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:
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
You’re walking down the street and you meet one of your friends who speaks Spanish. You haven’t seen each other in a long time so while catching up, you tell him or her that you’ve just started learning Spanish online with Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are very happy to hear that you’ve started the adventure of learning a new language, so they say jokingly to test your skills: Hola. ¿Cómo estás? You turn red because you still feel a bit unsure about Spanish pronunciation and the correct use of verbs. You smile nervously. Thankfully, your friend has had Spanish lessons for a long time and explains that you can answer with just a short bien, you can say me siento bien, or you can also answer estoy bien.
Now, we’re here to help! Watch this awesome video we just released and keep reading this blog post! We’ve got you completely covered!
Would you rather download this blog with additional exercises? Click below! Don’t forget to practice with this video as well!
Expressing Our Feelings
As you may have learned from that interaction with your old friend, you can express the way you feel in Spanish in more than one way. Let’s have a look at that:
Sentirse vs. Sentir
Sentirse means to feel, and sentir, without the se of the reflexive verb, means to feel. Wait, what? They translate to the same English word, but they have two slightly different meanings in Spanish. It’s a little bit like that blog we wrote on ya and its 14 meanings! Check it out here if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. In this particular case, ‘to feel’ in Spanish can either be:
- sentirse: to feel oneself, to recognize one’s feelings,
- After the verb, we have an adjective: Me siento feliz (adj.). I feel happy (adj.).
- sentir: to feel a feeling
- After the verb, we have a noun: Siento felicidad (noun). I feel happiness (noun).
- sentir: to feel something outside oneself
- Siento la textura. I feel the texture.
When we say me siento or estoy, we’re using linking verbs* to help us describe the way we feel. After these linking verbs, there always comes an adjective! Do you remember how in Spanish an adjective has to agree with the gender and number of the noun?
* Linking verbs are verbs that connect an adjective to a noun. They are like a bridge that helps us connect the description of an adjective to the subject of a sentence, unlike other verbs that describe the action that the subject of a sentence performs. Linking verbs help us describe a subject. Some examples of linking verbs in English are: to be, to appear, to smell, to become.
Let’s have a look at examples of gender-number agreement when it comes expressing the way we feel:
As you can see here, the adjective changes in both gender and number to match the subject of the sentence. In this case, we used personal pronouns only to give a better example, but we can replace these with nouns:
- Instead of él/ellos, we can write el niño/los niños
- Instead of ella/ellas, we can write la niña/las niñas
* In any case, the adjective needs to match both in gender and number the personal pronoun or the noun that we use in the sentence! That’s always very important when using adjectives, and not only the ones that reflect the way we feel!
As with almost every rule in language, there are exceptions. There are adjectives that are invariable. This means that they change only to agree with the noun’s number (not the gender), or they do not change at all. Let’s check those out!
Number agreement only
As you can see with these two examples, the adjective changes when used in plural and singular, but there’s no difference when the gender of the noun changes.
The’s one more way in Spanish in which you can express how you’re feeling at a specific point in time. In English you are hungry, or thirsty. While in Spanish you can estar hambriento or estar sediento, it’s a lot more common to say that you tienes hambre (you have hunger) o tienes sed (you have thirst).
As you may have noticed, this construction includes the verb:
tener (to have) + a noun
Let’s see how this works:
A Little Practice
Let’s enjoy this little practice exercise by feeling in the blanks! Remember the gender and number agreement! Don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
|Yo ___ feli__.||I feel happy.|
|Tú ___ trist__.||You are sad.|
|Ella ___ emocionad__.||She feels excited.|
|Nosotros ___ preocupad__.||We are worried.|
|Ustedes ___ feli__.||You all feel happy.|
|Ellos ___ nervios__.||They are nervous.|
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
If you are wondering how to pronounce these words and phrases, check out our supplementary video lesson!Read More
Our family members: we love them, we get annoyed by them and we have fun times with them! Most importantly: we know we can count on them whenever we need them! So many of our memories are tied to the time we’ve spent around our family. I think we all know how important they all are! So it’s good that when we speak Spanish, we know how to refer to them!
Today, let’s learn how to say write and say the family in Spanish! If you haven’t yet, watch our latest video! At the end of this blog post, you’ll also find a table with all the vocabulary words you need to describe your family in Spanish! Don’t forget to download the PDF as well to keep practicing!
Christmas Eve Dinners
I’ve lived abroad or in a different city than my familia for almost 10 years. Because of that, there’s one thing I try to do whenever possible: spend navidad (Christmas) with them. Even if it is usually only in spirit! For as long as I can remember, we’ve celebrated two Christmas Eve dinners. One is at my abuela’s (my mother’s mother), and the other one is at my abuelos’ (my father’s parents). Both dinners have always been filled with love, tons of laughter, good food, and as many family members as we can get together!
My Mom’s Family
Christmas Eve always starts at my abuela’s house. Back when I was a little girl, my bisabuela (great-grandmother) used to make tamales, pierna, ponche, and all the good Guatemalan food we eat for Christmas. When I was old enough to help, she would even let me be the sous chef! I think there was more talking than cooking from my part, though. My bisabuela meant the world to me! She would babysit me and my hermano (brother) all the time when we were kids, up until she passed away. She was like a second madre (mother) to my hermano and me. Now my mamá (mom) is in charge of most of the Christmas dinner! Her tamales are the best ever! No wonder, she uses my great-great-grandmother’s recipe (that’s a hard one in Spanish: tatarabuela!). My abuela (grandmother) also participates in the cooking, but she lets my mamá take the lead on the tamales!
The Awaited Tamal
Making tamales is a group effort and it takes a loooong time. In the late afternoon on Christmas Eve’s Day my mamá or abuela brings out the “tamal de prueba” (“trial tamal”). This is the first tamal of the whole batch and they bring it out so we can try it. They make tamales only a couple of times a year, so this is a BIG moment that my hermano, my tía (aunt), and I are always anxiously awaiting. We sit down on the big dining room table, everyone with a fork in hand, and we share the first tamal. Every time, I tear up on my first bite because it tastes just like family, like all the beautiful moments we’ve spent together. It feels like being with my bisabuela again because my mamá’s tamales taste just like hers!
My Dad’s Family
After the “tamal de prueba,” we get into the car and head to my abuelos’ house. A huge dinner of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, apple sauce, and my tía’s special gravy awaits us there! If we get to gather the whole crew, it’s my abuela, my abuelo, my four tías (aunts), my prima (female cousin), my primo (male cousin) my papá, my hermano, my hermana (sister), my sobrino (nephew) and I! We normally arrive by the time dinner is ready because we were at my abuela’s giving the emotional support for the whole tamal-making process.
A Family Tree
Now, it’s time to understand a little bit more about my family tree. My hermana is really my medio hermana (half-sister). Her father is my father, and her mother is my dad’s first wife. So my mother is not my sister’s mother. My mom is her step-mother – or her madrastra! And my sister is my mother’s hijastra (step-daughter). My primos are my first cousins (primos en primer grado) because they are the children of my dad’s sister, but the children of my dad’s cousins are my second cousins (primos en segundo grado). I do get to see my primos en segundo grado around this time because my abuelo’s sister – my tía abuela – has a piano school and she hosts a Christmas recital every year! The recital is tons of fun! One of my favorite parts about going to the recital is that we get to sing German Christmas songs that my abuelo and his hermanos used to sing as children!
All The Laughter
Back to lovely Christmas Eve! During dinner, I try to cat up with everyone because it’s one of the only times of the year I get to see them all! Last year’s dinner I heard some great news: my prima is getting married this year! I’m looking forward to meeting her prometido (fiancé) and having tons of fun at her wedding! Another amazing thing is that multiple languages are spoken. We mainly speak Spanish, but there is also the occasional English and German. Sometimes my abuelo will even throw in some French into the mix! Each and every time, at some point, one of my tías will start laughing, and we’ll all follow suite and laugh until our bellies hurt! It’s very enjoyable to laugh uncontrollably, but I do not recommend trying this at home – especially after all the food of a Christmas Eve dinner!
More Tamales and More Love
After having dinner at my abuelos’, we head back to my abuela’s house where more tamales will be awaiting us! I’m telling you, I’m sure I eat more on Christmas Eve’s Day than on any other day of the year! All the food is made with so much love and I just can’t refuse it!
For the more visual and auditory learners out there and anyone else who would like to do a recap of this blogpost on a video: here you go!
Now, let’s do a recap of all the vocabulary we just learned! To hear the vocabulary spoken, don’t forget to check out the video and PDF below!
Okay. Before we start today, have a look at this awesome video! After I watched the video, I tried to snap my fingers to chanin-chanin! It didn’t quite work and it made me remember how many years ago, my best friend spent a crazy amount of time trying to get me to do it “right.” Despite her efforts and 25 years of being Guatemalan, I still can’t make the snapping sound. Now the important question: were you able to do it? It’s okay if you can’t! That makes two of us! Either way, this expression and hand gesture has an important influence on Guatemalan culture.
Chanin, chanin-chanin, or the hand movement that accompanies those words, is ingrained in Guatemalan culture in an inexplicable way. Whether or not they actually say the words, everyone does this hand movement. Some people do it everywhere, others do it only in the familiarity of their homes. Some make it snap, while others just shake their hands like pom poms (and I raise my hand to this!!!). The video got me thinking that I do it a lot (and I mean a LOT) more often than I initially thought I do. It’s just one of those things that you learn at a very young age because everyone around you does it!
What is ‘chanin chanin’?
Let’s divide this in two and explore its meaning:
- Words: Saying ‘chanin’ or ‘chanin-chanin’
- Gesture: The famous finger snapping hand movement
The origin of the word chanin
Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. However, different cultural groups across the country speak another 24 officially recognized languages! Yes, that’s a lot of languages for one country! 22 out of those 24 languages are Mayan languages spoken by indigenous people.
Now, going back to chanin and Guatemalan Spanish. Because of the cultural exchange that exists between the various groups in Guatemala, Mayan languages have influenced – and still are influencing – Spanish greatly! Many words we use in Guatemalan Spanish, like chanin, originate from a Mayan language. Chanin, in particular, means apúrate, or hurry up.
To practice some Spanish reading, visit Guatemala’s official page on our linguistic heritage: Guatemala, un País con Diversidad Étnica, Cultural y Lingüística. There are also some maps for you to see where these different cultures and languages exist! You can also check out these Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala and compare the places listed here to where each Mayan language is spoken.
Origin of the chanin gesture
As for the hand movement, I’ve been asking some abuelitas, and no one really knows where it comes from. I can only assume that someone, one day, really needed to get something done. So, they started shaking their hands to communicate a sense of urgency to another person who spoke a different one of the 24 languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other with words, hand gestures had to do the job!
Imagine if you’re in the middle of something and someone starts frantically shaking their hands to signal that you should hurry up – believe me – you’ll hurry up!
The Languages of Guatemala
Languages are directly related to ethnic groups and culture. There are four different ethnic groups in Guatemala and one uses different languages:
Learn more about Guatemala’s culture and ethnic groups here!
*Information on the number of native speakers from 2002 Census.
Spanish in the context of indigenous languages in Guatemala
Although Spanish is the “main” official language of Guatemala, a big percentage of the population does not speak Spanish! But how does this happen? The Spanish arrived in Guatemala almost 500 years ago in 1524 AD and as part of their colonization, they taught the indigenous people Spanish.
While 500 years may seem like enough time for everyone to learn Spanish, Guatemala is a country divided (and united!) by different cultures and landscapes. The various groups did not always accept a new language being imposed on them (who would?). Plus, the fact that some villages are so far removed from political, economic, or cultural centers allowed for many to just keep living their life without needing to learn a new language.
This is all now changing, but we’ll talk more about Spanish in Guatemala in another blog post! In the meantime, you can read a little something on Guatemalan history here.
Something to keep in mind: The Spanish of each Spanish-speaking country is greatly influenced by the languages the indigenous populations spoke or still speak! That’s the reason why there are sometimes big differences in the words the people of different Spanish-speaking countries use.
Y ahora, and now, exploremos the other languages of Guatemala!
According to the 2002 census, 41% of the Guatemalan population identify themselves as indigenous (descendants of the Mayans). All these people speak various Mayan languages, and each one is a descendant of the language Protomaya, which came to life some 6,000 years ago! Yes, it’s been a long time! There are now 22 indigenous Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, each spoken by a different cultural group! And yes, each one of them is a language of their own (not a *dialect!) with unique grammar, sounds, and vocabulary!
Let’s have a look at these 22 Mayan languages:
*dialect: “A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group.” Thanks, Oxford English Dictionary!
As you can see, only a very small percentage of the population speaks each of the Mayan languages! These numbers have greatly decreased in the last few years and are still rapidly declining due to multiple reasons. For one, technology is only available in certain languages. Similarly, most services and information are only accessible in Spanish. People are also moving to bigger cities for work or studies, and because of that many families consider it more important for their children to learn Spanish than an indigenous Mayan language. Parents and grandparents have struggled to live in a country where they cannot speak the official language, and they don’t want their children to have that same experience.
However, it’s important to mention that Guatemala’s government and different NGOs have started campaigns to promote Mayan language learning in schools and through any possible platform. The thing is, a language is not only a set of words we use to communicate with others. Languages carry the entire historical background of a whole culture! As such, it is important to value and cherish each Mayan language as much as we value and cherish all those beautiful colors we see when we visit a Guatemalan market!
Check out these quotes by Guatemalans to understand a little bit more about the importance of language as part of a culture: Discovering Treasures Through Spanish Quotes
Xinca is a language that doesn’t belong to the same group as the other 22 indigenous Mayan languages. Its origin is unknown, but it used to be widely spoken throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. While some sources say the language is extinct, others say there are currently only about 100 people who speak this language.
Garifuna is the only language from the Arawakan language family spoken in Central America. All other languages from this language family that are not extinct, are spoken in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Up until 1797 when the Garifuna people were deported to Honduras, the language was only spoken in some Antillean Islands. Now, a total of about 200,000 people speak this language throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and the US. If you’d like to learn more about the Garifuna culture, check out this documentary film in Garifuna language (and English): Garifuna in Peril.
Language is a huge part of culture! When you learn a language, you’re not only learning to say things with other words, but you’re venturing into a new world of ideas and customs. Continue learning more about Guatemalan culture and language by scheduling a FREE CLASS with us today!Read More
Learning a new language can be daunting – the pronunciation, the grammar, the slang, the social nuances. Even when it’s a category 1 language like Spanish, the learning process can be quite intimidating, especially when you don’t know how to start.
There were two main things that held me back several years when learning Spanish: fear of making mistakes and lack of exposure. Now, I was exposed to Spanish as young as 5 years old, and I took classes and used audio books for about 6 years in middle school and high school. One year before I graduated, I took a trip to Peru. I was expected to be a translator since I was at the top of my Spanish class, but when I got there it was a complete shock. I did not understand one. Single. Word. Then, a few years later, I went to Guatemala and truly focused on my Spanish. Once I committed myself to Spanish immersion and practice with native speakers, I was holding conversations after one month and translating for my friends by 4 months. Now, complete fluency took a few years more, but that had to do more with learning the local jargon and perfecting the dreaded subjunctive. In those first months though, I did not take one single Spanish class. So, how was I able to learn so quickly? Well, I’ve put together some important points that helped me learn Spanish as a beginner. Hopefully, they will be of service to you as well!
1. Language Journal
I’m a visual learner. Still to this day, if I learn a new Spanish word, I cannot remember or reproduce it until I see it written. If you’re a visual learner like me, keeping a language journal is critical to the learning process. You can write down new words, make connections between them, study sentence structure….and the list goes on. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a language journal is still a great idea when learning Spanish as a beginner. You can write down new words you hear in a conversation or in a movie, mark down the pronunciation, and return to your notes at later times to keep practicing.
When learning a language, you are teaching your brain to think in a completely different way. Up until now, it has always thought and used English (unless English is not your first language!). In order to work towards Spanish fluency, your brain needs to create new pathways; it’s like digging a riverbed in a desert. At first, it will be extremely difficult, but with practice and repetition, the water will start flowing with ease. That’s where the journal comes in. You can’t expect yourself to remember every word you hear in class or in a conversation – you need reinforcement. With the language journal, you can write things down how you best understand and remember them. You can refer to your notes to practice or if you forget a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. It’s also extremely useful to have a small language journal to carry with you if you know you’re going to be situations that require Spanish conversation. I can tell you from personal experience that a language journal can be a lifesaver when you start learning Spanish as a beginner.
Like I said before, lack of exposure held me back from Spanish fluency for 6 years. 6 years! When I had accurate exposure to the Spanish language, I was conversing in months. Exposure to the language is absolutely essential when learning Spanish as a beginner, whether you’re 5 or 95! It may seem absolutely overwhelming initially, but remember what I said about building riverbeds in our brain? At first, the water trickles, but with practice, it will soon start flowing.
Taking Spanish classes with a native English speaker may seem easier for you, but in the end, it will cost you – possibly even 6 years! Take the leap. Expose yourself to the Spanish language. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to Latin America and completely immersing yourself in the culture and language (Although, if you get the chance, I highly recommend it). There are plenty of opportunities for exposure right where you are.
- Movies and Television – You may think that it’s not possible to learn a language this way, but I have met so many people who learned to speak English just by watching movies and TV shows like ‘Friends.’ It takes commitment, but it’s possible! This is a great way to get Spanish exposure at no extra cost, especially if you have young learners. Netflix is a great option as well because you can choose from shows in Spanish (like Narcos or Reina del Flow) and shows that have a mix of English and Spanish, or ‘Spanglish’ (Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time). Subtitles are another great tool to increase your Spanish exposure and comprehension. Learn more about how to use them to learn Spanish as a beginner here.
- Community – About 51 million people speak Spanish in the United States. Get out and make some friends! I know it can be awkward to start speaking your second language with a native speaker – trust me, I avoided it for a very long time. However, nothing can help you more than taking that step and initiating conversation with a native speaker.
- Online Classes – Here at Spanish Academy, we offer high-quality online Spanish classes to students of all ages around over the world. These classes are unique because they are taught by native speakers whose goal is to improve your Spanish fluency. You get great exposure to the language, a personal tutor to answer all your questions, and reinforcement materials. Instead of traveling all the way to Latin America, you can get the same benefits right in the comfort of your own home. Try a Free Class today to see if it’s a right fit for you!
So you have your vocabulary words written in your handy-dandy notebook. You increased your exposure to the language using one of the suggestions above. Now comes the scary part. Actually talking. I avoided conversing in Spanish for such a long time, thinking I wasn’t ready yet. Turns out, it was what I needed most of all. If you just do bookwork and never practice speaking, you’ll never be ready to hold a conversation. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to start conversations in Spanish even as a beginner. In my personal experience, many native Spanish speakers wanted to speak English with me so they could practice. However, when I expressed my desire to learn and improve my Spanish, they were more than happy to help me. I am forever grateful to them for their patience as they listened to me stumble through sentences and repeated themselves various times until I understood what they were saying. Find someone you feel comfortable with (possibly even with a personal instructor from Spanish Academy) and ask to practice your Spanish with them.
Of course, learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Everyone learns in a unique way at their own speed. You will make mistakes – I still do, in both languages! However, if you are persistent in learning Spanish and use the right tools, you will progress towards fluency. Don’t get frustrated!
Also, you will be surprised at how patient people are when you try to speak to them in their native language. When I was learning Spanish as a beginner, I was afraid they would get frustrated or not understand me. However, it was quite the contrary. The people around me understood what I was trying to say and helped me express myself in a more natural way. They were incredibly forgiving and so delighted that I was making an effort to communicate with them in Spanish.
‘La práctica hace al maestro.’ Practice makes perfect. This is especially true when talking about learning a language and creating those pathways in your brain. The more you practice, the easier Spanish will come. One great tool I can recommend to learn Spanish as a beginner is language apps. They aren’t the same as having your own Spanish teacher, but they are a great way to reinforce what you are learning in class or what you heard in your Spanish conversations. Check out our top 4 apps of 2019, and pick which one would best for your language needs. For complete beginners, I would recommend Drops.
To learn Spanish as a beginner, you need to make sure you have some sort of exposure to Spanish every day, whether that be through apps, TV, conversations, or classes. Taking a class here and there or using Duolingo once a month will not get you to fluency. Keep practicing diligently, and you will see impressive results in as little as a few months!
To learn more about our Spanish program and the classes we offer, click here. If you want to know why our method works, check out this blog, which also explains more about the way our brains function. And, of course, don’t forget to sign up for a free class today! When learning Spanish as a beginner, it really helps to have a native speaker help you through the process and answer all your questions. Choose your personal instructor from our 60+ teachers to guide you on the path towards Spanish fluency. ¡Empieza hoy!
As a parent, you want the best for your child – especially where education is concerned. When it comes to foreign language, sometimes our local options fall short as we don’t always have access to native teachers. Therefore, many people turn to online alternatives for second-language courses, such as Spanish classes. However, good Spanish programs can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you choose a program that doesn’t fit your child’s needs. Is it worth it to invest in a private instructor? Do Spanish textbooks alone work? What about the multiple online software programs?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Below, you will find 5 popular alternative Spanish classes for children and teenagers. If you are looking at courses for adults, please visit our blog here. ¡Vamos!
Although you may not consider these options to be exclusively ‘online’ programs, they are quite popular with families looking for Spanish fluency. These applications are very similar in structure (for a more detailed description, click here) and offer interactive activities to enforce learned vocabulary and grammar. Memrise has a more game-like vibe, while Duolingo is a little more focused on grammar. However, with Memrise you can choose from hundreds of Spanish courses made by users. This ensures your child learns what they need for their level or what peaks their interest. Duolingo also offers a placement test so your students start right at the level they need.
You can find both programs online or on your phone as an application. The free versions offer a variety of language learning options, such as games, vocabulary exercises, pronunciation, and writing. Although there are not live teachers helping your child along, he or she can watch short videos of natives speaking and listen to authentic pronunciations.
Rosetta Stone is a favorite among families looking for authentic Spanish classes. Developed in 1992, this program is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. In other words, the student learns with an automated program.
The platform uses images, text, sound, and repetition to help your child learn Spanish. It also analyzes aspects of your student’s progress to help them learn at their own pace and enjoy the process. For example, it tracks how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is, and how long each lesson is taking. However, like the apps, there is no live instructor to help the student along.
So, those first two options don’t offer any live teachers to guide your child through their learning journey. A private instructor is always a plus, especially if your child is quite young. Are there any affordable options available with personal instructors? Let’s look at the Kids’ Club Spanish School.
This platform is a bit newer, created in 2017. The classes allow the child to sit down with a live teacher and interactive software to learn Spanish. The backbone of the program is the
Panda Tree is another program that offers live Spanish instruction at your own convenience. This one offers classes in both Chinese and Spanish, and it has been in operation for 5 years. Just like the Kids’ Club Spanish School, the classes utilize interactive software ideal for younger children. This way, kids can sit down with their teacher as if they were in a real classroom. The learners also have access to additional songs and activities to practice with outside of class.
However, this platform doesn’t offer a free trial class to see if it is a good fit for your child. Another drawback both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School have is that there is a maximum age limit. Many high school students need Spanish credits to graduate or to apply to college, but these programs are geared mainly towards younger students.
Spanish Academy, though, offers live classes to all ages – preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school. There is even a program for you, mom and dad! This platform combines personal classes at your convenience with a written curriculum so your child has a complete learning experience. If you have two kids that want to learn together, you can even sign them up to study at the same time. That way, they can have more fun learning Spanish together!
Best of all, the price for classes are significantly lower than both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School, even though all three programs offer live, personalized classes online. The only drawback is that availability with Spanish Academy may be limited during the school year because of its great popularity.
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today and give your child a brighter future!Read More
A big part of communication happens through spoken language. As opposed to written language, or the words we read and write, spoken language is everything we speak and hear. Another type of language we utilize is body language, or nonverbal communication. You may be wondering, what does this all have to do with TV and learning Spanish? Well, keep reading & you’ll find out how to learn Spanish by watching TV!
To learn more about the different types of communication and how they impact our interactions with others check out this blog post.
If we think of spoken language, we can divide it into two parts:
- What goes out – the words we say
- What goes in – the words we hear
We know that language learning is a skill like any other, and to get better at it, practice is key! If we are learning to speak Spanish, we need to actually speak Spanish. Before we can have a conversation, though, we need to understand spoken Spanish. One way to better our comprehension is consistently listening to Spanish! The thing is, Spanish has numerous sounds that the English language doesn’t, so we need to train our ears to get accustomed to this new world of sounds. And why not learn Spanish by watching TV?
Fun fact: did you know that some languages only exist in spoken form? In some languages, there are no written words to the spoken ones! According to Ethnologue, almost half of the over 7,000 spoken languages around the globe have no written form. Isn’t that fascinating?
Mashed Potatoes vs. French Fries
Let’s be honest. When you’re just starting to learn Spanish (or any language), and you hear people speak, it’s hard to point out where one word ends and another begins. At first, hearing the language feels more like mashed potatoes when in reality every word is a French fry! The more we listen to Spanish, the easier it will become to recognize the different sounds, and where words begin and end. It will be easier to pull the French fries out of the potato mash!
Now, how can we use all this knowledge to our advantage when learning Spanish? We’re very lucky to live in an age when technology offers so many different options that we can use differently depending on the level of our language skills. Let’s learn Spanish by watching TV! Series, movies, documentaries, cartoons…anything with spoken words will be of great help on our path to becoming fluent Spanish speakers!
Talking about technology, why don’t you check out our blog post on the Top 4 Spanish Apps of 2019!
Learn Spanish by watching TV
Let’s go back to words being French fries! Some fries are only seasoned with salt and pepper, while other fries are so heavily seasoned you can barely taste the potatoes! That’s exactly what happens with Spanish and all its different accents! While some are very easy to understand because the speakers pronounce words very clearly, other accents are an entirely different story!
Spanish is my native language, and there are series and movies in Spanish that I’ve watched with English or Spanish subtitles. Why? Because sometimes I want to focus on the plot instead of on trying to understand what people are saying. This is entirely normal: my ear is not accustomed to such an accent! If you need subtitles as a Spanish learner, don’t feel bad because even I as a native speaker need them sometimes too. You and I are definitely not alone on this!
Speaking of different accents, this blog post will help you improve your own accent.
Where to Start
¡Empecemos! Go to Netflix or your preferred streaming service. Pick out your favorite cartoon, series, or movie. Yes, that one you’ve watched at least once (but probably more times than you’d like to admit) in English. Choose to watch the Spanish dubbed version with English subtitles! Wait a second. What?! The original is in English and I’m saying you should choose to hear it in Spanish with subtitles in English? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Why? Well, there are two reasons for this:
- You’ve watched this before, and you know what to expect. You know the plot and the characters so your brain already has an idea of what it will be about. This means you’ll have a fun time watching something you like even if you don’t understand everything you hear. It also allows your brain to focus on learning these new sounds with everything you hear!
- The language used on dubbed versions is a lot more neutral than the one from series or movies originally filmed in Spanish because it’s meant to cater to different audiences in various regions. Therefore, this is a great place to begin!
Where to Continue
Once you are past level 1, any of the following combinations will be great to continue learning Spanish by watching TV:
- Spanish audio with English subtitles: This will help train your ear to the sound of Spanish.
- Spanish audio with Spanish subtitles: You’ll hear and read very similar information. Therefore, you’ll start connecting spoken words to written words!
- English audio with Spanish subtitles: This will help you get used to Spanish spelling and written language.
And what should you watch? I don’t want to recommend anything in particular because whatever you watch should be fun for YOU! Learning Spanish by watching TV is educational without you even realizing it because it is so enjoyable! My only recommendation on this aspect is to start with series or cartoons, as movies are way longer and you don’t want your brain to be overwhelmed! We want this to be a fun ear-training activity!
My Personal Experience
Very often, people ask me where I learned English. This is not an easy question for me to answer because English is the only language other than my native tongue I didn’t primarily learn in a classroom – as was the case with German, Italian, French, and Latin. Instead, I learned English in a very organic way. I watched TV and played video games in English! What did I watch? I chose cartoons, series, documentaries, and movies! And even though it never felt like learning, I was learning English and training my ears to the sounds of the language.
It’s simple this time: pick a show you like and have fun while learning! And why not try a FREE CLASS with us to tell us about your experience learning Spanish by watching TV!