Sports events are pretty riveting and uplifting for spectators and players alike. In the United States, football is by far the most popular sport. My dad and I have been Packers fans for a long time! It’s always fun to meet people from Chicago and have some friendly banter about the Packers vs. the Bears (the Packers being the better team, of course). Do you have a favorite football team? What do you like about them? In Latin America, the most famous sport is fútbol, which actually translates to “soccer.” As a false cognate in English and Spanish, it has a tendency to confuse new learners of both languages. (The cartoon Teen Titans GO has a funny example.) If you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, going to a fútbol game or watching it in a restaurant is tons of fun!
The Fan Life
Rooting for a sports team gives fans a sense of belonging. Putting on a team jersey, screaming at the top of your lungs, and eating yummy food is half of the fun! The reason I like the Packers so much is because my family has close friends in Wisconsin—who have become more like family than friends—since way before I was born. If you have friends who are into fútbol, ask them what team they’re rooting for! It’s fun to share a team—or even a rivalry.
Fútbol is the most popular sport in Europe and Latinoamérica. The biggest soccer events usually happen in Europe, and some of the best players from Latin America play in European leagues. One of the most popular soccer stars, Lionel Messi, is originally from Argentina. He usually plays for a Spanish team, though. Some fútbol teams are famous across the board, let’s learn about them!
Famous International Teams
Every four years, during the soccer world cup, dozens of countries compete for first place. Most people will root for their home countries, but many people have more than one favorite team. Here are the three most popular countries to root for in the world cup according to FIFA’s website:
Who would’ve thought the land of chocolate and waffles would be the top-ranked team right now?! They have never won a world cup, however. The closest Belgians have gotten to winning the cup was in 2018, with third place. Definitely one of the top contenders for nabbing the next cup.
The French were champions for the first time in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0. They won first place again in 2018, so even if they’re ranked second, there might able a strong rivalry brewing up for the next cup. Will someone beat the defending champion? How exciting!
Brazil has had its ups and downs, but what has remained consistent throughout the years is the love that Brazilians dedicate to the sport. Fútbol is a big part of Brazilian culture, and after winning the world cup five times, they are strong contenders every time the world cup is held.
The Greatest Rivalry in the World
You’ve probably heard about this one: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Two fútbol teams from Spain have been duking it out so hard since 1929, an almost 100-year-long feud! The rivalry is as strong as it is because it’s tied to political issues in Spain and has been for a long time. If you ask me, this is a healthy way to deal with tensions within a country—that is, with a game instead of violence. The problem is when violence takes over the game. These infamously brutal games are called El Clásico (The Classic), which specifically refers to every game played between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Fan Rivalry Ensues
This notorious rivalry exists in most of Latin America. Sports restaurants commonly fill up for El Clásico, and team jerseys are a popular fashion item for us to show off team spirit. At a coffee shop on my university campus, they set up two tip jars: one with a sticker for Real Madrid and the other for FC Barcelona! I usually try to put one bill in each jar since I’m not a big foreign soccer fan. That doesn’t mean the games aren’t exciting. As of this moment, Barcelona has won more games than Real Madrid by a one-game lead. Out of 243 matches, Barcelona has won 96 times and Real Madrid, 95. The rest have been draws. That’s impressive!
Just Fans—or Friends?
Knowing a little bit about fútbol can go a long way if you’re trying to get to know most Spanish-speakers better. We might not like the same sports as the United States, but we do share the passion for the game. That passion is created not by the game itself, but by the people that engage in it. You can enjoy fútbol if you engage with the community, and that’s the end goal of any sports event. If you want to learn soccer vocabulary, or be able to order hot dogs to watch your fútbol game, you can take a free Spanish class at HSA and start learning today!
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First of all, where is Latin America?
It is the area consisting of Mexico, all of Central America and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands. Most inhabitants speak Spanish or Portuguese, but there are other languages in this region like Indigenous languages, French, English and Dutch.
This is a vast area that cannot be defined simply. There are differences in language, culture, flags, terrain, climate, music and tortillas, to name a few. Spanish and Portuguese are the most widely spoken languages in this part of the world because the Spaniards & Portuguese colonized the majority of Latin America. Cultural influences come not only from Spain and Portugal, but also include contributions from indigenous tribes, other European nations, and African and Caribbean cultures.
Fun Facts about Latin America
Did you know….?
- Current population is 650,860,000 (look here for real-time updates)
- The largest trading partner is the USA and the second is Asia
- The Amazon rainforest reaches nine countries – Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
- 20% of the world’s oxygen is created from the Amazon jungle
- It is estimated that 77 uncontacted tribes live in the Amazon Jungle
- The oldest university in North America is the National University of Mexico
- Colombia produces more than 90% of the world’s emeralds.
- In Latin America, the largest waterfall is Angel Falls in Venezuela, the largest lake is Lake Titicaca in Peru & Bolivia, and the largest city is São Paolo
- Brazil hosts the largest street party in the world: Carnival (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras) in Rio de Janeiro
- Ecuador was the first country in the world to give constitutional rights to nature, meaning that mountains, water, air, forests, islands, etc. have legally enforceable rights to “exist, flourish and evolve.”
- Darwin developed the theory of evolution while visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
- 80% of the population lives in cities, making it the most urbanized continent in the world.
There is SO much more to add to this list, but this gives you an idea of the variety of things this region is known for.
But how did all of this begin? It is an interesting mix of war, oppression, recovery, and perseverance!
Let’s go back to the beginning…
Pre-Colombian Era (~20,000 BCE -1492 BC)
History shows the fluidity of power and dominance, and how civilizations were taken over one by another. The era prior to 1492 is known as the ‘pre-Columbian’ era because it is before the European-Spanish occupation and influence of the Americas (voyage led by Christopher Columbus).
The first known major civilization of Latin America was the Olmecs of Mexico. Little is known because they did not have a written language. The Olmecs were located in ancient Mexico from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE and foreshadowed all subsequent Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
The Olmec civilization fell around 400 BCE, but it is not precisely known why this is because there was little documentation. They did, however, leave behind immense stone heads carved out of volcanic rock.
Many years later the Spanish arrived in the New World and encountered three major civilizations: the Incas in present-day Peru, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Mayans in Mexico and present-day Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There were many other isolated tribes as well.
Below is a very simplistic timeline of the major civilizations:
- Olmecs ruled from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE
- Maya ruled from 1800 BCE to 1519 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
- Aztecs ruled from 1345 CE to 1521 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
- Inca ruled from 1400 CE to 1533 CE (ended when the Spanish conquered them)
Colonial Period (1492-1810)- The New World
This era stands out as doing the most to shape Latin America into what it is today. It began in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the Europeans colonized Latin America.
The Europeans changed the landscape from what it was in the Pre-Columbian era. Power structures that were newly put in place by Spanish and Portuguese still exist today. Native populations were wiped out and continue the struggle to recover today.
European explorers mark the beginning of this era by voyaging from the “Old World” (Europe) to the “New World” (North America and Latin America) in the 15th century. Christopher Columbus not only has an era named after him (“Pre-Columbian era”), he is credited with bringing the Spanish language to Latin America.
There is controversy about whether or not the “New World” was actually discovered by Christopher Columbus and other Europeans because indigenous populations had been living here for centuries. Yet, despite the debate, history classes will claim this was the beginning of the exploration and settlement of the modern western world.
During this time, the Native American population suffered and millions of people died. Much of the indigenous musical, language and other cultural traditions in the Caribbean and on the mainland were lost after the Europeans arrived due to conflict, forced labor, enslavement, and cultural abandonment as well as the spread of disease. For example, the Taíno tribes of the Caribbean consisted of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people before Christopher Columbus arrived, and by 1548 the native population had declined to fewer than 500 people.
Africans also suffered in this era and fleets of ships brought them to the Americas to work as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade. The main destinations on the mainland were Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Nicaragua as well as present-day Colombia and Panama. The main disembarkment locations in the Caribbean islands were Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, present-day Haiti and St. Martinique. The largest population of African slaves (35%) went to Brazil on the mainland, and Jamaica in the Caribbean. The Africans brought with them a rich musical, cultural and culinary background. Latin America is known for having the “largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa.”
Latin America has stood strong amidst these adversities and thrives today.
Post-Colonial Period (1810-Today)
Post-Colonial means the period of time where countries began getting independence from colonial rule. Colombia was the first nation to win independence from Spain and this marked the beginning of post-colonialism in Latin America. Other Latin American countries fought long and hard for independence. Most countries have since achieved sovereignty. However, 19 places are still under rule.
Non-sovereign territories include:
- United States Territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands
- British Overseas Territories: Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat
- The Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten
- French Republic: French Guiana (only mainland country) Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts and St. Martin
- Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: New Sparta and the Venezuela Federal Dependencies
What Makes Up Latin America Today?
Here is a full list of countries and territories that make up Latin America today:
The ethnically diverse region of Latin America is thriving in the global economy and a leader in environmental conservation. It is a vibrant land comprised of varied people living mostly harmoniously and collaboratively. With time, the indigenous population will continue to thrive. A huge milestone was in 2006 when the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, was elected in Bolivia since pre-Columbian days.
Where Will You Go in Latin America?
I hope you learned something new about Latin America and its rich history! Comment below or sign up for a free class and tell us which country is on your bucket list!Read More
The world we live in is a result of the decisions of billions of people across the globe. In one way or another, everything our ancestors did bears some level of influence in modern culture. One of the most compelling aspects of this influence is met through proverbs. The proverbs our grandparents and parents say have an impact on the way we, as a younger generation, think and speak. These bits of common wisdom not only tell us about our culture, but also what we value and how we look at the world. Some of these famous Spanish proverbs might have English translations or parallels, while others might be completely new to you. Either way, Spanish-speaking people will be pleasantly surprised to hear that you know these sayings! Keep in mind that some of these may sound strange in English because the rhymes and rhythms get lost in translation. However, the meaning behind the phrases is the same.
“Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente”
This proverb talks about patience, opportunity, and attention. It translates as “If a shrimp falls asleep, the current will take them away.” You can say this to someone who’s taking too long to decide something, or to someone who’s being lazy and distracted. This is also an example of proverbs made into songs, as we will soon see in some of the other sayings in our list here. An artist called Ricky Maravilla (Ricky Wonder in English) made a song about this proverb. Check out the video to learn some Spanish!
“El comal le dijo a la olla: ¡Qué tiznada estás!”
This one I also learned about through a song by Cri Cri, a well known Mexican band that sings songs for kids. The song “El Comal le Dijo a la Olla” talks about this saying. This one actually has an English translation: “The pot calling the kettle black.” Interestingly, comal actually means griddle, but not just any kind of griddle. Comales are clay or metal griddles that are widely used in Central and South America to cook things like tortillas, nuts, or meat. If you want to know more about tortillas and comales, make sure to check out our blog on tortilla culture!
“El que madruga Dios lo ayuda”
Translates to “He who gets up early is helped by God,” but the parallel to this in English is “The early bird gets the worm.” I always thought this phrase was funny in English. I remember thinking to myself: Wouldn’t the early worm get eaten by the bird? Worms that get up early make easy prey for birds, so maybe waking up early is not as great as it seems! It’s all a joke though, there’s a reason this saying spans across different languages. I just like to sleep in!
Dare to be wise!
These are only some of the proverbs that grandmas all over Latinoamérica share with us. These beautiful bits of wisdom help us grow up and learn about the world. Asking people to share some common wisdom can be a great way to meet locals during your travels. If you want to learn more proverbs, why not take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy? With enough practice, you’ll learn all kinds of quotes and phrases!Read More
The holiday season is wrapping up, and the year ahead of us looks full of new experiences and opportunities waiting to unfold. On New Year’s Eve, it amazes me that almost everyone around the globe comes together to celebrate the end of a trip around the sun. Everyone has different ways to celebrate. Some people like to spend the New Year with their families. Others might prefer to spend it with friends or significant others. Ideally, for me, I’d spend it with both friends and family! How do you like to spend New Year’s Eve?
If you’re spending the New Year abroad you’ll discover there are different ways people celebrate this holiday. Today, we’ll explore the similarities and differences in New Year’s celebrations throughout Latinoamérica!
Most modern New Year’s Eve parties are similar in Latin America since we adopted some of the common party traditions from the US. Whether it’s small family gatherings or festivals with hundreds of people, we all wait until right before midnight to start the countdown to the following year. When the timer reaches zero, fireworks start to go off all over the place, hugs and greetings go around signifying the start of a new year. In other countries, you might have a national countdown timer, but in Guatemala, it’s usually pretty chaotic. Everyone waits until the stroke of midnight to light up fireworks and celebrate New Year. The surefire way to know New Year’s is here is by the copious amounts of fireworks you’ll see exploding all over the city! An exception to this rule is Antigua Guatemala, where they gather around El Arco de Santa Catalina and wait for the clock on it to reach midnight.
Did you know most countries in Latin America have little to no regulations when it comes to purchasing fireworks? Without age restrictions to buy fireworks, any kid who wants them can buy them. There are pros and cons to this: we get to experience all sorts of cool pyrotechnics, but we have to learn to be extra careful with them. The most notorious firework ban occurred over a decade ago. Canchinflines (pronounced can-cheen-fleen-ays), also called silbadores in other regions, were a popular type of festive firework that was eventually banned for causing too many accidents. People would light one of these little gunpowder-filled cylinders, and hold them until the second they went off. Then they threw them into the air where they would rocket off into the distance. Can you imagine why these were banned? Canchinflines were often unpredictable and started dangerous fires during the holiday season.
Always remember to be careful if you’re celebrating the New Year in a Spanish-speaking country! I’ve met my fair share of foreigners who are shocked by how we handle fireworks in Latinoamérica. As long as you follow general fire safety rules, you’ll be alright. Most, if not all, accidents occur because people use fireworks in irresponsible ways.
One of the best parts about any holiday is the traditions, and New Year’s is no exception. We have many different quirks and rituals that set us apart from other countries and cultures. Even within families, you see different ways to celebrate! In my family, we have a long-standing tradition with my cousins: If we’re near a body of water (pool, ocean, etc.) on New Year’s, we’ll put on our swimsuits and get ready to jump into the water when the clock strikes twelve. It’s a lot of fun!
Latinoamericanos have some shared traditions too, little things people do to welcome the year; like walking around the block with a suitcase. My aunt says that if you do this, you’ll increase your chances of traveling during the year. Pretty strange if you ask me, but it’s still entertaining to do these things for the fun of it! Other traditions include wearing yellow underwear to attract prosperity, eating 12 grapes while making 12 wishes, and sweeping the whole house to get rid of bad energy.
If you believe these things help to ensure having a better year or not is up to you. What seems great to me is that the dawn of a new year opens up the opportunity to reset and turn a new page. Maybe these acts aren’t going to magically make things happen, but they put us in a renewed mindset; one that invites us to reflect upon what we want from this year and how can we achieve our goals.
Religion, in one form or another, has been a big part of our culture since the beginning. While the numbers of Christians have dwindled over the years, they’re still a majority in Spanish-speaking countries. Families gather together and pray for prosperity. They often do this near the nativity scene, a diorama of baby Jesus’s birth that typically adorns Christian households in Latinoamérica. Initially, the crib in the scene is empty, but a little figurine of Jesus is placed inside it at midnight on Christmas Eve. He is then removed on January 6th, the day the Three Wise Men came to greet the baby.
New year, New Me
We have New Year’s resolutions too! That famous influx of January gym-goers happens in Latin America as well. There’s no shortage of memes, ads, and effort being put into becoming a better person. Other common resolutions are having better food habits and improving academic/work performance.
Talking about food in Latin America is always a challenge. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the different traditional recipes! That’s a good thing if you ask me, the more food to discover, the better. Most countries will have their traditional dishes served on New Year’s. In Guatemala, for example, we always have things like tamales and paches. Mexico has similar dishes to Guatemala, and most countries usually eat stuff like turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes.
Tamales are a mixture of cornflour with various kinds of meat and vegetables wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled in a huge pot. They’re one of the most popular foods in Latinoamérica! Paches are virtually the same dish, except they’re made with mashed potatoes instead of corn.
Ponche is a big part of this seasons’ dishes. We put lots of different fruits in it! Our punch has apple, pineapple, grapes, prunes, jocote, plantains, and more. The result is a sweet and warm drink, perfect for the chilly, sweater weather at the end of the year. Some people like to put a bit of rum in it, but I honestly prefer it without.
Get Ready for the Coming Year!
On New Year’s Eve, there will be no shortage of things to do. Most countries in Latin America have host families who love to share the holidays with travelers. Sometimes hostels will hold parties for the guests, and, with a little research, you’ll always find an event that caters to your interests! Do you want a running start on your New Year’s resolution? Take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today and let us know about your plans!Read More
The holiday season always runs strong in Latinoamérica. A large portion of us are Christian (around 80%), and there’s no shortage of decorations, food, and jingles all around the country since early November. We have lots of fun traditions that are important to our culture, like building a miniature model of the Nativity Scene, eating tamales with the family, and setting off countless fireworks at midnight. I’ve had foreign friends tell me how crazy our celebrations are, and they’re not wrong! In my family, we have food, prayer and family reunions from the morning of the 24th all the way to midnight on Christmas. Depending on where you are, you can go out in the streets filled with families having posadas, which is a much more crowded version of Christmas caroling.
La quema del diablo
In Guatemala, there’s a holiday called ‘la quema del diablo,’ or ‘the devil’s burning.’ Every year on September 7, people take out all of their old things to donate or get rid of while cleaning house. There are lots of little devil píñatas on the street, which people buy and then burn as a sign of cleansing the spirit. Controversy always arises with this holiday because people tend to go overboard, burning garbage and rubber, as well as large amounts of paper. Lots of PSAs roll around reminding people to be careful around fire and not to contaminate. But it’s not all bad! Some families celebrate by doing a night-time barbecue with friends, which is still burning something — only this time, it’s delicious! Overall, it’s a beautiful tradition, although I hope we can find a cleaner solution someday.
The New Year tradition is very similar in Latinoamérica when compared to the US. We have parties, countdowns, and fireworks for everyone! These few months sure are full of interesting things to discover. Learn more about New Year’s in Latin America here.
Holiday Words and Phrases
Whether you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, or you got invited to dinner by your Spanish-speaking friends, here are some festive words and phrases for you to practice:
Now you’re ready to go to that dinner and have a great time! Regardless of your country of origin or religion, this is a time to be together with your loved ones and eat yummy food, of course! If you want to get better at Spanish, grab a free class today at HSA and get ready to get jolly!Read More
The colonial city of Antigua is not only home to Spanish Academy, but it is also the best place in Guatemala to learn about chocolate! The locals have opened up gourmet chocolate shops on many esquinas where sweet-toothed travelers can try various forms of locally-made chocolates. Think spicy chili chocolate, authentic dark chocolate, cinnamon chocolate, and of course, coffee-flavored chocolate. With a few hours to spare for an adventure of a lifetime, you can even make your own chocolate from scratch at ChocoMuseo, the chocolate museum. Everyone knows what chocolate is, but what about where it comes from? and why is it referred to as the “food of the gods”? Read on to find out!
Food of the Gods
The Maya, whose vast empire covered southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras, worshipped the cacao tree and its precious seed, the cacao bean. They called it the “food of the gods.” Chocolate even had its own goddess, Ixcacao, and she was often called upon alongside the corn and rain gods to help provide fertile land and support the harvests.
Guatemala is considered the birthplace of chocolate because of one of its most popular tourist destinations, Tikal, which was the capital of the Maya Civilization. The Mayas ruled for approximately 3,000 years from 1500 BCE to the early 1500’s CE. To put this into perspective, the United States has only been a country for 243 years. Wow.
During the Maya era, chocolate was mainly taken as a drink – and they liked their chocolate beverage bitter and spicy. Maya cacao was ground by hand, mixed with water, honey, vanilla, corn and chile. The beans were also eaten on long journeys to provide stamina. It was often reserved for the elite. Chocolate was used as an aphrodisiac, valued commodity and as a currency!
Who First Discovered Chocolate, the Mayas or the Olmecs?
We may never know who truly discovered chocolate. Little is known about the Olmec civilization, which was located in ancient Mexico from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE and foreshadowed all subsequent Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya and Aztec.
The Olmecs are said to have cultivated the first variety of cacao, known as criollo, and brought it to Guatemala. The Olmecs did not have a written language. In contrast, the Maya had the most advanced written language in the ancient Americas. Due to the Maya documentation of chocolate, they have received credit for discovering and cultivating the first cacao plants.
Then the Aztecs Discover Chocolate
The Aztecs ended up conquering parts of the Maya civilization (Yucatán and Guatemala) and were hereby introduced to chocolate. They discovered a new set of health benefits from this valued plant.
For the Aztecs, cocoa was believed to be of divine origin and was a link between heaven and earth. The Aztecs sanctified human sacrifices by giving them chocolate, used the beans for elite children’s coming-of-age ceremonies, had couples drink chocolate from ceremonial cups during wedding ceremonies, and believed that drinking chocolate gave people wisdom from Quetzalcoatl (the god of learning and wind).
Then the Spanish arrived and conquered both the Mayas (1519 CE) and the Aztecs (1521 CE), bringing to Latin America the present-day Spanish language, among other traditions. In turn, they took chocolate with them back to Europe to serve first to royalty, then slowly introduced it to the commoners. Chocolate evolved to eventually be accessible to everyone.
Today we all know and love chocolate. Some may still consider it a gift from the gods.
Choco Museo – The Chocolate Museum
Today, you can learn all about traditional and conventional chocolate preparation methods at the Choco Museo in Antigua.
Did you know there is a huge difference in dark, milk and white chocolate? At Choco Museo, they make their chocolates with the following ratios:
- Dark chocolate is made up of 70% cacao and 30% sugar
- Milk chocolate is made up of 35% sugar, 23% cacao, 22% milk and 20% cacao liquor
- White chocolate doesn’t have any cacao at all! It is actually a sweet cream that is made up of sugar, water, and milk
Today, cacao and sugar are mixed for 22 hours by machine to turn it into chocolate. The Mayas did this process by hand. One of our own at Spanish Academy, Ashley, stopped by for a tour and tried this ancient method. She smashed cacao beans, grinding them with a hand grinder, and customized her flavor by adding jalapeño, caramel, salt, and orange pieces. YUM!
¿Cuál es tu tipo favorito de chocolate?
Chocolate has been a part of rituals, royalty and religion for centuries. The ancient tradition of growing cacao and making chocolate has impacted people around the world. When you learn another language, you also learn about how tradition influences culture.
Learn More Today!
Schedule a free class today and learn more about the local Maya culture that still thrives in Guatemala. You could also ask your teacher what their favorite chocolate is and if they’ve ever visited The Chocolate Museum!Read More
The rewarding challenge of raising bilingual children can often take an unexpected turn into confusion. Despite your best efforts, you notice that your child refuses to speak their home language. The frustrations mount and parents often begin to feel helpless in this situation. But wait, the good news is up ahead! If you have a young one who used to speak Spanish at home and has stopped, then this article may help you to understand why. Parents understand the benefit of being multilingual but, the truth is, most children simply do not. Even so, how can you encourage them to speak Spanish at home when it’s their native language? Let’s look at the reasons why they may refuse to speak it and what we can do to encourage a change.
The Bilingual Child’s Dilemma
In general, the benefits of being bilingual are not clear to a child caught between two worlds. Very often, they will decide that the minority language – the one spoken by fewer people in their daily experience – has to go. Two prominent theories about why this happens are (1) due to peer pressure, and (2) the breaking down of the person-language bond.
According to Barbara Abdelilah-Bauer, a French linguist, social psychologist, and founder of Café Bilingue, “[Dropping the home language] is something that often happens because children don’t want to be different from their friends at school.” In countries like the United States, for example, an average of only 2 out 10 of children are bilingual. In other words, the minority of children do not speak English at home. Unfortunately, this may contribute to the peer pressure they feel to conform to speaking English all the time as the community language.
The person-language bond refers to a strong psycho-emotional connection the child makes to a caretaker that also involves the chosen language they speak to one another. Let’s look at an example: a mother lives in an English-speaking community and chooses to speak Spanish-only to her son. As he grows, he realizes that he speaks Spanish with mom and English with everyone else. This strengthens his person-language bond with his mother and he will very likely refuse to speak English with her. If at some point the child’s mother begins to speak to him in English as well, it will quickly break down the strong language association that he had had with her. This will erode his need to speak Spanish to his mother and lead to him speaking to her in English, as it is the majority language in this example. “Children use the easiest strategy when it comes to languages. When they see that you understand and talk other languages that are more important at the moment (social environment, school, and friends) they will prefer those dominant languages,” says Ute Limacher-Riebold of ExpatSinceBirth.
What are other possible reasons they are not speaking Spanish?
Aside from the examples above that do not apply to everyone, what might be some other reasons that your child is not speaking Spanish at home?
- Discomfort: Make sure your child doesn’t feel pressured to speak Spanish in certain situations. This can lead to a sense of embarrassment that becomes associated with the language. Also, kids tend to notice if a parent feels uncomfortable speaking a certain language and they will eventually end up feeling the same way toward it.
- Few language resources: Does your child have a rich collection of books, DVDs, board games, computer games, and other language-heavy types of media? If not, then it’s time to start gathering as many Spanish-speaking resources as possible and make a space that grabs your child’s attention.
- Spanish is being learned, not lived: An important fact about language acquisition and usage is that the language must be relevant and meaningful for the child in order for them to use it. If it is being taught inside the home instead of being used in a meaningful way, it may lose its sense of purpose and its appeal.
- Not enough exposure: How many hours a week is your child exposed to Spanish-speaking situations? If less than 30% of their waking hours are spent in this kind of environment, you may want to consider adding more “living resources” (such as people and family members who only speak Spanish) to their daily life.
- The parent speaks the community language more often: How often do you find yourself speaking Spanish with your child or with the people in your life? Do you notice that you speak more frequently in the majority or community language? This can affect your child’s idea of how necessary or important it is to speak Spanish when another language is more dominant or frequently used.
Dormant or Passive Bilingualism?
While a child may choose to stop speaking Spanish for whatever reason, the good news is that they don’t typically lose their bilingual ability (unless they go years without any practice). To be most effective in encouraging a change in the child’s language choice, it’s important to understand whether your child is dormant or passive when it comes to Spanish fluency.
Sometimes, a person will go into a mode called dormant bilingualism, where, despite knowing two languages or more, they choose to interact with the world in only one language. Swiss psycholinguist, François Grosjean, says that this could be due to a “major life change such as immigration, the loss of a close family member, a separation, a change of jobs, or simply growing up and leaving one’s language community.” In this case, they would still have a strong fluency level in Spanish, but they no longer choose to speak it while they adapt to their new circumstances.
Passive bilingualism refers to a type of speaker who was exposed to a language since birth and has a native-like comprehension of it, but who did not develop an active command of speaking the language. In this case, they would need educational reinforcements and confidence-building to help them establish an ability to speak Spanish (not just understand it).
How to Encourage the Use of Home Language
Knowing and understanding whether your child is a dormant or passive bilingual will help you to choose which of the following suggestions would be the best fit! What are some ways we can encourage usage of the home language?
- Seek out Spanish social groups or playgroups so that your child is encouraged to speak in the language in order to interact and play.
- Foster settings where your child will no longer have the choice of not using Spanish by exposure to a Spanish club, tutors, family members with whom Spanish is the only way to communicate, online Spanish classes at Homeschool Spanish Academy, babysitters, and other children. You can also invite home-stay guests, or have them home-stay with a family that only speaks Spanish.
- Actively promote a greater level of exposure to Spanish each day. Try to aim for 25 hours of active listening and speaking time each week with at least 15 minutes a day reading (and writing, if possible).
- Focus on making a rich home library with Spanish books and read with your child every night. Make use of effective reading strategies.
- Engage in lots of conversation by telling stories or folklore that you may know, talking about interesting events from your life, and sharing jokes and riddles.
- Introduce your child to Spanish music, computer games, TV shows, and other media that are fun and entertaining.
- Build up a fun collection of Spanish games: board games, card games, word games, and storytelling games.
- Balance your child’s Spanish experience with providing a need to speak it and maintaining constant exposure to it.
- Limit the amount of time you spend speaking to your child in any language other than Spanish.
- When you ask your child questions, offer up different choices or options instead of expecting a simple yes or no. This gives you the chance to model a richer, fuller use of the language.
Benefits of Bilingualism
While it is no easy task to get your bilingual child back on track, it is possible to do! We hope that with this article you have learned more about why your child may no longer be speaking Spanish and how to inspire them to change. If you would like to encourage your child to practice speaking with a native Spanish-speaking teacher from Guatemala, enroll them in an online Spanish class at Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are guaranteed to speak Spanish after the first class.Read More
One of the aspects of language is that it’s a fluid and ever-changing method of communication. Slang words pop up every other week and old words start feeling obsolete as time goes by. Some words used to carry different meanings as well! For example, in the 1800s the word “dude” was used when referring to a well-dressed man, sometimes in a pejorative way, implying the dude’s lack of knowledge of the world outside the city. Today, as you may know, dude is a word used to refer to another person, in a fraternal way. Sometimes, new words emerge all together, like ‘yeet.’ The same thing happens in Spanish, and today I’ll be writing about some of the colloquial phrases young people in Latinoamérica use every day. Keep in mind that Latin America is quite big, and some of these words may not apply to every single country. One of the fun things about going to a new country is learning all the local words, so I encourage you to try and say these phrases to your friends, and ask them what they mean in their country.
It’s not uncommon for countries to have different meanings for the same words, and a word that’s normal in one country may mean something completely different in another! This is a source of misunderstanding even amongst Latinos, so don’t worry if you run into one of these in your travels, because you probably will. These misunderstandings usually end with laughter, so you have nothing to worry about. For this blog, I’ll avoid the words and phrases that can cause misunderstanding, so you won’t have to think about their possible meanings. Also, keep in mind these words will be definitely understood in México and Central America, but may not be used in other countries
The word onda literally translates to ‘wave’, but when used as slang, the accurate translation would be ‘vibe.’ Depending on how you use it you’ll be saying different things. This is one of the most commonly used cool phrases in Spanish!
This is how most young people greet each other, and it means ‘What’s up?.’ This phrase can be used to say hi to your friends or to ask about something.
- ¿Qué onda? Llevo ratos sin verte.
- ¿Sabes qué onda con Ricardo? Llegó tarde a clase ayer.
- What’s up? I haven’t seen you in a while.
- You know what’s up with Ricardo? He was late to class yesterday.
This phrase can be used to say thank you, to refer to someone you’re fond of.
- Mi amiga Samantha es buena onda.
- ¡Buena onda por traerme mi cuaderno ayer!
- Mi friend Samantha is so cool.
- Thank you for bringing me my notebook yesterday!
It can also be used as an interjection when you’re excited about something. ¡Qué buena onda!
Bueno y malo are opposites, so mala onda is the opposite of buena onda. You can use this to talk about someone you don’t like, or more commonly as a way to express disapproval of someone’s actions.
- Rosa no me quiso compartir su tarea, qué mala onda.
- El guardia mala onda no nos quiso dejar pasar por la puerta principal.
- Rosa didn’t want to share her homework with me, that’s a bummer.
- The uncool guard didn’t let us through the main door.
Tipo tranquilo translates to ‘something chill.’ This phrase is used amongst friends who want to get together for the weekend to kick back and take it easy. This phrase is infamous for its deceptive nature because a lot of wild parties usually start on the pretense of tipo tranquilo, so be careful!
Since I’ve lived and worked in a bilingual environment most of my life, Spanglish is something I’m quite familiar with. Just like English has adopted Spanish words like tacos and enchiladas, we have anglicized (adopting Ebglish terms into Spanish) some words of our own too!
Yep, we use the word cool. It has the exact same meaning too! If you want to say something is cool, all you have to say is ¡eso está cool! Keep in mind that it is not the only way to say that, and each country has different ways of saying ‘cool.’ Here are some examples of ways to say cool:
Did you notice a lot of these start with ‘ch?’ That’s because a lot of our slang words are derivatives of native languages from native civilizations like the Aztecs and Mayans, for example.
It’s strange that a slang word from the ’80s made its way to Latin American slang, but it did! In Spanish, saying ‘fresh’ is the same as in saying ‘no worries.’ So saying Dale fresh means you should go ahead sin pena, without shame!
Órale is mainly a Mexican word, but Central America uses it too. It can be used to express agreement or to say goodbye.
- ¿Te traigo agua entonces? – Sí, gracias. – ¡Órale!
- ¡Órale! Que te vaya bien.
- I’ll bring you water, then? – Yes, please. – No worries!
- See ya! Have a nice one.
Hopefully, you’ve learned something new today, and always remember the best teachers are the ones you can directly talk to! Take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and go from good to great!Read More
Latin American music includes a wide variety of sounds that differ in many ways, from the instruments used to create unique sounds to the rhythm and associated dance moves. The music has evolved over the centuries and continues to change today.
History of Latin Music
Latin American music is influenced by indigenous, Spanish-European, African and, most recently, the United States of America cultures.
Original music in Latin America began with indigenous populations. These communities used very diverse materials to make instruments from natural sources. Instruments were created by making sounds from striking one material with another, such as rattles made of beetle wings, striking sticks, marimbas, split-cane clappers, hollow tree trunks, and bamboo sticks, gourds, and turtle shells struck with a stick or animal antler. Wind instruments such as flutes, trumpets, and panpipes were also common.
Little music documentation exists prior to the 1490s. However, when the Spanish arrived in the New World, they encountered three major civilizations: the Incas in present-day Peru, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Mayans in Mexico and present-day Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There were many isolated tribes as well that all had unique music.
The era prior to 1492 and before the European-Spanish occupation of the Americas (voyage led by Christopher Columbus) is known as the ‘pre-Columbian era.’ Indigenous populations migrated from the Americas to the Caribbean around 1200 AD and existed for centuries. They had a rich musical heritage of performance chants in call and response style and music-dance ceremonies which were accompanied by maracas-style rattles, guiros, and slit drums.
Much of the Caribbean musical heritage was lost after the Europeans arrived due to conflict, forced labor, enslavement, and cultural abandonment as well as the spread of disease. For example, the Taíno tribes of the Caribbean consisted of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people before Christopher Columbus arrived, and by 1548 the native population had declined to fewer than 500 people.
Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the Spanish language from the Old World (Europe) to the New World (The Americas and surrounding islands) beginning in 1492. There are controversy and heated debate surrounding this period in time, but history classes will claim this was the beginning of the exploration and settlement of the modern western world.
The Europeans introduced new instruments such as the guitar and other string instruments.
Africans were abducted from their homeland and brought by ships to the Americas- known as the slave trade. The Africans brought with them a rich musical background and influenced American music. Latin America is known for having the “largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa.”
African music was very different from European music in many ways. One major way is that European music was written down and documented – therefore the musician could replay the same music again and again (such as written piano music). African music was passed down orally and this allowed for improvising and modification each time the dance or music was shared.
African music also incorporates interactive call-and-response styles. This means a soloist will sing a phrase and the chorus responds. As researcher Tim Marcus explains, the introduction of this technique sounded “different and unstructured to a European ear, but will sound completely structured and patterned to an African ear.”
Probably the largest musical instrument introduced from Africa is the drums.
Music continues to evolve, and a good example is the creation of Tejano (“Tex-Mex”) music which began in Texas and Mexico in the 1920s. The music began with the introduction of the accordion by German, Polish, and Czech immigrants.
Latin America music continues to thrive in the United States with Latino (someone from a Latin American country) and Chicano (someone from Mexico who grew up in the USA) influence.
¡Viva la música!
Latin American music is representative of generations of cultural and musical influences that originated and descended upon Mexico, Central America, South American and parts of the Caribbean.
It is hard to discuss Latin American music without considering Latin American dance – the two are interdependent. You can’t help but tap your feet or get up and dance when hearing Latin music due to its colorful, rhythmic, and inviting sounds.
Each country takes pride in its contribution to the Latin American music scene. For example, the marimba was created in Guatemala – and they celebrate Marimba Day!
Types of Latin Music
This list shows a wide variety of music in the Latino community. Of course, it is not all-encompassing since music, like language, is fluid and cannot be placed into a neat box.
What is your favorite rhythm or dance??
Comment below on what your favorite type of Latin music or who your favorite artist is. Or, sign up today for a free class and discuss music with one of our teachers!
A staple of the Central American diet, and the star of every Taco Tuesday, is the modest (yet truly remarkable) tortilla de maíz, or corn tortilla. While we are all pretty familiar with its taste and utility, we may not know much of anything else about this marvelous food. Do you know where the tortilla originated? Or how it’s been made since its creation? And why did copying the corn and tortilla-centered culture of the New World make Europeans deathly ill in the 1500s? The answers will surprise you as there is more to this common comestible than meets the eye.
Corn appears in history as a cultivated source of nutrients at least 8,700 years ago in Mesoamerica where the creation story of the tortilla begins. After the indigenous culture of these regions learned to modify teosinte, a type of wild grass, into corn, they began to process the corn into masa, or dough. They did this through an ingenious method called nixtamalization. They soaked the corn kernels in a limewater solution (from limestone, not the fruit lime), which removed the hulls, made it more easily digestible, and helped the ground corn form a dough (instead of turning into mush) for tortilla-making. The resulting mixture of masa is called nixtamal, an Aztec word for hominy. Interestingly, the chemical process of mixing corn with lime releases a crucial vitamin that is otherwise unavailable to the human body. When the Europeans learned to farm corn from the natives of the New World in the early 1500s, they failed to copy the process of nixtamalization. Eventually, high corn yields in European fields led to high corn consumption, and vast populations whose diets relied primarily on corn became extremely sick, often dying, from a severe type of malnutrition called pellagra.
The corn tortilla is an extraordinary human invention. Coined tortilla by the Spaniards who compared it to a smaller version of the torta (cake) they knew back home, this small round corn cake packs a hefty punch of nutrition. Thanks to the process of nixtamalization, tortillas are rich in minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium and provide essential vitamins like A, B, and E. They are also a good source of protein and fiber. Indigenous cultures named corn, beans, and squash the Three Sisters, since they grew better together and created a perfectly balanced diet for health and well-being.
The traditional recipe for any tortilla includes corn, water, and lime (called cal in Spanish) to make the nixtamal. The women are typically responsible for making tortillas for family members or consumers who may buy from their tortillería (tortilla shop). They prepare a comal (a hot griddle made out of light sheet-metal), then dampen the nixtamal on a table, mix it well, and break off pieces to be formed into thin, circular patties. The process of creating perfectly round tortillas that are uniform in thickness is an art form that many women start learning at a young age. They lay the tortillas on the hot griddle for a minute or two and then flip them over by pressing lightly into each one with damp fingers. When the tortillas are finished, they gather them up while piping hot and store them insides baskets with thick pieces of cloth to keep them warm. Check out this video to see one of our own, Ashley, learn to process and make traditional tortillas in Guatemala!
Tortilla Variations by Region
While tortilla culture extends from Mexico to Argentina, it is much more frequently consumed in Central America. Specifically, in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, tortillas are eaten daily by the majority of the population. Costa Rica and Panama do partake in tortilla-making, but it is becoming less common and most people simply eat pre-packaged tortillas. Nicaraguans consume a thick, sweet type of tortilla called güiriles that they serve with crumbled cheese. Tortillas in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile are smaller than those in Central America. They have salty tortillas called sopaipilla and sweet ones that are boiled in sugar water. Many countries in Central and South America continue to make use of masa in different ways, crafting the corn dough into unique and culturally-defining foods.
Different Tortilla Dishes
Tortillas vary in size from 6 cm to over 30 cm, depending on the type of dish they will be used for. While the tortilla is often consumed on its own as a side dish to any meal, it is also modified to create specific dishes. Here is a list of dishes made with the tortilla, showing what they are and where they originated:
Tortillas in Guatemala
In Guatemala, where Homeschool Spanish Academy is based, the tortilla is a main staple of most people’s diets (along with beans and some type of meat). There is a tortillería on every corner, where some families go to buy freshly made tortillas los tres tiempos (three times a day). Other families buy corn to grind or grow their own in order to make masa nixtamalizada for their homemade tortillas. For each meal, the family gathers together with big piles of steamy tortillas packed away in canastas de mimbre, or wicker baskets. The amount of tortillas eaten by each person varies by preference, averaging from two to eight per person per meal. In many cases, the tortilla replaces use of a fork or spoon, as it’s used to scoop up black beans and rice (for example). It’s also frequently rolled up and dipped into savory dishes like a hearty guisado (stew) or jocón (tomatillo-cilantro spiced gravy).
Try Your Own Tortillas
Would you like to try to make your own tortillas at home? Check out this helpful recipe and with a bit of practice, you can make your own delicious corn tortillas for any dish. We hope you enjoyed learning about tortilla culture in Latin America. Sign up for a free class with a native Spanish speaker in Guatemala and let us know how your tortilla-making experience is going!Read More