Spanish makes a great second language

Learning another language can be a fun and satisfying experience. Moreover, the joy of communicating with folks in their own language can be contagious. Just observe your kids or your neighbor’s kids. With the steady influx of immigrants and international students to our neighborhoods, children are picking up new languages from their friends and classmates right before our eyes.  And, they’re loving it.

More than half of European citizens speak a second language. However, in the U.S. a measly 9 percent of Americans are fluent in a second language. Perhaps it’s due to our geography, or perhaps it’s the global influence and status of the English language; whatever the reason most Americans have not felt the need to learn a second language.  

Have you ever wondered what we are missing by remaining monolingual? Why should we deny ourselves the ability to fully appreciate the global community?  Imagine experiencing a new culture as a participant rather than as a visitor.

Spanish is a wonderful choice for a second language. It is already the most popular second language in the U.S. and Canada. It is one of the easiest foreign languages for native English speakers to learn. There are plenty of similarities between the two vocabularies. Furthermore, written Spanish is simple to pronounce. It is almost entirely phonetic.

You may already know more Spanish than you think. Below is a short quiz. Give it a try.

  • rapido
  • universidad
  • problema
  • estudiante
  • pantelones
  • complicado
  • artista
  • fabuloso
  • geografia

All the terms in the above quiz are examples of “cognates.” Cognates are words that are easy to translate and recognize in English. The answers are as follows:

  • rapido/rapid
  • universidad/university
  • problema/problem
  • estudiante/student
  • pantelones/pants
  • complicado/complicated
  • artista/artist
  • fabuloso/fabulous
  • geografia/geography


Besides the fun and satisfaction derived from learning a new language. There are other benefits to being bilingual: 

*Learning a second language is an excellent way to learn English grammar, for the study forces you to examine how English is structured.

*Spain and Mexico are very popular vacation destinations. While visitors could have a wonderful time without knowing a single word in Spanish, speaking the language multiplies the fun.

*Immerse yourself in a different culture. Almost every Mexican restaurant has Spanish-language newspapers and periodicals available. Pick one up and see if you can translate any words. As you learn more Spanish, you’re enjoyment will grow. The ability to learn about a different culture in their own language is a ticket into a new culture. By the way, I’ve noticed nearly all the workers in the local Mexican restaurants will go out of their way to help us Gringos learn a little Spanish.

*In terms of jobs, learning Spanish can open numerous doors. A variety of opportunities are available to Americans who speak Spanish as a second language. Such employment can be found in the health, education, communication, and service industries, not to mention international trade and tourism.

 Now, let’s try one more quiz. Translate the following terms into English: 

  • Asisistir
  • Carpeta
  • Éxito
  • Largo
  • Parientes
  • Recorder
  • Vaso  

This was tricky. The terms in quiz 2 were examples of “false cognates,” words that look similar to English words, but have an entirely different meaning. 

Answers: 

  • Asisistir/to attend
  • Carpeta/file folder
  • Éxito/success
  • Largo/long 
  • Parientes/relatives
  • Recorder/to remember
  • Vaso/drinking glass   

This second quiz serves as a reminder that while Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn, learning a new language takes commitment. 

There are a variety of methods to learn a foreign language. Probably, the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in that culture by interacting with native speakers. In my opinion, printed books are the least effective method to learn a new language; the importance of hearing authentic accents and inflections of the spoken language can’t be overstated. You might also enroll in a foreign language course. There are also numerous online sites that are well worth exploring. A few online sights are http://www.loquella.com/learn-spanish/, http://www.studyspanish.com/, and http://www.rosettastone.com. 

Felicitaciones. Usted ha tomado la primera medida.  

 

  

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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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One Response to Spanish makes a great second language

  1. Could not agree with you more! My husband and I run a Spanish Language program out of Minnesota (www.rojasspanish.com) and when we ask our students why they want to study, they tell us that they feel at a disadvantage while traveling. So often they find people who know some English, while they know none of the other language. This, they feel really isolates them from the place they have come to experience. Your point exactly. In fact we have just launched an on-line video learning program that brings Spanish learners to real conversations with native speakers. Nothing is contrived or scripted. My husband extrapolates pieces of the conversations then and teaches their significance…..the point is to help Spanish language learners get inside the culture as they are learning which gives the language context and enriches their learning beyond their expectations. Great article. Thanks. Joan Rojas

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