We have all heard that if you don’t learn a second or third language when you’re young, then it’s too late. I’m here to tell you that’s not true!
The latest research from Brown University has debunked the theory that older people cannot learn new things as easily as younger people. These studies have found that adults can retain information too, they just do it in a different part of the brain.
Everyone has brain plasticity – this is the capacity of the brain to develop and change throughout life. Increased plasticity occurs through learning, new memories, and experiences. Younger people experience plasticity (growth) of white matter in the cortex part of the brain, and older people experience plasticity of white matter in the visual field.
Bottom line: plasticity doesn’t decline with age, it just changes.
Another study by Stanford and York University professors tried to determine the best time for people to learn a foreign language. They studied Spanish and Chinese native-speakers who were learning English as a foreign language and wanted to determine what the cutoff age is for introducing a foreign language. Researchers have debated the cutoff age for decades…is the best time to begin learning a foreign language at age five, six, 12 or 15? The study here used age 15 and 20 as the age by which a language should be introduced, and they evaluated what happened if language was introduced beyond age 20.
The results showed that achieving native-like proficiency does decline with age, but the amount of decrease and the age that the decline begins to occur is up for debate. Further, to predict how well someone will learn a foreign language depends heavily on the number of years of formal education received, socioeconomic status and resources.
Research just doesn’t have a definitive answer yet.
However, there is enough evidence that age is not an excuse to shy away from learning a new language.
Scientists are discovering new things about the brain every day, so these findings are not conclusive by any means. It is simply more information to encourage us to keep learning, regardless of the number of birthday candles on our cake.
Let’s take a look at what to do next:
Unlock Cognitive Benefits
To keep up brain flexibility (plasticity) you will want to keep your mind challenged; this will maintain current brain cells, create new pathways, and stimulate communication in the brain. An active mind helps with memory retention, multitasking, and can even help fight off early cognitive decline.
Some ideas of new things you can do are: take music lessons – vocal or instrumental, design a new garden bed – cut flowers or edibles, teach or take an art class, join a book club, volunteer for a local community project, or learn a new language.
The Key to Learning a New Language is Motivation, Not Age
Youngsters can learn another language only to fall short and never use their skills, thus forgetting what they initially grasped. Sometimes children are forced to speak another language –to communicate with family members, translate for parents, or early pressure from parents to have a competitive advantage — and these kids don’t have the interest to continue using it when they grow up.
If an adult wants to learn another language, then interest will motivate them to put forth the effort and time to speed up the process and absorb as much as they can.
If you are motivated to communicate cross-culturally and speak another language then you can do it!
Adults Learn Vocabulary Faster than Children
Some aspects of language become easier as you mature.
While children can pick up accents and mimic sounds quicker than adults, adults have a better understanding of proper language structure and richer vocabulary, and therefore can retain advanced words faster and easier than kids.
For example, a child might say in Spanish, “fui a la granja/ I went to the farm.” They are communicating that they went to the farm and getting the point across to the listener in direct and child-like simplicity. However, an adult may want to explain more, as adults tend to do, and say “Fui a la granja de lavanda en la península y vi vistas hermosas de las montañas/ I went to a lavender farm on the peninsula, and saw beautiful views of the mountains.”
New words can be traced back to your pre-existing knowledge and understanding of phrases or descriptions, and this helps you retain words quickly!
By Now You Have Learned How To Learn
You no longer rely on others to help you carve out homework time. As you get older, your motivation comes from within and you choose what skills you want to spend your time on. You also know what kind of learner you are and simply what works, and what doesn’t.
This increased self-awareness will help you cut to the chase and learn Spanish! Spanish Academy guarantees that you will be speaking Spanish in your first lesson, ¡vamanos!
Spanish Academy Helps Adult Learners
As discussed above, adults learn best in the visual field part of their brain. Spanish Academy will help you grasp Spanish by targeting this visual learning style. We have a different approach to teaching language than standard textbooks and classrooms – we offer immersion-style classes that use a lot of visuals.
Our blog on immersion discusses how teachers and programs that teach “immersion-style” use a variety of visuals: “this includes gestures, modeling, real-life objects to help illustrate a theme or situation, and lots of pictures or videos. Another is open-ended questions that encourage conversation as opposed to inquiries that only garner a basic “yes” or “no.”
Our one-on-one or two-on-one online classes will give you facetime with your teacher and they can use visual prompts and handouts to help you better grasp the new language material.
Learn a New Skill Today
Try our free class and begin expanding your horizons – and brain plasticity- today!Read More
Who Needs a Bank Account in Guatemala?
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some wonderful and interesting people. Among them, there’s an American friend of mine who’s very special. She was born in Guatemala and adopted at a very young age by a Jewish family in the US. I met her because she came to her birth country to get to know the culture, customs, and language of the people that lived here, the place she was born. We became great friends and keep in touch to this day.
Now she’s planning to move here to spend her days making Guatemala a better place. I have had the pleasure of accompanying her on her journey, and through it, we came to face an interesting challenge: she has to set up a Guatemalan bank account. In order to do this, I helped her by calling several banks and asking what she should do in order to open an account here, if possible. Some banks were laxer, and others were quite strict, so I’ll write down what I learned so you can better know what to expect if you’re ever in need of opening an account while abroad.
What Do You Need to Have?
According to the banks I spoke to, the following are required if you’re to open a bank account in Guatemala:
- Proof of residence (usually in the form of electricity or water bill)
- The minimum amount of cash required to open the account (it varied from $15 – $150, roughly)
Proof of employment
Some banks required proof of employment that would guarantee that the resident had a job in Guatemala. I asked them about cases where the resident works remotely for a website or company, to which they replied it was no problem as long as the company they worked for could provide said proof of employment to confirm the person opening the account has a steady source of income.
Specifically, having a native Guatemalan with an ID register as a creditor, so they could manage or delete the account if the resident left the country, for example. I personally don’t recommend opening an account if they ask for this, even if there’s a Guatemalan willing to be your creditor. These things, I believe, are best kept personal. I guess a spouse could be an exception, but if you’re married to a Guatemalan you can get an ID yourself, so it kind of defeats the purpose of a creditor!
Each bank I asked this question had a different answer, so my advice is to give them a call! Some of the banks had an English option for customer service, and they’re usually happy to give any info necessary.
Prepare yourself for the call by studying these vocabulary words:
Not Going to Live in Guatemala?
Just like each bank has different requirements to open an account, so will each country. Take into account the location you’re planning to live in when opening your account. Make sure your bank has a location set up near your home! In countries with large rural areas, banks can be few and far between, so don’t forget to double-check for banks that are close to you so you can visit anytime you need.
Either way, the first thing you should do before setting up an account abroad is to contact the bank so they give you the info you need! If you want to improve your Spanish so the conversation with the bank’s customer service is easier, make sure to try out a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy!Read More
Understanding the American banking system is complicated –even to English speakers who are reading English documents. Banking and lending institutions, along with credit card companies, make it so darn confusing to understand their jargon that it takes research and good guidance (albeit from someone who has your best interest in mind) to understand what is being said and the implications of the contract.
Successful bankers look for ways to broaden the market. It is evident that non-English speaking persons are underserved in this sector. If you want to expand your business and serve new markets, then learning another language and being able to explain complicated banking terminology is key.
Limited-English-Proficiency (LEP) Populations are Underserved
When a market is underserved, that means there’s an opportunity. According to the US Census Bureau, as of July 2018, 18.1% of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino descent, and there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the USA.
Learning Spanish will help you serve this vast population.
For years, the United States Government has been receiving reports and complaints from non-governmental organizations and both private and governmental sectors that people who don’t speak English well, or at all, are negatively impacted when conducting financial affairs. Evidence has indicated that limited English has a direct relationship with limited financial literacy.
This means millions of people are unable to make informed money management decisions and cannot effectively take proactive measures for their current and future financial health. It is crucial for everyone to understand their finances.
Some steps have been taken to reduce deceptive and abusive practices by the financial institutions, but more can be done.
A Step in the Right Direction
As an example, The Credit Card Act of 2009 was passed by the United States Congress in 2009 and took effect in 2010. This act directed credit card companies to make their statements more understandable with clearer disclosures about how to pay your bill on -time and the consequences if you don’t.
As part of the act, The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) was mandated to examine the relationship between fluency in the English language and financial literacy. Is there a disadvantage for non-English speakers in the US Banking System?
The study found that:
· translated financial materials may not be using colloquial or culturally appropriate language.
· Interpreters don’t always fully understand banking information or are not able to explain the material. Often times, assistance is provided from families’ minor children.
· Immigrants may distrust the U.S. financial system since it is different than their native country; therefore, they are more likely to use alternative financial services – such as payday lenders and check-cashing services – that often have unfavorable fees, terms, and conditions.
· Carrying debt can be viewed negatively, which deters some people from taking loans to purchase homes or cars and building credit histories.
· Limited English language skills may make one more susceptible to fraudulent and predatory practices.
We want to do business with those we like and trust, and we build these things through communication.
Opportunities Exist for Bankers
Since a limited number of bankers speak Spanish, families often rely on their young children to interpret complicated finance matters for them. This, compounded with the fact that some cultures mistrust government and banking institutions, leaves a large gap in potential home-buyers, responsible loan paybacks, and other banking relationships.
The US Latino market is a growing driving force in the US economy. Millions of people are building businesses, buying homes, and purchasing cars, which means they require financial assistance. If trust isn’t built and information isn’t shared between bankers and the Latino community, then the gap will continue to grow.
Did you know the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau monitors unfair practices, and as a result, deters most US banks from even advertising in Spanish? This is because if companies advertise in Spanish to attract new customers, then they need to offer 100% support throughout the entire process (cradle to grave) in Spanish – and most can’t do that…yet.
There’s No Time like Now
Latinos are underrepresented in banking and therefore seek out information from family first and advertising second. Their families are oftentimes not properly informed, and advertisements are mostly in English, causing people to feel confused and uneducated about the banking process.
Research shows that Latinos have a great interest in gaining access to more banking information in Spanish, such as:
· Latinos are 2x more likely than non-Hispanics to be interested in financial service ads
· 73% of Latinos think more commercials should be directed to Spanish-speakers
· 88% of Latinos think companies who make an effort deserve their loyalty
· 30% of Latinos would switch banks if Spanish mobile apps were available
What are you waiting for? Here is your chance to help an underserved community!
Expand your horizons today and take a free Spanish class with a native Spanish-speaking teacher in Antigua, Guatemala. Our excellent teachers can answer any questions you have of the Spanish-language banking system they use and how it directly benefits them!
To be a global player, you need to familiarize yourself with español para los negocios (business Spanish).
Why? Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, and most Spanish-speaking countries are geographically located next to the USA. What does this mean? It is time to learn business Spanish in order to communicate -and do business with- our neighboring countries!
The Importance of Speaking Spanish and Building Rapport
Many cultures, including those from latinoamérica, rely on building relationships and trust before business dealings are discussed. Building rapport is key. This can be done through active listening, patience by spending time engaging in small-talk before ‘getting down to business,’ as well as showing real interest in your conversations.
Building rapport is also done by knowing Spanish and greeting your business associates in their native language! Don’t forget to use the proper form – formal or informal – in your greetings! Hola Ximena! Es un placer conocerle.
In the USA, small-talk can be short and sweet: “Good Morning! Did you have a nice weekend? Nice weather today, eh? Okay – Here’s what I need from you….” and the business meeting ensues. In many other countries, this would nary be a start. Lengthy amounts of time can be spent ‘feeling out’ the other parties’ intentions, temperament, motivations, non-verbal cues, etc.
The Criticality of Face-to-Face Meetings
I experienced this while working with an Indian company that was not accustomed to doing business with Americans, and it was one of my first times doing business in India. I was a ‘new’ member on the team and started ‘getting down to business’ on day one.
In order to perform an analysis, I required information to be sent via email. However, no one would send it to me. I had participated in a couple of phone meetings with my new counterparts and engaged in ‘small-talk’ with the team; nonetheless, when it came time for the company to share information with me…it was silence and avoidance. There was always an excuse that it was ‘delayed,’ or that they were ‘working on it’ – but I wasn’t receiving the data I needed.
I ended up consulting with an Indian-American colleague and discovered that the company most likely didn’t ‘trust’ me yet, and if I wanted to move forward with the project then I would have to meet them in person.
Off I went, traveling over 30 hours to have an in-person meeting with the company representatives. The meeting went well – we spent half the morning drinking tea and getting to know one another. My counterparts were ‘evaluating’ me to deem me trustworthy. Evidently, I passed the test because from that meeting forward, I received any and all information I requested without delay, hesitation, or excuses. Success!
In many cultures, it is crucial to spend time getting to know each other before the business meeting can officially start and before the business relationship can grow. Even though Southeast Asia and Latin America are two very different regions, they share this similarity (as do many other parts of the world!)
To help you facilitate your next meeting in Spanish, we have compiled a list of key business words and phrases below!
20 Key Business Words
Let’s start by learning the basics so you can speak with confidence.
Business Phrases Translated for You!
There are many common phrases used when talking about business projects, holding meetings, or striving to meet deadlines. Some of those phrases are colloquial, and you would only use them with your coworkers. Others are more formal and would be reserved for your boss or important clients.
Below are some key phrases that will apply to coworkers, bosses, and clients alike. Practice these to show your skills as a businessperson to your fellow Spanish speakers!
Practice Spanish Every Day
Knowing these top business keywords and phrases is a great start on becoming business-savvy in the Spanish workplace! To avoid language mishaps and dale con todo (put your best foot forward), it is important to practice Spanish every day!
Now You’re Ready!
The Spanish Academy offers personalized classes in real-time with real people that can adapt to your schedule. Be confident when holding your next business meeting! Practice with native Spanish-speakers today!
Spanish is an important part of our culture. Why? Because 41 million people speak Spanish in the United States (which makes the U.S. the 2nd largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico), AND most of us hear Spanish every day in our communities, whether it is channel surfing and seeing Univision, calling a doctor or dentist office and hearing the option to ‘presione dos para comunicarse con una persona en español,’ or overhearing a conversation at the grocery store.
The United States is uniquely positioned geographically next to dozens of countries que hablan español, y por eso there are many jobs where speaking Spanish is an asset and can earn you more money.
¡Vamos a empezar!
1. Medical Professional
The job categories within the medical field can range from nurse to doctor, and all associated support jobs. This profession is rewarding, and being bilingual will enable you to obtain pertinent, real-time information (sin un traductor) in an emergency situation. Having the ability to understand the scene can help you save lives since many medical emergencies require an immediate response.
In the medical field, it is not only about treating illness and administering medicine. A huge part of the job is showing empathy for your patients and making them feel comfortable and safe. The first step in doing this is speaking your patient’s language. For example, some Asian cultures prefer hot water with meals and medication, or tea throughout the day. In order to provide comfort to your patient, it is important to understand culturally-appropriate care and be culturally competent.
It is generally more cost-effective for a hospital/clinic to have bilingual staff than to pay for a third-party interpreter. Bilingual staff will also allow your hospital/clinic to serve more of the population.
Be sure to negotiate a higher pay since the cost savings and patient benefits of having a bilingual staff are very real.
One study revealed that 74% of US hospitals serve patients who speak English as a foreign language. Of those hospitals, 15% offer financial incentives to doctors and staff for knowing a foreign language and, of these, three-quarters offer base salary increases ranging from $20 extra per hour, or bonuses up to $500.
The difference between these two professions is that an interpreter translates verbally and a translator interprets written text. As a translator or interpreter, you can work for the court system, doctor offices, immigration facilities, universities or law firms, just to name a few. Depending on where you work, a certification may be required.
An interpreter speaks real-time and is required to have a word in the other language in a split-second. A typical day for an interpreter would consist of providing literal and general translation of English and Spanish so that both parties can understand each other. This is a critical job since you are talking about very important subjects, such as health concerns, environmental impacts, wellness recommendations and legal implications that affect and impact an individual’s freedom. You will work in many capacities, such as speaking in a courtroom or into the Prime Minister’s earpiece at a United Nations meeting.
Translators are researchers who look at legal documents, books, tax statements and affidavits to change them from one language to another. They have the challenge of searching for expressions and uncovering idioms typical for the language they are translating into. As a translator, it can be difficult to translate the author’s intent or the meaning of the original message. This job requires significant concentration and the ability to think abstractly.
A general search on Indeed.com found a full-time Bilingual Court Interpreter in California which pays an hourly rate of $36.74-$44.66 (~$75,900 – $92,900 annually).
The median salary at the United Nations is $46,000, with the top 10% earning more than $83,000. There are so many variables and if you have significant education and are highly skilled, the pay will be higher.
These professions are expected to grow 17% over the next 10 years – much faster than many other occupations. This is partially due to the increasing population of Spanish-speakers in the United States.
3. Human Resources (HR) Specialist
To be a global player, each business needs a unique perspective to stay competitive. HR specialists help acquire talent and comprise teams of diverse backgrounds.
HR specialists have a direct say in screening and recruiting applicants, interviewing candidates, as well as hiring and promoting individuals. Therefore, a bilingual employee could promote attributes that help to make an inclusive work environment. As an HR specialist, you would become successful by seeking out those who have skills that would enhance your workplace; some examples would include adaptability, flexibility, willingness to be open-minded, and unique problem-solving skills.
In May 2018, HR Specialists made a median salary of $60,990, and the top 25% make $80k-$100k. Specializing in HR subcategories will help you stand out amongst your colleagues and could help you make an additional salary.
Speaking Spanish is a specialty that will help attract additional talent to your company!
4. Sales Professional
Remember the sales team that sold the Chevy ‘Nova’ car to Latin America? (‘Nova’ in Spanish is two separate words, no va, and this literally means “it doesn’t go.” Who wants to buy a car that ‘doesn’t go!’) If they had a Spanish-speaking person on their sales team, certainly this would never have happened. As companies expand globally, bilingual employees are crucial in interpreting language and navigating the culture.
Sales positions can range from a customer service representative (being a bilingual employee who can assist the numerous Spanish-speaking customers every day) to a sales executive (pursuing multi-million business opportunities to help the bottom line). The pay will vary significantly depending on your level of responsibility and whether your company offers a sales bonus. However, one thing remains: being bilingual will help you reach out beyond your community and have the ability to seek interesting and potentially lucrative job opportunities.
The Top 10 sales professional jobs where you can earn six-figure salaries are as follows:
- Real estate agent
- Sales engineer
- Financial services sales agent
- Advertising sales agent
- Insurance sales agent
- Manufacturer’s representative
- Medical device sales representative
- Software sales representative
- Pharmaceutical sales representative
- Consumer packaged goods sales representative
Remember, being bilingual will give you a competitive advantage to reach beyond English-speaking communities!
5. Law Enforcement and Military Jobs
There is an increasing demand for Spanish-speaking law enforcement and military personnel.
In order to assist and serve the population, these professions must be able to communicate effectively. Removing a language barrier is a key first step in ensuring that the issue at hand is clearly understood AND that civilians feel their position is understood. It is imperative that careful and effective use of language is used to help diffuse or entirely prevent potentially violent situations. Speaking Spanish will help you do just this with a large percentage of the US population.
Additional benefits are offered for bilingual employees. For example, an entry-level police officer in California can earn $73k to $93k annually and is offered bilingual pay. Bilingual pay is offered ‘at the rate of $125.00 bi-weekly for Spanish speaking and $62.50 bi-weekly for bilingual services in a designated language other than English or Spanish.’ Evidence that speaking Spanish will earn you more.
Another example is that military personnel are offered ‘Foreign Language Proficiency Pay’ which can range from $100-$1,000 additional pay per month depending on your foreign language proficiency level and the number of languages you speak.
Not only can you earn more, but you can also make deeper connections and bridge language barriers.
It pays to be bilingual!
Keep up your Spanish studies to achieve fluency and reach your goal of landing a bilingual job! Sign up for online classes today and tell your teacher about your next business venture!Read More
Building rapport with colleagues and customers in Spanish is one of the most important components of being successful at your job. Let’s face it, we want to do business with people we like and trust – therefore you need to be likable and trustworthy!
So how do you build confidence with others and get people to enjoy doing business with you in Spanish? Start with a conversation.
Show Interest and Ask Questions
One of the most important points from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is the need to be an active and empathic listener. The author says:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
— Stephen Covey
If you want to build rapport in any language, you first need to genuinely understand what a person is saying and listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Have an open mind. This will build mutual trust – and others will believe that you will act in their best interest – which then leads to positive problem solving and greater transparency in a business relationship. Active listening and showing real interest will help others be more willing to share concerns and achievements – and be more open and authentic.
Understand that business is done differently in Spanish-speaking countries, and this needs to be considered and respected. When listening, you want to have humility and be non-judgmental – this will give others the space and comfort to open up. Listening in this way is a strength and an attribute of a strong leader. Good listeners are savvy at acquiring information that is useful for doing business better – and knowledge is power.
For example, let’s say you are trying to understand why your customer can never deliver parts on time to meet your manufacturing schedule. As a result, this is impacting your company’s performance. You could approach your supplier and say:
¿Por qué envió el producto tarde otra vez? ¿Qué está sucediendo? No vamos a alcanzar nuestra meta financiera trimestral, lo cual es inaceptable.
“Why are you late again? What is going on?! We are going to miss our quarterly financial goal, which is unacceptable.”
This will immediately put your counterpart on the defense and likely be met with an excuse.
Let’s try something a little softer, more empathetic.
An alternate approach would be:
Bueno, si no cree cumplir con la fecha de entrega, por favor, muéstreme el proceso de la cadena de suministro – ¿Cómo se realiza el pedido? Y ¿cómo se entrega el producto? Trabajemos juntos en un plan de mitigación y desarrollemos un planteamiento alternativo para garantizar que los futuros productos se entreguen a tiempo.
“Ok, so you don’t think you’ll meet the timeline. Please, walk me through the supply chain process – how is the order placed, and how is the product delivered. Let’s work together on a mitigation plan and develop an alternative approach to ensure on-time delivery for future products.”
This shift in tone and willingness to listen to the process will give you far more results and a better working relationship – it shows that you have an interest in the mutual success of both companies.
Find Common Ground
It is important to respect cultural differences when working with a Spanish-speaking customer, and you need to find common ground to be successful.
Let’s say your customer is late to the telephone meeting AGAIN and you infer that they just don’t care about the business relationship. Take a step back and consider that this company is located in a different country and does business differently than you. Perhaps, being 10-15 minutes late is not meant to be disrespectful, but is in-line with normal business culture. Opening your mind and taking time to understand the country which you are doing business with will get you miles ahead. (Note that not ALL Latinos are late; this is just an example that some people will be consistently late, which may be cultural and is in no way meant to be disrespectful.)
If we want to accomplish our best, we must work well with other people. For example, you can be the best footballer/soccer player in the world, but if you are not surrounded by a team that works together you will never win. This is true not only in sports but also in business.
Break the Ice
When you meet your Spanish-speaking customer or counterpart for the first time (either in person or on the phone), it is good to ask icebreaker questions. Icebreakers are lighthearted easy to answer questions that help you get to know someone. You can ask about the location, local food, travel plans, etc. The most important part is to be sure and show sincere interest – this key point helps you build rapport and build a bond with the other person. Not only is sincerity key, but it is also fun and educational to learn about a new place from a local!
Some examples of ice breaker questions are:
1. Ustedes están situados en El Salvador, ¿verdad? ¿Qué platos típicos son populares allá?
You are located in El Salvador, correct? What local dishes are popular there?
2. ¿Dónde está situado el lugar idóneo para vacacionar en Argentina?
Where is the best place to go in Argentina on holiday?
3. Veo que ya se acerca un partido de fútbol. ¿A qué equipo apoya?
I see there is a soccer game coming up – what team do you root for?
4. ¿Cuál es la mejor temporada para visitar las playas de Guatemala?
When is the best time of year to visit the beaches in Guatemala?
As time goes on and you meet regularly on calls or in meetings with this person, it is acceptable to ask more personal questions about family or career.
Some ideas of more personal questions are:
1. Entonces, ¿creció aquí? ¿Su familia es originaria de aquí?
So, did you grow up here? Is your family from here?
2. ¿Tiene hijos? ¿Qué edad tienen?
Do you have children? How old are they?
3. ¿Por cuánto tiempo ha trabajado en la compañía?
How long have you worked at the company?
4. ¿Cómo ha cambiado la empresa con el tiempo?
How has the company changed over time?
Above all, if you want to build rapport you need to have sincere conversations, listen to hear and understand, remember what is important to the individual, such as a football team or daughter’s graduation, and always follow-up.
Note that depending on the country you are interfacing with, it can be more common to ask personal questions early on. Do some research before you embark on your new business journey so that you know what is an appropriate conversation topic in each specific country.
Last but not least, be sure to avoid anything political or controversial – just as with English speakers, everyone has a strong opinion and conversations about touchy subjects will not help you build rapport in the long run.
Small talk is also important when building rapport. Americans have a distinct way of doing business – we get to the point quickly and directly. This can be offensive to other cultures/countries and Americans can come across rude, impatient, blunt and untrustworthy. This is not our intention at all!! It is simply a different style of doing business.
Some international business meetings can take a half-day or an entire day of small talk alone! Americans can find this as a waste of time since we are not ‘getting down to business’ – but in actuality, building the relationship through small talk IS key to building the business relationship you want!
In Latin America, you will want to begin every conversation with a greeting and small talk.
Good Morning, How are you? ¿Buenos días, cómo está? — To my fellow Americans – Wait for a response! In the USA we ask ‘How are you?’ in lieu of saying ‘Hi.’ But in other places, this can be a sincere question that will most likely be met with some real insight into the person’s day! This will give you an opportunity to ‘ s l o w d o w n ‘ and listen.
Speaking Spanish will help you build rapport with companies who are located in Spanish-speaking countries or are located in the USA with numerous Spanish-speaking employees.
As you already know, companies are going global to attract more business, keep costs down and tap into talent abroad. Companies who work globally need to be made up of people who represent what the world looks like – diversity. They also need to retain bilingual employees – this will enhance your competitive edge. When people hear you greet them in their native language, it builds a connection and helps your counterpart envision doing business with your company. Companies want to work with businesses they can relate to – conversing in Spanish helps you succeed!
Notice a theme? Rapport is all about how we communicate! If we can communicate with a person in their native tongue it is the first step in developing strong relationships (aka rapport!). That combined with the other tips in this article will not only enhance your personal life, but it will also vastly improve your professional one.
Practice building rapport today with a Spanish-speaker at our school!
There are many perks to speaking Spanish; it can enhance your work experience by setting you apart from your colleagues and can increase your cultural competency – buzzwords that companies look for when hiring and promoting.
Now, let’s explore ways to use Spanish at work!
First Things First
You don’t have to wait until graduation to get a Spanish-speaking job!
If you are still at university, look for a part-time job that requires Spanish – such as tutoring or being a bilingual nanny. Don’t forget there are summer internship opportunities out there that will help improve your language skills as well. Another option is to combine Spanish with your main degree – this will help you when you do begin searching for a job and open your horizons for bilingual opportunities.
While at university, I tutored elementary school students whose parents didn’t speak English and were unable to assist with their child’s homework. I was able to help the child with their studies AND keep their Spanish-speaking parents apprised of their child’s progress – something that the elementary school teachers were not able to do. The children’s grades improved and the parents felt that they were finally getting an explanation of what their child was learning at school. It was a win-win for all parties and I got to use Spanish every week.
If you are already in the workforce and want to use Spanish – read on!
Practice, Practice, AND Get Over Your Fear of Talking
You are getting comfortable with the Spanish language – BUT you find that you have some reservations about speaking. Don’t let this hold you back!
- Practice with friends… or with strangers – read on for daily tips on using Spanish!
- Look here for ways to fit Spanish into your busy schedule
- Want to sound like a native speaker? Use these transition words to fit in or read here for more pointers.
Unsure when the formal or informal version of ‘you’ are appropriate? All your questions are answered here.
Put Yourself out There
Let’s see how Spanish helped Ana excel at work!
My friend, Tom, recently received an official government document in Spanish from an important international customer- and no one on his team could interpret it. However, Tom recalled that his colleague upstairs spoke Spanish! He asked for Ana’s assistance in interpreting the document, which she happily did. This official government document needed to be translated perfectly so the team could analyze it properly, or the company would have been misled and this could lead to huge consequences.
For example, one word on the document was ‘shares’ (as in shares of company stock), Google translate will give you comparte instead of acciones. Compartir is the verb ‘to share’ and is used for sharing a meal, a ride, etc. This would have been a gross misinterpretation of the official document.
Luckily, misinterpretations were avoided because Ana was able to help out. The collaboration between the two employees helped the company make an informed decision quickly – and their bosses took notice! Ana was asked to help on the sales campaign for further translation duties and she was able to shine at work because of her useful language skills. She was also exposed to a new side of the company, sales, and thus gained more business experience.
Don’t Rely on Online Translators
Language is not black and white; a word can have multiple different meanings depending on the context, and a machine cannot understand context clues. One wrong word can make a HUGE difference.
Now, here is the thing – ‘Google Translate’ is useful for a quick answer but is highly inaccurate – such as the example above. Documents need to be translated by a human to make sure the concepts are properly understood.
Make it known to the Latin American Sales Team at your company that you speak Spanish and can help with interpreting or translating. By putting yourself out there you will open doors for new opportunities within your company!
Join (or Start) a Spanish Club
Some companies offer different ‘affinity groups’ or ‘clubs’ – such as a Spanish Club! You get together with your fellow colleagues and converse in Spanish. This is a great way to have fun and meet new people. Your company doesn’t have a Spanish Club? Start one! Taking initiative to develop something new will impress your boss and build camaraderie within the company.
Raise Your Hand for the Next Business Trip
If your company is looking to expand to Latinoamérica or to Latino communities in the US, offer to make yourself available to attend the business calls and attend business meetings.
Your knowledge of the culture and language will be an asset.
Easy Ways to Use Spanish Daily
If you start to look and listen more intently, you will notice that Spanish is around us every day.
- While waiting at your doctor’s office, pick up the Spanish copy of the magazines and put your skills to the test.
- Wait in the Spanish-speaking queue! Most banks and stores have Spanish speakers on-site to assist the 41 million Spanish speakers in the US. Start using this service to ask your questions, or ‘Presione dos para comunicarse con una persona en español’ when calling the utility company, law office, cell phone company, etc.!
- Go to a Latino restaurant on your lunch-break and strike up a conversation with the waitstaff in Spanish, If you haven’t yet been to a pupusería, find one – they are amazing!
Want more suggestions on fitting Spanish into your busy schedule? Check out this blog.
If you’re a bit nervous about starting to use Spanish in the workplace, sign up for online classes with instructors located in Antigua, Guatemala. They are ready to prepare you to use Spanish on a daily basis. See how it works here!