“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.
Ready to start learning Spanish? Sign up for a free class today!Read More
Scientists who set out to map the bilingual brain find themselves on a strange and wonderful journey; a new language shapes the brain in a way unparalleled in any other field. The brain appears to grow in certain regions when we communicate in a new way, while it maintains its shape in mathematical or scientific ventures. What’s happening here?
Here is what specialists around the world have observed in our brain mass as we learn new sounds, words, and expressions.
A Big Hippocampus and Cerebral Cortex
Swedish scientists used MRI technology to scan the brains of military recruits in intensive language studies. Their scans showed that the hippocampus, the part of the brain that learns new words, grew bigger. Areas of the cerebral cortex associated with speaking and listening also increased in size.
The same study scanned the brains of recruits enrolled in other subjects such as science and math and did not see this same brain growth. From this, they were able to prove that the anatomy of a language learner’s bilingual brain is different in shape than that of a scientist or weapons specialist.
Compete and Converge
As a student takes on Spanish, they feel a shift in their minds as they go from hanging out with friends in English to conversing with a teacher in their new language. That’s because of the two different ways of talking that exist in the brain and compete with one another.
As students get immersed in their lessons, they may go to say something in English and accidentally use a Spanish word. This is a natural part of the process of becoming bilingual. Psychologist Judith Kroll assured her audience this momentary memory lapse was no reason to panic.
During a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, DC in 2016, Kroll said, “A bilingual’s two languages sometimes converge, but often they compete…these changes to the mind and the brain are not simple.”
Kroll explained that the brain has to learn how to switch back and forth, but it will stumble along the way. Years of active use of a new language solves the problem and helps speakers go from English to Spanish and back again in an easy, fluent manner.
What this Means for Learners
That ability to switch from language to language can change how the brain focuses and how it ages.
A bilingual brain knows how to sweep aside the clutter and find the right word in the right language. So, when a learner needs to focus in a different scenario such as a noisy lecture class, they can block out the unnecessary noise and hone in on what’s important. They also get less distracted and feel able to control where their attention falls, rather than get pulled in five different directions.
As the brain ages, it’s often less susceptible to develop brain problems when it has spent years practicing a second or third language. A study conducted on multilingual students in India showed their learning delayed alzheimer’s disease and dementia up to four years later. This happened because their brains could already accomplish what preventative medications are designed to do – help switch from one point of attention to another.
Are Language Learners Smarter?
The short answer is not necessarily, but the longer answer is yes, in a manner of speaking. A bigger, more developed bilingual brain is always an advantage, no matter what your field of work or study.
Want to rewire your brain? Sign up for your free trial class today!Read More
Does a bilingual student stand out in class? A huge number of studies conducted around the world have confirmed that yes, a bilingual student possesses significantly higher mental stamina as compared to their monolingual peers.
Here’s a closer look at some of the findings about bilingual students and their keys to success.
They Navigate Noise
A bilingual brain has practice switching from one set of words to another. This mental side-step helps students beyond Spanish class, it improves their focus in big, noisy classrooms. They also focus without strain as their brain knows to filter out background voices or the sound of traffic outside the window.
This ability extends to understanding a completely new language. BBC.com reported on a Greek language test given to eight year-old students that students who spoke a second language, (not Greek), were able to apply their additional linguistic knowledge to the test and guess correctly more often than their peers.
They Stay in School
Several studies have looked at how bilingual students perform throughout their academic careers. Their goal was to see if the students stayed in school and why they might choose to continue their studies despite some hardships.
What they found was that a second language was a huge self esteem boost for a lot of their subjects. It also helped them develop a sense of cohesion; these students felt closer to their Spanish-speaking relatives or a group of friends who spoke Spanish with them on the playground. They dreamed more as they felt lofty goals were in fact attainable ones.
This was a major discovery as high school dropouts are more likely to experience difficulties with jobs and earning money after leaving their studies behind. A second language helps a student see the finish line and feel it’s worth crossing.
They Earn More
It can’t be overstated how badly the job market needs bilingual workers. Many companies want people who have a good understanding of English and Spanish and reward bilingual workers with higher wages.
A study conducted by Rubén G. Rumbaut of the University of California stated, “..fluent bilinguals still are seen to earn $2,234 more than English monolinguals.” He also looked at how gender and overall grade point averages earned in universities changed the numbers, but found bilinguals at the top no matter what. You can read the whole study, English Plus: Exploring the Socioeconomic Benefits of Bilingualism in Southern California, here.
They Have Better Spatial Reasoning
To speak more than one language is to ask one’s brain to do a constant workout. Even when a bilingual speaker isn’t using their second language, they have more mental stimulation than a monolingual. Like a bodybuilder who spends hours in the gym each day, a bilingual’s brain becomes more agile thanks to this constant mental workout.
The heavy lifting takes place for a lot of students when it’s time to do geometry, paint a picture or manage a space. However, bilinguals have quicker, stronger mental power that helps them navigate subjects beyond Spanish.
This study, (previewed here), looked at how well bilinguals could mentally picture a problem and then solve it. Unsurprisingly, the students with all that mental exercise did much better than those who focused on one language only.
Increased mental ability also crosses into help with science, creative thinking and arithmetic.
Scientists do these studies to demonstrate one main point – a brain that works harder is stronger and more prepared for any challenge that comes along. Students who push themselves to learn Spanish have mental muscles that make them feel able, strong and secure in their abilities.
Ready to start the journey to being bilingual and set your child up for long-term success? Take your first class on us – sign up for a free trial today!Read More
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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