I’m Emily Hunsberger, the founder of Tertulia.

Tertulia is the name of my bilingual communications consulting company that supports the use of Spanish as a vibrant language for culture, commerce, and community building in the United States.

Tertulia is also the name of my podcast (in Spanish) about how Spanish is used by real people in the US to build community, transmit culture, reclaim identity, and exercise rights.

I’m also a literary translator and writer, with work featured in Latin American Literature Today, The Southern Review, Latino Book ReviewBello CollectiveSpanglish VocesAnfibias LiterariasOrden de TrasladoTranslators Aloud, Estudios del Observatorio / Observatorio Studies, and forthcoming in PRISM.

So you’re curious about me…

What is my relationship to the Spanish language?

A lifelong speaker of Spanish as a second language, I’ve cultivated a unique set of skills that I’ve applied to roles in local community development and international foundation work, teaching, bilingual communications consulting, and audio reporting and storytelling. While I’m formally educated in the norms and traditions of Spanish, I’m also an observer, a listener, and a question-asker. I participate daily in the living, breathing Spanish language. My strengths include an openness to the linguistic variety of Spanish, a desire to understand the narratives and ideologies surrounding it, and a body of work building bridges across its borders. (See Tertulia’s principles.)

I don’t have a heritage connection to Spanish, so why have I dedicated my life to it?

Throughout my life and career, I’ve witnessed the injustices and hypocrisy that characterize how our society treats Spanish and Spanish speakers. Language immersion schools have competitive admissions and long waiting lists, yet Spanish-speaking parents are still receiving the message that they should not teach Spanish to their children. Speaking Spanish is considered to be a valuable skill on the job market, yet people are being arrested for speaking Spanish in public. The mission of Tertulia is grounded in the understanding that a language cannot be isolated from the community of people that speak it. And as a member of that community, I feel a sense of duty to bring these issues to light and to celebrate Spanish-speaking culture in the US. (See Tertulia’s principles.)

Okay… but how did I learn Spanish in the first place?

Thirty years ago, I started learning Spanish in second grade via a PBS program called Saludos. In terms of formal education, I hold a B.A. in Spanish from Cornell University (where I was part of Teatrotaller) and an M.A. in Spanish and Bilingual Education from George Mason University. (La escuela de la vida is not a degree-granting institution, but I am definitely enrolled.) I completed coursework at Universidad de Salamanca in Spain, and I’ve spent time in Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina. In addition, I’ve studied Portuguese and spent time in Brazil. I am also currently raising two bilingual children.

What does tertulia mean?

Una tertulia describes what happens when people gather together specifically for conversation. I haven’t found a single-word equivalent in English. The closest one I’ve found is “salon” – as in the type of gathering, not the beauty parlor – but it’s not quite the same thing as a tertulia. Tertulia is one of my favorite words in Spanish, for both the sound of it and the image of señores y señoras dressed in guayaberas and gathered over a cafecito to talk about whatever might be on their minds. It’s also closely related to the concept of a peña. And it’s about the most perfect name for a podcast, ever. (wink)

What’s my podcast about?

Tertulia is a series of conversations and stories about how Spanish is used by real people in the US to build community, transmit culture, reclaim identity, and exercise rights. I started my podcast in 2016 by putting myself on a self-directed research and development program, and I published my first episode in January 2017. I had been looking for high-quality podcasts in Spanish that were not just re-broadcasts of radio shows from overseas, and the main one at that time was Radio Ambulante. I wanted to find a podcast that explored Spanish in the United States and that was actually produced in Spanish as well. I didn’t find it, so I made it.

Listen to my interview with Paulo Niño Kehr and Mónika Leal of the podcast Entre Dos:
“What Kind of Spanish Do You Speak? The U.S. as a Spanish-Speaking Country” (2019).
Listen to my interview with Elle Charisse of the podcast Speaking Tongues:
“Speaking US Spanish with Tertulia Podcast” (2021).
Listen to my interview (in Spanish) with Adriana Pacheco of the podcast Hablemos, escritoras:
“Emily Hunsberger y su Tertulia” (2022)

Let’s dream something up together.