Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Should Bilingual Learning be Required?

For those of us who have made a commitment to learning a second or third language, we know the commitment involved. It takes time, patience and usually alot of financing.  We know learning a new language is of benefit to us and we may have our own personal reasons for doing so but it is commonly agreed that being bilingual or trilingual is of great value and importance worldwide.   So why isn't it required of our American K-12 students? We require a foreign language study for high school graduation and we offer it here and there in major metropolis cities as a dual language program in elementary schools.  So instead of waiting for when we are past the point of being natural language sponges, during pre-pubescent years, lets make it a requirement for all students as they enter the school system early in their education careers.   
The obvious required language choice for the U.S. would be Spanish.  The U.S. Census estimates that there are 50.5 million Hispanic people living in America, and another 3.7 who are residents of Puerto Rico. This number represents a 43 percent increase in the recorded Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010 at a rate four times faster than the rest of the U.S. population.  
The learning of Spanish by young children, or any language has its distinct academic advantages. According to research bilingual children are able to focus more intently on the topics at hand and avoid distractions from academic challenges. They are also able to use higher levels of cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change responses based on environment and circumstances.  The truth is in order to fully learn a second language exposure to non-native languages should actually begin earlier than Kindergarten.  But according to Matthew Lynch, Associate professor of Education at Langston University, "Even children who learn their first Spanish words at the age of 5 can benefit from dual language curriculum though. Learning is learning. The more that children can take advantage of new concepts, the more in tune their brains will be to all learning throughout life." A dual language curriculum only leads to a student's perspective of the world to be a broader and more expanded one whatever the the native language of the student.  We need to ensure the collaborative potential of our students in a world that through contemporary communication technology has made our socialization and business with other countries limitless.  

So on to your continued, persevering work at learning a new language.  Wouldn't it have been nice if you had a head start, say as a 4-5 year old?  You could have been English-Spanish bilingual right now. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Learning a language is not a nightmare

When we want to learn a new language and we are not children, I mean we are more than 10 years old, we have a lot of expectations, doubts and fears.  All of these things could make us to feel a little frustrated or incompetent for reaching it. But as students we need to remember that the person who can help us, a teacher, did a process very similar to ours in any moment of his or her life.  Maybe, this person had the same sensations in the past and as us, he or she had to get over them.  It implies that he or she can understand us and we have to be opened to talk to our guide in an open way.  This is going to help us to obtain more self-confidence.

We can be very demanding with ourselves.  It’s not strange but we have to remember that the success when we are learning a language could be measured in the way which we are understanding by others and the first person who can notice that is our teacher or if we want to learn it without a guide, only using the net or the books, our foreign friends could help us.  We can try to talk to them about any topic in the language we are learning and ask them if our message was transmitted in an effective way.  We can ask to them about the mistakes we are making and the way to eliminate them.  If we don`t have foreign friends, talking to strangers could be a good option, according to some students I have talked this is an excellent experience and one of the places you can do it is New York’s subway.

Grammar is very important; it’s a true that we cannot hide.  Some rules could be a little difficult, that’s right, but we have to be conscious that the person who is trying to learn our native language is facing the same situation we are.  That means we can help somebody who could feel frustration, too.  We are not the unique who have these feelings. It’s very common when it happens, we look for some excuses, for example, “I am very old”; “I don`t have enough time”; “I want to give up”, etc.  Remember we can do everything we wish, it depends on us without taking into account our age or other circumstances. The key is to look for books or websites where we can obtain more useful information as vocabulary or activities which can show us our mistakes and the way to get rid of them.  We can ask for them to our teacher, too.  But, don’t forget,  a language is not only grammar.

Don`t try to compare our learning speed with children one. It`s not a lie that they learn more quickly than the adults.  It happens because they don’t have our responsibilities and our pace of life.  We cannot pretend to absorb the knowledge as they do.  It’s not possible.  Their minds work in a different way and all of us are individual beings. Even comparing with our partners is a mistake. What other mistakes do you think we make when we are learning a language?  Please give us your comments.  Thanks.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Great Websites and Resources to Learn Spanish in 2013

Here is a list of constantly updated websites with excellent resources to learn Spanish:

  • Querétaro Language School. Learn Spanish in Mexico! Our Spanish Language School http://www.queretarolanguageschool.com/ in México is situated in the Unesco World Heritage city of Queretaro, Mexico located just 2 hours north of Mexico City.
  • Learn Spanish in Spain and South America. A portal to discover Spanish resources and learn the language with selected programmes. Search Spanish language schools in Europe and South America. http://www.spanish-direct.com/.
  • Learn Spanish in Spain in Alicante or VitoriaZador Spanish language schools in Spain in Alicante and Vitoria offers different Spanish language Courses to learn Spanish language in Spain. http://www.zadorspain.com/.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cultural differences in Spanish

Today, I want to share with you a very funny video where you can see the difficulties you can face when you don`t take into account the misunderstoods you can have when you are talking in Spanish in different countries or zones.  As we can write before it's very common that a word can have different meanings due to the culture or the customs this zone has.  In this video you can notice it's possible to have the same problem in English if you don't understand the contexts.   It's important to remember that when you are learning any language you need not only to study it for understanding in a complete way.  It's not enough the use of dictionary or to write a lot of the words all the time repeating them constantly, you need to listen, to ask and to pay attention to native people when they are talking.

Remember Spanish is spoken in a lot of countries.  If you want to be successful with your learning process, it's very recommendable to start with a specific Spanish zone or country or to have a teacher from a particular place.  After you have studied this zone in a very wide way you can begin with the differences between this one and other very near to it.  For example, if you start learning Argentinian Spanish you can follow with Spain because there are a lot of things in common between these countries.  Argentina history is very joined to Europe. Don't try to learn everything very quickly, it's impossible.  Don't try to find a magic method for learning all the meanings of every word because it's going to be a waste of time.

Patience and perseverance could be two excellent advisers.  One of the things you need to be sure is grammar and syntax are the same in every zone where Spanish is spoken.  Don't scare if the meaning of the words change.  If you understand the times or the structures that Spanish has you can understand any.  Words are only a code that we use according to our way of life.  When it happens, think about slang.  It's very similar in English.  There are a lot of slang expressions that can scare English language learners.

Please enjoy the video and give us your comments.  Thank you for them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Politics and language

Cubierta delantera

This week I read a very interesting article published in “elcastellano.org” and I want to share it with you.  In this text, the author talks about the way that some people as William Flores and Rina Benmayor, writers of the book “Latino Cultural Citizenchip” and teachers from California State University, Northridge and California State University, Monterey Bay respectively, are trying to defend and promote bilingualism in United States.

According to this website the defenders of Spanish cause, as they call these people, has two objectives: 

    1.      To impede the assimilation of the Spanish speakers to the United States culture and society and to create, instead of it, a very big Spanish cultural and social community, Spanish-speaking, autonomous and permanent, in North American land.

     2.      To transform United States in a bilingual and bicultural society.  United States should abandon the angle central culture and varied ethnic cultures which have had for three centuries. In its place, it should have two cultures, the Hispanic and the anglo – American and, in a more explicit way, two languages, Spanish and English.

Flores and Benmayor take New York as an example of the bilingual phenomenon. They say that in this city Spanish is an element of daily use in the street, in business, in public and social services, in schools and at home.  “Today – Profesor Ilan Stavans, a very known Mexican- American essayist and lexicographer says– in United States you can open a savings account, to get medical assistance, watch soap operas, present income tax returns, love and die without  pronounce a word in English”.

In this article, they talk about the salaries that people can obtain when they know only English, only Spanish and both languages. They take as an example bilingual policemen and firemen from Phoenix and Las Vegas who have bigger incomes than those who only talk in English.  In Miami, a research says, families who only spoke in Spanish had an average income of US$18,000, families who only spoke in English han an average income of US$32,000 and the bilingual families earned an average income of $US50,376 per year.  

The questions that I ask myself are:  Is it necessary that Spanish has defenders in United States?   Is it possible that the Spanish culture and language set up by itself as a result of an economic and cultural change? I am conscious that some North American people, specially politicians, can be against of this movement or change, due to that, I have other question, How can they stop this movement? I would like to read your opinions about it and if you want to read the complete article you can have it in this link: http://www.elcastellano.org/artic/huntington.htm  Thank you for your opinions.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The importance of the idioms in a language

How many idioms do you know in your language? Do you think they are important? What is the difference between an idiom and a saying? Do they have the same objective? Do you think it`s important to know idioms when you are learning a language? Why yes or why not?

Most of us have ever listened some very strange expressions talking to our foreign friends. These sentences have always had similar characteristics.  One of them is referring to their translation.  If we try to give literal meanings to them we can be more confused than the moment we listened. The second one is they are very funny or ironic. The third one is that we cannot set a relation between the context they were used and the expression itself.  These expressions are called “idioms”, in English we have some examples: 

       ·         “brush with death” means If someone comes very close to dying but live, they have a brush with death.

      ·         “take root” means If something like an idea or system takes root, it becomes  established, accepted or believed

As in English, in Spanish we have idioms, too.  Here, we have some examples:

      ·         “A chorros” means in abundance; plenty; lots.

      ·         “A estas alturas” means at this point; in this situation.


Idioms are different from sayings because the last ones want to give a small teaching to the people.  They are funny, too but their sense is complete.  In English we have some:

      ·         “A bad excuse is better than none” means always give an excuse, even if it's a poor one.

      ·         “A barking dog seldom bites” means someone who constantly makes threats rarely carries them out.

Here, we have some examples in Spanish:

     ·         “A buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastanmeans to someone with good understanding, only a few words are necessary.

       ·         “A mal tiempo, buena cara means in bad times, a face held high.

Knowing idioms in any language can help you to understand a conversation better because they are used most of the time in an informal way.  The cultural component is very important in these expressions, too.  When you can understand a colloquial or very common conversation where one or two idioms were used, it`s possible for you to say that you know the language very well.  Spanish is not an exception.  For that, we want to help you.  Please send us your questions about the idioms you have listened lately and we are going to explain their meanings or if you want to share some with us we wait for them.