Language learning gurus are united on the first thing a new language learner needs to have straight in their minds: Why am I learning the language I’ve decided to learn? Might be an upcoming trip…perhaps a new boyfriend/girlfriend…may a new business opportunity…or perhaps it’s always been part of your culture, and you want to formalize what you already know.
The latter is the case for Spanish and me. I was born in Southern California, grew up in Texas, and lived almost all my adult life in the southwestern United States – where Spanish has been spoken continuously for nearly 500 years. Even the most gringo of gringos who lives in the Southwest knows a little bit of Spanish because it permeates all layers of life from Texas to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Growing up in Texas, I grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood, went to a racially mixed set of schools, and my first real playmates were the Latino (we called them Mexicans, as did they, but that’s not PC anymore) kids two doors down. I could cuss in Spanish before I could cuss in English (not an exaggeration), and Spanish was the cut-down language of choice among all athletes in the locker room. I actually spoke Spanglish quite well.
As an adult, my respect for Latino culture and heritage grew and became more sophisticated. So, did my desire to learn the Spanish language. 400 million people speak Spanish worldwide, making it the second most spoken language in the world behind Mandarin Chinese. Vast part of two continents speak Spanish, not to mention the country of origin – Spain. I did my Masters thesis on the importance of businesses having Spanish speaking capabilities relative to their proximity to US-Mexico border. Some of my favorite movies of the last 20 years were originally in Spanish, and I no longer want to watch them with subtitles or in dubbed format.
So, that is why I have committed myself to being able to carry on a 30-minute conversation in Spanish by the end of this year. Will I make it? I don’t know. I know a lot of words, but stringing them together in sentences remains a challenge. But, I am working on it daily. I read pretty well, but now I must figure out how to talk the talk.
At least, I know the why.