfamiliar language after only one year. What other unrealistic expectations do they have?
        If they really want OP’s husband to join their university, they should either offer him to give lectures in English (good opportunity for students to prepare for international collaborations) or if it is not possible, to offer him a position that is solely research-focused without teaching responsibilities for at least several years while he learns the language.

        1. Polly*

          This being said, this job has a chance of working out if OP’s husband pushes back on “give lectures in Spainish(!) after one(!) year” part and hiring committee comes to their senses.

        2. Allonge*

          This – it’s not that this does not exist as a concept in general, but OP describes a situation where the university does not seem to have a plan for how it will work AND OP’s spouse is starting from zero.

          1. Awkwardness*

            That is the main point.
            A lot of comments mention Norway, Belgium or the Netherlands. But general fluency in English is greater there than in Spain so the expectation for a foreign hire to lecture in Spanish might be quite different.
            But maybe this is a prejudice. I would have loved to read more examples from academia in southern Europe than central or northern Europe.

      4. Anon for this*

        But the job *does* involve teaching. From the start, by the sounds of it – he doesn’t get a year to establish himself first.

        FWIW, I work in an international field, am not an American, do not live in the US, and my colleagues are not Americans, and expecting someone to go from totally ignorant in a language to teaching university classes in it in six months is completely unheard of. I’ve certainly had classes, mostly labs, from graduate students whose written English was good, but spoken English was shaky, but those were students a couple of years into an English language program in an English speaking country.

      5. Zee*

        I think a lot of people, especially Americans, don’t realize academia is not really focused on teaching

        That very much depends on the school. At liberal arts colleges (like where I went for undergrad), professors are teachers first and research is something they squeeze in around their primary duties. And that research is largely treated as another way to teach, as all the labs at my school had student researchers involved and all students were required to do a research project (or an internship, but very few people chose that option).

        At large research universities (like where I went for grad school), most – but not all! – professors are researchers first and begrudgingly teach only because they’re forced to.

    3. Jam*

      I had a colleague who took a job in Quebec under these kind of terms – had never studied french before and we were historians so a writing focused field. It was a leap of faith for him and his family but the university had the expectations and resources laid out.

      The main red flag I am seeing here is that the university apparently hasn’t done this before? That makes me concerned about what their expectations might be. I think you’d have to go into this with one eye to your plan B (always needed in academia anyway). My colleague took the job in Quebec because he felt that there was evidence that other people had successfully done it; but also because he figured it would get him two years experience which hopefully he could build on to go elsewhere.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I’m glad to see this comment because I know quite a few people who have done this (usually, although not always, into English. I know a couple of native English speakers who have moved and had to pick up other languages too though.)

      There’s two things here: firstly, I think English speakers often overestimate how fluent you need to be to be functional in a specific language in a specific context. I think we often feel like if you’re doing any kind of public speaking, you have to be at a level where you don’t make any mistakes. But actually, the standard for being understandable and being able to usefully convey information is way, way below that, and I would guess that Spanish speakers (like English speakers) are probably fairly good at understanding diverse accents and compensating for non-native-speaker errors.

      Secondly, language learning is extremely non-linear: how fast you learn is incredibly dependent on your access to resources and immersion, how many different skills, contexts and vocabularies you’re trying to master at the same time, your own ability to hear, reproduce and retain language, how hard you’re willing to work, and so on. I know plenty of people who have achieved a reasonably degree of fluency in specific technical contexts, or who are not just fluent but eloquent in writing about specific topics, but who can’t follow fast native-speaker conversation, for example, as well as the opposite.

      Is it possible to get to a point in a year where you could give a lecture on technical topic, and answer one or two student questions? Almost certainly. Would it be absolutely bastard hard? Hell yes. Would your lecture take you multiple hours to write, heavily depend on Google Translate, contain multiple errors and infelicities, and generally be a horrific beast of a thing? Yes! Is that good enough, and would he be happy to spend fifty-plus hours a week preparing barely-adequate teaching and not have any time for research? That’s really for your spouse to decide.

      Personally, I think you are asking the wrong question LW. It’s not really about your husband’s natural “brilliance” or whether this is “possible”. It’s really about how much he wants this, how much you want this, and how hard the both of you are willing to work. It will be super hard, super frustrating, and probably super lonely for at least a year or two. So the question I would be asking is, is this opportunity and its rewards good enough to work really bastard hard at immersion and active language learning? And to accept that it will be probably five years before he achieves the kind of fluency, facility and eloquence in Spanish that he has in English, if he *ever* achieves it? Is he sufficiently excited about living in another continent, and working in another language, and the academic career path that this role offers, to work through all that difficulty and frustration and isolation?

      And secondly, do you want it? I feel like you may be focussing on “is it possible” to shy away from the question of whether you want it. If your spouse’s employer provides high-level, immersive, technical language tuition for him, what do you get? What support will you get to be able to function socially, domestically and professionally in the new country, and do you want to upend your whole life and move a continent away for your spouse’s career? It is absolutely, 100%, totally legitimate to say no: it doesn’t have to be technically impossible for you to decide you are Not Up for that. Whether or not the rewards outweigh the difficulty involved is a question only you and your spouse can answer.

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I’ve heard of this happening in Quebec and for research primary positions (ie: We’re hiring you to run a lab). I’ve never heard of this happening for someone who had zero language experience. However, what strikes me as odd, is that this university has apparently never done this before. Additionally, the specific references to lecturing in Spanish suggest that this is not a primary lab running sort of position. So, yeah, I do think there are a lot of red flags here.

    6. E*

      Came here to say this! We just moved to Montreal and our friends is in this exact situation with French – he has a year without teaching duties and with intensive tutoring to get up to speed to teach in French (he speaks Spanish but came with pretty much zero French)

  11. Zombeyonce*

    #5: In addition to Alison’s suggestions, I recommend going to the new boss and reviewing the existing processes to try and get ahead of the delays. If you can walk them through different scenarios, you might be able to identify where they have questions and add them into the process now and not in the middle of an order.

    Being proactive about it now can save a lot of headaches and explanations in the future.

    1. InterPlanetJanet*

      Also when explaining to others the new timelines – say “we have had some changes in process, and *in order to stay compliant* we need to XXX”

      Compliance is something no-one will argue over.

  12. Daria Grace*

    #1. This seems wildly unrealistic and I’m worried that the university doesn’t realise the problems they’re creating for everyone involved. To be able to teach at a university and manage day to day life you’d almost be mastering two languages- formal academic Spanish and whatever the colloquial version of spanish used in casual conversations is. Trying to learn both promptly on top of the exhaustion of somehow managing to do a word heavy job in a language you don’t speak is going to be a huge challenge. Someone I know moved overseas to teach university courses in English in an otherwise non-English speaking country. The learning the local language for all the things outside the classroom proved a LOT. I quite like Duolingo but its not gonna get you there.

    Unless your spouse has an incredible track record at picking up languages promptly and accurately, it feels a bit ethically dubious to take on a job that requires something they may not be able to do well enough, potentially leaving students with sub-optimal learning outcomes.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes, living abroad is hard. I studied in Germany and it was really difficult. Not only did I have to manage taking courses in German (which was not easy) but I also had to live and work in a German environment. I’ve spoken German as long as I can remember (having had German family friends as a child and private tuition from a very young age) but living in a language 24/7 is really difficult and tiring. And that’s in a language I actually spoke well.

      I also worked in Belgium at various times which was a lot easier because the main working languages in my company were French and English so I wasn’t trying to do everything in a foreign language I didn’t know. I picked up some rudimentary Flemish living in a Flemish area of the country but would not have been comfortable working in Flemish from a base of no knowledge.

  13. HollyTree*

    For a start, I wouldn’t use Duolingo. They just sacked all/most of their translation staff and its now fully AI. It wasn’t all that good to begin with – I was in the top 11% of learners of Japanese for a year, and I still couldn’t order at a restaurant.

    In fact, I just went out to lunch today and had to rely on my Japanese coworkers cause I still couldn’t read the menu fully even though I’ve now had nearly twenty in person lessons as well as lots of textbook self-study.

    I teach in English, and I have English coworkers, and I’m learning, and I STILL struggle months in to the job. I can’t read paperwork, I can’t read some signs, I can’t understand meetings and assemblies.

    I really don’t see how its possible to learn to teach in a language at university level within a year. (That’s a LOT of specialised, technical language – simply to know it in a year would be incredibly difficult, but to then be confident enough in it to make it easy for your students to understand the topic? That’s more difficult and takes more time. You’ve also got to have the more basic language to be able to do things like book leave, sort out sick time, understand your contract, chat to your coworkers. I don’t know much about Spanish, but does it have formal and informal forms? That’s another thing to learn. At least the alphabet is similar. ) Even if it is, it is not so much ‘will the job pay for Spanish lessons?’, it’s are you prepared for your husband’s life to be literally just working and language lessons?

    It will be exhausting, not to mention all of the tiring stuff that goes along with moving to a new country and culture. Paperwork! Learning manners! Road rules, even as a pedestrian! Where to get food, and learning what you can cook based on the ingredients in the supermarket, which will likely include lots of things you’ve never seen before. Hell, learning what’s seasonal in the shops is an adventure that’s tripped me up several times. Re-learning how to budget is another thing, because the relative costs of things are often different from country to country.

    1. JTP*

      Your first two sentences are not accurate. They laid off 10% of their contract workers. No full-time employees were involved in the layoffs. Google CNN’s story “Duolingo lays off staff as language learning app shifts toward AI”

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I think they should be dropped like a hot rock for even considering using predictive models* for teaching other languages, regardless of the exact number of staff they cut.

        I also understand that many of the less common languages are entirely supported by contract workers, so laying off contractors is still going to make the product worse.

        *this is what they are. Not AI at all; they’re purely indicating what an answer to the thing you are asking about *might* predictably look like.

        1. JTP*

          Considering there’s more than one way to say most things in most languages, I don’t really see the issue with that. And using Duolingo has brought me from an A2 level to C1 in three years — more than I learned in high school and college combined, so I think they’re doing something right.

          1. yeah*

            I’m really interested to hear that! Did you take an official language test like the DALF to verify that level? It does not accord with my experience with Duolingo at all — the material in each course I’ve seen ends well before the C1 level. They don’t even claim to cover C1 level material.

  14. Susan*

    For #1, language issues aside, I once had an interview for an internal transfer to a foreign country. It wasn’t until most of the way through the process that I found out that as a resident alien, health care would come out of my pocket, and I couldn’t accrue social security credits in the US, or the foreign country.

    At least it was a country with a tax treaty with the US, so I didn’t have to worry about paying double income tax.

    Even if you can figure out all of the language stuff, there’s a huge learning curve to being an ex-pat.

  15. Msd*

    I think LW1 should visit with their partner and get more details about the job. Some of the commenters who were more positive about the opportunity had some good suggestions. They should also think about a backup plan if they accept and then it doesn’t work out. They should go for it.

  16. If only everyone had a PhD*

    lw1- I’m clearly in the minority here, but this is a fabulous opportunity and learning Spanish shouldn’t be a roadblock for success. With all of the extensive and easily accessible language training programs, and also being immersed in the language after moving, language acquisition can happen quickly. I had a job that came up last minute and required me to be able to communicate in Flemish, which is not a language on any of the apps. In less than six months I had clients asking what area of the country I was from because they thought I was native. Prior to I only spoke English.
    Can he lecture in under a year at the level everyone expects? most likely. since he’ll be immersed in that level of language immediately. Don’t turn down an amazing opportunity for want of another language. Do, however, build in repatriation costs into your contract.

    1. Shane*

      Lucky person who is good with languages. I have more than enough education to be trilingual…but I suck at learning languages. It’s so dependent on the person. If you’re good with languages this could be simple and if you struggle it could never happen.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes, I have students who have been in Ireland for a number of years and are still reading at maybe a 9 year old level at 14 or 15. It really is very much person dependant.

      2. Shan*

        Yes! I know a couple who are raising their children bilingual (Dad exclusively speaks English in the home, Mom exclusively speaks French), and even though both kids have lived like this since birth (12+ years), one is much, much better at it. I mean, both kids are fluent in both languages, but their actual mastery is very different.

    2. allathian*

      Good for you! I’m pretty good with languages thanks to an extensive history with them that I outlined in another post, but even I’d be hard-pressed to learn a language that quickly.

    3. Bast*

      “Command of the language” and being able to lecture at a college level is very different from informal conversations with friends and family, even moreso if you are in a field that already requires a very specialized “language of its own” such as law or medicine. To be able to break down those concepts in your first language can be tricky, let alone in a second language. I am not saying it isn’t possible, but a year is a short time frame. Also, maybe I misunderstood, but it seemed like he will have a year before he leaves and then just be expected to jump right in? Wasn’t quite clear on that. If he moves beforehand and has a chance to immerse himself for a full year before starting, I think he will be better off, but if he’s staying wherever he currently calls home and just learning on the side, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’m not trying to minimize it, but that specialized language may actually be the easier part. At least across languages where those things are based on latin. For example, “vein” in a bunch of European languages: veine, Vene, vena, vena, veia… a lot of medicine and science is like that (I’m not mentioning law, because law does not transfer well between countries and languages). I’ve certainly found that in physics, speaking about physical concepts and coursework with terms of art is the *easy* part of foreign languages. Everyday conversations are the hard part.

        1. Kotow*

          Depending on the language and the subject involved, I agree the specialized language probably isn’t that difficult. From experience with learning legal language for Polish, it’s hard because the concepts themselves are different between countries. But when it’s a focused area, you know what vocabulary you need and the concepts you need to explain. I could discuss these concepts in Polish for family law and estate planning, but I wouldn’t be able to do it for personal injury.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Yeah, law is different, because an exact translation may not even exist if the whole concept simply doesn’t exist.

            Natural sciences tend to translate more easily, and even easier if it’s a formula or a diagram.

    4. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      Yeah, I also think this sounds incredible. I totally see how it could very easily go wrong and yet, nothing ventured nothing gained.

      I think the most difficult thing is what a vulnerable place it puts the LW in. They’re both taking on the risk but only the spouse will see the personal benefit (career advancement/professional development). I’m so far from an expert on immigration but it will likely take some time for the LW to also be able to work in the country they’re moving to and that’s a very lonely experience, having no job and no connections in a place where you can’t speak the dominant language. (Even if the LW has a remote job they’re able to keep, working outside the home is a major way people connect to new places.)

      It makes a lot of sense for LW to be wary! I mean, it makes sense for both of them to be wary. But also there are a lot of potential benefits and that deserves consideration too.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        This is a common problem for trailing expat spouses, who often end up fairly siloed within the expat community. Which may or may not be a thing where this university is, and may or may not be acceptable for LW.

        Do check if the university will help you find work and get a work permit. They sometimes do this for spouses of people they really want.

    5. Kay*

      While some people can pick up languages quickly that is not the norm and I think it is an extreme overstatement to say that he could “most likely” lecture at an expected level in under a year. I’m all for taking new opportunities when they come up, but I am also very much a realist. The majority of people would need at minimum a few years of intensive study to be able to lecture at a university level. To say otherwise would do the OP and their spouse an injustice by setting up unrealistic expectations.

      The fact that OP mentioned Duolingo shows neither of them have a realistic grasp on what acquiring the language would entail, nor knowledge of the kinds of tools needed to do so. Considering the university doesn’t seem to have a plan either tells me the OP would be in for a rough ride. None of this even gets into the international move which is just as challenging.

  17. bon*

    I think LW1’s husband really needs to discuss this situation among his peer group. These practices are very field-dependent and this situation is not uncommon for a research-focused position, even with some teaching, in my area of academia (hard science).

    Whether LW1 themself wants to make that lifestyle change/risk is another issue, and if they go for it they should absolutely push the university for support in helping the LW gain language skills, a job, and other support.

    1. WS*

      +1, I’ve seen people do this before, in hard science in particular – I have a relative-in-law currently doing an intensive English course before taking up a primarily research-based position at a US university next September. He’s able to read research papers in his field in English but his verbal/aural skills are pretty non-existent, so he talked to other Chinese researchers who had recently been in the same position before deciding to go ahead. I think the OP’s husband should do the same – talk to others before making a decision.

  18. EchoGirl*

    Lw1: Personally, I’d be a bit more concerned with why the employer is willing to do something as outside the norm as hire a non-Spanish speaker to teach in Spanish. Maybe it’s nothing, but there’s a certain air of desperation to it, and in my experience that often signals something that’s worth probing into further. Are they having trouble hiring people for the role, and if so why? It’s not an automatic red flag but it’s at least a yellow one in my book, based on my own past experiences.

    1. Anna3*

      The University is doing this because they want to get a top class researcher. They’re not trying to hire a lecturer who will teach elementary level courses, that would be a local hire. Here they’re hiring an expert who will teach graduate level courses.

      1. EchoGirl*

        I’d be less concerned if not for the comments about them never doing this before — if they’re deviating from their own standard, I’d want to know why.

        As I said, it could be nothing, but I think it’s worth at least probing to make sure nothing’s lurking under the surface.

  19. Awkwardness*

    #1: I have rather good English knowledge and I have been successfully working with native speakers for some years now. I consume a lot of English speaking media. I know idioms and some cultural references. And still, quite often I am not able to express my opinion in the comments as nuanced as I would like to and see native speakers doing this.
    I learn from this and I am happy to improve this way. But – how would your spouse react to this? To know he could express himself differently and not be able to or to see others outperforming him language-wise? Would he be motivated or frustrated?

  20. Jessica*

    LW1, for what it’s worth I work in an academic department in a public research university in the U.S., and a majority of our faculty are of foreign origin. We would not dream of hiring someone who did not have at least everyday conversational fluency in English. It’s in our job ads! We require English fluency even for people who are going to be teaching classes exclusively in their native language.

    Why? Because the faculty we hire don’t just have to teach their classes. They have to interact with colleagues and staff, and build relationships at our institution. They have to serve on committees, for which they have to be able to read volumes of stuff in English and discuss it with others. They have to attend faculty meetings. They have to go to lectures, presentations, and colloquia where other people present in English. They have to hold office hours and talk with their students (and if the students feel like the teachers don’t speak English adequately and can’t be understood, there will be very negative student evaluations for these untenured faculty). They have to be able to find things on the university website, and read emails from staff about administrative stuff they need to do, and read policies and instructions. When their university-issued computer breaks down or some technical thing is not working, they have to be able to talk in English to the IT support people. There’s a whole working life here that’s much more than just giving their lectures in class.

    And then of course there’s the entirety of personal life too. And, speaking from my experience learning another language and living in a country where it was spoken, in your second language everything is just a little harder. I’m a fast reader in English and a slow reader in my other language. Even with a functional level of fluency, it’s harder to read a menu or a newspaper. It’s harder to hold a conversation and find the right word for what you want to say. It’s harder to read a business communication and understand what it’s about and which parts are the other culture’s standard boilerplate courtesies and what the nuances are that you should be reading between the lines. Everything you do, every act of communication large and small, is slower or harder or takes a little more mental energy. One of my coworkers who speaks excellent English and has lived in North America for many decades once told me that after about 10 pm any night, she just could not talk, think, or read in English any more.

    1. Cunning linguist*

      The situation is clearly different if you’re trying to build up a world class department at a university in, say, Slovakia. You don’t have the luxury of demanding your international hires show up with fluency in Slovak.

      1. GermanGirl*

        This. It’s super common in the sciences to hire professors who will teach in English for the first few years.

  21. Garlic Knot*

    #1 I know an outstanding English teacher who took a position to teach German at the same university. She knew no German prior to that, and basically made sure to learn enough for two classes in advance to get by. I’m not sure if she managed to keep that up for more than a semester.

    Let me just say that unless you are in danger of going hungry and possibly homeless, this kind of think is not what any sane person wants to do (my country was tumbling from one economic crisis to the next, so I understand her motifs very well).

  22. 40ish*

    As an academic, what LW1 is describing is not unusual. For example, people will accept jobs in the Netherlands or Norway and have to learn the language within a few years. Sometimes the expectation that you will be able to teach in the native language isn‘t that firm or it is OK if it takes longer. That is something LW1‘s husband should clarify. I would also try to find out if other faculty speaks English so that they can communicate well.
    By the way, it is not that strange for somebody who does not speak the language to be hired as a professor since search committee is mainly interested in people‘s research record.

    1. Jellyfish Catcher*

      I haven’t noted any advice for the LW, the spouse. If her husband has to get up to speed in Spanish and
      do research or whatever, she is going to be mainly alone in a new country. It’s not just the opportunity
      for him – it’s her new country as well, with him likely really busy learning Spanish and her being away from everyone and everything familiar, running a new household with no Spanish.
      I know the question was about the offer, etc, but this is also a big part of the decision.
      LW, think about all parts of this offer, and how it will affect your and spouse’s lives.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes, for the LW, find out exactly what the university is prepared to offer you as the trailing spouse. Language classes? Visa support? Job placement support? A job?

        I know that sometimes a researcher is so very in demand that a university will create a position for their spouse as part of hiring the researcher. Is that something that would be possible for the LW? (As in, could their profession be applied to the university in some way?)

        Also, is this intended to be a tenured position, as in you would move here and live in this country for the rest of your lives? Or is it a limited-term position of 3-5 years? How would either of those work for you individually and for your family as a whole?

        It’s a huge opportunity, but also a big risk, and not to be undertaken lightly. That said, hey, free vacation! Go check it out!

  23. Anna3*

    OP#1: It is not that strange for a university to hire internationally. Here’s what a university in Norway requires from new employees who do not speak any Scandinavian language: “required, within three years, to demonstrate skills in Norwegian orequivalent to level three of the course for Norwegian for speakers”. The university will provide new employees language courses, and in the first 3 years new employees will only teach graduate-level courses in English. A tenure track position is about more than just teaching, and departments are hiring for research – If your spouse was invited for two interviews, that’s a very good sign.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      The real red flag isn’t that they’re hiring internationally/willing to hire someone who doesn’t speak the language. It’s that they’re expecting him to teach in that language in possibly the first year, almost certainly the second year, and they haven’t done this before, and don’t seem to have a plan for how they’re going to support that. It’s the “eh, we don’t know what things will look like” parts that are the red flag.

      Universities in countries like Norway or the the Netherlands where they *know* most international people are going to come to them with limited language skills already have a plan and know what they’re asking. This place doesn’t, and that’s what makes it risky.

      It would be one thing if the spouse had other language learning experience–but LW doesn’t mention this, and that’s what makes it extra-concerning. I’m good with foreign languages. Really good. If this were me thinking about taking this position in a language I don’t already speak but with at least a romanized alphabet, I’m confident I could do it. But only because I already know A) how to learn a language, B) that I enjoy learning languages, and C) how to teach in a language that I’m not a native speaker of. And even with that, I would still be hesitant if the university didn’t proactively have plans to support my language learning or an idea of what level they’d want me teaching at in the first year.

      1. Kotow*

        The prior experience is what’s critical for me. I do believe that someone could get to a C1/ILR 3 in Spanish in a year, and that someone consistently performing at that level would be able to teach a university course. But if that’s the end goal, then part of your learning also has to include learning how to teach. Language learning is so much trial and error if you’ve never done it intensively before, you don’t know the best way to learn. The time required to get to that level in a year is intense and you have to enjoy language learning in general to put in that kind of dedication.

      2. Anna3*

        This is why I added the link to the Norwegian job, it is detailing what the university expects. OP1 can you use that content as inspiration on what to negotiate with the university. I believe 3 years is a good timeline, and in real life the university will likely expect teaching high level courses in English. The main reason why a university would hire internationally a Professor with no local language knowledge is to advance their research results and research funding. I would say a reasonable timeline would be no teaching the first year, just research and grant proposals writing. Then along with research in the second year perhap one course in the second year in English, with moderate service appointments on a committee that is bilingual. In year three, add another course in English to the plate.

        1. Anna3*

          I anticipate there will be people who will jump to comment “oh who would they let a professor only teach 2 courses a year” so let me point out what I see here:

          we’re not talking about a your average lecturer or instructor who taught History 101. This is a high level hiring And tell professors never teach a lot of courses anyhow. I assume that within 3 years they will be Ok to teach in Spanish, if that university provides a very structured language learning plan for OP1’s spouse and their family members

    2. anxiousGrad*

      I actually did research at that university last year and didn’t know a word of Norwegian when I applied. It’s very different from this situation because almost everyone in Norway speaks English fluently, to the point that if your Norwegian just isn’t very good they’ll often prefer to have an entire conversation with you in English than listen to you speak slowly in Norwegian. Also, almost all of the classes at NTNU are taught in English. I think also a lot of Norwegians don’t expect that people come to Norway with very much knowledge of Norwegian because it’s so hard to find resources to learn it outside of Norway. Whereas with Spanish, there are options to learn to a high level of fluency all over the world.

      1. Anna3*

        Yes at NTNU mamy courses are taught in English, in paticular graduate-level courses. OP1’s spouse can negotiate these things and have them written in their contract for the first 3 years.

  24. tuesday*

    LW1 : I’d check out Universite Laval in Quebec city. The language of instruction is French, but they will hire English speakers into TT positions with some grace period to learn French. Otherwise, the thing to consider is is your spouse in engineering/science where there will be a lot of technical words that are cognates, and lectures are mostly going through math equations? Or does he teach polisci or history, where a nuanced language is key?

  25. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (retired coworker comes in to gossip) What would you do if it was a member of the public doing this? Now do that.

  26. This sounds familiar*

    LW1: I also want to chime in and say this is completely normal in academia outside of the English-speaking world. When I started my job my contract stated I had 2 years to become fluent enough to teach in the local language (until then I would be allowed to teach in English). That’s the standard agreement in the country I’m working in; anyone being hired in as assistant professor or higher would have the same thing in their contract. As a member of the university I was then eligible to register for free for language classes at the university (in my case unnecessary because I already spoke the local language, but still, the offer was there).

    That said, your husband doesn’t have to take the job if he doesn’t want to or is worried about his personal ability to learn Spanish! But he shouldn’t turn it down because he thinks the language situation is unusual. It’s a very Anglocentric privilege to be able to demand that the right candidate for a professorship already speaks the local language on day 1.

  27. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (lecturing in Spanish) – the letter was very focused on the spouse and the university, but not much mention of what OP would do, which seems equally important. Is Spanish needed to “get by” in the new country, or is it a dual language situation where OP could use English (or another language they know) in most situations and the university course is a special case? Would OP need to work in the new country, if so are all the jobs “in Spanish” as well?

    I think there’s a significant risk factor here for OP as well as the spouse, that hasn’t quite been articulated.

    1. Allonge*

      This, thank you!

      Being the trailing spouse has problems even when it does not include moving to a whole other country where neither of them speak the language. I understand this was not the question, but especially as this is meant to be a long term job, it should be a huge consideration.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, thanks for pointing this out; of course OP and spouse have to figure out the spouse’s work situation but they really shouldn’t be underestimating the impact on OP. HollyTree above goes into greater depth about this and really manages to show even the small things which can trip you up hugely in a situation like that.

      1. Observer*

        but they really shouldn’t be underestimating the impact on OP. HollyTree above goes into greater depth about this and really manages to show even the small things which can trip you up hugely in a situation like that.

        That’s what is really so odd to me about the whole letter. The LW says that spouse wants them to come to see the place and they are not sure they need to. They even ask “,i>Is this an appropriate expectation and fair request?”

        Like seriously? I would be a lot more worried if he were NOT pushing this.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I read that sentence three times because I could not quite grasp what wasn’t appropriate and thinking I had something backwards, like LW was asked not to visit. It’s not only appropriate it should be required and something the LW wants to do. No way I’m moving across town without visiting, much less to another country

    3. bamcheeks*

      That was my first thought too– that the spouse is so enthusiastic about the opportunity that LW doesn’t want to be the naysayer and has to couch their concerns as “is this technically possible / is this an objectively Bad Idea” in order to be able to talk about it. LW also needs to be thinking about whether this is an opportunity for them, and what support they would need themselves to function socially, domestically and professionally in the new country. Living as a migrant is hard, and lots and lots of people make it work but it doesn’t mean it’s something you should just do without a really clear look at the pros and cons *for you*!

  28. Filicophyta*

    The US military language school give its students (active service personal) 36 weeks to learn Spanish. They do about 5 hours a day in the class room and 3 hours a night of homework, it’s treated as a full-time job. Foreign service is similar.
    I don’t have a reference at the moment, but can get it.
    Youtuber Olly Richards has several videos on this topic but I hesitate to slow things down by posting links.
    The level you need to teach university classes is high, most people couldn’t there by casual study. It sounds like there are many appealing things about this offer, but this is an odd one.

    1. Kotow*

      I actually do think that someone who reaches a level 3 (General Professional Proficiency) would have the ability to teach in that language, provided they’ve specifically focused time on learning how to teach through a foreign language. But the FSI and DLI students all have a huge advantage because they dedicate their entire days to language learning. The average adult can’t duplicate this. Someone at a level 3 is also not going to sound like a native speaker and there will still be misunderstandings and miscommunications. This is particularly true if they’ve crammed in the language and it just hasn’t been enough time to really get it to sink in. It’s not that it’s impossible, but for the average learner it’s not realistic especially if they’ve never learned a foreign language as an adult.

  29. Mmm.*

    LW1: All else aside (though I think it’s a bad, bad idea)…

    I love Duolingo as a game. However, I finished all of Spanish a couple of years ago. I do not speak Spanish. I speak it less than I did a decade ago, in fact. I would view it as a “lazy” way to practice something you’re learning in a more realistic manner rather than a way of learning in and of itself.

    1. JustaTech*

      My mom lived in Spain back in the 70’s and took Spanish lessons through the Navy (her first husband was stationed there). That’s in addition to the Spanish she took in school and picked up living on a ranch in Arizona.
      Then she moved back to the states and didn’t use Spanish for decades. So when she was going on a trip to Guatemala she decided to practice with Duolingo and said that it was pretty much useless because you don’t practice actually *using* the language – specifically the grammar stuff. You just learn a lot of nouns.

      (Yes, Spanish in Spain is quite different from Spanish in Latin America, but you should still be able to get by.)

    2. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

      agreed. I can read Spanish quite well (enough to get the gist of things), so I am doing amazing at Duolingo. However, it was doing nothing to help me speak it, or understand being spoken to.

  30. Kelly*

    Lw #4 – I think I’m less upset than either you or Alison here, but I’m a high school teacher in the public system in Australia. Our pay grades are set and change according to the work you do; the length of time you’ve been a teacher for; and all of the pays scales are public knowledge. Everyone at my level is paid the same as me; and I know exactly what those higher in the org structure are paid. I wouldn’t make this comment in a big meeting but with just one other? Sure.

    I have pushed back on a colleague who is a landlord – they were telling us they were a good landlord (I think I believe them but the bar is so low!) and I went wow we are in different situations, I was homeless in 2015! We have had very different experiences! But talking honestly and openly about wages, including the relief more money has made? That doesn’t bother me.

  31. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, as somebody who has, for a short period, taught through a second language, what they are hoping for from your husband sounds like a lot to me. I studied Irish for 14 years and got good grades, higher than the majority of people with the same level of study and I recently read a David Walliams book in Irish without checking translations and their were still times when the teaching went past my level of Irish and I had to resort to English. Because teaching through a language is not just the same as using that language conversationally. I was teaching history and my 2nd years were doing the American War of Independence and “Continental Congress” and “the Intolerable Acts” are not terms I’d previously encountered in Irish.

    Now your husband’s situation is a bit different as this was a subbing job where it was a case of “a teacher is out sick. Can you come in tomorrow? You can use English if you need to” whereas your husband would no doubt be studying the language with emphasis on the terms he would need for teaching. And you have said he is brilliant, so his abilities are likely beyond mine. But t still seems a difficult order.

    I also don’t think you should underestimate the difficulty of dealing with anything else while teaching through a second language. It is difficult to focus both on the information and on the language itself and any disruptions can really throw you.

    And then there are corrections. Every year when applying to be an examiner, I get asked “are you competent and willing to correct through Irish?” and every year, I answer “no” because the length of time it would take me to read a history essay in my second language and double check every nuance would be prohibitive. And I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t miss anything.

  32. Green great dragon*

    Skipping a meeting is unfair if it means others are taking on the burden of updating each other, work planning, whatever, and Jane the meeting-skipper gets a handy summary from her boss. I’m sure there’s days that they’d prefer to miss the meeting and get on with their own work, but if everyone did it the meeting wouldn’t happen. So either it’s a pointless meeting (possible but if so argue for cancelling) or it needs a certain number of people and Jane’s ducking out of her fair share, or it’s less efficient because Jane’s away and everyone has to get her updates/update her separately.

  33. Misty Quigley*

    LW with the boss who doesn’t have to worry about money.

    “That’s an interesting thing to say out loud.”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It sounds to me like LW4 could vary something I tell my teen: “I’m not the target market for that.”

      (In my case, it’s jump-scare horror.)

      I’ve seen things like this happen before and it really boggles.My mind that companies don’t give new managers basic levels of training.

  34. Czhorat*

    For LW2, I think I get where you’re coming from in that complaints about “fairness” can seem childish, but creating the impression of fairness IS part of working as a team.

    It’s going to look especially bad if you no-show without giving a heads-up because if anyone asks where you are there’s no answer. This makes it feel as if you have your own set of personal rules and don’t really care to share the same responsibilities as the rest of the team.

    So far as a director-level person being frequently absent, that’s not uncommon in fields I’ve worked in as you’d expect higher-level people to have broader responsibilities, possibly including more interaction with clients or similar.

    At the end of the day, there are three things here that matter: your relationship with your coworkers, your relationship with your boss, and your boss’s relationship with your coworkers. If people are perceiving that he has different rules for you AND that you are skipping a mildly unpleasant task that hurts all of those.

    I think this is one on which you need to adjust your thinking a bit.

    1. ClaireW*

      Yeah absolutely, I don’t think the issue is “Jane sometimes skips meetings” – many people miss the odd meeting for various reasons. I suspect the issue is much more that Jane just no-shows frequently without telling anyone, showing a lack of respect for their time and efforts, and there’s been no consequence for that. Especially as a senior member of the team, it’s possible people need Jane’s input and have to go chase her down separately because she isn’t showing up to the meetings where these things are discussed.

      1. GrooveBat*

        Yeah, I just don’t get why LW doesn’t just decline the meeting. It’s obnoxious to blow everyone off without telling anyone.

        1. K*

          OP should not do that. They should go to the meeting and actually contribute like everyone else is already doing.

          1. HonorBox*

            Agreed. I posted below that there’s a chance that the OP is missing out on something important in these meetings, and people are having to loop them in later, which shows more of a lack of respect for time than just no showing meetings. If there’s a reason to miss a team meeting – which happens – it should be more than just “I didn’t want to go.”

            1. Umami*

              Yes to this. I start all our team meetings with updates from my leadership, and they are things that often impact all employees, or at least all supervisors (changes in HR policy, updates on budget planning, safety/security information, etc.) That all happens before we even dive into the department updates, and most of those have shared responsibilities cross teams. If one director isn’t there (and somehow is being allowed to not be there), then it’s a real disadvantage to the rest of the team and also to the director. I’m surprised the boss hasn’t been more emphatic about the reason and need to attend.

          2. Allonge*

            Well, yes, but if they need to miss any instance of the meeting, they do need to decline. No meeting is made more fun by the initial five minutes wasted waiting for someone who never comes.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            If they have a legitimate reason for declining a meeting, decline away. There are times when it’s the right choice, though it sounds like in this case they were missing meetings they should be in without actual reason.

            Just no showing is always wrong.

          4. GrooveBat*

            Yeah, to be clear, though, I was assuming OP had a legitimate reason for not being able to attend the meetings. If there’s a conflict or competing priorities, you decline. If you’re otherwise free, you show up.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I feel like if LW declined the meeting, the boss would come around to ask why*, so just not showing up is the work-around to that. It’s asking forgiveness rather than permission as a policy your boss has noticed in you.

          *This applies to both situations where the meetings are a waste of everyone’s time, and situations where OP’s input actually is needed. In the former, the takeaway is that you’re in a culture with pointless meetings and maybe you want to leave–you only get to shift the culture if you’re both pretty senior and have the support of some more senior people.

        3. Umami*

          I think the bigger issue is, team meetings aren’t something to just regularly decline because you have other things to do. This sounds like a standing team meeting that everyone is expected to attend (and sometimes the boss’s boss might also drop in.) It’s really a bad look for a director to not want to participate, especially just … because they don’t want to. Being in the loop on team projects, concerns, updates, etc. is important. Attendance should be the rule, not the exception, so declining should only happen with the boss’ approval.

          1. Galadriel's Garden*

            Yes, omg! I’m a manager and there are *plenty* of meetings I don’t want to go to, but I have to – that’s part of the deal. I’m just kind of floored at this cavalier attitude towards other people’s time?

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, my coworkers occasionally miss meetings and I may not know why, but . . .

        1) It’s occasionally, not regularly.
        2) I assume our department head knows why, even if I don’t. I don’t need to know why.
        3) I know from experience that it’s always for a good reason (international client who can’t reschedule, etc.).

        They don’t just skip meetings without telling anyone why, and they don’t do it on a regular basis. And thus I don’t care when they do it.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          In my working days it was common at meetings for someone to say, “Phoebe won’t be here, she’s off-site today.” Not telling anyone is just incredibly inconsiderate.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            yeah, they do tell us that they won’t be there, even if they don’t elaborate. Also, my supervisor is not a pushover and if she doesn’t object we can assume it’s all above-board.

            But, as I said, it’s rare for people to miss meetings at all.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Got to say, I do love your comments Czhorat. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders!

  35. Awesome Possum*

    #1: I lived abroad as a high school exchange student. As a minor, that meant living w/a host family. MUCH better than waiting for college, IMO, bcoz that meant 24/7 language AND culture immersion for me.

    It took 4 months of total, 24/7 immersion (zero English allowed after month 2) for me to become fluent. Even after attending an entire school year, I was never able to write grammatically correct homework reports. And this was at high school level, for common & broad subjects (music theory, geography, history, biology, general religion, etc).

    So please use my positive experience as a marker and a warning, in case the university gives you success stories. My time was absolutely a success, *as a learning experience,* but I never received good essay grades, and I didn’t always understand or know how to apply my feedback. Which was totally fine, bcoz my future was 0% depending on this. I made up all my bad grades at home the next year, no repercussions.

    Also, as a student: when I failed a grade, or misunderstood a class discussion, or couldn’t parse a relevant colloquialism, the class just shrugged & moved on. I had no burden to comprehend everyone & every dialect/accent in my classes.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      The last is relevant too. I speak Irish reasonably well and understand most things, so long as it is spoken clearly and there are no distractions. I’ve watched TV shows in Irish and often struggle if a speaker is from Northern Ireland or Donegal, partly because they use a different dialect of Irish and partly because of the accents.

      I don’t know what country the LW’s husband has been offered a job in and how many different dialects and accents they are likely to encounter or how different they are likely to be, but it’s something worth taking into account too.

      I know I am sounding very negative in this thread. I’m not trying to say it’s impossible or anything, just to point out the things that need to be taken into account when considering whether or not it’s a good idea.

      As others have said, a lot will depend on the LW’s husband’s ability with languages and it does sound like it’s an area he’s skilled in.

      1. UKDancer*

        Accents can be a key factor. I have to go to Zurich pretty often for work and the German there is interesting. I struggle to understand Swiss German at all because it’s so different. Heck I struggle to understand strong regional accents in German and I grew up with family friends who were speaking Cologne dialect. So I have apparently some very odd phrases at times.

        Understanding the official version of the language as taught in school is one thing, understanding regional versions can be really challenging.

    2. JustaTech*

      Heck, I have trouble with accents in English, which is my first language!
      Like, when the most recent group of hosts started on Top Gear I could tell that two of them were from “The North” but neither my husband or I could understand them properly, to the point that we had to turn on closed captions for like 3 episodes to get used to their accent.

      I remember the day in 10th grade Spanish class when the teacher decided we needed to learn about accents so she used a Chilean accent, where *most* of the ending letters are dropped. You know, the ones that tell you things like verb tense and singular vs plural. I think we all cried in sheer frustration for not being able to understand the most basic sentence.

  36. Yellow sports car*

    LW1 I am an academic and I’m far less concerned by this than a lot of commenters. Yes you need better answers about how teaching is really going to go – is it that they just need him to say he’ll work towards teaching in Spanish but the expectation is different? Or are they genuinely expecting that within a short period of time he’ll be lecturing in Spanish? Remember many of them will have done PhDs and all their academic writing in not their own language – so they know what it’s like, but also they are likely all people who have been good at learning English (there is who aren’t rarely continue because English is required).

    As for people suggesting that the uni may be undesirable or unable to fill the role locally – nope! If the husband is a star and ticks important boxes for them they can find a way to make things work. I mean he should definitely do his due diligence as to why he’s wanted, but if he’s good at bringing in funding (directly or indirectly through getting the research metrics that underpin funding) then this is no surprise. We take people with poor English and work around that if the money is worth it – and hope that the language improves. Speaking English as a highly educated native speaker is also a plus – not to mention international connections. In some places, simply having international staff from countries viewed as more successful can improve funding.

    Other things to check out – is the job permanent or tenure track? What does probation look like / tenure requirements? How does that match to language and teaching requirements that you know aren’t going to work brilliantly? If probation required teaching in Spanish then I’d be concerned it’s not achievable. If probation focuses on other metrics, that’s different!

    As for comments about it being odd to recruit internationals for permanent roles, I’ve never known internationals to leave more than domestic hires. I don’t have data, just my experiences. There’s always a risk that someone won’t like the town, although with language issues that’s higher. Spouses are the biggest risk to a successful hire ime – you can’t really influence their experience locally but if the move doesn’t work then it’s failed.

    Would you (both preferably) be able to do a 3 month immersive language training before the work starts in country? Or are we talking a basic intro course?
    I would expect to spend some of your own money towards language training, and also some of your own time. Even if say 20% is formally allocated to learning the language the first year, your husband will be playing catch up inserting himself into a new funding environment, building local collaborations, finding local students etc.

  37. Academia in Europe*

    Regarding #1: I absolutely love Ask a Manager and the commentariat, but I think Alison’s and many of the commenters’ gut reactions don’t quite take into account norms, expectations, and dynamics in academia. Basically, this *does* sound like a horrible idea in any other field but it’s not that far out there in academia. I would encourage the OP to focus on the comments coming who’ve identified themselves as having experience *working* in academia versus those without that experience or whose main experience has been as a student.

    (Just to expand a bit more, though others have put it well, I am from a small European country that does international academic hires under these, or similar, circumstances. While the OP and many others are focusing on the “teaching” angle, that may only be a tiny part of a job which is otherwise focused on research, publishing, mentoring, obtaining grants, etc. Oftentimes the “teaching in the local language” part of the job, even if it exists on paper, just disappears once you arrive. For instance, the University of the Faroe Islands hires international faculty with an expectation that they learn Faroese… you can guess how often that actually happens –>

    1. Other Alice*

      While I agree that it’s important to consider the thoughts of people with relevant experience, it sucks to have a teacher who struggles with the language they’re lecturing in. I’m also from an European country and many universities now offer courses in English to attract foreign students, without considering if their faculty is actually capable of lecturing in English. I’ve sat in a classroom where the professor gave up midway and switched back to their native language, or was unable to understand questions in English. For the professor, that one class might have been one small part of their job, but for my English-speaking classmates it was a class they had to drop mid-semester or prepare on their own. It’s a huge disservice to the students and it’s callous not to consider how they might be affected.

      In addition, my parents are in academia and several years ago my mother was told her classes would have to be in English as well. The university provided English courses for the faculty but mum says almost none of her colleagues attended, because the courses weren’t focused on the kind of scientific language that they would need to use and so weren’t useful at all. My mum is fluent (speaks with a wonderfully posh British accent) but she still struggled in the first year because she had to translate all of her material into English as well as juggling the lectures and her research.

      1. UKDancer*

        Technical language is definitely different from general conversation. I mean for me to go to Germany as a student and study there I had to do 2 years of technical language courses in England to bring me up to a level where I could understand the material being taught. Even then it was a struggle to follow some of the courses. And I’m someone with a decent command of the language.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a boss who did at least some of his PhD in Germany with a professor who still taught by the Socratic method – assign the whole class a scientific paper to read, then in class pick one student and just pepper them with very pointed and technical questions until they couldn’t answer anymore (or cried) and then, if there was still time in the class, move on to another student. And while most of the classes were taught in English, this one was only taught in German.
        My boss said it was by far the most difficult class of his life and he seriously reconsidered his degree while taking it. And he was reasonably fluent!

  38. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–It might help your level of annoyance if you think about how sad and pathetic it is that someone keeps showing up at a job they no longer have to talk about people and issues that in no way affect them.

    1. HonorBox*

      This might be helpful to start with, but I think someone needs to say something, either to the guy or their manager. Sad and pathetic dude who shows up can easily become sort of a missing stair because everyone just manages to function around them. It isn’t the responsibility of former coworkers to provide social interaction for someone who is sad and pathetic, and if this continues to happen unchecked, people are going to lose more and more time that should be spent being productive.

    2. Fives*

      I definitely understand the annoyance with #3, but I think “sad and pathetic” is unkind here.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        I meant pathetic in the “evoking pity” sense and the overall tone more along the lines of “Oh, bless his heart,” but can see how that tone wasn’t clear.

  39. Overit*

    #1: I excrl ay learning with languages. I became fluent in German in 9 months but!
    1. It was by having 8 hours of face to face instruction plus 4 hours of audio drills per week.
    2. I was not fluent enough to teach college level courses.
    No way is this a viable idea.

    1. bamcheeks*

      If the specific goal you’d been working on was “become fluent enough to teach college-level courses in a specific technical area”, you probably would have been!

  40. DJ Abbott*

    #1, I’ve seen this before. Not on this scale, of course, but I have seen both people and companies ignore obvious problems with their plans. It’s not that they’re confident. It’s that they’re not addressing the real things that need to be done for this to work. I would not accept a position that requires so much change from people who are taking this approach.
    The only way this could work is if you and your husband fill in the blanks. If you and your husband arrange for him to have intensive, immersive Spanish learning before he starts teaching. If you and your husband figure out the logistics of how to move there and be comfortable. If you and your husband are prepared to fill in other holes in the planning of this university.
    I also wonder very much why the university thinks this is a good idea and why they can’t find a fluent Spanish speaker to do it. I live in the American Midwest, and there are Spanish speakers here all over the country. In America alone, they could probably find a Spanish speaker who is qualified. Not to mention actual Spanish-speaking countries – Spain, Mexico, Latin America.

    1. amoeba*

      Universities generally don’t care about stuff like languages, location, whatever, in my experience! It’s purely about academic excellence, research, ability to bring in funding… moving to places where you don’t speak the language is an entirely normal thing to do. The only thing is the requirement to teach in Spanish, which typically does take a but longer – so, say, the person moves there and teaches in English (no matter which country or where they’re from, at least in Science), and then after a few years, they are fluent enough to also pick up teaching in the local language. So would definitely be important to figure out whether they expect that to happen within a year maximum or whether it’s fine if they take two or four.

    2. bamcheeks*

      But they don’t want, “a Spanish speaker”, they want someone who is an expert in a specific application of llama medical imaging, and it’s extremely possible that LW’s spouse is one of a few dozen people in the world with that specialisation and LW is the only one who is currently job-seeking.

      There are plenty of academic jobs where “a qualified person” is “can teach broadly across a large area of llama-based physics with a specialisation in some aspect of medical physics and the ability to bring in funding”. There are other jobs where the qualification is waaaay more specific and a minor problem like “does not speak the language of our undergraduates” is absolutely something that can be worked around.

      1. amoeba*

        And even if there are multiple candidates available (which, for my field, they always are!) they’ll just decide based on their research output/number and impact factor of publications/citations/awards won… and then, maaaaaybe, if two are head-to-head, language and location. Although even then, international might win, because staying in the same place you studied/did your PhD is actually mostly frowned upon!

    3. Alianora*

      Academia is completely different as far as hiring and evaluating candidates. You can’t really apply non-academia standards of hiring.

      It’s likely there is not a qualified Spanish-speaking candidate who has the research experience and specialization they’re looking for. The teaching part of the job often is a miniscule factor compared to the emphasis the university places on research.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup. Or there is, and they just like LW’s partner better – honestly, in my world, the language would be *very* low on the list of criteria.

    4. DJ Abbott*

      Ok. But moving around the world, to a place you don’t speak the language, and be expected to *work* in that language right away sounds like a nightmare of stress no matter who you are or what the job is.
      My concern is with the university not addressing support, logistics or details… like I say, I’ve seen this before and it was always the people in charge hoping problems would go away or resolve themselves instead of addressing them. Which in this case would be a nightmare.

  41. Still*

    There seem to be quite a few people in academia saying that this situation is completely normal and I am wondering: is it normal for people who don’t speak the local language to be hired, or is it normal for them to give lectures in that language within a year?

    And if it’s the latter, what have the actual results been?

    Because unless those people are all incredibly gifted and have an exceptionally easy time learning new languages, I really cannot fathom those people giving good quality teaching to their students within such a short time period.

    1. bamcheeks*

      It heavily depends on the type and quantity of teaching you’re expected to do. It is probably significantly easier to lecture in a new language (where the majority of the lecture is pre-written, and you can rely heavily on machine-translation) than it is to facilitate a class discussion. It is probably easier if you’re doing something like maths or programming, where you can be writing calculations and showing students how to work through a problem and a significant proportion of the learning is taking place through that visual demonstration rather than verbal explanation. It might well be easier at the higher levels, where you’re got a fairly small technical vocabulary to learn and all your students are already familiar with the key terms, than at lower levels where you need to break each concept down in multiple different ways to students who don’t have any prior knowledge.

      And then the other side of it is the admin and pastoral side so on that goes on too– I have worked with overseas colleagues who have been absolutely fine at the technical, “let me teach a bunch of Masters students how to data science” side, but have struggled with being a personal tutor or staff meetings with things like, “we need to re-work the undergraduate second year modules from a short-thick to a long-thin, whilst also meeting six different university objectives around graduate employability, student mental health, research-focussed teaching and internationalisation and ensure there is compatible cross-department cooperation, this is the twenty page form we need to fill in to get this course validated, any questions?” It’s so variable!

      1. Kay*

        Machine language tools are most helpful when you already have a good grasp on the language and understand their limitations. Someone without a good grasp on the language isn’t going to be able to use any tools effectively enough to teach. Memorizing technical terms is one thing – being able to explain the material in different ways to help students understand it is totally different.

    2. Alianora*

      I think a lot of us on the student side have experience with professors who weren’t really fluent enough in English to be effective teachers. I took a calculus class where the professor read off slides with iffy grammar, didn’t answer questions, and had an extremely strong accent.

      I suppose I can’t say for sure what his comprehension was like, but his spoken English was poor enough that he really shouldn’t have been teaching. I remember getting 30% on a test that was curved to an A-.

    3. LaurCha*

      Yeah, this is normal in academia, particularly in STEM fields, but I’ve also seen it in Art History (my field). American universities also hire professors who are not super-fluent in English for their particular research field, so it goes both directions.

      Is it hard to get up to speed in a whole new language in a year? Sure. But so is getting a PhD. I don’t think it’s a problem unless the husband knows himself to be terrible at language acquisition. Also Spanish is easier to pick up than, say, Chinese.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Really, an English speaker expected to become fluent in Chinese in a year or less?
        That’s ridiculous.
        That leads to something I’ve noticed in my encounters with academia- the refusal to acknowledge the needs and limitations of humans. The expectation that students can get through several 3-inch thick textbooks in 3 months and retain anything, for example.
        And the expectations being put on LW’s husband.
        There’s a reason dropouts and breakdowns are common among college students.

    4. amoeba*

      Maybe not one year (which is why I’d be asking how fixed that is!), but definitely within a certain time frame/a few years/expected to learn the language once they’re there so they can start teaching undergrads once they learn. (Until then, they’d typically only teach in English at a higher level).

    5. Cicely*

      I am in academia as a librarian, and have long been under the impression that in the U.S., teachers in university at all levels, whether graduate students, adjuncts, lecturers, or faculty, have to have at least a passing TOEFL score if English isn’t their first language to ensure a basic level of communication between them and their students.

      I do understand and agree with the likely priorities, especially bringing in grant funding, but to have that be at the expense of student learning simply isn’t doable.

  42. Rebecca*

    LW1 – I work and live in France, and I’ve been here for 7 years, and there is no way I could teach in French. To be fair, because I have been working full time in English, I haven’t had the time or energy to devote entirely to becoming fluent in French, but it sounds like your husband would have the same issue – he would have to have the time, freedom, and finances to make learning Spanish full time job, and even then 1 year would not be enough to be able to teach professionally at an academic level. I teach university students who are learning Englishfor business purposes so they can work in international companies, and even as students who are dedicating their time to this, it takes them years to reach a high enough fluency to work in these companies, and they don’t require that they have academic level discourse, nor are they expected to be the expert in the room.

    I am shocked that the potential employer hasn’t noted this – so shocked that I’m wondering if there is a mistake, and he will be lecturing in English while he gets his Spanish up to the level to be able to work with colleagues and admin? I have to have the French level to be able to talk to my boss and work with the people scheduling my classes and paying me, which is very, very different from doing my job in French, and even that gives me anxiety sometimes when I get the nuances and slang and rules of politeness wrong.

    If there is no mistake – be prepared for them to throw him under the bus when it turns out the ask was incredibly unrealistic.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I started teaching in France a year after I arrived.
      Also, it’s highly likely that OP’s husband will be allowed to teach in English, especially if it’s a science subject.

      1. Rebecca*

        Are you teaching well?

        I don’t know why you think it would be unlikely that he be allowed to teach in English. I have been teaching exclusively in English since I arrived. They don’t need to hire me to teach in French since they have a country full of people who speak the language, but they don’t have a lot of qualified people who can do second language learning. More and more European schools – particularly the private ones and the big international ones – are offering hybrid programs that are taught at least partially in English to give students opportunities to be bilingual. It is incredibly lucrative and in high demand. Their is a huge market for teachers who teach in languages other than French – I know more second language higher ed profs than I do English speaking teachers at the high school level.

        Spain is in the EU and has the same international programs, and is included in Erasmus, where the Lingua Franca is often English (I teach a few courses to multinational Erasmus students).

          1. Rebecca*

            You are right! My bad. I am reading much too quickly today.

            If he’s teaching in English, than the expectation to get Spanish up to speed to be able to function in the workplace is probably reasonable.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yes I was such a good teacher I was rewarded with all the problem students because I was the only one who could get them to learn anything.

  43. Dog momma*

    Red flags just popped up for me.. He has to teach in Spanish and doesn’t speak it? First of all that expectation isn’t fair. Are they that desperate for someone to fill that position? what else is this university hiding…

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I think you should read some of the comments upthread from people in academia. Apparently this is not unheard of and actually becoming common. I don’t think this university is hiding anything, and it’s counterproductive to automatically assume nefarious intentions.

    2. JustaTech*

      Given that it is not at all uncommon for universities to invent whole jobs for trailing spouses just to get a specific researcher, saying “eh, we’ll give you a year to learn the language” is very minimal.

      Here’s part of why: if your university can land a big-deal (or seriously up-and-coming) researcher with a proven track record of landing big, prestigious grants, you’ve just gotten yourself not only a bunch more money, but you’ve leveled up in terms of who else you can hire, what kind of grants your existing faculty might be considered for, awards, etc.

  44. Jam Today*

    LW1 — if this is an accurate stating – that your husband will be required to give university-level instruction in a language he does not speak – then this is a horrendous idea, not for his sake but for the sake of the students. The students in that class have the right to receive instruction and education from someone they can understand and who can understand them. I know of many people who did poorly in classes because their instructor was not only not a native English speaker but seemed to be “learning on the job” and was completely unintelligible to their students. Its so unfair to the students who are there to learn, not be an interesting cultural exchange program for your family.

    1. Bast*

      Yup. Had several of these professors who were likely brilliant in their fields, but the class couldn’t understand them and we had to learn mostly from the textbook.

  45. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP1: Aside from the difficulties that the OP’s husband would face in learning another language well enough to lecture in it on a university level, there’s the question of how the OP would find life in another country as a (presumably) citizen of that land. Even living in another first-world country can result in tremendous culture shock! Our daily lives are predicated on a LOT of assumptions that we take for granted – we never HAVE to think about them because we’ve grown up with them. Naturally, those assumptions don’t hold true all over the world; living in another country means making constant daily adjustments to your life.

    If the OP is female, how are women regarded and treated there? How does the culture regard women who assume that they have the same freedom and rights that American women do? If the OP is male, how are gay partnerships/marriages regarded in that country – are they even legal? Are there any laws protecting gay men, or are they seen as “fair game” for homophobes? And if there ARE any such laws, are they actually taken seriously and enforced? (The USA doesn’t have a sterling record when it comes to protecting the rights of women and gay men, either!)

    Finally, what opportunities would there be for the OP to have their own career and to explore their own interests? What would life be like for THEM? Understandably, OP is concerned about how their husband would adjust to this tremendously challenging situation, but they also need to consider how THEY would find a permanent plunge into a different culture as well.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes, living abroad is hard, even in a country with a comparable standard of living ways of doing things can differ wildly. Even the smaller things (where do I find fresh milk in the supermarket and why do cornflakes never taste right) are different. Ways of doing things are radically different and can be very weird if you’ve no cultural basis. In Belgium you have to spend a whole day trying to register with the local commune (or at least you did when I was there) and it was very lengthy and bureaucratic, involving a lot of queues and needing exactly the correct pieces of paper. This was very weird because in the UK you do things like local authority registration online or over the phone.

      Being a trailing spouse can be hard in a foreign country including finding work (if allowed) and sorting out things like healthcare and day to day living. A number of the people I worked in Belgium with had brought spouses with them with mixed results (including 2 divorces, one spouse hating it and returning home to live there and one remaining there but being very unhappy). It can strain a relationship, and this was in Belgium which is a first world country with a comparable standard of living and culture to the UK and the other countries people were coming from. If there is a radically different standard of life and cultural values then it’s a lot harder.

      1. Forty Years in the Hole*

        Also spent 3 years working/living in BE, with a trailing spouse (who was able, fortunately, to telework from our house with his office back in Canada). I spoke adequate French to manage within the local community or visit France, but our international workplace language was English.
        Most families did just fine, but some families found it challenging- even those who spoke (Canadian) French. A few were re-pat early as they couldn’t/wouldn’t adapt – even with the sizeable English-speaking population, and shopping at the local American PX. Living/working abroad can take a psychological toll; it is not for everyone.

  46. K*

    I’m not sure how number 2 thinks it could not be about fairness. How could it possibly not be unfair to keep people waiting for you like that? Is OP just defining “fairness” in an odd way?

  47. Insert Pun Here*

    Without speaking to the language issue, it’s completely normal in academia (faculty and some but not all staff functions) for hiring to be nationwide or international. I’m staff, and in my department of about a dozen people there is not a single person who grew up in this area. In the academic department I work most closely with, there’s one professor who grew up in our city; the rest are transplants. So I would not consider “not being able to find someone locally” to be a red flag at all. It’s very, very normal.

    1. Insert Pun Here*

      With that said, Alison’s point about the university being “cavalier about the challenges” of moving to a new place isn’t wrong. It’s just that all universities are like this—it’s expected that you’ll do it if you want an academic career.

      I don’t necessarily think this is, you know, a good and reasonable way to order a society. It leads to a largish population of well compensated people who tend to be pretty disconnected from (sometimes even openly contemptuous of) the place they live. But it’s very, very common, and so not a specific red flag as such. (You could argue that it’s a general red flag for academia overall, though, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree.)

  48. TX_Trucker*

    I was recruited by my industry trade group to teach an intensive one week training class in Spanish. My conversational Spanish is very good, and probably better than my English which is my 3rd language. But the bulk of my career has been in the USA speaking English. I struggled a great deal during that class, because I don’t know my industry jargon in Spanish. And there really aren’t many resources to learn that material.

    Depending on what subject you are teaching, even mastering tourist language (which Duolingo is good for) isn’t going to help you learn enough Spanish to teach a University class in a specialized subject. And if you are changing continents, you should know that European Spanish is very different from the Spanish in other continents.

    1. Bast*

      Yes! My grandmother is from Ecuador, and I learned my Spanish from her. I will say there are certain accents that I cannot understand very well, and slang that I don’t understand, although this has also happened to me in English when visiting Europeans who have been taught British English. I have a much easier time understanding someone from Spain than from, say, Puerto Rico, but I still run into trouble with some very specific words when I only know one version of it. “Canguil” comes to mind because there are way too many different ways to refer to popcorn, as I’ve learned to my amusement.

  49. Bast*

    I realize this is purely anecdotal, but being able to go from absolutely no Spanish at all to being able to teach at a college level is… well, it’s a very tall order, even more so if the subject matter requires special terminology. FWIW, my grandmother and older generations of my family are native Spanish speakers. Some of the older ones don’t speak any English. I learned Spanish growing up to a degree where I can communicate with my relatives. If you dropped me off in their native country, I can get around just find. I can understand and translate for the most part at work (although there are certain dialects and accents I have a hard time with). I would not feel comfortable going in to try and teach a college level course in Spanish in my field. It takes a LOT more than simply knowing and being able to converse in the language to teach in it. Maybe if I were teaching at an elementary level it would feel different? To be fair, there are entire courses on our “jargon” in English/Latin that you then have to be able to turn around and explain in lay terms to people so that they can understand it. I know it enough in English, but it would be extremely difficult for me to turn around and try to explain that in a second language, even a second language I have a background in. With no Spanish under his belt, I think your partner could get up to a decently conversational level in a year, more so if he hangs around people who are speaking Spanish, but to get to a college level? I think it’s a recipe for disaster and I’m not sure what the job is thinking, unless they are thinking he is going to be using an app to translate?

  50. HonorBox*

    OP2 – While fairness isn’t always something that needs to be factored in, there are situations like yours in which it is a factor. If you’re just choosing not to attend meetings, you’re making a choice that others might like to make. Or you’re missing out on key topics that are discussed and people need to circle back and fill in details for you. Or you’re prioritizing something else over a required meeting and people might also like to make the choice. If you know you can’t attend because of a different priority, giving someone a heads up that you’re not attending and why can help alleviate some concerns from everyone. If your boss is OK with whatever the reason, that’s for them to explain to everyone. And if people still think it is unfair, that’s for them and your boss to figure out.

    OP3 – Like one of the letters yesterday in which “use your words” is a key factor, you need to use your words here. Either, or both, to the retired colleague and your boss. If this guy is coming in just to socialize, it might be best for him to understand when and for how long he could come in, because I’m sure others are having to shift their work so they can give him attention, which isn’t helpful to everyone there.

  51. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    OP1 LW1 I think you have to consider at least the possibility that there is some kind of scam going on here. It sounds very much like an “au pair” scam used in Europe, and I’ve seen it used for teaching lower grades of students: the offer is exceptional, the home or school appears to value the individual highly, and they’re invited to come right away.
    It’s very difficult to believe that this is a legitimate offer, I’m sorry.

    1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      That was my thought. I can’t get past the idea of learning a language and immediately teaching at the college level. And yes, the university’s cavalier attitude is quite surprising. I would really look into this deeply and tread carefully, LW1.

  52. Prof*

    #1: This just seems impossible to the point I can’t believe OP 1 got an interview (for language reasons alone). Being ana academic myself, and knowing the…twisted…ways of academic hiring and the antics that go on, I’m honestly suspecting that they have an inside candidate or otherwise know exactly who they want to hire, but have to search. When this happens, I’ve seen departments intentionally bring in people they can easily reject. IE, they say we want someone working on any mammal, but then they “realize” they really need a llama person.

    But really….this is just impossible to the point I’d not have even applied to the job in OP’s spouses’s shoes….

    1. Anna3*

      I work in academia, we rank well natinally though we are not Ivy League. We have to be frugal with our funding so we can only afford to invite somebody for a multiple-days-long on campus interview if we really like them. We get to invite three candidates to interview on campus and yes we have already vetted them, so far so that we’d be happy to hire any of those three. Very often at least one of them will have another offer to consider as they are good quality candidates. In the 10 years that I’ve been serving on hiring committees, we’ve never rejected anyone for not doing research on a topic we actually like: That person would have never been invited to come to campus.

      1. Prof*

        Not saying all academic job searches are this way, but I’ve seen it happen at just under Ivy League universities. I’ve seen standard above board happen too. This is just too weird seeming to me- OP spouse doesn’t speak the language at all and will immediately be expected to teach in it? Seems like there might even be resiatance to OP (the spouse) getting to visit? A nice, easy out…

        1. Anna3*

          No, OP’s letter did not indicate the university asked for immediate mastery of Spanish.
          There is a mention that OP is worried how will their spouse peach in Spanish but there is no mention that the university insists the Candidate shoot teaching Spanish right away. Expect there is a room for notification if it gets to the offer stage.

          I also did not spot resistance to OP visiting campus though the university probably cannot pay for OP’s flight ticket – that may not be in their budget. The university will likely not care if OP and OP’s spouse share the accommodation. Though most of the interview meetings will likely be conducted without OP present – no university hiring is executed via interviews with the trailing spouse.

          1. Anna3*


            I thought I had turned off auto correction on my phone, Sorry!

        2. Anna3*

          If a hiring committee invited a job candidate to campus on the Dean’s office budget, then wrote in official documents reporting to the Dean’s office that they didn’t like the candidate’s area of research or they wanted another area of research better, they would all be facing dire consequences. Their department will also be facing consequences because their department would have to pay back the money spent on the candidate, as no Dean will allow frivolous spending. I’m surprised that you’ve seen that report to the Dean’s office and I’m surprised that your Dean did not react poperly.

  53. Ex-prof*

    LW #1– First thing: Destinos, an Introduction to Spanish videos are a more linguistically sound way to acquire a langauge than Duolingo.

    Second, this offer smells funny for a couple reasons. I’ve spoke Spanish for more than half my life, and I can deliver talks and brief lectures in it, but a whole course, let alone a whole faculty courseload? No way, José. That’s a whole ‘nother jump.

    The other reason being an awful lot of Americans, including academics, are already fluent in Spanish. About 1 in 6 of us, to be precise. So just looking within the US, there’s already quite a large talent pool to draw on without going to people who don’t speak Spanish, and then if you throw in almost all of Latin America… well, you see what I mean?

    It suggests they’re having trouble filling the position for some other reason.

  54. Falling Diphthong*

    Fairness in an unreasonable standard to demand of the universe. We apply the expectation of fair treatment to all sorts of social groups, though.

    Even macaques will have strong feelings about how everyone should get a grape if Fred gets a grape, what even is this celery when I can see Fred has a grape?!

  55. Q without U*

    LW1 – As an undergraduate I had two classes that were taught by professors who were not fluent in English. They were both miserable experiences. It was clear from the written notes that the professors knew their stuff and were experts in their area, but both classes consisted of the professor reading off a PowerPoint, because that was all that their level of fluency would allow. Neither was capable of clearly or easily answering questions, and we definitely got the feeling that they didn’t necessarily even understand the question they were being asked. Both the students and the professors were regularly frustrated, and there was a lot of resentment that the university could not have found someone actually able to teach the subject.

    tl;dr Your husband is setting himself up to be a crap teacher that nobody will like. Don’t do this, for his sake or the sake of his future students.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, I don’t want to be a downer, but I think the first couple years of teaching would be extraordinarily rough on all involved if LW’s husband is required to teach in Spanish. Unless husband is very good with languages or can prioritize language-learning above absolutely everything else for a year, lectures might be okay but interactive portions of class would be very difficult.

    2. Seashell*

      I had a math class in college taught by a newly arrived professor from another country, and it was very challenging to understand his accent. There weren’t a lot of students asking questions in class, but, from a story a friend told me about a conversation after class, it didn’t seem like the professor had great English comprehension.

      As for the class, students who understood the subject going in did well, but that was not me.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I had a chem class like this–fortunately it was voluntary (I was trying to pre-load for my actual chem class that fall. It didn’t work. It turns out I’m incapable of learning chemistry)–and I have to assume that the prof knew what he was doing but he was incapable of conveying it to us and I am not at all sure he really understood what we were asking. Nobody did well in that class. I didn’t need it for credits but some people did, and I think we were all kind of mad that we’d paid money for it.

    3. Pescadero*

      First thing to understand – at an R1 type university, a professors job is not to teach. That is just an annoyance sometimes attached to their research.

      A horrible teacher who gets published a lot – gets promoted and wins awards.
      A great teacher who doesn’t publish – languishes or gets fired.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Genuinely finding it kind of fascinating how many comments there are about how this wouldn’t be fair on the students. Obviously there are plenty of teaching-focussed academic jobs, but there are also lots of academic jobs where “teaching” is “one course a year” or even “ideally 4-6 lectures every year, but we can negotiate if that sounds like too much”, as well as “6-10 hours a week, but we don’t care whether you do it well or not”. It’s kind of enlightening to me to realise how many people think that an academic’s primary or only job is to teach.

        1. Anna3*

          I know, right? Many commenters here imagine that this university in a Spanish-speaking country will hire someone internationaly to teach something like MATH101 Brief Calculus. Reality is they’re hurting somebody for their research results and their potential to bring major grants, as well as teaching a high level course once or twice a year.

          1. Anna3*

            They are hiring somebody for their research. Another freudian slip, as sometimes it feels like they’re hurting us for our research.

  56. GigglyPuff*

    As someone who has done a lot of academic interviewing (admittedly not in teaching), the places that won’t go into details or get realistic with you, are places you want to run from. And that’s not even getting into the whole language thing.

  57. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #2 – It’s obvious that the boss wants LW to be at the meetings. So what is keeping LW from the meetings? Is LW missing meetings without warning because something more urgent keeps arising or is LW missing meetings because LW feels the meetings are less important than how they could be spending their time? The first can be addressed by having a conversation with the boss about the competing demands and the boss can help mitigate the issues either by moving the meeting, trying to find a solution for how to address the urgent issues, or fielding complaints from the team. If it’s the latter, then LW needs to do a bit of soul searching because it sounds like LW is searching for a bit of preferential treatment because of seniority.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      OP2 sounds like a nightmare of a colleague to me. They didn’t even justify their non-attendance, to their colleagues and even to Alison. They just don’t bother to turn up without even sending a message to say sorry I can’t make it. It’s like they’re just smarting because they feel their manager is treating them like a kid because their colleagues complained that “it snot fair”.

  58. Anglophone*

    I’m not an academic, but I’ve been trying to learn French for 36 years in a French province of Canada, where you can get by with English. I still wouldn’t take a job completely in French. That said, most people learn languages and become fluent much quicker than I do.

  59. Ess Ess*

    A team meeting is a place where you have your teammates gathered and gives you an opportunity to ask questions to each other, especially if you have an issue that is blocking you from moving forward. It is standard practice in my industry to have a short team meeting every morning (about 15 minutes long) to allow a chance to connect to ask any needed questions to each other. It is infuriating to have questions ready to ask a coworker, and they don’t bother to show up even though it’s mandatory. It hurts my ability to do my job when the coworker just doesn’t show up to the time that is set aside to communicate.

  60. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: I would give this a very hard second thought.

    On the one hand, if you have to learn a second language on short notice, Spanish is the one to choose since it’s phonetic and pretty straightforward. I took Spanish for years in school and can do basic translations pretty handily, although I confess that my accent is terrible and I never risk speaking it unless I absolutely have to (I can be understood but it’s not pretty).

    On the other . . . I took a class years ago from a guy who technically spoke English, but nowhere near well enough to convey the material. Not just the academic parts but even the basic sentence structure and pronunciation. I felt pretty cheated that I had paid money for a class in which none of us could understand the professor, and he seemed to struggle to understand what we were asking. I suspect that the real learning curve here is even steeper than it already seems.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ This. In college I had two professors, one of who was not competent enough in English to be teaching what he was attempting to teach, and one who was inexplicably teaching German even though he was Indian, barely spoke German, and had such a thick accent that he was unintelligible in German and English (at the time I was a near-native German speaker). I was pretty angry that I was wasting time and tuition money in these classes.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Obviously it was a problem that he didn’t speak German, but can I just push back on the idea that being Indian was a disqualification from teaching German! I know a few people of colour who teach European languages, and they often have to battle the assumption that they can’t or shouldn’t be teaching European languages unless they have an clear family or cultural connection to that language, which is kind of gross because it’s a standard which is rarely applied to white people.

        1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

          Of course CommanderBanana isn’t saying that being Indian on its own is a disqualification. They’re saying that as a near-native speaker, they should have had a native or nativelike speaker teaching them, and they’re highlighting the fact that this person’s linguistic background was extremely off the mark. The Indian teacher may have had excellent written German- this is a pretty common issue in ESL and with Asian 2nd language learners in general.

          1. bamcheeks*

            It’s honestly such a widespread unconscious bias that even if that wasn’t what Commander Banana meant I don’t think it hurts to check!

  61. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I wouldn’t phrase this in terms of “new boss, new ways of doing things”, precisely. A) that’s not really the reason this scrutiny is happening. B) That kind of puts a target on your new boss and / or criticizes your old manager, by implication.

    Instead, I would say something along the lines of “Some process changes have been made to facilitate better cost tracking and reporting to senior leadership. This will help the business in A, B, and C. ways. I know it’s inconvenient now, but it will also make financial planning and budgeting for projects easier in the mid term. Going forward, we will need to complete these additional questions, and here is how you can help to get your project moved along faster…” (give some instructions – in fact, perhaps make a list of new requirements, clear it with your new manager, and send it to the project managers for reference).

    1. AcademiaCat*

      This is really good! I was going to suggest something similar that also doesn’t throw your boss under the bus. Something to everyone that reads something like “going forward all spec purchases will require a funding source be provided upon requesting the order. A new spec purchase form with a funding line will be rolled out shortly, in the meantime please include that information in your initial request.”

      Then sit down with your boss and make that form if you don’t have it yet!

  62. CommanderBanana*

    The university seems to not be worried about the finer details

    I don’t know what your risk tolerance is, but I would not be comfortable taking a job so far away with so many unknowns. The only situation I could see being ok with this big of a leap with so many uncertainties is if I knew I wanted to go live in this country for a year and was using the teaching job as a way to do that and could afford it and could afford to move back and pick my life back up in the very likely event this didn’t go well.

  63. ldub*

    “I sometimes miss team meetings without letting my boss know ahead of time.”

    That this person wrote in with this matter-of-fact statement because they think that it’s no big deal or they’re in the right… I just cannot fathom ghosting my boss at our team meeting on a regular basis. I’m not a perfect employee by any means, but isn’t showing up to a meeting run by your boss the most basic level of workplace norms?!

  64. CzechMate*

    LW 1 – While your spouse SHOULD be teaching in Spanish if you’re going to a Spanish-speaking country, many universities in Spanish-speaking countries (especially very prestigious ones) often require their students to know some English and it’s not uncommon for some classes (or even degrees) to be given in English. For reasons of academic colonialism he SHOULD be teaching in Spanish, but it’s also possible that the university is thinking that he might be teaching some courses in English while his Spanish gets up to speed, or that if he speaks Spanish but also uses some English his students will understand. (This is actually not too uncommon in Latin America.)

    So, I think your husband may need to get some additional information about what “teaching in Spanish” actually means and what the timeline is. Being able to learn a language fluently in one year is ambitious but not impossible; however, I’d imagine that this university may actually have more realistic expectations, like, “Will need to be able to talk to students in Spanish but will be teaching in English” or “Will need to understand Spanish and ideally will teach in Spanish but all the students will have intermediate-to-advanced English so it’s okay if he’s not perfect.”

  65. Just a Moving Truck on Storrow Drive*

    LW #1 … interesting. Many college students around the world learn English as a second or third language (and in my experience, develop near-native fluency). I’d be curious to know why he couldn’t teach in his native language.

    Living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is HARD. It can be completely physically and mentally EXHAUSTED. I’d visit campus and get some clarification. Worst case scenario, it’s a chance to take a mini-break.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Well, I think a lot of them start learning English well before they get to college, for one. And they’re younger and often have fewer non-school responsibilities.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Even if the students know some English, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would be able to study a subject in that language. I couldn’t write academic essays in Irish and I studied that for 14 years. I could follow lectures in it but I wouldn’t be able to do long written assignments. We start studying Irish at 4/5.

      German, which I studied for 5 years…I wouldn’t have a hope.

  66. ijustworkhere*

    #2 I think it’s interesting that you acknowledge you miss meetings without letting the meeting organizer know, and then you mention that you are ‘senior’ staff. And then you focus on disagreeing with your boss’ characterization of this as “unfair” as if somehow that makes their request of you less valid.

    I think you are missing the main point here. It is rude to miss a meeting that you have agreed to attend and not let people know unless there is an emergency happening and you can’t communicate your absence in advance. Arguing about whether it is “unfair” obscures the issue that it is rude, unnecessary, and inappropriate, especially for a senior staff member who is supposed to be modeling the behavior you want from your staff.

  67. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    LW1, there are multiple reasons to be very careful and consider all options here, but I’m going to go against the grain and say that the language barrier isn’t one of them. I had several undergrad classes taught by TA’s whose fluency in English was extremely questionable. It made some things about the class more challenging, but ultimately it wasn’t a true obstacle.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think there are 2 differences from your experiences.
      1. those were Teaching Assistants and not the actual professor. A professor has much more to do than the TA’s. (creating syllabus, exams, etc).
      2. That those TA’s had a basic grasp of the English Language, where it sounds like OP’s husband knows no Spanish.

      As someone who works in a university in the US I have heard many complaints by students who cannot understand their teachers because of language barriers.

  68. Reality.Bites*

    My two years of high school Spanish mean I speak well enough to give a lecture – I can read, know how to pronounce things and given its similarities to French, will even understand about 90% of it (assuming it’s a subject I’d understand in English!).

    But I’d be utterly incapable of understanding questions from students.

  69. The Ginger Ginger*

    #5 – You can also pre-emptively alert people, or even better, have your boss alert people via email that since you have become the de facto person to handle specs purchasing beyond just your department, the processes and approvals around that need to be formalized, so everyone should expect those request to take longer as that happens. If there’s an idea of what the formal process is, it should be outlined at a high level. That way people know to expect things to take longer, they know why, they can plan around it. The alternative to the longer times (assuming they’re as streamlined as possible), is they take the ordering back into their own teams and manage it themselves.

    If you’re now waiting longer for other people to approve things because they’re suddenly involved in the process, those approval paths should also be formalized and documented. Your boss should be involved, but there should be agreements/requirements for approvers so they know how long they have. A month on an approval that then requires a new quote is way too long. I don’t think that’s your fault, but that is an issue in the new system that needs to be resolved. Especially if people waiting on the purchase have deadlines that they’re missing because of it.

  70. Observer*

    #2 – you aks But does fairness really come into it?

    I can say that if I had a coworker with that attitude, I would absolutely not be happy. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that fairness does not mean treating all people the same all the time regardless. But but workplaces that don’t care about fairness tend to be pretty toxic and reward some pretty bad behavior.

    Perhaps your problem is that *you* don’t understand that fairness is not about treating *everyone* the same regardless of role and circumstance. Because otherwise, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that you jump to the attendance of your *Boss’s Boss* who is a Director at the company, as a comparison. Which makes no sense. You and Grandboss are in such different roles that “fairness” could not mean that you both have the same level of obligation to these meetings.

  71. Galadriel's Garden*

    LW2, what I’m curious about is:

    1. *Why* you’re missing these meetings? Are you too busy with other tasks, are you in conflicting meetings, or do you just not want to go? The first two aspects you can discuss with your manager on prioritization, as others have said, but the last one? I’m sorry, but that’s simply part of work (and being a manager, for that matter). I sit through plenty of meetings I reaaaaally don’t want to be on, because that’s part of my job as both a manager and a subject matter expert.

    2. Why you don’t give the meeting organizer a heads up that you’re going to miss it? That’s professional, and common courtesy. A decline with a short note, a quick email or Teams message – there’s no reason you should no-show a meeting you’re supposed to be on short of an emergency, let alone doing it all the time. Put bluntly: it’s rude and unprofessional. No wonder your team is frustrated, and your manager had to say something to you. The only instance that’s really acceptable to not show is when you’re put on as optional, but even then, you should still be responding to the invite in some way.

    I wouldn’t be so blunt about this if you didn’t seem so…dismissive? Unfazed? about it, or at least focused on the “fairness” element. Others have discussed why your team may view it as unfair (since I’m sure your team is wondering why they have to be there when you can simply choose not to), so I won’t harp on that, but…yeah.

    Example: I have one colleague who’s notorious for not showing up to meetings and giving no heads up, and it’s exasperating for all of us as we put him on the meeting for a specific reason, need his input, and can never be sure if he’ll actually be there. Then we’re waiting at the beginning to see if he’ll actually show, waiting to see if he responds to a message asking if he’s going to attend, trying to run the meeting without him if not, and ultimately compiling a list of things we still need his input on, with the hopes that maybe he’ll show up to the next one or respond to a list of complex questions that were meant to be discussed rather than emailed about…

    1. AFac*

      Or worse, the colleague doesn’t show up for a meeting and those at the meeting make a decision that only tangentially affects the colleague. Then the next time the colleague does bother to show up, they are upset by the decision and either insist on having the discussion again or go sulk about it.

      Yes, this just happened to my team.

  72. Person from the Resume*

    I do agree that LW2 does seem to be missing the point or they glossed over getting the point. They miss meeting without letting anyone know. But their boss did talk them to and now LW2 seems to understand that it must stop.

    I think “fairness” is a question of semantics and maybe the wrong word. It’s unprofessional and inconsiderate to miss meetings (especially without warning) where your input or presence is important to outcome. That wastes the other attendees time if you can’t participate at the time everyone else set aside for this. And it wastes people’s time if they delay starting the meeting while they wait for you to show up. That is annoying and frustrating and those feelings are understandable when you do this regularly and up until now didn’t seem to care that you were inconveniencing others.

    If this is more of a meeting that no one wants to attend but attendance is mandatory, it is sort of unfair that your coworkers do attend as required and you don’t and suffer no consequences for not following the instructions.

    But who care if it’s “fair” or not? It’s inconsiderate and unprofessional to not show up for meetings you’re expected to attend. At the very least you should let someone know if you have to miss a meeting because of more important work.

    1. Observer*

      But who care if it’s “fair” or not? It’s inconsiderate and unprofessional to not show up for meetings you’re expected to attend

      The two things are not mutually exclusive. I also suspect that people would be less interested in the fairness issue of the LW were being more considerate and professional. But as it stands right now, their behavior is unprofessional and it would be unfair of the manager to let it go.

  73. Margaret Cavendish*

    #1, a long time ago I took a job in a French-speaking country. I’m a native English speaker, with French immersion in high school and an undergrad in French language & literature. I had enough French to do well in the (bilingual) interview, but working every day in my second language was another story entirely. One-on-one conversations were easy, and reading and writing were easy. But there’s so much more to fluency than that!

    Things like participating in meetings, where multiple people are talking, and they’re not looking directly at you. Talking on the phone, where you can’t see people’s faces or body language.

    Paying attention to background conversations when you’re focusing on something else. The expectation and the culture was that I could have just joined an informal conversation if I wanted to – but I never did, because I never knew what the background conversations were about. It was incredibly isolating.

    Also, my own specific personality, idioms, and sense of humour – I imagine that would be important as a lecturer, and it takes a long time to develop in a second language. Your spouse would have to be fluent enough that he’s thinking in the second language, and writing lectures without translating them first.

    Then, apart from the work. How’s your Spanish? Are you comfortable grocery shopping, going to the bank, navigating public transit, making conversations with your neighbours? Watching tv, finding out about the weather, making plans for the weekend? Will you be expected to socialize with the spouses of his colleagues? It is EXHAUSTING to live full-time in a second language, even if you start with a reasonable degree of fluency as I did.

    Which is not to say you shouldn’t do it! Lots of people do it, and many of them do very well. But it’s not nothing – it’s a huge mental effort, sustained day in and day out for a long period of time. So you’re right to be concerned that the university doesn’t seem worried about the finer details – these details will have a huge impact on your quality of life. Good luck, whatever you decide!

  74. Kotow*

    LW #1: So technically, Spanish is a Category 1 language, and it takes approximately 600 **classroom hours** to get to “General Professional Proficiency” (roughly a C1 on the CEFR scale). In a full-time language learning environment, you can reach this level in 30 weeks. That said, most people can’t commit to that extensive of a project. 600 hours doesn’t sound like a lot, but it also doesn’t include the work you do at home to reinforce the language. A C1 level speaker would be able to handle lectures though there will still be some linguistic confusion. A B2 level speaker (one step down, which is probably more realistic if he can’t commit to language learning full-time) would probably be able to handle lectures with a lot of preparation but would struggle with interaction and being able to field questions. It requires an extreme amount of dedication to reach that level and if this is his first time learning a foreign language, it’s going to be harder because he hasn’t learned the best methods for him that will help him be able to learn more efficiently.

  75. DramaQ*

    LW2 it is about fairness in that your coworkers and peers are likely starting to resent the fact that you regularly skip meetings without any notice and know that if they were to do the same they would face consequences with their bosses. I am sure many of them would love just as much to skip it but don’t because attendance is required. That resentment starts to fracture working relationships and collaboration. Directors are in their own league and I am betting he does at least have someone cancel the invite for him even if he doesn’t reply himself. We humans are a social species who have agreed to live by certain rules in society. One of those in polite society is you are expected to let people know when you cannot attend something. When we see another fellow human flouting the rules we are expected to obey yes a sense of injustice kicks in and we’re going to attempt to get the rule flouter back in line. Your boss is nicely telling you that your working relationship with your peers/underlings is starting to sour. You need to listen.

  76. Rachel*

    Re: #5, if I can go against the grain in the sense that I will offer absolutely no insight or advice:
    Exactly what does it mean to purchase “specifications”?

    1. Rick Tq*

      Many standard-setting bodies (like IEEE for electrical/electronics, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for fire codes, IEC in Europe, etc.) sell their standards instead of simply distributing them for free. If OP5 works at a company that uses those standards they have to purchase them, and the budget for the purchase needs to be added to her department’s budget or Accounting has to know which department actually paid for it.

      You want something built to the UL standard. The company building the appliance has to buy a copy from Underwriter’s Laboratory to know what to build to.

      1. JustaTech*

        And they’re *expensive*. I was looking at some ISO standards (I don’t want to run the tests, I just want to know what they are so I can read the results) and some of them are like 150 euro!

  77. Foyer Office*

    LW1 – look into the Middlebury summer immersion program in Vermont. The application deadline is May 15. The Spanish program is 7 weeks. I went twice for a more notoriously difficult language and came out of it really, really good and still remember a lot 20 years later. Both times there were people and their spouses learning for work assignments (major newspapers, the military, etc.) That’s your best option in the US for getting closer to fluent fast.

    1. Margaret*

      Also Middlebury is a fun town and 20 min away from Lake Dunmore and Branbury state park. Source: my grandparents had a summer cabin on the lake

  78. Percysowner*

    #2 It isn’t fair that you just blow off meetings with no explanation and no notice. Everyone else has cleared their time, put their projects on hold and show up for the meeting because it is a requirement. I will say that it is possible that your manager softened the language to “unfair” because if I were one of your coworkers and you were being this disrespectful and this entitled, I would probably use much stronger language.

  79. BeeKay*

    #1: When I was a kid, my father, a US Army officer, was assigned to be the US military attaché to the embassy in Warsaw, Poland. The powers-that-be wanted him to learn Polish for this job, so they sent him and my mom to the Army Language School (now the Defense Language Institute). It took them a full year of doing nothing else but language classes to learn Polish to sufficient fluency for the job. Now, Spanish is not quite as difficult for an English speaker to learn, but still, I would be VERY concerned about teaching in Spanish for the first year or so.

  80. Forty Years in the Hole*

    #3 – the bored/retired gossip dude: depending on your office set-up, can you place “restricted to employees/do not enter”-type signs/partitions in the applicable areas? That’s very common in most of the government offices I worked in. There’s the public access area, then the off limits area where confidential/personnel stuff is handled.
    Or occasionally make a coffee break meeting with this guy, in the cafeteria or outside the office? Or just …be busy. It’s tough for some folks to let go.

  81. Mango Freak*

    LW1, why wouldn’t the university provide an in-class translator for the first year or so? Even if your husband could deliver prepared lectures in Spanish, understanding and responding to nuanced questions on the fly is going to be a disaster. (Or even basic questions at first, probably.) Isn’t a translator usually how foreign lecturers handle this?

    So basically if your question is, “should he insist on a lot of provisions and accommodations up-front and in writing before he agrees to this?” the answer is oh my yes, absolutely.

    1. Anna3*

      Yes! They should think of provisions and accommodations and have them in writing before they agree to anything.

      For instance, many top-level universities have associated elementary and secondary schools on campus, so they could negotiate places for their kids in those schools.

  82. Check cash*

    #2 is an odd question. I would be more worried about just randomly missing meetings frequently without letting a boss know before I start worrying about what other people are thinking about it. It’s different if your boss knows what’s up or you have back to back meetings and they don’t necessarily need an explanation, but sounds like you are just rudely not showing up or telling people.

  83. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP1: your husband can learn enough Spanish to function daily, especially as it is a relatively easier language to learn if you have any background in Latin.

    But it will be very, very difficult, and I’m not sure he would know enough to speak at a college level and teach in Spanish.

    My dad learned enough German to function in eight weeks, but never wants to try that again. My mom spent a year teaching in Germany, and he wanted to come with. So he had to learn, like you would.

    Took a special “German for immigrants” course at a nearby college, and during those two months, my mom and everyone around him committed to only speaking German to him. It was immensely frustrating at first.

    Even after the course and intense immersion by everyone around him, he still wasn’t fluent enough to teach. He did learn enough to take a manufacturing job making knives, get about where he needed to go, and have a social life, but still struggled.

    Is it clear what language your husband will be teaching in? (Sometimes overseas universities teach certain courses in English). But I just don’t see this working if he’s expected to teach at a high level in Spanish.

  84. tg33*

    He’s also insistent on me visiting this campus to see if I am comfortable with the city, new country, culture, climate before accepting any offer (if there is one). Is this an appropriate expectation and fair request?

    I are planning on staying with your husband, and he is seriously considering this job, then of course you need to go with him? This is something that affects you as a family, so both of you have yo have input.

  85. Not Totally Subclinical*

    LW1, I want to second the posters who’ve said that you need to think about how difficult this move would be for you, not just whether it’d be a good or nightmare opportunity for your spouse.

    What are you going to do while your spouse is working, besides learn Spanish yourself?

    Would you want to work? If so, how long would it take for you to be eligible to work, and what’s the local job market like, and what’s it like for non-Spanish speakers or non-fluent Spanish speakers?

    Are you planning to have kids? Are you up for handling a medical system you’re not familiar with in a language you don’t speak well at 2am when your baby’s suddenly running a high fever? Are you up for learning the ins and outs of local schooling, again in a language that you’ll hopefully be more fluent in by the time you have a school-aged kid but still not the language you grew up with?

    Are you good at building a support system from scratch, or does it take you years to establish a friend group even somewhere that you speak the language? If you expect to lean on remote friends and family for emotional support, how’s the internet in the city?

    Being a trailing spouse does involve the willingness to move to places that you wouldn’t otherwise consider, but there’s a big jump from moving to Podunk Town, Your Country (where you’re a misfit in the local culture but you at least know the language and can work) to moving to a foreign country.

  86. Jaina Solo*

    LW4, my boss did something similar–1-2 days after telling me I wasn’t getting a promotion, and I was clearly disappointed, she was talking to me about something and mentioned how despite her upcoming holiday time she’d still have to work some because of her new job.


    I just looked at her. Didn’t provide sympathy or say anything. She got the jist after a moment of silence and moved on. But the gall of her thinking she could complain about a new (big) promotion w/ more money to someone on a single income and clearly underpaid, was frustrating. You can totally use Alison’s advice, but if you don’t feel like saying anything, then don’t.

    Hope it gets better for you!

  87. Totally Hypothetical*

    LW5 – if it makes you feel any better, my entire department has basically been in this situation for the last 6 months as the company business modem shifts. It’s been frustrating but clients have generally been understanding and I know logically it’s better to figure this stuff out now then run into an issue in the future and possibly stall out something vital. Hang in there!

  88. Badger*

    LW#1 (teaching abroad): My very basic concern would be that if you’ve been monolingual so far you have no idea how you/your husband will do learning a new language, and very quickly at that.
    I’ve received my education in a school focused on language learning, in the group of my grade with the most intensive language learning and even after pre-selection for that class I had classmates who had a much harder time learning languages than others.

    Yes the immersion will help, but what’s expected of him (if he’s indeed supposed to teach in Spanish without a translator) is a very tall order even for someone who has a penchant for languages and very good support (intensive language courses, guided learning etc).

    Add the new culture to that and I’d certainly have the whole family have a very critical look how ready they are.

  89. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    Not in academia so I won’t address the main question, but I was curious about your question on whether it’s appropriate and fair for your spouse to want you to see the city before making a decision.

    That seems like a no-brainer! Definitely go there in person first if you can

  90. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

    The US Military has 2-3 Year–Full Time–programs to learn new languages, and I would imagine this is an immersive experience, and has data to back up that that is about the fastest an adult can learn a new language fluently.

  91. too many dogs*

    LW #2 I agree with all of the comments being made. If I were a coworker/manager, I’d also be wondering: “If she is so undependable about meetings, if she doesn’t even let somebody know she won’t attend, if she thinks she thinks these meetings are a waste of her time, what else work-wise is she not doing just because she didn’t want to?” It makes her look like someone who can’t be counted on.

    1. Catabouda*

      It was the exact thought I had when dealing with a VP level person who consistently allowed their calendar to get triple booked and was often a no-show at meetings. Any trust in his abilities slowly dropped off and people stopped inviting him to meetings or looking for his input. He then complained about being excluded from processes. No one had any sympathy for him.

  92. Anna3*

    There is always a risk when being the trailing spouse. Universities often will provide a job for the trailing spells, in this case it could be a job at the international student center on campus. We have hired spouses of high-profile academics who only spoke a foreign language it the international student center with the expectation that they would be Learning English. Something like this can be negotiated with the job offer.

    Other options in a foreign country for native English speakers are international companies and certainly the US embassy. Of course there is the remote worker option as well. I hope OP1 will look for opportunities independently.

    1. Anna3*

      I meant trailing spouse and somehow that turned into trailing spell, sorry! This was a type of a Freydian slip I guess. It can be the opposite of fun to be the trailing spouse and sometimes can feel like a curse

  93. Caramellow*

    Re#3…..I had a niche government job in my field replacing a beloved retiree. She just wouldn’t leave. For months she showed up 2-3 times a week, often sitting in my chair, in my office. She would hold informal exams for coworkers (we are medical professionals) which was way outside the job description or professional boundaries.

    I went to my manager who said she couldn’t do anything. I then went to HR with the issue of her showing up and acting beyond the course and scope of her license. They sent her a certified letter banning her from the building. That worked.

  94. Alkuna*

    LW4 I confess I’m passive-aggressive, especially with bosses who are this out of touch.

    “I’m really excited this year because the manager bonuses are even bigger than the IC bonuses!”
    Me: “You get bonuses for your work?” *long uncomfortable stare*

    “Luckily, since my husband and I are both at the manager level, we don’t have to worry about money right now.”
    Me: “It must be nice to be that financially secure.”

    Boss: ‘you know when you’re on vacation for longer than a week?’
    Me: “No.”

  95. Language for foreign professors*

    For #1, I have found an equivalent language policy from a major Danish university for comparison. (The document starts by assuming all employees have solid competencies in English, btw.)

    Danish Competence of International Employees

    2.1 As a starting point, it is expected that tenure track assistant professors, associate professors, and professors will be able to actively contribute to teaching in Danish after 3-6 years, including assessing and advising students – with competencies equivalent to the teaching they are to undertake.

    2.2 The hiring manager must, both in the job posting, during the employment interviews, and continuously in the first years of employment, emphasize the expectation in section 2.1 to the employees and ensure they have the support needed to meet the expectation.

    2.3 Foreign tenure track assistant professors, associate professors, professors, leaders, and permanently employed administrative and service staff should be offered targeted Danish language training paid for by the employer and such training should, as far as possible, take place on campus. This offer should be made clear during the employment interview. It is necessary for managers to allow the necessary time for Danish language training during working hours. This may temporarily replace obligations to, for example, teach.

    2.4 Where appropriate, foreign employees on temporary contracts are encouraged to learn Danish to enhance their career opportunities in Denmark and promote integration at the workplace and in Danish society. Therefore, the department/faculty should also offer Danish language training to temporary employees and PhD students.

  96. lfields*

    I have a friend who has taught in Mandarin for 15 years at a graduate school in Taiwan. He did study the language in college and was at a conversational level before taking the position, but he has handled it successfully. One thing he had as a support was a translator for all his classes for the first 2 years. That gave him time to move towards fluency in the language while he settled in and is something letter writer 1 might want to ask about.

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