Tips for Using Your Spanish!
There are many perks to speaking Spanish; it can enhance your work experience by setting you apart from your colleagues and can increase your cultural competency – buzzwords that companies look for when hiring and promoting.
Now, let’s explore ways to use Spanish at work!
First Things First
You don’t have to wait until graduation to get a Spanish-speaking job!
If you are still at university, look for a part-time job that requires Spanish – such as tutoring or being a bilingual nanny. Don’t forget there are summer internship opportunities out there that will help improve your language skills as well. Another option is to combine Spanish with your main degree – this will help you when you do begin searching for a job and open your horizons for bilingual opportunities.
While at university, I tutored elementary school students whose parents didn’t speak English and were unable to assist with their child’s homework. I was able to help the child with their studies AND keep their Spanish-speaking parents apprised of their child’s progress – something that the elementary school teachers were not able to do. The children’s grades improved and the parents felt that they were finally getting an explanation of what their child was learning at school. It was a win-win for all parties and I got to use Spanish every week.
If you are already in the workforce and want to use Spanish – read on!
Practice, Practice, AND Get Over Your Fear of Talking
You are getting comfortable with the Spanish language – BUT you find that you have some reservations about speaking. Don’t let this hold you back!
- Practice with friends… or with strangers – read on for daily tips on using Spanish!
- Look here for ways to fit Spanish into your busy schedule
- Want to sound like a native speaker? Use these transition words to fit in or read here for more pointers.
Unsure when the formal or informal version of ‘you’ are appropriate? All your questions are answered here.
Put Yourself out There
Let’s see how Spanish helped Ana excel at work!
My friend, Tom, recently received an official government document in Spanish from an important international customer- and no one on his team could interpret it. However, Tom recalled that his colleague upstairs spoke Spanish! He asked for Ana’s assistance in interpreting the document, which she happily did. This official government document needed to be translated perfectly so the team could analyze it properly, or the company would have been misled and this could lead to huge consequences.
For example, one word on the document was ‘shares’ (as in shares of company stock), Google translate will give you comparte instead of acciones. Compartir is the verb ‘to share’ and is used for sharing a meal, a ride, etc. This would have been a gross misinterpretation of the official document.
Luckily, misinterpretations were avoided because Ana was able to help out. The collaboration between the two employees helped the company make an informed decision quickly – and their bosses took notice! Ana was asked to help on the sales campaign for further translation duties and she was able to shine at work because of her useful language skills. She was also exposed to a new side of the company, sales, and thus gained more business experience.
Don’t Rely on Online Translators
Language is not black and white; a word can have multiple different meanings depending on the context, and a machine cannot understand context clues. One wrong word can make a HUGE difference.
Now, here is the thing – ‘Google Translate’ is useful for a quick answer but is highly inaccurate – such as the example above. Documents need to be translated by a human to make sure the concepts are properly understood.
Make it known to the Latin American Sales Team at your company that you speak Spanish and can help with interpreting or translating. By putting yourself out there you will open doors for new opportunities within your company!
Join (or Start) a Spanish Club
Some companies offer different ‘affinity groups’ or ‘clubs’ – such as a Spanish Club! You get together with your fellow colleagues and converse in Spanish. This is a great way to have fun and meet new people. Your company doesn’t have a Spanish Club? Start one! Taking initiative to develop something new will impress your boss and build camaraderie within the company.
Raise Your Hand for the Next Business Trip
If your company is looking to expand to Latinoamérica or to Latino communities in the US, offer to make yourself available to attend the business calls and attend business meetings.
Your knowledge of the culture and language will be an asset.
Easy Ways to Use Spanish Daily
If you start to look and listen more intently, you will notice that Spanish is around us every day.
- While waiting at your doctor’s office, pick up the Spanish copy of the magazines and put your skills to the test.
- Wait in the Spanish-speaking queue! Most banks and stores have Spanish speakers on-site to assist the 41 million Spanish speakers in the US. Start using this service to ask your questions, or ‘Presione dos para comunicarse con una persona en español’ when calling the utility company, law office, cell phone company, etc.!
- Go to a Latino restaurant on your lunch-break and strike up a conversation with the waitstaff in Spanish, If you haven’t yet been to a pupusería, find one – they are amazing!
Want more suggestions on fitting Spanish into your busy schedule? Check out this blog.
If you’re a bit nervous about starting to use Spanish in the workplace, sign up for online classes with instructors located in Antigua, Guatemala. They are ready to prepare you to use Spanish on a daily basis. See how it works here!
I began studying Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at University, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in Corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life.
Reach out if you have ideas you’d like to see in our next blog.
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