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!
If you are looking to get a good handle on Spanish in just a short amount of time, check out our video and accompanying PDF!
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
It’s 2019. The internet has given us so many more connections than we ever dreamed possible. News travels the globe in just minutes. We can interact with people from other countries and cultures…if we have a common language. Even though English has become the international language, knowing only English can greatly inhibit you in the global community. If you are thinking of learning a second language, check out these top 6 reasons to start with Spanish!
1. Second Most Spoken Language
You may be surprised by this – a lot of people think that Spanish isn’t that common worldwide. However, in terms of native speakers, Spanish ranks number two as the most spoken language in the world.
The first is Chinese, of course, with about 1.2 billion native speakers, or 15.6% of the world population. Spanish takes the silver with 400 million native speakers, or 5.2% of the population. In third place, we have English, at 360 million native speakers, or 4.7%.
If we count the number of non-native speakers, English, being the international language of business and commerce, comes in at a close second with almost a billion speakers. Spanish is then bumped down to number 4, with 527 million native and non-native speakers.
If you are trying to pick a language to learn to be able to communicate with a large portion of the population, it would make sense to learn either Chinese or Spanish. Spanish, however, has something that gives it a special draw.
2. Category 1 Language
This special draw comes in how easy it is to learn as a native English speaker. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a ranking system to show how long it would take a native English speaker to reach a proficiency level in each language.
Category 1 languages are closely related to English and take about 575-600 hours to reach proficiency. Before you say that’s a lot of time, Category 5 languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, take about 2200 hours to reach proficiency! Yeah – let’s go back to those first languages that take a quarter of the time to learn.
In this first category we see languages such as French, Italian, and – yup, you guessed it – Spanish. As someone who learned Spanish and has moved on to other languages, I can attest to this rating. The alphabet, sentence structure, and basic grammar are very similar to English. Even the vocabulary is sometimes so comparable that I get confused about whether I’m using the English or Spanish spelling. I often must stop and think about which language I’m using because a large portion of the vocabulary is either the same (like with neutral – neutral) or extremely close in spelling and pronunciation (like with direction – dirección).
When I first started learning Spanish, I was amazed by how much I actually understood – I could make out vocabulary I had never learned just because of its similarity to English.
Now, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are some difficult aspects to any language. However, if we compare some of the other world languages, Spanish starts to look a lot easier – even with that tricky subjunctive tense and all those verb conjugations.
3. Growing Number of Spanish Speakers in the US
So we’ve established that Spanish is one of the most common languages in the world and that it is fairly easy to learn. But … why should you decide to learn it over, let’s say, Dutch or Portuguese (which also fall into Category 1)?
Well, it’s close to home. The vast majority of the countries in North and South America speaks Spanish. It’s not like Spanish is spoken only in a remote country on the other side of the world. No. It is spoken in over a dozen countries that neighbor the US, and the number of speakers in the US is growing each year.
As of 2015, there were 53 million Spanish speakers in the United States alone. That’s 16.5% of the population. In 2017, Hispanics accounted for over 18% of the population, and that number is expected to increase by 1% every 5 years.
Spanish is all around us. It makes sense logically to learn Spanish as a second language so that we can communicate with 18% of our country’s population. Why spend hundreds of hours learning a foreign language you may never use when Spanish is becoming so prevalent right here in our own country?
4. Travel Options
Of course, I know that not everyone wants to stay in the States. I completely understand that – I started traveling at 16! For me, speaking at least a little bit of the native language is so important – not only to show respect but to survive in that country and be able to talk with the locals. It can be really frustrating to be in a foreign country and not be able to ask for what you need or have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Trust me. I’ve been there.
So, you may be in a similar situation, looking to learn a second language for travel purposes. I’m actually doing the same right now – I love Korean culture, so I am learning the language in hopes that I make it to South Korea someday! The downside of my language choice, however, is that only two countries speak the language – my travel options are quite limited.
However, there are over 20 countries and territories that speak Spanish worldwide – there’s even a country in Africa that speaks Spanish! Therefore, if you are itching to see the world, start learning some Spanish! It will take you to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa! Whether you are traveling for work, pleasure, or education, speaking Spanish gives you so many more choices on where to go.
5. A Whole New World
Or should I say ‘worlds.’ Since there are so many places that speak Spanish around the world, there is no one specific culture that comes with the language. If you took Spanish in school, you may have learned a bit about Mexican culture, with Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo. However, there are well over a dozen other countries and territories that speak Spanish. If you decide to take the plunge and learn this language, you will gain access to numerous cultures. Remember learning Spanish isn’t just about learning vocabulary and grammar – it’s so much more.
“A different language is a different vision of life.”– Federico Fellini
One of the most interesting things about being bilingual is how I change when I speak each language. The way I express myself, how I think about things, how I communicate – it all changes depending on the language I’m speaking. Why? Because language is so intertwined with the culture that you cannot learn one without the other. It is a beautiful experience!
Now, I live and work in Guatemala, so I learned (and am still learning) about the Guatemalan culture specifically. However, I often speak Spanish with people from other countries, which gives me the opportunity to learn about even more cultures that speak Spanish. I could learn about these countries and their cultures in a classroom at school, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Speaking the language of the country gives us so much more insight into the inner-workings of the culture. Take slang for example. There are about 20 different ways to say ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s up’ in Spanish – it all depends on the region. By learning some phrases from each country, you get a glimpse of how the people think and interact with each other, which is something a textbook could never teach you.
6. More Opportunities
Learning any language can open the door to a myriad of opportunities. The moment you say you know a language, people start to depend on you for their communication needs. This makes you that much more valuable in the workplace, especially in this era of technology where everyone – no matter what language they speak – wants to stay connected.
We are a global community, which means we need to find ways to bridge the communication gap. By speaking Spanish, you can connect with the 400 million native speakers or over 100 million people who speak Spanish as a second language. Let me tell you – it is immensely rewarding to meet someone and communicate with them in our mutual second language – Spanish. It is actually more common than you think!
The opportunities given to you by knowing a second language are endless. You can work abroad, go to school in a Spanish-speaking country, volunteer and truly connect with the community…and the list goes on and on. Learning Spanish is the perfect stepping block to building the future you want.
Alright. I’ve given you several great reasons to learn Spanish. Now go start learning! But…how, you ask? Well, there’s no search for a private tutor near you because we offer live, tailored classes online right in the comfort of your own home! Nothing beats having an experienced native Spanish speaker teach you the ins and outs of the language. Try a free trial class and start changing your future today!
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dried flowers as carpets, fruit as carved trumpets, and colorful sawdust for everyone. It’s the half happiest season of all.”
Nope, not Christmas.
We are talking about Semana Santa, or ‘Holy Week’ in English. This is normally the time when Americans and Anglo-Saxons celebrate Easter around the world. However, as always, Latin America gives it more spice, and there’s not an Easter Egg in sight!
Setting the Scene
It is a week for the senses. This is second level to street food. Take a deep breath and smell the burning sawdust and incense you find in novelty stores that makes you feel like you are in Asia. But we aren’t, remember…only Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Semana Santa!
Feast your eyes on all the flowers, fruit, and dyed sawdust used to create elaborate street carpets feathered with green needles from pine trees.
Why the carpets you ask?
These beautiful creations are for people carrying carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the crucifixion story of Jesus. Don’t worry, we will touch more on that later (just keep in mind that it’s called a procession, or procesión).
Just to give you a taste, here is an interview from Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, we know it is in Spanish, but take it all in. ¡No te preocupes! We will review the main points of their interviews.
Before you watch the inside scoop, here is some basic Semana Santa vocabulary that should help you out:
- Los cucuruchos– people who apply to the church to carry the floats processions through the streets to express their adoration for Christ and the church.
- Cargar– to carry a float in a procession
- Las alfombras– hand made carpets made in the streets for people who are carrying floats
- La procesión – a special parade for Semana Santa
First scene: You see all of the sawdust, flowers, and pine alfombras that we were talking about! The narration presents us with Antigua Guatemala getting ready for one of the biggest procesiones of the 7-day event: La procesión de la Merced Church.
Afterward, there is a pep talk from one of the organizers talking to the first round of 80 men who will carry this GIANT, ONE THOUSAND POUND, hand-carved float from the church of La Merced along the path made of alfombras. He encourages them,
Today is your time to enjoy and take pride in carrying [the float]. Maybe with a tear in your eye, thinking about the love of God and how he has given you the strength to move forward.”
This speaks to the reason why people want to participate in Semana Santa in this way. Holy Week is about Catholic devotion and acknowledgment of Jesus’ suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion. By carrying and participating in las procesiones, you get to show devotion on a deeper level. If you watch los cucuruchos try to pick up the float, I think we can all say that they are devoted. Go team Semana Santa!
This concept of joy and devotion found in the Catholic Semana Santa traditions spills over into the following interviews.
The first is with a living and breathing cucurucho! He talks about what an honor it is for him to have the privilege to help lead the procession out of the church. Out of all his years of participating in Semana Santa, this is the first time when he does not have to wait on another street block or at a different location to swap with the first turn of cucuruchos.
It is really exciting, especially today because of all of the devotion and love and mysticism that each cucurucho experiences when they cargan (carry).”
The father in the next interview expounds:
Being a cucurucho is considered a big privilege in Semana Santa, as the tradition is passed down through generations,”
He has been practicing the tradition of Semana Santa for 28 years in his household. He is so excited to be celebrating this year with his oldest son.
People also participate as a way to celebrate their gratitude for miracles that they have seen happen in their lives. In the interview with the woman Rosi, she explains that she especially wants to cargar this year because her father recently recovered from a long-term illness. She does it out of thankfulness, and boy are we happy for her too!
Another fun fact that one of the interviewees points out is that Semana Santa is celebrated in most Spanish-speaking countries. The young girl, Monse, says that her family is actually from Chile, but they live in Antigua. At first, she did not like the traditions of making alfombras and having to cargar, but once her grandfather explained it to her she appreciated it from a new and fresh perspective. Most countries in Central and South America celebrate Semana Santa, but they are on a smaller scale with maybe one or two big procesiones, which is nothing compared to the whole week of procesiones in Antigua.
Now we find ourselves at a spectacular scene of music! As the cucuruchos prepare to wait at their stations to carry, the sixty-man band prepares to accompany them with some tunes. This orchestra has been preparing for 6 months just for Semana Santa! It is a full band with trumpets, flutes and, of course, crashing cymbals that can be heard from blocks away as the procesión follows the alfombras from the church.
The Final Product
It is incredible to believe that the planning and execution for only one procesión include seven thousand people and the procesión lasts only for fifteen hours!! Throughout the entire week, there are twenty tree procesiones all around Antigua, but the biggest ones are the ones that start on midnight of the Thursday that leads into Good Friday. People come from all over the world just to participate; turning the forty-five thousand population of Antigua to ONE MILLION PEOPLE.
The only Semana Santa comparable to that of Antigua, Guatemala is in Spain from which Semana Santa was born and was brought over to Latin America. No no no ladies and gentlemen, not an Easter egg in sight when it comes to these Latin American traditions!
So how can you celebrate? The easiest way to participate in Semana Santa is to make an alfombra. We encourage you to go outside and get creative! Use flower petals and pine tree needles to set your base. Now, use those pumpkin carving skills you save for Holloween to the task to carve out figures from fruits and veggies to adorn your carpet in the street. If you need inspiration, check out this how-to guide from Labor of Love with LOTS of pictures! We promise lots of fun and suspicious looks from your neighbors. The point is to enjoy yourself in participating with a tradition that has been blooming since 1521!
This has been HomeSchool Spanish Academy reporting live from Antigua, Guatemala for the Semana Santa Holy Week. Please stay tuned for more fun facts and, YES, pictures galore!
Don’t forget to talk to you Spanish teacher for more information about Semana Santa. Sign up for a Free Class here!
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As you plan your mission trip, you likely already have high expectations for what your time abroad will look like – fellowship, meals at big communal tables, a brand new church or home completed and filled. To make all of your lovely visions a reality, you need to master Spanish so you can so you can effectively communicate with the locals in the community you are serving.
No matter where you are in your language learning, there are some key things you need to know to be ready for your mission trip. Here is a breakdown of nouns and verbs to help you spread the good news.
Introduce Yourself and Your Faith
A great way to introduce your work abroad is to start with your organization. All churches have a name in Spanish:
- Mormon – Mormón
- Catholic – Católico
- Protestant – Protestante
- Christian – Cristiano
- Jehovah’s Witness – Testigos de Jehová
As you meet the new congregation or group of volunteers, be sure to include the purpose of your mission trip as you say hello.
- My name is ______ and I am missionary – Me llamo _______ y soy un misionero (de) __________.
(name of your institution)
Say What You Believe
More complex yet equally important, you need to state your beliefs so there is no confusion about your goals or beliefs. Here are some key phrases.
- I believe the bible is the word of God – Yo creo que la Biblia es la palabra de Dios.
- Do you know the story of ______? – ¿Conoces la historia de _____?
- I follow the bible and the Book of Mormon – Sigo la Biblia y el Libro de Mormón.
- We pray everyday – Rezamos todos los días.
- I go to church on Saturday – Asisto a la iglesia el sábado.
- God loves you- Dios te ama.
Learn Verbs to Explain Your Activities
- Pray – Orar or rezar
- Attend – Asistir
- Minister – Ministro
- Build – Construir
- Join – Unir
Furthermore, use those verbs to invite people in, explain an activity and make everyone feel welcome.
- Will you join us in prayer? – ¿Te unirás a nosotros en oración?
- Are you available to attend a service? – ¿Estás disponible para asistir a un servicio?
- We are here to minister to the children. – Estamos aquí para ministrar a los niños.
- We want to build a new church. – Queremos construir una iglesia nueva.
- You are invited to join us for lunch. – Estás invitado a unirte a nosotros para el almuerzo.
Names and Texts
Reading in Spanish, particularly the bible, will take practice. Don’t wait to start your studies in your new language. Practice with important names and simple excerpts from the scripture to start, then work with people on your mission trip or ministry group before you leave.
- Jesus – Jesús
- The Virgin Mary – La Virgen Maria
- Joseph – San José
- The apostles – Los apóstoles
- Angel – Ángel
- God – Señor or El Padre, (the father)
- The Son – El hijo
- The Holy Spirit – El espíritu santo
After a few lessons, try a few easy bible verses in your new language.
- Psalm 118:6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid – Salmos 118:6 Dios está conmigo: no tendré miedo.
- Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Actos 16:31 Ellos respondieron: “Cree en el Señor Jesús, y serás salvo, tú y tu casa”.
- Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. Lucas 6:31 Haz a los demás lo que quieras que te hagan a ti.
Practice, practice, practice for your new adventure and get your Spanish as fluid as you can. You will see the difference great communication can make between a visitor and the host country. Likewise, your new parishioners will love that you made the effort.
Time to start getting your Spanish ready for your next mission trip? Sign up for a free class with HSA today to get started!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.
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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.
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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.
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Is the ability to speak Spanish as well as English truly an advantage? According to leaders in tech, translation, education and health, the answer is a resounding “YES”. Being bilingual in the workforce can make for a well-rounded team at any company. When your child can add fluency in Spanish to their resume, they become a unique and valued job candidate.
Networking on a New Level
The ability to speak a second language like Spanish can open some surprising doors. As young people begin to start competing with one another for internships or entry-level jobs, it will be essential that they stand out. A young graduate who is fluent in a language other than English will have a distinct advantage. A bilingual applicant can be considered for an interview in Spanish, reach a broader, bilingual customer base or work with a client from a Latin country.
A new employee at a sales job or in a global company who can read, write and speak Spanish will be able to make more connections than one who doesn’t. The ability to communicate and network across languages is an important skill and one that could not only get your son or daughter advance in a company. For example, a monolingual sales representative can earn a great commission, but the bilingual salesperson will reach a broader audience every time.
A Bilingual Career
The chance to be an interpreter or translator can be a great one as it opens doors in a variety of fields. Someone who can help people share knowledge or skills is highly valuable to scientists, a country’s government, a sales team, a major tech company and more.
Several fields are desperate for bilingual speakers or those who can read and write in a language other than English. Bilingualism is a skill that many American workers don’t develop, so those that come into a new job with the ability to help out on a conference call or who can write copy in Spanish for international customers could land a great career – one as a translator. (More so than just the translator, by proxy the translator becomes the gatekeeper to the whole conversation.)
Other places that are in need of bilingual workers is education. Schools need more than teachers who can speak Spanish. Schools typically seek out counselors, administrators and superintendents who can speak with all members of their local community. Healthcare is in a similar situation; many hospitals are stuck without enough bilingual staff, office workers or directors. Many hospitals medical staff as much as 10% more than the average hourly wage if they they’re bilingual. That extra pay could be as high as an extra $6,000 a year.
Jobs are changing fast and your son or daughter will need to be able to adapt. A second language is a big step towards a better job with higher wages and more room for growth.
Executive Brain Function
Even if a worker doesn’t use their second language every day, there is still a great argument for being bilingual – it makes individuals work better and smarter.
Bilingual people have more practice using their brains in a new way. This makes them more able to multitask at work and get more done on a daily basis. Also, bilingual workers have an easier time controlling their emotions and impulses.
Bilingual workers also have amazing memories and attain sharper focus at work. As the brain works harder to attain both languages, it becomes better at storing facts and helping your son or daughter keep useful tidbits at the forefront of his/her mind. This means that your super star will truly shine in whatever career he or she chooses.
Have any success stories to share about being bilingual in the workforce? Be sure to share them with the HSA community in the comments below!
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