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!


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