Travelling takes on a whole new meaning when you can walk out of the airport confident in your Spanish. You connect with the people and places around you, actions and experiences take on a deeper meaning and the world becomes more accessible. Kids and adults alike travel with an enhanced level of confidence when they can say so much more than “Hola.” Simply put, becoming fluent in Spanish can increase your access to the world.
We’ve put together a list of fabulous destinations to inspire your studies and keep your eyes to the horizon. Grab your passport and coordinate with your loved ones for a new getaway that lets you put your Spanish to use.
Buenos Aires, Argentina: A city that brings together the cultures of the world with food to eat and places to visit. Start with the government Pink House, the Latin answer to the White House. Then, hunt down local, delectable, chocolate dipped cookies called alfajores in the Palermo district full of delicious coffee houses.
La Paz, Sucre, Bolivia: Both La Paz and Sucre share the title of capital in Bolivia, a country at the heart of South America. Bolivia is a great place for budget travelers. Museums, markets, and even Spanish immersion programs are available at the right budget in these capital cities.
Santiago, Chile: A gorgeous city you can stare at all day, Santiago is also home to tons of great attractions. Start with a thrill at the scary stories in the General Cemetery. Then visit hidden gorge Cajon del Maipo or sip a Chilean grappa as you luxuriate in this stunning city.
Bogotá, Colombia: This city is delicious at every turn. Start your day with a Bandeja Paisa, a plate of meats, beans, and eggs that are delicious in the capital city. Satiated, check out the art scene all over the streets and in Bogotá’s museum.
San José, Costa Rica: Fly out to the islands and spend time in San José, the city between the volcanoes. Wander the central market and taste a rambutan or get great selfies in the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. Taste some local coffee at the Historic National Theater then use that caffeinated energy to hike the Central Valley. Oh, and eventually go to the beach.
Havana, Cuba: A country now open to more travellers, this is also a trip back in time. Take a break from your phone and computer, (internet is only in the most expensive hotels), ride in a classic car and pick up a book at La Plaza de Armas. Havana is a great place to slow down and remember what’s important in this life while still increasing your access to the world using your new Spanish.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: A coastal city that offers tons of flavor and color, Santo Domingo is a great place to explore. Eat the flag or, a bandera, made from white rice, red beans and stewed meat. Finish it with a cup of extra strong, sweet Café Santo Domingo, the national coffee. Learn about the Traino, a tribe wiped out by Spanish colonial forces and see La Zona Colonial, the city’s oldest and most preserved section. Rich in history and great stories, Santo Domingo is a great destination for your next trip.
Quito, Ecuador: If you love great architecture, soft, fresh bread, and beautiful mountains, you will love Quito, Ecuador. Right on the equator, the country is a gorgeous, Latin destination and the city is replete with surprises. Make sure your Spanish is outstanding so you can get the most out of this small city.
San Salvador, El Salvador: Bordered by Guatemala and Honduras, this small country is easy to miss on the map, but unforgettable in person. San Salvador’s coast is an explosion of greens and blues. In the city, they celebrate the art of Él Salvador in public spaces and museums. Grab a pupusa and some fresh fruit as you stroll around this stunning city.
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea: Another coastal getaway, Malabo has scenery for days. Rent a bike and pedal around to see for yourself why this is a great destination. After your trip, grab a coffee at the Café Malabo. Be sure to use your Spanish to order a round of delicious tapas to round out your day of exploration.
Guatemala City, Guatemala: A stunning, modern city surrounded by soft, rolling mountains, Guatemala City will take your breath away. This metropolitan city is like nothing else in the country, which hosts the largest preserved rainforest in the Amazon. Go climb the trees, but soothe your sore muscles in a fancy hotel room bath when you make it back to the city.
Mexico City, Mexico: A huge, diverse place, Mexico City is home to a mix of cultures and friendly people who will be happy to sit with you as try the local tacos and practice your Spanish verbs. Buy great tops at the boutiques, visit Frida Kahlo’s house and take the city in. It will make a great impression on you.
Panama City, Panama: Take in the natural beauty of the ocean and the man-made grandeur of the Panama canal in one visit to Panama City. This capital is beautiful and full of history and a tradition of international relations. Book a table at Schooner’s so you can stare at the beach as you munch on seafood.
Asunción, Paraguay: The lack of direct flights from the US or Europe to this small country means it’s not a massive tourist draw. Asunción is a great place to explore, to experience the nightlife and visit the Lopez Palace and House of Independence. Above all, be sure to taste the delicious food like roasted pork with local cornbread.
Lima, Peru: A beautiful city perched right on the sea, Lima is the gateway to the wonders of Peru. Seated below the Andes, the city has European style architecture and restaurants full of international influence. Be sure to eat lots of fresh seafood and drink your share of Piscos, the national cocktail.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: San Juan is a colorful, tasty city with easy access to beaches in every direction. Check out the central market where you can pick up tropical fruit or chat with herbal healers about natural cures. Or go to Old San Juan for great coffee and to take some beautiful photos of the colorful buildings. This is a great spot for beach enthusiasts and adventurers, but culture junkies will love it, too.
Madrid, Spain: A city full of fierce pride and non-stop energy, Madrid is famous for a reason. Home to historic art galleries, the city has experienced a renaissance in the wake of economic troubles. Now a modern home to tons of music, beautiful works and of course, great tapas, Madrid is sure to enchant you when you visit.
Montevideo, Uruguay: Take a deep breath, and relax in the city of Montevideo. Check out the restored mansions that serve as theaters and hotels or enjoy the new, modern structures that go right up to the edge of the coast. Montevideo has a beautiful climate and tons of boulevards to stroll down. Uruguayans love their meat, so be sure to partake in the local parilla or bbq.
Ready to master Spanish and increase your access to the world? Sign up for a free class to see why HSA is the best way to quickly and effectively learn Spanish.Read More
How does America compare to other countries when it comes to language acquisition? The answer is complicated; it changes based on age, available programs and the lifestyle of each learner. Here’s an overview of how bilingualism in the US compares to other countries.
The Age of the Student
There are several factors that ultimately determine how many bilingual individuals there are within a given country’s population. One of the main factors is how young a student starts learning a second language.
Between the ages of two and eight, the brain is primed for language acquisition. A young child is able to separate two languages, learn without stress over pronunciation and retain hundreds of words. For example, a child born into a family with bilingual parents and grandparents will be exposed to two or more languages early on in life and as a result, will have an easier time learning both.
Some schools and language programs take advantage of this early ability by offering bilingual preschools and kindergartens. In Shanghai, international schools teach children as young as two. Classrooms often feature a foreign and local teacher so that the students can hear both languages from a native speaker.
Other parts of the world introduce new languages later on, treating a second language as an elective, rather than a core subject. In Japan, students don’t start English classes until they are in Jr. High and then only spend a few hours a week on the language. The focus in these groups generally involves reading, writing, and perfecting grammar.
Changes in American Schools
Bilingualism in the US is different as there are various school systems with different structures and objectives. Many US school systems have seen a drop in foreign language instruction since 2008. One estimate states that only one in five American students is enrolled in a foreign language program even though the demand for bilingual workers within the US is on the rise. It’s an unfortunate trend, but many incredible individuals are working to get American kids on track.
Certain schools are going against the this downward trend. Instead, they are working to help get young students excited about foreign language and emphasize communication as a basis for learning. Students write emails, have debates and make presentations using their second language. Though this approach is not a standard for many schools, it has shown to be successful among those participating.
Beyond the Classroom
When taking on a new language, it is only natural to be interested in traveling to regions where the new language is spoken. If the opportunity presents itself, it can be very advantageous to do so. In Scandinavian countries, there is a big focus on crossing borders. Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes love to visit Spain, Portugal, Italy and England often. Children from these countries grow up with a lot of encouragement from parents and friends to speak Spanish and English. As a result, they often master other languages, all while retaining their native tongues.
More programs outside of school are also available to students of all ages. HSA is one of several online Spanish programs that learners of any age can use to learn or improve their Spanish. HSA strives to promote bilingualism in the US and around the world.
Ready to start learning Spanish? Sign up for a free class today!Read More
Scientists who set out to map the bilingual brain find themselves on a strange and wonderful journey; a new language shapes the brain in a way unparalleled in any other field. The brain appears to grow in certain regions when we communicate in a new way, while it maintains its shape in mathematical or scientific ventures. What’s happening here?
Here is what specialists around the world have observed in our brain mass as we learn new sounds, words, and expressions.
A Big Hippocampus and Cerebral Cortex
Swedish scientists used MRI technology to scan the brains of military recruits in intensive language studies. Their scans showed that the hippocampus, the part of the brain that learns new words, grew bigger. Areas of the cerebral cortex associated with speaking and listening also increased in size.
The same study scanned the brains of recruits enrolled in other subjects such as science and math and did not see this same brain growth. From this, they were able to prove that the anatomy of a language learner’s bilingual brain is different in shape than that of a scientist or weapons specialist.
Compete and Converge
As a student takes on Spanish, they feel a shift in their minds as they go from hanging out with friends in English to conversing with a teacher in their new language. That’s because of the two different ways of talking that exist in the brain and compete with one another.
As students get immersed in their lessons, they may go to say something in English and accidentally use a Spanish word. This is a natural part of the process of becoming bilingual. Psychologist Judith Kroll assured her audience this momentary memory lapse was no reason to panic.
During a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, DC in 2016, Kroll said, “A bilingual’s two languages sometimes converge, but often they compete…these changes to the mind and the brain are not simple.”
Kroll explained that the brain has to learn how to switch back and forth, but it will stumble along the way. Years of active use of a new language solves the problem and helps speakers go from English to Spanish and back again in an easy, fluent manner.
What this Means for Learners
That ability to switch from language to language can change how the brain focuses and how it ages.
A bilingual brain knows how to sweep aside the clutter and find the right word in the right language. So, when a learner needs to focus in a different scenario such as a noisy lecture class, they can block out the unnecessary noise and hone in on what’s important. They also get less distracted and feel able to control where their attention falls, rather than get pulled in five different directions.
As the brain ages, it’s often less susceptible to develop brain problems when it has spent years practicing a second or third language. A study conducted on multilingual students in India showed their learning delayed alzheimer’s disease and dementia up to four years later. This happened because their brains could already accomplish what preventative medications are designed to do – help switch from one point of attention to another.
Are Language Learners Smarter?
The short answer is not necessarily, but the longer answer is yes, in a manner of speaking. A bigger, more developed bilingual brain is always an advantage, no matter what your field of work or study.
Want to rewire your brain? Sign up for your free trial class today!Read More
Does a bilingual student stand out in class? A huge number of studies conducted around the world have confirmed that yes, a bilingual student possesses significantly higher mental stamina as compared to their monolingual peers.
Here’s a closer look at some of the findings about bilingual students and their keys to success.
They Navigate Noise
A bilingual brain has practice switching from one set of words to another. This mental side-step helps students beyond Spanish class, it improves their focus in big, noisy classrooms. They also focus without strain as their brain knows to filter out background voices or the sound of traffic outside the window.
This ability extends to understanding a completely new language. BBC.com reported on a Greek language test given to eight year-old students that students who spoke a second language, (not Greek), were able to apply their additional linguistic knowledge to the test and guess correctly more often than their peers.
They Stay in School
Several studies have looked at how bilingual students perform throughout their academic careers. Their goal was to see if the students stayed in school and why they might choose to continue their studies despite some hardships.
What they found was that a second language was a huge self esteem boost for a lot of their subjects. It also helped them develop a sense of cohesion; these students felt closer to their Spanish-speaking relatives or a group of friends who spoke Spanish with them on the playground. They dreamed more as they felt lofty goals were in fact attainable ones.
This was a major discovery as high school dropouts are more likely to experience difficulties with jobs and earning money after leaving their studies behind. A second language helps a student see the finish line and feel it’s worth crossing.
They Earn More
It can’t be overstated how badly the job market needs bilingual workers. Many companies want people who have a good understanding of English and Spanish and reward bilingual workers with higher wages.
A study conducted by Rubén G. Rumbaut of the University of California stated, “..fluent bilinguals still are seen to earn $2,234 more than English monolinguals.” He also looked at how gender and overall grade point averages earned in universities changed the numbers, but found bilinguals at the top no matter what. You can read the whole study, English Plus: Exploring the Socioeconomic Benefits of Bilingualism in Southern California, here.
They Have Better Spatial Reasoning
To speak more than one language is to ask one’s brain to do a constant workout. Even when a bilingual speaker isn’t using their second language, they have more mental stimulation than a monolingual. Like a bodybuilder who spends hours in the gym each day, a bilingual’s brain becomes more agile thanks to this constant mental workout.
The heavy lifting takes place for a lot of students when it’s time to do geometry, paint a picture or manage a space. However, bilinguals have quicker, stronger mental power that helps them navigate subjects beyond Spanish.
This study, (previewed here), looked at how well bilinguals could mentally picture a problem and then solve it. Unsurprisingly, the students with all that mental exercise did much better than those who focused on one language only.
Increased mental ability also crosses into help with science, creative thinking and arithmetic.
Scientists do these studies to demonstrate one main point – a brain that works harder is stronger and more prepared for any challenge that comes along. Students who push themselves to learn Spanish have mental muscles that make them feel able, strong and secure in their abilities.
Ready to start the journey to being bilingual and set your child up for long-term success? Take your first class on us – sign up for a free trial today!Read More
Conversation is a great way to practice the skills learned in a Spanish language class, but many kids switch back to their native English the moment class is over. How can you keep them practicing beyond the classroom?
Conversation Techniques with the Textbook
A straightforward way to show your child you want him or her to speak Spanish with you is to get out the book and review. Here are quick review techniques that your kids can use anytime.
1. Turn Exercises into Quizzes
This one lets you take a short, five-question practice section about a topic and use it as a quick, verbal check. Find a section where your son or daughter filled in the blank for their vocabulary, then turn each one into a question. For example, if your child is studying nouns for objects around the house, you can go to the window and ask, in Spanish, “Is this a window or a door?” Do four or five more and be sure to celebrate correct answers with a high-five.
2. Fill in the Gaps
Students are sometimes shy to ask their teacher for a breakdown of a concept or grammar rule. That’s where you can come in. Go over each section and be sure to ask, “Is anything unclear? Can I help?” Make yourself available as an additional tutor to show your child he or she is free to speak Spanish with you.
3. Become the Student
One of the most fun ways to help someone review is to ask them to teach you. When a student gets to switch roles, it helps them organize their thoughts and break down an idea. For fun, you can get a small chalkboard or fake pair of glasses for your son or daughter to use when they’re in teacher mode.
One of the best ways to learn and internalize new information is by having fun. So take advantage and be sure to play and laugh in Spanish with your kids.
4. ¿Que Es? (What is it?)
For this game, you need the Spanish name of different objects written on individual cards or flashcards. Separate them into the categories of your choice, such as Things Mom Likes or Things that Make a Mess.
The first player holds up a card so the rest of the family can see it, but the player can’t see anything. Then, the player has twenty questions he or she can ask, in Spanish, to guess what’s on the card. If the player guesses correctly, they keep the card for a point. An incorrect guess ends the turn and cancels out the card. The person with the most cards wins.
5. Verbal Tic Tac Toe
This one requires planning on your part. You must make a set of cards with Spanish verbs, get a whiteboard or chalkboard for each player and then a reference sheet to be sure your conjugations are correct.
The players write a subject in each square. For example, one square reads ellos and another says yo. Each square should be different. Then you let the first player pick a verb like comer. Players have to tell you the correct conjugation for the square they want. If they want the ellos square, they have to say “Ellos comen.” A correct answer wins them the square, a wrong one gets a pass and the opponent has a chance to steal. Wins need to be marked with an X or O and three in a row win.
6. ¡Simon Dice!
This is a simple twist on the classic game Simon Says. Lead your kids, (and their friends if they’re available), in a simple game of commands in Spanish. These can be “Toca tu cabeza” or “Doble sus rodillas.” However, no one is allowed to move unless you start with “Simon dice…”
Anyone who moves without permission is out. Keep going until you get down to just one player and then make them the leader for the next round or next game.
7. Sports in Spanish
A lot of kids are more open to a conversation once they get outside and start moving. If your son or daughter has a sport they love, grab a ball and invite them to a game. Before you start, explain that speaking in English will earn them a penalty. Decide together what the penalty should be. You can make it fun like a silly dance in the middle of the basketball court or they have to sing “Cucaracha.”
Your child will love that you took some time for them and you’ll love hearing their cheers in Spanish.
Other Fun Techniques
We don’t always have access to games or textbooks, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing Spanish. Here are some additional ways to get the conversation going.
8. Tell a Story
Sharing a story with your children opens them up to the possibility of sharing with you. Tell them about how you learned a language, a time you embarrassed yourself in class or a time you made a mistake. Be sure to tell it in Spanish or, for a twist, sprinkle in Spanish words and ask your child to translate them for you. After you finish, ask your son or daughter to tell you a story about their day, about their earliest memory, anything you feel is appropriate to the moment.
9. Tell Jokes
Something funny happens when we tell jokes in a new language – sometimes they’re funnier! Of course, not every joke translates, but that means you can use them as a challenge. If a joke isn’t funny, look at why it doesn’t work and how it can be edited to make a Spanish speaker laugh. This is also a great chance to talk about cultural references from other countries, what they mean and why they’re funny.
10. Draw Together
If your child is a burgeoning artist or on the younger side, try having some Spanish drawing time. Get down on the floor or get some easels up and talk about colors, memories, scenes, anything. You can also let your artist have some space to create and then have a conversation about their work in Spanish afterward.
Have other conversation starters to add to this list? Share with the HSA community by commenting below.
Ready to try your free class? Don’t wait – contact us today and get started in Spanish.Read More