A few weeks ago I volunteered at my kids’ elementary school and spent the day playing and talking with lots of kindergarteners and second graders. One of the kids didn’t seem to be responding to me and when I kept trying to talk to him I was told by the other kids that he only spoke Spanish. I hated not being able to talk and play with that kid. But imagine how he feels every day? He’ll learn English eventually but right now most of the people around him can’t talk to him. Living in Texas, this is not an unusual encounter and that’s a shame.
Five Day Discipline: Practice Spanish for at least 30 minutes each day. Practice in an attempt to learn, that is. I took 3 semesters of Spanish in high school but I’ve forgotten most of it. Sorry, teachers. I know almost no Spanish. Nada.
Well, almost nada. I am a big musical theatre fan and one of my favorite musicals is called In The Heights and it mixes in Spanish with the English. From that show I know things like paciencia y fe (patience and faith), ay Dios mio (oh my God) and no me diga (don’t tell me).
What I did this week to try and learn Spanish:
- I downloaded an app called DuoLingo and did their lessons for 20+ minutes each day. This app is great because it mixes up different ways of learning and best of all it is FREE.
- I immediately switched the language on my phone from “English” to “Español”. This meant I couldn’t read a lot of the words that were on my phone but because I am so familiar with it I had a healthy dose of context to guide me through my day. On social media instead of “Like” buttons I had “Me gusta” buttons. Instead of a “search” button my phone said “buscar”. Immersion is the best and fastest way to learn something and while this is only a small amount of immersion it is really helpful.
- I listened to music in Spanish. I discovered an artist on Spotify named Luis Miguel (who from what I can gather is uber popular) and listened to an album of his called “MEXICO! Por Siempre” about 5 times through I like it so much. I then found an album of his that takes traditional Christmas songs and translates them to Spanish. Again, I didn’t understand most of what was being said but at least on the Christmas songs I had some context.
- I started watching a set of videos called “Destinos” that are Spanish lessons. I watched these in high school spanish class so I was all-in on this nostalgia.
- Another show I started rewatching was Narcos on Netflix. It follows the Columbian drug trade and Pablo Escobar and is largely in Spanish with English subtitles. When I watched this show the first time I wasn’t trying to pick up any of the language but this time around my focus was on learning a bit.
- The Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins on Thursday night this week and for the game I switched the language on my tv to Spanish.
- I learned to play and sing a song in Spanish called “Recuerdame” from Pixar’s newest film Coco. I included a video of me singing this song at the bottom of this post. I’m sure I don’t pronounce everything quite right but I still learned a lot figuring out this song.
Obviously five days isn’t enough time to learn an entire language but I ended up learning a lot more than I thought I could in that small amount of time. More importantly, I learned that fluency is possible if I’m willing to put in the time and effort. I have actually wanted to become fluent in Spanish for a long time but it seemed so overwhelming. This week got me over that.
To that end I have decided to keep my phone set to “Español”. After enough time things that require thinking now (like the days of the week) will become second nature to me. I’m also going to keep using the DuoLingo app and watching Destinos.
It’s going to take a while but some day I’ll get there. Some day I’ll make my high school Spanish teachers proud. Most importantly, some day I’ll be able to volunteer at my kids’ school and talk with the kids who can only speak Spanish.
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