In response to an article titled Benefits of Learning Spanish, Miguel is right – learning Spanish can be very difficult. I began learning small phrases and basic vocabulary words in Kindergarten. Spanish was one of our elective courses for years in elementary school. By 5th grade, our Spanish teacher had us counting to 100, reciting the colors, saying greetings, having ABCs races, and recalling animal terms and such. In middle school, Spanish was not offered, but in high school I immediately enrolled. I was finally learning grammar rules and how to properly put sentences together. I never knew there was such things as future tenses, conditional tenses, etc. Although, we do have the same rules in English.
The best advice I can give someone who wants to learn Spanish is for him/her to think about their own language. For English-speakers, think about sentence structure and tenses. Spanish language contains the same concepts. If you have a good grip on English, THEN you should start with a second language. Don’t begin a second language without first knowing your own!
I finished 3 years of Spanish in high school, took a conversation course my first year of college, then decided to major in the language at UNC-Wilmington. I graduated in 2005 cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, along with K-12 licensure to teach the language.
Spanish is a lot of memorization. You practice and repeat verb forms over and over until eventually they just stick in your memory. Writing paragraphs and sentences helps in gaining a better grasp on grammar structure. One easy thing to remember is that each sentence needs a subject and a verb, just like English. When you can do that, then you can add adjectives and form longer more detailed sentences. After you can do that, you are well on your way to communicating in Spanish!
Some people say visiting a foreign country is the only way to immerse yourself in Spanish to gain listening and communication skills. I say that’s BS. Being in the South, I have always been around Mexicans -seeing as how they came up to run restaurants or work in tobacco and cucumber fields. You don’t have to go to another country to listen to and carry on conversations with a true Spanish-speaker. It can be done in Food Lion on Sunday afternoons! I frequented El Perico, a local Mexican restaurant in my hometown when I was in college. Most of my listening and speaking skills I gained while interacting with the waiters there. If I wanted to experience Mexican life, all I had to do was volunteer with a local shelter or group that did outreach and home visits to experience Spanish culture. It’s not the same environment or historical aspect of being in another country, but for learning the language, you don’t need to travel very far.
Videos and audio selections can further help with learning Spanish. There are several computer software programs that teach the language. Cassette tapes are another wonderful alternative. One thing that helped me was listening to Spanish music. I’d get popular Spanish-language artists’ CDs and learn the lyrics and eventually sing along.
Learning a second language is a lot easier when you are younger, as a kid. Children are not only learning English, but they are learning a second language as well. Rules are more likely to stick, and they are less apt to be stubborn about “why” it has to be a certain way. In elementary school I learned numbers, alphabet, colors, etc. And at such a young age, all those stuck with me all the way to high school when my Spanish studies picked back up.
Some people never gain a native-like accent when they speak Spanish. I am one of the lucky few who are able to hear Spanish and mimic the accent/dialect. The more you practice, the better you will become. Volunteer in the community with Hispanics and practice, practice, practice. The phonetics part of Spanish is a lot different than English, so if you get a chance, study up on the proper pronunciations of letters.
It’s not as hard as people make it out to be, however, it takes patience, practice, usage, and memorization! Spanish is becoming more widespread, so more bilingual people are needed to be able to communicate with Spanish-speakers and make them feel welcome and comfortable here. I encourage everyone to give Spanish a shot. You will love being able to speak a second language!