The Unforeseen Ways Learning Spanish Has Helped Me

Sometimes, when you learn something, you’re not quite sure how or if it’s going to pay off in the future—you know, like pretty much all of high school. Well, I think Spanish is kind of like that, but being familiar with a widespread and growing language like Spanish will always pay off somehow, though you may not be able to predict how.

Enjoying a refreshing chicha de coyolito in Nicaragua

The writer, Anna, enjoying a refreshing chicha de coyolito in Nicaragua

When I started learning Spanish, I didn’t have any particular reason for it in mind. A lot of people in and near America speak Spanish, so for both career and travel reasons, it seemed like a handy skill to have up one’s sleeve. Pretty much all the Spanish I know was learned while I spent three months studying abroad in Costa Rica during my last year of college. That was four years ago now, and I’ve forgotten a lot of it, but even the little that’s stuck has been enough to make a big difference in my life.

For example, I’ve been working with Bright Spanish since it started two years ago; I love this job, and I got it in large part because I knew some Spanish. I am not fluent, or anywhere near it, but I know enough to understand written Spanish quite well. This means it’s very easy for my boss (or client, since I am freelancer) to communicate with me, because Spanish is her native language. When she has something to say that she can say better in Spanish, she knows I’ll be able to understand what she’s writing to me. When she writes blog posts in Spanish, she knows I can translate them for her to post to her website. Meanwhile, continuing to read in Spanish on a regular basis has helped me keep up and improve my language skills. And this job doesn’t even require knowing Spanish, per se—of course, she could just always write in English. But knowing Spanish has made me so much better at my job and so much more indispensable to the people I work with.

And that’s not everything. I recently realized that my job affords me more freedom than working from just my house or my favorite coffee shop, and when I realized that, I thought…why not work out of South America? I decided to spend a month working from Colombia (more on that later!). And even the little Spanish that I know, even though I can’t speak it a quarter as well as I can understand it, will still prove so helpful to me on my trip. In fact, it already has—when I want to look up a nice hostel, directions to a bus stop, etc., there is so much more information available if you can read a little in Spanish.

Communing with nature outside my favorite cafe in San Jose, Costa Rica

Communing with nature outside my favorite cafe in San Jose, Costa Rica

I wasn’t planning this job or this trip when I started learning Spanish, but there’s no question that my familiarity with the language has enabled both of them. And it’s not always just the big things, either. I was recently able to go out for a drink with a coworker who only speaks Spanish. I can’t even tell you how cool it was to hear about this man’s life—which had included, among many other things, making his own silver jewelry and selling it throughout Mexico—and I was able to have this experience because I knew a few words of Spanish to speak to him at work. And after we’d easily passed two hours talking over (of course) tequila, I had the very rewarding realization that somehow, with as little Spanish as I know, I’d been able to cobble together enough responses to share a real conversation with this person.

So, you may not know where learning Spanish will lead you or what doors it will open. But I can promise you it will open doors, and it will lead you somewhere—and they will be wonderful places, full of wonderful people!

How has knowing some Spanish helped you? How do you hope learning Spanish will help you? Share with us in the comments!


Tips for Beginner’s Lessons in Spanish

Spanish is one of the world’s most spoken languages, and one of the fastest-growing. It is also, when compared to other languages like English, one of the easiest to learn. Today we’re going to talk about some tips that can help you as you begin your journey to learning Spanish.

Tip #1 – Start from the BeginningStudent studies with her book & laptop

Starting to learn Spanish by learning verbs (to eat (comer), to sleep (dormir), to have (tener)) isn’t the best way to learn Spanish. While verbs are important, there are much easier words to start off with, which will help you build momentum up to learning the verbs.

Every Beginners Spanish course will start with greetings (hello (hola), goodbye (adios), nice to meet you (mucho gusto)), and easy questions like “How are you?” (¿Como estas?) and “Where is the bathroom?” (¿Dónde está el baño?).

When you’re taking lessons in Spanish, the next important thing to learn is vocabulary like numbers, colors, parts of the house, like bathroom (baño), and other simple items that you see every day. The best way to learn a language at home is to use physical items and associate the Spanish name for those items in your mind. A popular Spanish learning tip is to use sticky notes with Spanish words and stick them to the items they represent. For example, stick a note that says “refrigerador” to your fridge.

Tip #2 – Repetition is Key

No matter how you choose to learn Spanish at home or where you take lessons in Spanish, every beginner’s guide will tell you that repetition is your best friend. You won’t know that baño means bathroom until you’ve repeated it over and over again. During your Beginner Spanish course, you’ll have to constantly go back to the dictionary to remember what word means what. That is completely natural and is in fact encouraged. The more times you use a word, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it.

Tip #3 – Understanding vs Speaking

As you continue to take lessons in Spanish, one thing you’ll probably notice is that you’ll start to understand a lot of what is being said or what you read. This will especially be the case if you’re learning through tapes or through an online course. You will probably understand much more than you’ll be able to say. This is entirely normal, and will probably always be the case.

The reason for this is that your brain will recognize words that you know, and then fill in the context of each sentence in order to understand it, even if you don’t know all the words in the sentence. For example, in the phrase for “where is the bathroom,” we know that “baño” is bathroom, but the words “dónde,” “está” and “el” are all unknown. But given that you know the word for bathroom, you might be able to work out that the question means, “Where is the bathroom?”

Bottom Line

The last piece of advice we have for you today is to take it slow. Remember that you’re not going to be fluent overnight; no beginner ever is. It will take a lot of time and a lot of work before you can consider yourself fluent, and even after that you’ll probably still be behind a native Spanish speaker. So don’t beat yourself up about not learning fast! Learning a new language takes dedication and time, but we can help you through it! Keep up to date with our blog for tips and useful information to help you learn Spanish, and of course, keep signing up for our free live group lessons in Spanish!

How Do You Say Selfie In Spanish?

Selfie in SpanishDo you take selfies? I know I do! And so do a lot of people, judging by our Facebook feed. The Oxford Dictionary even voted ‘selfie’ its Word of the Year in 2013. But how do you say ‘selfie’ in Spanish? A lot of Latinos just use the English word. But let’s see if we can come up with something of our own…

Selfie—the word is a short, cute version of “self-portrait.” So, how do we say self-portrait in Spanish?

self-portrait = autoretrato

And, so we have some more options, let’s think of a couple other words we could play with:

photograph/photo = fotografía/foto
oneself = uno mismo

So that’s what we’ve got to work with: some combination of auto, retrato, foto, and mismo. Here are some ideas:

or simply selfy

Autofoto sounds very appropriate for selfie, but in many countries, people just use the word ‘selfie’—except spelled differently, like selfi or selfy.

How To Practice Spanish with Audio Books

When it comes to learning a language, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: what’s more interesting and engaging, is more effective. And what’s more interesting than stories? Not vocabulary lists, that’s for sure! So here, we’re going to teach you how to get the most out of learning Spanish with audio books of short stories.

CRW_1020First, let’s talk about some other reasons why learning this way works so well. Sure, they’re more interesting. But with stories, you actually get to learn how real Spanish speakers talk. You can see the vocabulary and grammar in context. And with the audio, you not only learn pronunciation, but you also get used to listening to Spanish at the speed it’s actually spoken. You’ll get a real feel for the language that you could never get from a textbook. Remember, stories and conversations are how we learned our native languages. They work just as well for foreign languages, too!

But how do you take advantage of all of an audio book? Remember, the stories and audio are just tools, and how well you use them is up to you. So, how do you get the most out of this opportunity to learn reading, listening, pronunciation, and vocabulary?

Here’s how to learn 100% of an audio book:

First, you need to practice just your listening—after all, in a real conversation, you aren’t going to have a transcript to look at! So to start, just listen to the story. Do your best to understand as much as you can (you can listen several times if you need to). Here’s a tip: the car is a really great place to listen without reading. Even if you’re tempted to cheat, you won’t be able to!

Next, you can listen to the story while reading the text. Then you’ll be able to see what the words were that you couldn’t understand earlier. Look up the definitions of these words or phrases in the dictionary. Now you’ve practiced your listening and reading, and learned some new vocabulary. You can also concentrate on listening to the pronunciation now, and the flow of Spanish as it’s naturally spoken.

Afterwards, listen to the story one last time without the text. You’ll see that you’ve understood so much more than the first time. You’ve improved your listening and reading, learned new vocabulary, and picked up on native Spanish pronunciation and speaking!

Sound good? Want a place to get started? Luckily, Spanish at Home just published its very first audio ebook! The ebook has four short stories and a dialogue, with Spanish and English text side by side, a glossary, and reading comprehension questions. It’s a great place to begin! You can check it out at Spanish Learning Factory.

Tales of Two Cultures

One-Day Intensive Spanish Class

Maybe you’re going on a trip soon and you want to pick up some Spanish as quickly as possible. Or maybe you just hate commitment and the thought of making it to class twice a week for six weeks sounds like more than you could keep up with (that’s okay). Either way, today is your lucky day–or rather, July 13th is your lucky day. Because if you can bear to sit with us for 6 1/2 hours (don’t worry, we won’t make it boring), we will load you up with as much Spanish as you can handle!

Bright Spanish is holding an Intensive Beginner’s Spanish class, July 13th, from 7am-1:30pm PT (10am-4:30pm ET). Our normal 6-week classes cover all 10 lessons of the book Spanish at Home – Book 1. In this one-day class, we’ll cover the first 8 of them. What exactly does this entail? Well, we start with the assumption that you don’t know a single word of Spanish. And then we teach you:

  • pronunciation of the alphabet, words and phrases
  • nouns, articles and adjectives and their agreement in gender and number, prepositions
  • conjugation of regular verbs in the simple present tense and common irregular verbs, like hay, gustar, querer, tener, hacer, conocer and saber, ser and estar
  • everyday expressions and usefull phrases
  • vocabulary for numbers, time and date and season, relatives, personal characteristics, body parts and professions
  • By the end of the class, you will be able to engage in basic Spanish conversations, using the present tense of the verb.

So, we’d be lying if we said the class would be a walk in the park, but we speak the truth when we say you’ll come out of it knowing a lot. The class will be taught by three professors in turn, so you’ll get some good changes of pace throughout the day and keep things fresh with a few different teaching styles. Because the class moves fast and covers a lot of ground, having the book or ebook is a requirement for this course. We recommend buying it early, and glancing over the lessons ahead of time so you’re a bit familiar with the material by the time class starts. Finally, this class, unlike our other classes, isn’t free. But it’s cheap–only $15.

Are you interested? Enroll now.

If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us.

Why Learning Spanish is a Necessity

Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Learning a second language can be helpful in many aspects for a person. For an English speaker, Spanish is considered to be the best choice as a second language. In fact, learning Spanish has become more of a necessity than a luxury. How to learn Spanish, visit our Enroll Session.

Spain had the second largest empire in the world for over four centuries, so it is only natural that Spanish is spoken throughout the length and breadth of the globe. As a result of this exposure, Spanish has grown steadily to become the second-most commonly spoken language among natives, outdone only by Mandarin Chinese. So, when you opt to learn Spanish, you join a group of over 300 million people who know the language.

Another thing to reckon is that Spanish isn’t restricted to Spain anymore. Some countries use Spanish as their official languages, such as Mexico. There are many countries across South and Central America which have Spanish as their primary language. If you are looking to relocate to one of these countries, or want to visit any of them in the future, learning Spanish is necessary or else you will be asking directions all the time.

Apart from the huge number of native Spanish speakers, many of the people have expatriated to other countries. The US has a large number of Spanish speaking people who live there. The dilemma is that they speak English fluently while the Americans don’t speak Spanish. There is a chance there may be a Spanish speaking family living in your neighborhood with whom you can’t communicate because of the language barrier. It’s about time you broke that barrier!

Spanish is a must for people who like to travel. Most of the Latin countries are less expensive to visit than other travel destinations so they are considered tourist hotspots. So, you should be able to talk to the people in the country you are going to visit. It would be difficult to find an English speaker among Spanish natives, because they prefer to communicate in their language only.

I hope you are convinced by now that learning Spanish is a necessity and not a luxury anymore. Bright Spanish will make your Spanish learning experience fun and boredom-free so that you are able to do it even quicker. You can take online classes for FREE!

Why You Should Learn Spanish

Yes, I will try to advocate learning Spanish. What could be more boring than learning a second language that you might not even use, ever. Well, maybe I will be able to convince you after all. Just imagine: you see a beautiful Latina (Latino, if you are a lady!) and you fall in love at first sight. The only problem is that he/she only speaks Spanish, while you don’t know a word of it. This is just one example of a situation in which you would wish you knew how to speak Spanish. Trust me; there can be other situations, more difficult than this one.

Fun and games aside, learning a language is not a cakewalk. You have to put in a lot of effort as well as spend your time and money. So, you need to have a good reason to take the plunge. Here are some compelling reasons why you should learn Spanish.

  • Spanish is considered to be the ideal second language for a native English speaker. The main reason for this is tourism, which is skewed towards Latin America and Hispanic countries because of their cost-effectiveness. In fact, Spanish is fast becoming a staple of pop culture so it’s helpful if you understand it.
  • More employment opportunities are available to you if you are proficient in multiple languages. There are jobs which require employees to interact with people from other countries and Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
  • Learning a new language improves the functioning of your brain. It enhances your memory as well as expanding your worldview. Language is the foundation of any culture and you will come in touch with a whole different culture than you are familiar with. This would help to broaden your perspective and thinking. Moreover, learning a language slows down the aging process of the brain!
  • You have the chance to help out other people by learning Spanish. It is likely you would have come across a native Spanish speaker who doesn’t know English being stranded or failing to communicate. You can help out such people by acting as an intermediary.

These were some compelling reasons. There are other benefits you would enjoy as well which aren’t so formal.

  • You will be able to watch Spanish language TV channels and films and enjoy Latin music.
  • You will be able to order for yourself in a Mexican restaurant.
  • You will be able to impress your friends and family.

Though you may be convinced to learn Spanish now, the fact remains that learning a language is a tedious task. However, Bright Spanish can make it easier and fun for you, and the best thing, classes are free!  That means, you will be speaking Spanish like a native for FREE!


Why Spanish Is Easier to Learn Than You Think

Learning a new language is never a piece of cake. But some languages are undoubtedly harder than others: like Arabic, which barely shares any origins with the Latin languages (so good luck guessing at word meanings), and doesn’t have vowels in its written form (so good luck even reading any word you don’t already know); or Chinese, where you wish you had the luxury of worrying about vowels: there, you have to memorize thousands of characters, and changing the tone of a word can completely change its meaning. Believe it or not, even English is no walk in the park–our pronunciation has nothing to do with spelling, and we break our own grammar rules so often that the right ways to say things start to sound wrong. So, if these are the harder languages to learn, then which are the easier ones? Take heart, Bright Spanish readers. As it happens, Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Let’s find out why.

1. Latin-based. Spanish and English are both Latin-based languages. This means that a lot of Spanish words look very similar to their English counterparts, and you can often wager a good guess at the meanings of words even if you’ve never seen them before. For example, can you guess what the following words mean? El restaurante (restaurant), la universidad (college), nervioso (nervous), terminar (to end).

2. Phonetic. Spanish is a very phonetic language. This means that its spelling and its pronunciation are very closely tied. In other words, once you learn the different sounds of the letters, then you can write a word just from hearing it, and you can say a word just from seeing it. Just to put this into perspective, let’s take a look at how English words can have different pronunciations depending on their meaning: They were too close to the door to close it. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. I did not object to the object. A Spanish word is always pronounced the same.

3. Phonetic. This deserves to be on here twice, because really, it just makes things so much easier. Not only are things that are spelled the same always pronounced the same, but the spelling of words is infinitely simpler. Consider some English words, and how we spell them versus how they are pronounced: mischievous, raspberry, judgment, yacht. What a mess of silent letters! Spanish, on the other hand, doesn’t have silent letters, except for three very clearly-defined and easy-to-remember rules. (In case you’re interested: “h” is always silent except for “ch”, and “u” is silent when it follows a “g” or a “q” (just like in English!).) Finally, one last time, just for emphasis: every letter you pronounce, you write, and every letter you write, you pronounce. Do Spanish-speaking people even have spelling bees? Their’s must be infinitely easier.

4. Pronunciation. Spanish pronunciation is relatively easy for native English speakers. It has none of the gutteral or throaty sounds of languages like French and German. Probably the hardest part of Spanish pronunciation to master is the rolling r, but that aside, it’s all smooth and familiar waters for English speakers.

5. Verb conjugation. Why is verb conjugation something that makes Spanish easy to learn? Well, it’s not, but I put it here because it intimidates a lot of people, and it’s really not so bad as you think. Yes, we’re not used to it. But there’s really a pretty solid set of rules to follow for conjugating verbs, and once you start to learn them, you begin to notice a lot of patterns between the conjugations for different verbs and tenses. For example, the verb endings for the conditional tense are the exact same ones that you use for the ER & IR verbs in the imperfect tense, except that you add them to the entire infinitive of a word instead of just its stem. And if all of this talk of stems and endings makes your head spin, then we should at least appreciate that there are such rules. Think about the connection, for example, between run and ran, or go and went, or buy and bought. I bet Spanish speakers learning English wish we had stems and endings!
Also, to put things further in perspective: at least Spanish isn’t like Russian. There, you don’t just conjugate verbs to the subject, you conjugate nouns in one of six cases depending on their use in a sentence: is it the subject? the direct object? the indirect object? are you talking about possessing something? Each use requires a different version of the noun. So, let’s be grateful we don’t have to deal with that.

Now that you know the core rules underlying Spanish are actually pretty straightforward and reliable, and it really isn’t all so bad as you might have feared, what are you waiting for? Let’s get to some learning–check out our class schedule!

5 Tips For Learning a Language

The most important thing when learning a new language is to practice–practice, practice, practice, as much as possible. Of course, if you’re learning Spanish and you live in South America, or you’re learning English and you live in the USA, where you’re immersed in that language, that’s very helpful. But even then, depending on how well you speak the language, talking with native speakers might be very hard: they speak too quickly, for example, or mumble, and we feel bad asking them to slow down, or repeat things. So it’s necessary to practice alone–it’ll not only help improve your language skills, but just as importantly, it will make you feel more confident about using them, which in turn improves them even more. It all begins with practice!

But we soon find that’s easier said than done. Studying flash cards every night can get old fast. Luckily, there are as many different ways to practice language as there are to use it. So here are some tips on how to practice your language skills while still keeping it interesting!

1. Sing a Song

Music is perfect for learning language! It’s catchy, so it gets stuck in your head. It has a natural rhythm, which helps you remember words. And it often has repeating lyrics, so you have several chances to hear a phrase. Look up popular songs in the language you’re trying to learn, grab a lyric sheet (and a translated version, so you know what you’re singing about) and start singing into your hair brush! Pop music, whether you usually like it or not, is perfect for this: just try getting those songs out of your head–you’ll be practicing all day, whether you want to or not!

2. Watch a movie

If the language you’re learning is Spanish or English, then you’re in luck: almost any DVD has Spanish and English subtitles, and many have alternate audio tracks. Next time you check out a flick, use it as a learning opportunity! The great thing about this is that you can adapt it to whatever level your language is at. If you’re just starting out, for example, play the movie in your native language, but put the subtitles on in the language you’re learning. If you’re more advanced, then use the audio track for the language you’re trying to learn, with that language’s subtitles to help you catch what they’re saying. If you know somebody else learning the language, watch with them. You can even play movie trivia afterwards, to see how well you understood what happened.

3. Read Yourself a Bedtime Story

Sitting at the kitchen table with piles of language textbooks and stacks of worksheets, pining for a simpler time? Go on: immerse yourself in a sweet, simple children’s story. Children’s books work great for teaching language to children–they work just as well for adults, too. The simple sentence structures and basic vocabulary are perfect for new language learners–and the charm of once again reading your favorite tales doesn’t hurt, either.

4. Stick It To ‘Em

Two words: post-its. Put them up on everything around you–put one at eye-level on the door (la puerta), on the wall (la pared), on the bathroom mirror (el espejo). Put one on the fridge (el refrigerador), on your hair dryer (el secador de cabello), on your dresser (la cómoda). You get my drift (el sentido). Say the word out loud every time you use that item. When you’ve learned a word (wall, for example), put on a different sticky note–maybe for its color, or texture, or material, etc.

5. Read the Fine Print

Many labels and instructions now are printed in different languages. There’s a good chance that drill you bought, or that hair dye, or that self-assemble desk, has instructions in whatever language you’re trying to learn. Read those before you read the ones in your native language. This is a particularly great way to learn imperatives–the “do this.” tense. Of course, you may want to double-check yourself against the native language instructions before proceeding. Neither hair dyes, drills, nor furniture are things you want to get wrong!

Another New Spanish Class!

Hola a todos!

Good news: we’ll be adding another Beginner’s Spanish class next month! It will start on June 4th, and meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30am PT until July 11th. Enrollment is open now! If you’re interested in a Spanish class, but this time doesn’t work for you, can suggest another time and/or sign up to be notified by email of any new courses by filling out the form at the bottom of our schedule page. We hope to see you soon!