Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jump Start Your Study of Spanish Before School Starts

This blog is dedicated to all the recent high school graduates who are about to become incoming freshmen.

Did you study Spanish in high school? My experience tells me that most of you, if your school had a foreign-language requirement, did take Spanish.

Let's explore some of the reasons why you may have chosen Spanish, starting with the two most common lame ones.

Lame reason #1: "Spanish is the easy language."

First of all, "easy" is a very relative term. Yes, for English speakers, it's easier than Mandarin or Russian. But if you want to actually speak it and not have a ridiculously foreign (American) accent, it will take serious work. The same must be said of the need to study grammar, just as you would trigonometry.

Bottom line: If you want to speak any language correctly, it takes hard work and attention to details. Be a perfectionist.

Lame reason #2: "Spanish is pronounced just as it's written."

Not true. English and Spanish use the same Latin-based alphabet, but many of the sound values of the letters are quite different. Instead of the approximately 14 different vowel sounds for the five written vowels, Spanish has, practically speaking, only five. You'd think it would be easier to have fewer vowel sounds but English speakers continue to pronounce many vowels as they would if they were found in similar looking English words -- and the result is a horrible accent. By the way, Spanish also has one letter that's unique: ñ.

At a local level, you may have chosen Spanish because you heard the teacher was easy or didn't give a lot of homework. On the other hand, if you're interested enough to be reading this blog, it's more likely that you took Spanish for the right reasons. You may have heard the teacher was tough and gave a lot of homework, and that students in his or her class actually learned something.

Right reason #1: "Spanish is useful in any career in the USA."

This is a no-brainer nowadays, but twenty-five years ago, teachers of Spanish had to extole the virtues of law enforcement or becoming a customs agent. Not so now. Medicine, education, law, sales, accounting, advertising.... So, knowing Spanish -- and I mean really knowing it -- will boost your earning power.

Right reason #2: "In the USA, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language other than English, so knowing Spanish will increase my ability to engage in useful social networking."

So true, so obvious, I almost didn't think it necessary to point it out. Knowing any language offers economic and cultural advantages but, to put it in business terms, knowing Spanish in the USA has more immediate "return on investment" (ROI).

You may be struggling with Spanish, but your struggle can be won. Your efforts can pay off, but the efforts have to be serious and sustained. Some of the toughest aspects of Spanish include the pronoun system, the more complex verb system and the subjunctive. They need not be obstacles any more. Click on the images of the books on this blog posting and go directly to Amazon where you can read the reviews and purchase these very economical books. Teachers -- you can use them in conjunction with any textbook and their exercises make great supplemental lessons or take-home assignments.

You'll also find a link to a posting I did in which I explain my rationale for these books. You might want to pass this along.

Finally, I'd love to hear from you. I invite you to post comments, explore my previous blogs.

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