OK, OK, I know that Latinos should learn English. I know this and believe this as much as anyone, so let's just get this point out of the way. Perhaps someday I'll write an article in Spanish about the subject so you can hand it to your Hispanic employees, but for right now I want to invite you to open your mind to consider why and how you should learn Spanish
Reasons to Learn SpanishThe old joke, "What's the difference between an American and a European?" carries the stinging retort of "Europeans are bilingual, Americans are monolingual".
For some reason, in spite of the jokes, the constant contact we have with Latinos in this country and the presence of a global economy, many people still don't take learning Spanish seriously. Ay, ay, ay.Let me give you four compelling reasons why you should learn Spanish:
1. You Would Have More Friends.The average American family has 1.2 children. The average Latino family in the United States has 2.8 children. The average American person is 38.5 years old. The average Latino in the United States is 24 years old. Over the last 10 years in the United States, 45 percent of all population growth has been in the Latino community. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of population growth in the Latino community within the United States is not due to immigration - it is due to having a younger populace and larger families.
Given the fact that this type of population growth looks like it will continue into the foreseeable future, if being able to communicate with your neighbors or your co-workers is important to you, learning Spanish might be a pretty good idea.
2. You Would Have More Peace.This point may surprise you, but let me explain. If you are in business and you hire Spanish-speaking people, learning Spanish is a great insurance policy. Of course, insurance policies are designed to give you peace of mind.
If you are a leader in your organization and your organization employs Latinos, you are legally and ethically bound to be able to communicate with the people you hire and lead.
You would be more at peace knowing you can give instructions properly and knowing that you know what's going on in your company. You would certainly be more at peace knowing that safety training is actually getting taught correctly. I can only imagine the lack of personal peace one must feel when one of their workers is seriously hurt and deep down the owner knows that with proper communication and training in the person's language, it could have been avoided.
It's also nice to be able to understand what people are saying when they are smiling at you and talking to their friends in front of you. Ah, blessed peace.
3. You Would Have More Meaning in Your Life.This morning I was walking and the thought crossed my mind, in Spanish, that I was being rejuvenecido, or, in English, rejuvenated. What does it mean to be rejuvenated? Well, you would only know if you knew Spanish. Anyway, the word comes from the word juvenil, which means "youthful." In English, if you think of the word "juvenile," you might think of someone acting like a child. This is not the case in Spanish. To be rejuvenated means to feel young again, to be youthful in spirit. This is the richness of language that escapes people who know only one. To me, it is important to have this perspective on life. Language is not only the means by which we communicate with others, but also how the world in general communicates with us.
By the way, a couple of years ago The Penn State University came out with a study that conclusively showed that bilingual people had lower incidences of memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer's in old age. Of course, this means you would have more meaning for more time, and this is a good thing!
4. You Would Have More Purpose.Many people (probably most people) are concerned about being able to help other people and make an impact in their lives. We can only do this if we speak their language.
I have talked with many business people who feel helpless to really help their employees. This is primarily due to their inability to speak the language. Also, if we don't speak the language it is very difficult to understand people culturally, since we can talk with them about their desires, mindsets, backgrounds and more.
The ability to help others gives purpose to life. The ability to speak Spanish opens up the rest of the Western Hemisphere to you. The ability to speak Spanish allows you to speak with - and help - an additional 30 million people in the United States. Even if you were only able to help a few within your sphere of influence it would be worth it, wouldn't it?
How to Learn SpanishI could continue to give you more reasons why you should learn Spanish, but let's make the assumption that you "get it." You understand that there would be great present and future value to being able to communicate well in Spanish.
The question now is how to learn the language. I mean, let's face it, a lot of people have taken three to four years of Spanish classes in high school or college and still couldn't travel alone outside of Cancún.
This being the case, it is important for you to understand some basic principles about learning Spanish.
There are three things you need to generally understand about learning Spanish, they are:
1. Learning Spanish is easy.
2. Learning Spanish well takes around 260 hours.
3. Learning Spanish requires a consistent learning system.
Let's look at each point one by one.
1. Learning Spanish Is Easy.Language is composed of two primary elements: words and patterns. Forget about all the silly instruction you received about conjugating verbs here and working with compound sentences there. Learning language is not like getting an engineering degree. It is a simple process.
Let's talk about words. Did you know that the average person only knows around 10,000 words in their native language? Did you know that we typically only use around 10 percent of the words we know? This means that to speak another language well you only have to learn between 1,500 to 2,000 words. Of course, you have to learn the right words. A great learning course already has the right words chosen for you.
Now, let's talk about those patterns I mentioned. I said to forget about trying to "conjugate" all those verbs. No, that doesn't work. Think about it, when did you start disliking (hating?) the English language? I'll tell you when, around the eighth or ninth grade, when they started telling us what everything was. OK, class, this is a past perfect progressive, this is a past participle, this is a big headache.
There are 15 major patterns in the language that dictate 90 percent of all structure in Spanish. The same, by the way, is true in English, and you can actually match them up side-by-side, which is very helpful.
So, when you learn the right words and you master these 15 patterns, you can then plug and play to your heart's delight. Words put into patterns make sentences, and sentences put together make paragraphs in writing and whole speeches when talking. This is not rocket science. Unfortunately, we have a whole lot of "language" teachers in this country who make this much more confusing than it really is.
If you take 2,000 to the power of 15 you get a number so big that you can't even calculate it on a calculator. You can make this many sentences as long as you learn the right words in the right amount and the 15 patterns. It's easy!
2. Learning Spanish Well Takes Around 260 Hours.Of course, here I mean learning Spanish well, not just getting by with a few phrases about Pedro and María in a restaurant or at the airport or some silly nonsense like that.
In a proper language course, it takes around 260 hours to get to an expert level in the Spanish language. Expert level means around 85 percent of a native, which means business-quality Spanish. At this point, preachers can preach sermons, counselors can counsel, attorneys can practice law, and yes, business people can do business effectively.
How do I know it takes this long? Because I run a national language-training institute and when students follow instructions this is the normal result for people with decent learning skills. Decent doesn't mean great; it just means decent, and almost all people have at least decent learning skills.
3. A Consistent Learning System Is Needed.Let's pretend we are going to put together a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. I have a question for you. Would you put this puzzle together using pieces from the same box that are designed to fit together, or would you use pieces from several different boxes and try to somehow shove the pieces together and make them fit?
OK, I admit, the answer is obvious. Let's use the pieces from one box that are designed to fit together.
What's the point, you may ask? Most people I know have tried to learn Spanish using a lot of different pieces from a lot of different boxes and nothing is designed to fit together.
You can't take a community college class here, use a book from the bookstore there or go to Mexico or Costa Rica for immersion classes down there and somehow expect one cohesive learning process to take place. None of these things work well by themselves, let alone scrambled together.
You have to pick one learning process that is designed to take you from your present point of understanding to where you want to go. If you want to get to a business level Spanish, then you have to take a course that is designed to get you to this level.
If you want to dig deeper beyond this article, I am going to make you an offer you can't (shouldn't?) refuse. I am going to send you my book How to Really Learn Spanish in a PDF format by e-mail if you would like to read it. All you have to do is ask by sending me an e-mail message to the address at the end of this article. Just put, "Requesting How to Learn Spanish Book" in the subject line so we can flag the emails.
OK, class, let's put away all the puzzles except one and focus on making one beautiful picture made up of a populace of Americans who speak more than one language.