When I first came to college, I dreaded the thought of having to continue with learning Spanish. I had been taking Spanish for 6 years, and at this point was so sick and tired of having to learn how to conjugate –ar and –er verbs, and learning the difference between the preterite and the imperfect past tenses. Spanish class, to me, was just another class where I had to memorize tenses and vocabulary for the final and then be done with it for the summer. It wasn’t until I came to college where I realized that Spanish is much more than verb tenses and vocabulary lists – it is a new way to interact and a vital way to success in our current world.
Currently, there are 55 million Hispanics in the United States. That constitutes for 17 percent of the nation’s total population (Census.gov). The population of Spanish speaking people in our country is truly growing and is becoming more evident in our cities. Now-a-days, it is very rare that you see directions on items or signs that are only in English – they will be labeled in Spanish as well. Many people see this is a “disgrace” because it is “un-American”, however did you know that there is no official language of the United States? English is the primary, and dominant language, however there is no official language. We are a country built on immigration, so, this makes sense.
Learning Spanish in addition to English is very beneficial to any person living in the United States. These benefits include: looking better on job applications; being able to communicate with and reach more clients (if you are going into fields such as social work, psychology, etc.); many teaching opportunities, whether teaching Spanish to English students or English to Spanish students, amongst many others. However, being bilingual in ANY language is just as beneficial and important. Being bilingual will:
- Expand your world.
- It is so easy to look at the world we live in from one perspective. Coming as a student in D.C., and as a native of Long Island, New York, I look at the world from one distinct perspective… and it was not until I traveled Poland this summer that I realized that the world we live in is more than how I see it in New York and D.C. By learning another language, you will see how vast and unique our world truly is.
- Transform your traveling.
- Traveling is hands down one of the greatest aspects of being in college. Whether traveling to other friends’ colleges in the states, studying abroad in foreign countries, going on vacations or even making pilgrimages… traveling is a vital part of the college/adult experience that I encourage everyone to take part in. by knowing a second language, and enthralling yourself in it, it will inspire you to take your studies of a language off of the paper and from your pen, and actually involved in immersion of that country.
- Appreciate other cultures.
- Learning a language, as stated before, is more than knowing verb tenses, vocabulary, and important phrases. When you learn a language, you learn history and customs, and you come to appreciate other cultures for their way of life. Yeah, Chipotle and country music are cool, but enthralling yourself into the cultures and values of other countries around the world will help you appreciate American culture more, and visualize how we fit into this world culturally.
- Challenge yourself.
- I will explain below how it’s not easy learning another language. However, that’s why it’s so appealing to me. Challenging yourself to go the extra mile, to train your brain to think in two languages opposed to just one, and to not only memorize words and facts, but also to go the extra step and incorporate a language into your daily life, is what makes learning a second language worth it.
Now, although there are many benefits to learning another language, I can attest to the fact that it is NOT easy. I have been studying Spanish for 8 years and am still on my road to being fluent. However, here are some tips to help you start the road to succeeding in speaking, reading, listening, and writing:
- Find other people and talk to them.
- I’ve found that it’s easy to write essays in Spanish and to answer questions for my Spanish class in Spanish. However, it wasn’t until I sat down with an actual Spanish speaker that I realized I really didn’t know what I was doing. I encourage you to find someone who speaks the language you’re studying and to try to have a conversation in it. Even if you barely know anything, you’ll be surprised to see how much you actually know. Also, I’ve found that those who speak the language enjoy seeing the effort you put into trying! This will guarantee speaking success.
- Start a book in the other language.
- It may take you a year to finish a simple book, however, reading a book in a foreign language will train your brain to translate and comprehend a reading. The feeling of success after you’re done with one chapter is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment ever. This will enhance your reading skills.
- Watch TV/listen to music in that language.
- Watching TV and listening to music is a common thing that we do almost 24/7. If we’re not in class, we have headphones in and are listening to music, and if we aren’t doing homework, we’re catching up on our Netflix binge-watching or the next episode of the voice. Click on the language section of Netflix and begin watching a show in a new language! It is challenging at first but will help your listening skills tremendously.
- Journal about your day in that language.
- On a spiritual/mental note – I advise that everyone journal about their day at the end of each day. you’ll be surprised how impactful it has in your stress and anxiety levels. On that note… journal in a different language! Take your time writing down your thoughts, translating it, and when you don’t know a word, looking it up and instantly learning something new. Writing for 5-10 minutes each day every day in the long run will improve your writing skills and knowledge of vocabulary better than you ever thought possible.
- Just go!
- Don’t wait for time when you’ll have free time. PSA: you will never have “free” time. We are busy and have never ending schedules. However, taking some time out of your day and devoting it to studying a new language has proven to decrease stress levels, and focus your attention to something new and fun instead of the same-old-same-old daily routine.
Learning Spanish as my second language has not been simple. However, I have been able to challenge myself, try something I never thought I would try before, and learn in a way I never thought possible. I encourage you to put to the side all of your doubts and fears, and start learning a new language today. You’ll be surprised where it takes you, what you learn, and how different you see the world. So, finally all I have to say is:
Buena suerte, Alles gute, Buona fortuna, Bonam fortunam, Geros kloties, Kila la kheri…