Want to speak Spanish like a pro? Then you will need to learn the business lingo.
Spanish is the official language for 21 countries and territories- not including the USA which has 41 million Spanish speakers alone!
Entonces, si quiere comunicarse con la gente de estos países, ¡necesita aprender y practicar español! (So, if you want to communicate with the people of these countries, you need to learn and practice Spanish!)
Vamos a empezar con usted…o contigo…o con vos…(Let’s start with you…or you…or YOU…)
What? There are 3 ways to say ‘you’ in Spanish??
YOU. We use this word every day and don’t think much about it. In English, ‘you’ is one simple word used to address everyone: your boss, kids, great-grandmother, legal advisor, business counterparts, financial planner, and anyone else.
In Spanish, ‘you’ can be polite or insulting, depending on which form is used. Let’s learn more about the nuances of this important word and how to use it in the workplace.
Which Variation of ‘YOU’ Do You Use and When?
There are many ways to say ‘you’ in Spanish – see below to decode this seemingly innocuous word:
Click here to learn more about Vos!
When To Use Formal vs. Informal Language
Formal and informal language exist to fulfill different purposes. The two styles differ in tone, word choice, and the way the Spanish verbs are conjugated.
Formal language is less personal than informal language and is utilized in most business contexts. You will use formal speech when addressing professionals and respectable people, such as legal, banking, and other official branches, as well as store owners and customers. It is safe to default to formal language with strangers and older people. Formal language does not use colloquialisms, slang, or abbreviations.
Informal language is more casual and personal, and it is used when you are speaking to someone who you are comfortable and familiar with. It can be used for work colleagues who you know well and socialize with, as well as those who have the same rank/title and education level as you. Informal language is used when sending text messages, writing personal emails, and in some business correspondence.
Here are some examples of when to use formal speech in Spanish:
Introducing yourself at a business meeting or presentation:
In English, you introduce yourself by saying, ‘Hello, My name is Mia. It is a pleasure meeting you.‘
In Spanish, you say this formally:
Hola, mi nombre es Mia. Es un gusto conocerle.
If someone introduces themselves to you first, you could also say:
El gusto es mío.
Or, the pleasure is mine. The informal way to say this would be:
Me llamo Mia. Mucho gusto.
This is literally translated to ‘I call myself Mia, nice to meet you.’
Introducing someone else at a business meeting or in a presentation
In English, there is one way of saying, ‘Let me introduce you to…’
In Spanish the formal introduction is:
Le presento a Señor Rio…
The informal version is:
Te presento a Señor Rio…
There is a small difference in words (le vs. te), but great variation in meaning. Another formal way to introduce someone is:
Me permite presentarle a Maya…
May I introduce you to Maya…
The informal version would be:
Permíteme presentarte a Maya.
The difference again is le vs. te.
Addressing people with higher authority, such as your boss, business partner or customer – or older individuals to whom you want to show respect
Your boss greets you with:
Or, how are you? You respond with:
Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Necesita (usted) algo para el proyecto hoy?
This would mean: I am well, thank you. Do you (formal) need anything for the project today?
Notice the verb necesita is used with Usted and this formalizes the sentence, while necesitas is used with tú. In an informal setting, it would be:
¿Necesitas (tú) algo…?
Note: When speaking you can drop the tú and usted. Here, they are in parenthesis to show how they are tied to the verb.
Another example – your customer calls you with urgency in his voice and you say:
Buenos días. ¿Cómo le puedo ayudar hoy?
Good morning, How can I help you (formal) today?
The informal variation would be:
Buenos días. ¿Cómo te puedo ayudar hoy?
Again, there is a difference between le and te.
Salutations and Closings – word choices for business and professional emails
In English we begin formal correspondence with ‘Dear Mr. or Mrs. Ramos’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’
In Spanish, formal greetings people you do not know begin with:
This directly translates to ‘Esteemed Mr./Mrs. Ramos,’ but to English speakers, this is just a formal way to say ‘Dear.’
If you want to keep it formal, but have a relationship with the person, then you can use:
Querido Señor/a Lòpez
This would also translate to Dear Mr./Mrs. Lòpez.
To Whom It May Concern is:
A quien corresponda
English speakers conclude emails/letters with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Regards,’ which would be:
If you want your closing to be more formal you could say:
Espero su respuesta. Saludos cordiales, Mari Barco
This translates to ‘I await your response. Cordial Greetings, Mari Barco.’
Saying goodbye after a meeting or job interview
When saying goodbye, you will want to say ‘Have a good day’ which is said in Spanish formally with:
Qué tenga un buen día or Qué le vaya bien
The informal versions are:
Qué tengas buen día or Qué te vaya bien
‘Hasta luego’ and ‘hasta pronto’ are also good semi-formal choices for ‘See you soon.’ On the other hand, you do not want to say ‘chao’ (slang for goodbye).
Cuando no esté seguro, trate a las personas de usted. When in doubt, use the formal ‘you’ (usted), or ask the person you’re speaking to what form they feel most comfortable with. This ensures you are speaking respectfully and not offending anyone. If someone invites you to “tutear” (this word means to address each other as tú)– then you can move from usted to the tú form.
Let’s Have a Conversation
John is new to his position at work and is speaking to his business colleague, Mari, for the first time. She has the same title and education level but has been in the job longer. Therefore she is, in essence, a superior.
John: Hola, Mari. ¿Cómo está (usted)? ¿A que hora empieza la reunión con la gerencia?
Hello, Mari. How are you (formal)? What time does the meeting start with Senior Management?
Mari: Hola, John. Estoy bien. Me puedes tutear. La reunión empieza en 15 minutos.
Hi, John. I am well. You can go ahead and use the ‘tú‘ form with me. The meeting begins in 15 minutes.
John: Gracias, Mari. Entonces, voy a caminar contigo. ¿Necesitas que te ayude llevando algo?
Thank you, Mari. I will walk with you (informal). Do you (informal) need me to help you carry anything?
What just happened? John was ‘invited’ to use the tú form with his coworker, and hereafter he can be comfortable using tú instead of usted. Notice that John moved from formal to informal pronouns and verb conjugations.
Why Is It Important to Use ‘Usted’ in The Workplace?
We always want to put our best foot forward at work. Learning the correct usage of ‘you’ and the verb conjugations are not only a way to communicate politely with your business counterparts, but also impress them by showing that you have a good grasp of the language.
Many languages put an emphasis on respect, and Spanish is one of them. It is imperative that you also do research on cultural etiquette to learn what is respectable. Read more about respecting Latino culture here.
In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of communicating in the local language when doing business abroad, including why and how this gives you a competitive advantage over your monolingual peers.
Mistakes Are Part of the Learning Process
If you studied Spanish in school or with the Spanish Academy, you are probably more accustomed to conversing using the tú form – except maybe with your professor – so it is easy to fall back into your comfort zone when speaking with other people.
As a non-native Spanish speaker, you are going to make mistakes – just be sure to take it in stride as best as possible and correct yourself when you can.
I, myself, have had the uncomfortable experience of addressing someone in a business setting with tú. I was so focused on conjugating the verbs correctly, that the tú form got blurted out. After this blunder, I immediately adjusted my sentence structure to accommodate usted and got my confidence back.
Learn From a Native Spanish Speaker!
It’s not always easy to know what pronoun to use. The best way to improve your usage of tú and usted is to communicate with a native Spanish speaker. Arranging for a local conversation is a great option, but unfortunately, many of us have busy schedules and cannot find a time that is convenient for both parties. That is the brilliance of Spanish Academy – schedule a time that works for you, speak to a Spanish language professional, and pay an affordable price.
One of my favorite parts of taking classes with Spanish Academy is that I can ask questions about confusing words or phrases before a big meeting or traveling abroad. One-on-one help from native Spanish speakers is only a click away AND you can approach the business meeting with poise and assurance.
Sign up for your free class today!
The long-awaited summer is finally here! It’s time to go out – or stay in – and invest some precious time in our favorite activities! Our hobbies and what we do in our free time is such an important part of who we are, so let’s learn to share more about ourselves in Spanish! If you haven’t watched our video Talking about Hobbies in Spanish, go check it out!
Our Favorite Hobbies in Spanish
As you may have guessed correctly, there is a long list of vocabulary here! We all like different things and that’s what makes us unique. There are also activities that we do with others that bring us closer together. Let’s get started! Look at the hobby vocabulary below and find the five things that you like to do the most in your free time.
Now that you’ve found the five things you prefer to do in your free time, let me ask you:
- ¿Qué haces en tu tiempo libre? What do you do in your free time?
- ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? What do you like to do in your free time?
- ¿Cuál es tu pasatiempo favorito? What are your favorite hobbies?
Keep reading to find out how to answer these questions!
Now that we know the names of different hobbies in Spanish, let’s learn how we can use this knowledge in sentences! There are several ways to say that we like – or dislike – something. Today, we’ll have a look at:
interesar (to be interested in), gustar (to like), and encantar (to love)
We conjugate these verbs a little differently than normal verbs. Why? Oh, the joys of language learning!
As you can see in the table above, the indirect object pronouns (me, te, le, nos, les) are the ones that change to match the subject in the sentence, not the verb. This affects the sentence we form as a whole. Indirect object pronouns are words that tell us to whom or for whom something is being done. It can be a person, an animal, or a thing. In the sentence ‘I give her the book.’, her is the indirect object pronoun because her is receiving the book!
The normal sentence pattern in Spanish is subject + conjugated verb + object. However, in the case of these three verbs, things change a little bit. The sentence pattern that we use is:
indirect object pronoun + conjugated verb + object
Let’s look at some examples:
The best way to remember this sentence construction is to think of the fact that while in English we say I like something. In Spanish, it’s a lot more like Something pleases me. Always keep in mind that language learning is not just translating words, but learning a whole new perspective on communication – with new words!
In this case, Me gusta leer is the equivalent to Reading pleases me. And a word-by-word translation of Me gusta leer is Me pleases to read. A more literal translation, that would make a little more sense is Me it pleases to read.
Another very important factor to remember when you’re building these sentences is that sometimes you’ll use the article, and sometimes you won’t. Thankfully, there is a rule here:
Let’s build some more sentences together so that it becomes clear!
And what about the things we don’t like? Well, that one’s easy for a change! You simply add a no before the indirect object pronoun. Let’s practice with some examples:
Uff! This was a lot to take in, but don’t worry! The more you practice your favorite hobbies in Spanish, the easier it will get. And don’t forget to book your FREE class today so we can practice together!Read More
Education is the foundation for a bright future, which is what every parent wants to provide for their child. The Spanish Academy isn’t just for homeschooling families; this program is for anyone looking for an affordable, high-quality Spanish program.
Many homeschool programs may just offer a Spanish book for the parent to teach from or provide funds for a program like Rosetta Stone. But where is the native-speaking teacher to help you with the pronunciation and conversation? Now, schools may have a native speaker teaching Spanish classes – they may even have a language immersion program! However, your child will probably not get the one-on-one attention needed to thrive in a classroom setting. For that reason, many parents opt for private Spanish tutors – if they can afford them, that is. A lot of people even travel abroad to get that authentic learning experience in a personalized setting with a native speaker.
All of the affordable options seem to be lacking, but the authentic teaching experience may be out of your budget. What the Spanish Academy offers is the best of both worlds – authentic teaching with native teachers at a price you can afford! Let’s see what a year with the Spanish Academy looks like.
How Often Are the Classes?
Throughout the school year, most of our students take classes twice a week. This is the perfect balance between overwhelming a student with loads of information every day and not spending enough time studying for the information to stick. Let’s say the student studies on Mondays and Wednesdays. What about the other days of the week? Will the gap in learning affect their progress? The answer is no. After every class, the teacher provides homework which takes about the same amount of time as the class. For example, if the class is 50 minutes long, the homework will take about 50 minutes as well. That way, on days that the student does not have class, they are still exposed to the language. Our curriculum is also available on the student’s profile so they can print out sheets and practice when not in class.
By taking classes twice a week, the student will finish two semesters of Spanish study in one school year. Each semester is about 30 classes, or 4 months, giving them plenty of time to finish the two semesters from September to May.
While many of our students take classes twice a week, it is NOT mandatory. Remember, the classes are designed to fit your schedule and lifestyle. If you want your student to progress quickly, he or she can take 5 classes a week; if you would prefer less frequent classes, that is also completely fine. The schedule is completely up to you.
Do the Classes Have to be Completed in a Certain Time Frame?
Since our program fits your schedule, the classes do not have to be completed by a certain date. If you would like your school year to be a full 12 months instead September to May, that is completely fine. If you would like to start the school year in the summer to get a jump start, that is also fine. Basically, you make the schedule – the start date, end date, and weekly schedule are all up to you.
The only time the classes would ever expire is if you do not take classes for a full year. Other than that, there is no deadline for completion.
What is Covered in Each Class?
While we can’t go over every topic in this blog, I will briefly describe the general outline of a class.
Each class starts with a brief conversation to engage the student and build a relationship between the student and the teacher. As the student progresses, this conversation will have more and more Spanish components.
If there was homework assigned in the previous class, the teacher will take time to review it with the student and go over any questions they missed. This is a great time for the student to ask questions and clear up any confusion they may have regarding the vocabulary or grammar.
The teacher will also take a couple of minutes to review the previous lesson and make sure the student remembers the material. We make sure not to push the student too fast, and reviewing material from the last class is a great way to make sure the student is ready to move forward.
The teacher will pick up where they left off in the previous class. Each lesson has multiple components, starting with a presentation of the vocabulary/grammar followed by multiple exercises to practice the information.
While the goal is to complete a lesson in each class, that is not always the case as some lessons are more complex than others. The teacher moves at the student’s pace, making sure they are truly understanding the content.
Depending on the student, this part can take many forms, from a simple conversation to an interactive game. The goal is to apply what was learned and end the class with a fun review session. The teacher will then assign appropriate homework to be completed before the next class.
How Fast Does the Student Progress?
This is a complicated question as each student has a unique learning method and our teachers take their time to make sure each student truly knows the material before moving on. That being said, the students, in general, do progress more quickly than in traditional classroom settings because of two main factors.
In a normal classroom, the teacher is in charge of anywhere from 5-30 kids which makes it extremely difficult to help each one individually. Since our classes are one-on-one (or two-on-one in the case of paired classes), the student gets the teacher’s undivided attention. They can ask whatever question they need, review difficult topics, and get extra help where needed. This ensures the student moves towards fluency at a quicker rate than the students in a traditional classroom.
All of our teachers are native Spanish speakers. A lot of Spanish teachers in public schools are not native speakers, and therefore do not have the mastery of the language that a native speaker does. Having a native speaker as a teacher ensures you will hear correct pronunciation, accurate sentence structure, and authentic conversations. This helps the student progress quickly towards fluency because they are being immersed in the language and culture.
Now, those two factors help a lot with fluency, but fluency is an intangible thing. What exactly will the students be able to do after a year with the Spanish Academy?
Spanish Skills after One Year
If your student is studying at the high school level, they will be able to have basic conversations after one year of studying with HSA. They will be able to use the present, past, and future tenses as well as talk about places, wants, and questions, just to name a few.
The high school curriculum progresses the fastest in terms of vocabulary and grammar, but even if your student is studying at the preschool level, they will be able to participate in simple conversations after one year as well. For example, in their first year, they will learn about introductions, family, and foods to name a few topics. They will be able to ask and answer questions and understand basic conversations.
As you can see, the main focus of every level is getting the student to conversational fluency, which is something you will be able to see clearly after just 2 semesters with HSA. The difference in the curriculum options is that as the age level increases, there is more focus on grammar topics, and they progress more quickly through vocabulary topics. However, no matter the age or level, you can expect to see great progress in conversational skills after a year of study, if not after just one semester!
For more details on the different curriculums available, click here.
Are the Students Graded on Anything?
In each semester, or 30 classes, there are four quizzes and four exams. The student will receive a grade for each of these that will count towards the final semester grade. Quizzes are worth 40%, exams 50%, and homework (graded on completion, not accuracy) 10%. Before each quiz and exam, there will be ample review to ensure the student is thoroughly prepared.
In the case of the younger students, they will not be told they are taking an official exam. Instead, the teacher will treat it more as a review, so the student does not stress. It is just a way to check their progress and make sure they are picking up on vocabulary and grammar.
We do offer freestyle programs if you would like your student to focus strictly on conversation and not worry about grades.
Do the Parents Need to Be Involved in the Classes?
If you have a younger student, we do advise that the parent be around when the student is taking the class. This does not mean they have to sit in on the class (although they may if they prefer to do so), but if the student has any technical difficulty, it is always good to have an adult close by. At the middle school and high school level, the parents can be as involved as they would like to be.
When purchasing classes, the parent creates an account that has access to each student’s class, homework, and syllabus information. If the parent would like, they can track the student’s progress there, print out the materials, and practice with the student. However, if they prefer a hands-off approach, they can leave it completely up to the teacher.
There are periodical parent-teacher conferences to make sure the parent is aware of the student’s progress. These usually happen during the first or last couple minutes of class, and the parent is notified of the meeting with sufficient notice.
Again, our program is very flexible. If you would like to be completely involved in the program, that is definitely an option. If not, our teachers are more than capable of ensuring the student’s progress.
Now that we’ve looked at the different components of our Spanish classes, it’s time for you to experience it for yourself! Sign up for a FREE class today and see if it’s a good fit for your child. If you would like more information on the curriculum and specific topics your student will be taught, you can download a sample curriculum here. Give your student a bright future today!Read More
We’ve all heard me or te when learning Spanish. Me llamo [insert your name here] is probably one of the first things we learn to say. But this me and te are neither the English me or the Spanish tea (tea is Spanish is té with a tilde!). Me, te, se, nos are the Spanish reflexive pronouns that accompany reflexive verbs. What are reflexive verbs, you may be asking yourself? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!
What are reflexive verbs?
We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. For example: in Spanish you don’t shower, tú te duchas (you shower yourself) because tú (you), as the subject, are performing the action on yourself. Now, if you use the verb as a non-reflexive verb, you’re performing the action on something – or someone – else other than yourself or a part of your body. Let’s see:
When using reflexive verbs, you will need a reflexive pronoun that matches the noun of the sentence that is performing the action on itself. Let’s have a look at the reflexive pronouns:
Let’s check out how these look in sentences:
As you can see in the English translation, these are not actions that are directed towards ourselves, but to another object, so they are not reflexive! But are there reflexive pronouns in English too? Yes! Let’s have a check them out to have a better understanding of their Spanish meaning:
Placement of Reflexive Pronouns
We place reflexive pronouns:
Change In Meaning
Whenever we use verbs as reflexive verbs, the meaning of the verb slightly changes to refer to an action that the subject of a sentence performs on itself. With certain verbs, however, the change in meaning goes a lot further than that, so by making the verb a reflexive one, we completely alter the meaning.
It’s important to keep in my that while we can turn most verbs into reflexive verbs, the meaning isn’t the same, and in some cases, it means something very different. Let’s have a look at some verbs in which the meaning drastically changes when we use them as reflexive:
Of course, there are verbs that only exist in the form of reflexive verbs. We cannot use these verbs in a non-reflexive form, as they do not exist in a non-reflexive form. Let’s check some of these out:
A Little Practice
Practice your reflexive pronouns with this short exercise. And don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
Companies are looking to hire employees who have an understanding of other cultures and have the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds.
First Off – What Is Culture?
Per the Oxford Dictionary, Culture is defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.”
Moreover, culture includes a group that we are born into – such as race, gender, socioeconomic class, national origin, or religion. It is also comprised of the circles we are associated with through relocation, a change in economic status, or by experiencing a disability.
Why Does Your Employer Care If You Can Communicate Cross-Culturally?
People from diverse backgrounds and cultures have different life experiences and have exposure to unique ways of doing things. These differences enhance the workplace culture by uniting thinkers who can look at business problems from varied perspectives and other information processing styles, which, in turn, leads to solving problems with uncommon solutions.
We look up at the same stars, and see such different things.”George R.R. Martin, Author
If your entire team at work consists of people from the same ‘culture’ (as defined above) – then it is highly likely that their problem-solving techniques and project recommendations will be the same. This is not a sustainable approach for competing in the global marketplace. Businesses need unique perspectives to stay competitive. At work, we are told to think ‘outside the box’ – this can be done by comprising teams of diverse backgrounds who have different viewpoints.
The USA has an exceptionally diverse talent pool which is comprised of many cultures. According to the US Census Bureau, as of July 2018, 18.1% of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino descent. Also, there are 41 million Spanish speakers in the USA, and Spanish is the most studied foreign language.
In summary, “A diverse workforce also generates diverse ideas, and diverse ideas help your company out-think the competition. In fact, the next billion dollar idea may come from a background none of your employees have yet.” Refer to this article for further reading.
How Diverse Should Your Company Be?
This question is answered eloquently in this Human Resources article,
“Your organization should be as diverse as your customer base. The important inverse of this is that your customer-base can only be as diverse as your organization.”
A Canadian think tank developed an index to rank companies on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) back in 2016. This D&I Index ranks the top 100 publicly traded companies across the globe and measures 24 areas across four categories; Diversity, Inclusion, People Development and News Controversies. These are the Top 10 most Diverse companies in 2018,
- Accenture PLC
- Novartis AG
- Medtronic PLC
- Diageo PLC
- Gap Inc
- Telecom Italia SpA
- Kering SA
- Natura Cosmeticos SA
- L’Oreal SA
- Acciona SA
What Is Your Employer Looking For?
Adaptability & Flexibility
A few years ago, I had the experience of negotiating aerospace subcontracts in India. On one particular trip, I was sitting across the table from a subcontractor’s Program Manager, Finance Manager, and Lead Engineer when suddenly the lights flickered. My first reaction was to worry that there was an impending earthquake and I need to run to the sturdiest doorway! Then I remembered my previous experiences traveling to developing countries and the fact that power can be unreliable. The lights continued to flicker on and off until it became dark outside-and then they went out for the rest of the evening. We still hadn’t reached a negotiation agreement but had to press on – our faces illuminated only by the light of our cell phones. It is imperative to have the ability to adapt to unique circumstances without skipping a beat.
- Agreement on Terms and Conditions – Check.
- Unique experience – Check.
- Didn’t miss a beat and closed the deal – Check!
Employers are perusing résumés to determine if the applicant has experience with other cultures, thereby making them capable of adapting to different business climates, interacting with people of different backgrounds, and building relationships with people from/located in other quadrants.
Willingness to Listen and Learn
Employers want to hire people who are open-minded and willing to learn – not those who protest against company culture or other employees. One way to learn to be more open-minded is to have exposure to people who think differently than you. Refer to our blogto learn more on cultural competency.
According to an article on being culturally literate,
“Developing [employees who are] culturally literate and aware can enhance communication, productivity, and unity in the workplace. And when these employees deal with foreign employees [who are culturally literate and aware] … there will be little to no misunderstandings…[because] they can understand others who are different from them.”
Unique Problem-Solving Skills
Other ways to become more open-minded is by taking classes in new subjects that challenge your perceptions and thoughts, attend a cultural celebration different from your culture, listen to what people have to say so you can learn new perspectives, or pay attention to nuances that make someone different than you.
Companies often want to take successful products and ideas from one market and move them to another; however, these well-intentioned plans often go awry. Nothing highlights this better than the Chevrolet Nova. This small automobile had success in the American market, and Chevy executives wanted to prosper in Latin America as well. It is safe to assume that the Chevy marketing team did not include a Spanish speaker because if they had, the Chevy Nova would have never landed in South America.
‘Nova’ in Spanish is two separate words, no va – and this literally means ‘it doesn’t go.’ Who wants to buy a car that doesn’t go? The company was able to recover from this misnomer, but the lesson remains – know your market.
There is no better way to understand your business environment than to have a team comprised of people who grasp the local economy first hand!
According to an international business school article,
“Understanding local laws, regulations, and customs, as well as the competitive landscape, can help a business to thrive. Moreover, local connections, native language skills, and cultural understanding can boost international business development exponentially.”
Furthermore, research from consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed 366 public companies across industries in Canada, United States, Latin America, and the United Kingdom and found that highly diverse companies “are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
How Do You Highlight Your Uniqueness On Your Résumé?
- Add study/work abroad and extended travel experiences on your résumé – it inherently implies that you have been put in situations where you became self-reliant and made adjustments to adapt to circumstances in each unique place.
- List additional languages that you speak as well as your proficiency level – even if you are just starting out – because it shows interest in culture.
- Include any professional affiliations and cultural organizations that you are a part of
- Highlight interdisciplinary and multicultural teams that you’ve contributed to
Are You Lacking These Experiences?
It is OK if you cannot add any of the above to your résumé today because you can also become more culturally aware through other avenues.
One way is by interfacing with people from other countries! Spanish is the most prudent language to learn so that you can interface with people in 21 other countries AND 41 million people in your own backyard!
Another way to learn Spanish is to sign up for online classes with instructors located in Antigua, Guatemala who are ready to share about culture, colloquial words and their everyday life experiences!
You could also check the ‘travel’ box by visiting Guatemala as your next travel destination!Read More
I’ve often written that language is very closely tied to culture, and therefore to people! And what is the one thing we humans do every single day of our lives? We eat! Food is one of the things we all need and enjoy. It also brings us together – remember all those fun family lunches and dinners you’ve attended?
We all also have that one food that brings us back to our childhood; just the smell of it reminds us of when our mother, grandmother, aunt – or in my case, both my grandmother and great-grandmother – cooked the dish! All this talk about cooking got me thinking about the one dish that immediately brings me back to a younger version of myself. So, I grabbed the phone, called my grandmother, and asked her for her amazing chiles rellenos recipe – the one she learned from my great-grandmother!
It was nice to talk on the phone with her, and to catch up. She took a long time explaining really carefully and with much detail how to prepare the dish. Like a typical Guatemalan abuela, she only cooks in really big batches! Last time she cooked chiles rellenos, she made over 50 at once! However, she tried downsizing it for me to only 20 chiles rellenos instead.
Primero lo primero – First Things First
Like with any other recipe, before we start, we first need to make sure that we have all the necessary tools and ingredients. What I try to do whenever I cook is to take all the ingredients out and put them on the counter to make sure I have everything I need! Those last-second trips to the grocery store are not always ideal!
What we will need for this recipe:
- A lot of patience (there’s a lot of mincing by hand involved!)
- A blender
- A very big pot
- A big bag
- A towel
I had done this recipe once before many, many years ago, and throughout my life, I’ve watched my great-grandmother and grandmother do it more times than I can remember. The one thing I remember best is that my grandma always prepares the stuffing one day and she finishes the chiles rellenos the next. Why? Because it’s A LOT of work! This time, I naively believed I’d be able to manage to do everything on the same day – ha ha – be warned!
The reason why it takes so long to prepare the stuffing is because there is a lot of VERY TINY MINCING (picar – to mince). Let’s get started!
I know, I know, it seems like I’m exaggerating when I say it takes a long time to get this ready because the instructions seem pretty easy. Believe me when I tell you that once you’re done with all that, there’s nothing else you want to do because the mincing such tiny itsy bitsy pieces of food takes a long time and is exhausting! So don’t worry if you need to make a pause now, just put everything to the side, make yourself a toast for dinner, and continue with this recipe the next day. This stuffing that we made needs to be room temperature, so you need to wait for it to not to be hot anymore anyway.
Everything that comes now is a lot easier! Let’s continue.
And now what?
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve prepared your first traditional Guatemalan meal! At my family’s house, there was always a special way to serve chiles rellenos – with lettuce, a couple of raw onion rings and chopped parsley! It tastes especially well if you put it in a bun. Once cooked, you can store the chiles rellenos in the fridge!
We hope you enjoyed this recipe and don’t forget to book your FREE CLASS to tell us about your experience with this awesome dish!
So, you’ve been taking Spanish class for a while now, and you’ve got the basics down. You feel confident enough to have your first real-life conversation with a native speaker. Everything starts off well – you introduce yourself with the correct phrases and ask the right questions. And then they ask you how long you have been studying Spanish and you can’t quite remember the word for ‘ago.’ You start stumbling over your words, not knowing how to continue, and all your newfound confidence slowly wanes.
Have you been there? Have you ever just needed a moment in a conversation to collect your thoughts, remember the correct translation of that tricky word, or recall how to conjugate irregular verbs in the past tense? I have. Oh, I have been in that situation too many times to count. Even now, as a fluent Spanish speaker, I still have moments where I get confused between Spanish and English, or a particular tense trips me up (yes, this happens to me in both languages now). Are we destined to always stumble over our words while we think of the correct way to express ourselves? The answer is no. There is a trick I’ve learned over the years that can give you those extra couple seconds you need to remember the past tense of decir in the ‘usted’ form.
Have you ever noticed how native speakers – of any language – pause naturally to think about what they want to say? It is usually accompanied by a transition word to let the other person know that they just need a moment to gather their thoughts. For example, how many times do you use ‘uhm’ or ‘like’ in a conversation as a transition word between sentences? If you’re anything like me, it would be a lot. Very few people can hold a conversation flawlessly without using these little words to help them along. The only issue is…they aren’t international.
There are some words that take a lot of work to switch into our second (or third or fourth) language because they are second nature. For me, the hardest phrase to translate was ‘I mean….’ I would be speaking fluent Spanish and out of nowhere, I would stick an ‘I mean’ into my sentence. I have heard other native English speakers trip up of words like ‘alright,’ ‘like,’ and even ‘uhm.’ If your goal is fluency in Spanish, then these words can be a small but impending obstacle. However, I have put together a list of phrases that I have learned to use as transitional words to give me some extra time to think and put together my thoughts in my second language.
Let’s start simple. ‘Uhm.’ I can’t even tell you how many times I use this word in a day. We use it when we’re thinking, as a pause, when we don’t understand, etc. It is such a common word that it may seem weird that it is not universal. Of course, if you say ‘uhm’ while speaking Spanish, you will be understood, no question. However, you may start to notice that native Spanish speakers say it a little different.
Instead of ‘uhm,’ it’s more of an em sound. Here are some examples to look at:
“Em…la verdad no sé.”
“Uhm…honestly, I don’t know.”
“Él habló sobre, em, el tema de desigualdad.”
“He talked about, uhm, the topic of inequality.”
So, we started simple. This one is just a change in pronunciation. Let’s look at another simple word
Since English has become the international language of business, many English words have infiltrated various languages, especially Spanish. This means that Spanish speakers understand and even use this word, ‘okay,’ but it is not as common as the Spanish equivalents – and let me tell you, there are many. If it is your goal to become fluent in Spanish, it is always good to know the correct way to say things in Spanish and not just use a common English word in its place.
Although there are many ways to say ‘okay,’ we are going to look at one that is incredibly popular in Latin America – va. It can actually be used in two main ways. The first would be short for the word for vale, which (also) means okay. The second way is actually short for the word true, verdad, and is used at the end of sentences. Let’s take a look:
“Necesito que llegues a las 8 en punto.” “Ah, va. Está bien. Allí estaré.”
“I need you to be there at 8 sharp.” “Ah, okay. That’s fine. I’ll be there.”
“Tengo que estar allí a las 8, ¿va?”
“I have to be there at 8, right?”
Now, for the purposes of this blog, we will be focusing on the first use. It is normally used as a response to someone to express your understanding and agreement, but you can also use it to give you some time to process what that person said before responding.
This transition word is va, pronounced more as a ‘ba’ than a ‘va.’ Although the correct pronunciation would be with a ‘v’ sound, the majority of people pronounce the ‘v’ and the ‘b’ as a combination of the two sounds, leaning more towards the ‘b’ sound. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between botar and votar based on pronunciation alone. You would have to use context clues to know which word is being spoken.
“Well, I’m not sure.” How would you translate this sentence to Spanish? What about, Bien, no estoy seguro. Unfortunately, that would be incorrect. Although ‘well’ does often translate to ‘bien,’ it has a completely different translation when used as an interjection. The correct word to use would then be pues. Let’s look at some more examples:
Pues, creo que estás equivocado.
Well, I think you’re mistaken.
Pues, necesito terminar aquí primero. Dame 5 minutos.
Well, I need to finish up here first. Give me 5 minutes.
If you are unsure of how to respond to someone, the word pues can give you that little extra time you need to form your response without making it seem like you are struggling.
Have you ever been in the middle of a great conversation and then been interrupted? In English, we usually return to the previous conversation by saying ‘anyways…’ If you are unsure of how to use this word in Spanish, you may be stuck frantically racking your brain for a way to return to that great conversation you were having – as I have many times. Don’t worry, though! This short, simple phrase will convey that you would like to return to the conversation topic that you were involved in before the interruption: pues sí.
This phrase literally means ‘well yes’ or ‘so yes,’ but it would be most accurately translated colloquially as pues sí. Let’s imagine you’re talking with a friend at a café, and another friend stops by to greet you.
“¡Qué gusto verte otra vez! Hablamos después. ¡Adiós! Perdón, Alex. Pues sí…”
“It was so great to see you again! We’ll talk later. Bye! Sorry about that, Alex. Anyways
Maybe you are talking to someone outside and see a car run a red light, almost causing an accident:
“¡Ay, Dios mío! Qué miedo. La gente debe ser más cuidadosa. Pues sí…”
“Oh my gosh! That was so scary. People need to be more careful. Anyways…”
No matter the situation, pues sí is your key phrase to get you back into the conversation you were having – and it’s the perfect excuse for a pause to collect your thoughts as you switch gears back into the previous topic.
For a long time, I thought the English word ‘alright’ had no appropriate translation. When I was teaching my classes in Spanish, I would always change topics by saying ‘alright’ in English. I knew it sounded strange, an English interjection in the middle of Spanish conversation, but I was stumped by how to correctly express myself in Spanish. After listening closely to Spanish conversations, however, I realized that there is such a word in Spanish – bueno.
Yes, yes, bueno does mean ‘good.’ As you have seen with these transition words, they often have multiple meanings. Part of the beauty of learning a language is discovering all the different ways you can use one small word.
“Hacer ejercicio es bueno para la salud.”
“Exercising is good for your health.”
“Tenemos buenos recuerdos de ese lugar.”
“We have good memories of that place.”
“Bueno. Empecemos en la página 28.”
“Alright. Let’s start on page 28.”
As you can see with the last example, when used at the beginning of a sentence as an interjection, bueno means ‘alright.’ You can use it to wrap up one topic and start another – or as a way to quickly organize your thoughts before starting a new subject of conversation.
It’s just that…
This next transition phrase is by no means official, but it is extremely common in informal conversation. Have you ever found yourself saying phrases like ‘it’s just that…’ or ‘it’s like…’ to introduce an explanation or reasoning to something? There is often a pause following these phrases as we figure out how to best express ourselves. Guess what? There’s a similar phrase in Spanish: es que.
This literally translates as ‘it’s that…’ which is very similar to the English counterparts. You will hear this very often as native Spanish speakers organize their thoughts or think of how to better explain something. It’s time for you to try it out as well if you need some extra time to form your sentence in Spanish.
“Es que…necesito averiguar que haya tiempo para esa actividad.”
“It’s just that…I need to check that there’s time for that activity.”
“Es que…la razón por la cual dije eso es porque no quise ofender a nadie.”
“It’s just that…the reason I said that is because I didn’t want to offend anyone.”
This phrase often has no connection to the following sentence but is just used as a filler while the speaker decides what they want to say. This makes it perfect for all you Spanish learners – you can use this trick to sound just like a native speaker while you search your memory for those tricky rules about the subjunctive tense.
We all have trademark phrases that we use way too often. One of those phrases for me is ‘I mean…’ This was made blindingly obvious to me as it came out in English all the time while speaking Spanish with my husband. While he eventually understood what I intended to say, it frustrated me that I was lacking a key phrase in Spanish.
The word ‘mean’ (used to clarify what you are saying) does not have a direct translation in Spanish, which makes it difficult for those of us who use it all the time in English! However, there are other ways to express the same thing. Let’s look at some examples:
“Reunámonos el viernes. Digo, el sábado.”
“Let’s meet up on Friday. I mean, Saturday.”
“Tu correo dice que el total es $110. ¿Es correcto?” “Oh, perdón. Quise decir $100.”
“Your email says the total is $110. Is that correct?” “Oh, sorry. I meant $100.”
As you can see from these examples, the translation for ‘I mean’ would be digo, or ‘I say.’ However, if you want to use it in the past as ‘I meant,’ it would be quise decir, or ‘I wanted to say.’
Both phrases are helpful to know, but in reference to transition words, digo is definitely one of the keywords to learn. When speaking our native language, we can mix up our words and accidentally say the wrong thing. This becomes all the more probable when speaking another language, which is why this small word will help clear up confusion quickly and effortlessly.
In other words…
Speaking of clarifying things, there is another great phrase that is used to reword something: ‘o sea.’ This can be used to reword what you have just said or to put what someone else said into your own words to ensure you have understood them. Although this looks like ‘Oh sea’ in English, the pronunciation is pretty different. The ‘o’ is the same, but the ‘sea’ is pronounced ‘say-ah.’
This phrase is a great way to give yourself another chance at explaining something or to be sure that you understand what is being said in the conversation without saying no entiendo. It literally translates to ‘or it is,’ but we would say ‘in other words’ in English. You can use the phrase ‘en otras palabras,’ but ‘o sea’ is much more common in informal conversations, and it is less of a mouthful.
“Nos falta mucho para terminar. O sea que tendremos que trabajar este fin de semana.”
“We still have a lot to do to finish. In other words, we’ll have to work this weekend.”
“Debes usar esos otros marcadores para escribir en el pizarrón.” “O sea que ¿este es un marcador permanente?”
“You must use those other markers to write on the board.” “In other words, this is a permanent marker?”
As you can see in the last example, another possible translation for o sea can be ‘mean.’ We could have translated that part as “You mean this is a permanent marker?” and it would have the same effect. Since ‘mean’ does not directly translate to Spanish, you can use a couple of these transition phrases to express yourself – just make sure you use digo only when you’re clarify something you personally said.
The thing is that…
This phrase can be literally translated to la cosa es que, but there is another phrase that is very unique. I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to translate it to English, and the phrase ‘the thing is that’ is the closest I could think of, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. Fíjate que (or fíjese que in the ‘usted’ form) literally means ‘pay attention’ or ‘notice’ something. It is in the command form, which basically tells your audience ‘listen up!’ However, in context, it has a much softer voice. It has actually become notorious as the introduction to excuses!
“Fíjese que mi hermanita botó agua en mi tarea y por eso no la traje.”
“The thing is that my little sister spilled water on my homework, and that’s why I didn’t bring it.”
“¿Ya revisaste los documentos?” “Fíjate que no. No he tenido tiempo.”
“Did you check the documents yet?” “The thing is that no, I haven’t had time.”
As you can see, colloquially, fíjate is often used to introduce bad news or news in general. This is also one of those great examples of a word that has no good translation in English – you can understand the meaning but there is no word that truly captivates its essence in the English language.
This last transition word is just as versatile as the rest – ‘look.’ No, we are not talking about actually looking at something but the interjection. “Look, I think we should start over.” We are not asking someone to physically look at something, but instead, we are introducing an idea or a solution. Either way, the translation would be the same in Spanish – mirar can be both a verb and a transition word.
The most common form of mirar that I have heard as a transition word is mirá, which is the command form of ‘vos.’ Depending on what country you are in, this form may also be popular. If you are unsure, you can always use the ‘tú’ form, which would be mira (accent on the ‘i’ instead of the ‘a’). You can even use the ‘usted’ of mirar is the occasion calls for it: mire.
“Mirá, creo que debemos rehacer esta parte aquí.
“Look, I think we should redo this part here.”
“Mira, hagamos un plan.”
“Look, let’s make a plan.”
“Mire, necesito ayuda con estos documentos. ¿Me los puede autorizar?”
Look, I need help with these documents. Could you authorize them for me?
No matter the form you use, this word is a great way to introduce ideas and give you some extra time to organize your sentence in Spanish.
That was a lot of information! I hope these words helped your Spanish conversation skills – try using them one at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed! Also, listen for these words in Spanish conversations, movies, and songs. Now that you are familiar with them, you’ll notice them and hear more of their uses! Don’t be surprised if you hear combinations of these words, such as mirá pues, pues, fíjate que, or bueno pues. This is just a short guide to all the nuances of Spanish transition words! Don’t forget to practice them with your Spanish teacher in class, and feel free to ask them any questions you may have. ¡Hasta la próxima!Read More
Raise your hand if you have a busy schedule. Yeah. That’s what I thought. So many of us have filled our schedules to the brim – not always voluntarily. As a working mother with a couple of side jobs, I completely understand having a busy schedule. However, I am a language addict. Every time I meet someone from a different country, I want to learn their language. I currently have nine languages on my practice list. Nine! To be fair, though, I am only working consistently on two – German and Chinese. Still, that is a lot to put on an already overflowing plate. How does one find time to study another language?
Before we talk about making time, we need to establish what language is the most practical to learn. Let’s be honest. If we are already extremely busy, why waste precious time on a language that we will hardly ever use? I would like to make a strong case for learning Spanish. If you would like a more extensive list of why Spanish is the best language to learn, click here. For now, I will just leave you with this – Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. There is no need to worry about never using Spanish, as there are about 500 million native speakers worldwide – about 100 million more than native English speakers.
So, we’ve decided that learning Spanish is worth the time and effort. How much effort are we talking about, though? If you are serious about learning Spanish, you will need to be consistent in your study habits. You cannot expect to make progress if you think about Spanish once every month. When you learn a language, you must actually retrain your brain how to think about things. It requires consistency and repetition. However, it does not require hours of extensive study each week. There are several ways that you can study on-the-go or for just a couple of minutes a day. Everyone’s schedule looks different, so I will leave you with several different ideas that you can choose from.
This is probably the easiest way to fit Spanish into your crazy schedule because you can dedicate as much (or as little) time as you would like to your studies. Most of the best apps have a feature where you can determine what your daily goal is – 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. They keep track of your progress, reward your dedication, and remind you when some of your vocabulary words have become weak. My personal favorite is Memrise, but there are several other excellent apps to learn Spanish on the go. The application Drops actually limits you to only 5 minutes of learning per day, so you don’t overwhelm yourself with vocabulary.
In this technological age, most people don’t leave the house without their phone. We depend on our phones for everything – directions, transportation, games – which ensures that it is always with us. Instead of browsing Instagram the next time you look at your phone, start with learning a bit of Spanish. Find a time you have available every day that you can dedicate five minutes to studying. For example, I often study on the bus or in an Uber. However, if I want to use the pronunciation feature, I prefer to be alone. I have two 15-minute breaks at work, and I usually dedicate one full break to language learning with an application. So, find a couple of minutes in your daily schedule that you can spend on your phone – doing something productive instead of browsing social media.
2. Surround Yourself with Language
Where do you spend most of your time? Maybe you often find yourself in the kitchen, your cubicle at work, or perhaps even your car. Wherever that place is, look up the vocabulary for the objects that surround you and make small labels. These can be either handwritten or typed out, whatever works best for you. Tape the labels onto each object so that every time you use that item or walk past it, you see the word. This will help you relate that object to the word in Spanish.
A big step in language learning is being able to immediately relate an object to its corresponding word in the target language instead of having to translate it in your mind. Basically, when you start learning Spanish, you start by thinking about what you want to say in English, translating it to Spanish, then producing it. The goal is to eliminate any English go straight to Spanish. To get to that point, you need to repeatedly see the object and connect it to the Spanish word, which is where our labels come in; every time you use a labeled object, you will be reminded of its Spanish name. This will create new pathways in your brain and rewire it to associate objects immediately with their Spanish names.
Once you’ve moved past objects and would like to start forming sentences, you can do the same thing. For example, once you’ve learned the words ‘sartén, olla, and estufa,’ you can label those objects with phrases like ‘yo uso el sartén y la olla para cocinar en la estufa.’ This method may take a bit of time to get started, but you will be learning Spanish while doing your daily tasks, which will save you a lot of time.
3. You May Say I’m a Dreamer
Now, this one may sound a bit crazy, but it has greatly helped my progress in various languages. Talk to yourself in Spanish! Whatever you are thinking about, try to express it in Spanish. Instead of stumbling over words and phrases when you are in an actual conversation, practice with yourself first to make sure the words flow!
I studied Spanish for several years, but I just could not speak it for the life of me. I traveled to Peru, thinking I could speak fluent Spanish, but as it turns out, I could barely get a few sentences out. There is a big gap between understanding a language and actually being able to reproduce it – those are even two different types of fluency. So, to help me get used to thinking in Spanish and quickly forming sentences, I tried to think in Spanish, and I spoke out loud at times to make sure I could pronounce what I was imagining. I specifically remember one morning at home. I was doing laundry and talking to myself in Spanish. If you had seen me, you may have thought I was a bit on the crazy side, but this really helped me when there were no native Spanish speakers around to talk to. You can still flex those speaking muscles by yourself while doing one of the million tasks you have for the day.
If you spend most of your day around other people, I wouldn’t recommend speaking out loud. However, you can still work on thinking in Spanish. Try and remember how to say a certain phrase in Spanish that you just said to your coworker. Look up some words if you need to. Practice it in your head. Remember, learning a new language is retraining your brain, and training takes consistent practice.
4. Classes with a Native Speaker
All of these previous choices do not give you the ability to actually converse with a native speaker. They are great tools to supplement but to reach fluency you need to actually communicate with someone else who speaks the language. However, that would involve hours of classes a week, loads of money, and lots of travel time to get to the class. What if I told you there was a way to learn Spanish wherever you are (in your home, at a café, on your lunch break) for a fraction of what normal private tutors charge. It is possible!
Here at Spanish Academy, we offer online Spanish classes at a cost you can afford. If you don’t believe me, click here or here to see our price comparisons with some of the other leading companies. Our company is located in Guatemala, so all of our teachers are certified, native Spanish speakers. That means that instead of relying on the conversations you have with yourself, you can ask someone who actually speaks Spanish for some help with your pronunciation and sentence formation.
Even if you have a crazy schedule and only have a half hour free during your lunch break, you can take a class then. Our flexible scheduling ensures that you get to take a class at the best time of day for you. You can even choose from over 50 teachers to find one that best suits your personality and learning needs. As I have learned, nothing beats immersing yourself in the language. I have done all of the above practice habits and they have definitely helped, but they are more of a supplement to my real-life conversations with a native speaker.
Now it’s up to you. You have four methods to chose from to make sure you fit learning Spanish into your busy schedule. You can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy anymore! Choose which of these options above would be best for you…or do them all! Take a Free Class with us today to see how our program can meet your specific needs and start supplementing with the other methods mentions. You’ll be speaking Spanish before you know it! ¡Estarás hablando en español antes de lo que piensas!
Discovering joy in non-materialistic ways is all the rage. Many people are tired of being bombarded by material things and are encouraged to make memories instead – these are more fulfilling than buying the latest iPhone or Gucci bag. The memories that you gain through travel, hiking to ancient ruins learning about new cultures, or building strong relationships with family and friends will be what you remember most about life.
Learning another language can spark joy in a non-materialistic way by lighting a fire from within. You learn the ability to interact with others in their code, open doors for bilingual jobs, and can travel to far reaching places without a translator.
Marie Kondo, the organizational guru and host of the hit Netflix show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,’ puts it this way:
“People are realizing that happiness is not something you achieve from the outside…but rather from within.”
How can you enrich your life in a non-materialistic, life-changing, brain-boosting and relationship-building way? Become bilingual!
Set Yourself Apart – Be Culturally Competent
Learning another language can enhance your work experience by setting you apart from your colleagues and increasing your cultural competency – buzzwords that companies look for when hiring and promoting.
There are many languages in the world and each one opens up a unique door into another culture. Learning Spanish opens the door to 21+ countries and millions of people. Learn more from our blog ‘Reasons to Learn Spanish.’
Cultural competence is defined so eloquently by Australia’s National Education Leader Rhonda Livingstone as “the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses:
- being aware of one’s own world view
- developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
- gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
- developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.”
Get Noticed and Realize Your Full Potential
A few years ago, I got a job at a prestigious downtown Seattle law firm hoping it would be a gateway to greater things. After spending my first two weeks shredding paper with my fellow new hires, the horizon started to look dim…and smell of shredded paper. Thank goodness I had Spanish on my resume and the hiring manager took notice. One morning, there was an impromptu meeting with a Spanish-speaking client, and they needed a translator quickly. I was plucked from the back office only to be led to a conference room with huge windows, specialty coffee, and 15 people waiting for my arrival. Now, this is what I’m talking about, it was my time to contribute in a meaningful way.
I spent the rest of the day interpreting for our Spanish speaking client and getting noticed. Not only did the partners of the law firm learn that I existed, but they wanted my help. ¿Por que? Why? Because I had a skill that no one else had on the 44th floor…the ability to speak Spanish. I became privy to a new side of the firm that enhanced my personal growth as well as my resume. I eventually moved on to other ventures and learned that my resume set me apart from fellow applicants – speaking Spanish and studying abroad in Spanish-speaking countries helped me land interviews.
Being bilingual inherently improves your cultural competency – This is increasingly important in our business climate which focuses on the ability to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.
See Life in (More) Color
Speaking another language gives you a new perspective, and suddenly you have a new lens from which you can see farther and wider than ever before. Research has found that speaking another language has you thinking in a completely different way and you can literally see more color variations. This new mindset will strengthen your creative thinking skills for the sales campaign you are trying to win.
Another study found that bilinguals can develop a different sense of self when speaking a second language and ‘shift their personalities’ depending on what language they are using. When doing business, this can be beneficial as you could become an assertive negotiator when speaking Spanish, but perhaps feel more reserved when speaking in English.
Get out of that back office and stop shredding paper! Marie Kondo declares, “find happiness from within” – do so by becoming bilingual! Take your first step today by signing up for a free class with Spanish Academy!
Our instructors are native Spanish speakers located in Antigua, Guatemala. They are ready to share colloquial words, culture and everyday life experiences with you! Check out the blogs Learn Spanish Fast and Reasons to Learn Spanish.Read More
By now, you probably know a couple of words in español: hola, adiós, ¿dónde está la biblioteca? However, have you ever thought of where Spanish comes from? Did it just pop up one day in Spain, or is there more to it? Today we’re going to explore the history of Spanish because it didn’t just magically appear! Language is more of a living creature that evolves with the passage of time. People are the vehicle of language, and language is what gives us humans the ability to communicate our inner worlds in such a detailed fashion! It’s a win-win situation! Join me today as we trace back the history of Spanish language! If you want the short version, download the timeline here:
Maybe you would prefer to download the whole blog as a PDF. You can review and study it with your Spanish learner, and even test their knowledge with a quick exercise at the end!
History of Spanish and History of Spain
The history of the Spanish language is closely tied to the history of Spain. As groups of people moved through what is now recognized as the country of Spain, multiple languages came and went! Some of them left a big mark, while others barely brushed through. These migrations have always taken place – humans have constantly moved through territories and “secure borders” (like we now have) were certainly not a thing 5,000 years ago!
Let’s start with some useful vocabulary! In Spanish, there are two ways to refer to the Spanish language:
*The literal English translation of castellano is Castillian. However, the English term refers to specific varieties of Spanish only, not to the Spanish language as a whole. The Spanish castellano can refer to either the Spanish language as a whole or to specific varieties. The term comes from Castilla, the region in Spain where Spanish came to life!
History of Spanish: A Jigsaw Puzzle
When we think of Spanish – or any language – we see a whole: a language! Or maybe we think about the elements we learned when studying it: words, grammar, pronunciation, spelling. For today, we’ll think of Spanish as a historical jigsaw puzzle with interchangeable, multicultural pieces that come in various sizes. Just think about it: there was a time when the Spanish we now know didn’t exist. However, all the pieces of the puzzle were already scattered all around the world. They eventually found their way to one another, and so created a beautiful and diverse mosaic of language. Let’s read more on the history of Spanish and how this jigsaw puzzle came to be!
Putting Together the Pieces of the Puzzle
A long long time ago
5000 years ago, the ancient indigenous peoples of (now) Spain, the Iberians, spoke their own Iberian language. This language even had its own script and many of the inscriptions they wrote still survive today! This piece of the puzzle is a really tiny one as their writing system disappeared with the conquest of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago, and very few words can be understood now. As you may have guessed, the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) owes its name to its first inhabitants, the Iberians!
3000 years ago, the Celts started to make their way south to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. They came with their own Celtic language (also called Common Celt or Proto-Celt)! Nowadays, there are still 6 Celtic languages that evolved from that one Celtic language from a long time ago: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Some of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct, just as it happens in Guatemala with Mayan Languages. Read more about what is happening to Mayan languages here! Many words we use in Spanish are of Celtic origin, so this piece of the puzzle is a little bit bigger! Some examples are:
bruja (witch), gancho (hook), carro (car), añicos (smithereens)
The Iberians and Celts coexisted in Spain until the Celtic people changed so much because of the Iberian influence that Celtiberians came to existence. Celtiberians spoke the Celtiberian language and used the Iberian script that they borrowed from the Iberians, but they were considered Celts.
A long time ago
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all came to the Iberian Peninsula between the 15th and 4th century BCE to found colonies. While their impact on agriculture, economy, and mining was substantial, their influence on language wasn’t.
In modern Spanish, however, there are a lot of words that come from Greek! Greek didn’t really have much impact on the puzzle of Spanish when the Greeks came to Spain, but Latin and Arabic had already been greatly influenced by Greek. So the great amount of words with Greek origin in Spanish has more to do with the influence of Greek on Latin and Arabic, and less to do with a direct adoption of Greek words by the indigenous Spanish people. Some examples of Greek origin adopted through Latin are:
academia (academy), carta (letter), diamante (diamond), fósforos (matchstick)
The Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula some 2200 years ago. They got there because they were at war with the Carthaginians, who had already occupied a significant part of Spain. After a lot of back and forth that included three wars, known as the Punic Wars (that lasted over 100 years), the Romans finally defeated the Carthaginians. 200 years later, they conquered the whole of Spain! As such, the Iberian Peninsula became a part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans brought along their culture and language, which was Vulgar Latin (vulgar means common – Common Latin, like the Common Greek). Romans were all about individuals having rights, so they never violently forced their language on the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. They did, however, encourage them to learn the language through other more effective means: creating documents only in Latin and opening Latin schools for people to be able to learn.
The Romans occupied Spain for 700 years. In this extended period of time, Latin was greatly influenced by the languages that were spoken in the peninsula when the Romans arrived. By the first century AD, the modified version of Latin was spoken throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula!
Latin is by far the biggest – and central – piece of the puzzle! Every other piece connects around this one. Latin is the language that evolved and adapted elements from other languages to eventually become Spanish!
The Moors came to Spain in the year 711. They conquered Spain and stayed until 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus discovered America! They arrived in Spain because there were (again) some wars. They were called by some friends in Spain to help with the wars but ended up staying and occupying the territory for almost 800 years! As the Romans did before them, the Moors also brought along culture and language!
The language of the Moors was (and still is – yay to our first still living language!) Ḥassāniyyah Arabic, a dialect of Arabic. In the 781 years that the Moors occupied Spain, the modified Latin (that will soon turn into Spanish) started adopting A LOT of Arabic words. The Moors also introduced the Arabic numerals and the numbering system, and they contributed greatly to the fields of architecture, religion, agriculture, and education.
Almost 800 years of occupation are more than just brushing through. Arabic’s piece of the puzzle is rather significant when compared to the other languages we’ve talked about before Latin became THE LANGUAGE of Spain. Moors brought along with them many new things. All of them had no name in Latin because you don’t have a name for something that doesn’t exist in your world. Some examples of Arabic words that eventually made their way into Spanish are:
almohada (pillow), azúcar (sugar), ajedrez (chess) barrio (neighborhood)
Interesting fact: During the Moorish occupation, all the cultures – and religions – coexisted peacefully, and some temples were used both for Christian and Muslim services. The marriage between Christians and Muslims was also common and gave birth to a new culture: the Mozarabs. As we’ve seen multiple times, with culture comes language: the Mozarabic!
1492 and the History of Spanish
The year 1492 is a special year for Spain. Three major events occurred that greatly affected the course of history:
- The fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. Subsequent expulsion of the Moors.
- The expulsion of the Spanish Jews (Sephardic Jews) after they had lived in Spain for centuries.
- Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Fall of Granada
In 1469, Prince Ferdinand, heir to the crown of Aragón, and Queen Isabella of Castile married. Their united forces helped achieve the fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. This brought to an end the 700 years of Moorish invasion. Language: Due to the importance of their union – and the territories they had together – the dialect spoken in Castile became the official language of Spain. The name of the dialect spoken in Castile was Castillian. El dialecto de Castilla era el castellano. Thus, Classical Spanish came to life.
Expulsion of Sephardic Jews
Jews that had peacefully lived and coexisted for centuries with Muslims and Christians were forced to choose between staying in Spain and converting to Catholicism or leaving Spain, their homes, and wealth behind. Language: Many Jews chose to leave Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire. They took with them the Spanish language, as it had been their language for centuries. Eventually, the Spanish they brought along combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Aramaic, Bulgarian, and Greek elements became Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish.
Christopher Columbus discovers America
In August 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe with three ships and accidentally discovered America while trying to find a better and faster route to Asia. The colonization of the New Continent by the Spanish Crown of Castille begins. Language: As colonization began, Spanish spread throughout North, Central, and South America. The fact that we speak Spanish in Guatemala is a direct result of that!
The Spanish in America
As we noticed before, the Spanish were not necessarily accepting of other cultures and religions. The Moors were completely expelled from Spain after the Fall of Granada. The Jews were given the option to convert into Catholicism or leave the country. What was bound to happen after the discovery of America in that same year? Take into account that the indigenous people of America didn’t share culture, language, or religion with their conquerors!
When the Spanish came to America, they put a tremendous effort into eradicating the culture, religion, and language of the indigenous people. Unlike the Romans who accepted individual freedom and didn’t impose language or religion on their conquered land, the Spanish enslaved the indigenous population and used force to impose their religion, language, and culture. This is sad news for history lovers, as many manuscripts of older civilizations were lost to the hands of the Spanish who were unaccepting of another religion and view of the world.
What happened to the Spanish language in America? Each region contributes a tiny little piece to the puzzle!!! This is the reason why Spanish all throughout America has so many diverse accents, words, structures, and sayings! How and why did this happen? Remember our Chanin blog post where we talked about Guatemala having 24 official languages? Now imagine that amplified throughout the ENTIRE CONTINENT! Each country has several cultures spread and all these different cultures have a language of their own. Each and every one of these languages influenced Spanish!
This puzzle of the Spanish language isn’t finished yet! Nor do I think that it will ever be. To me, it’s more of a never-ending puzzle that humanity will keep building piece by piece. Humans and society keep changing, and as we change, so does language!
Okay, enough of a history class for the day! Let’s come back to today and the fact that we have the best tools for you to learn Spanish! Come have FREE CLASS with us to learn more about how we can help you improve your MODERN Spanish! Be sure to download the free PDF as well to review and study at your own convenience.Read More