Revisiting one of our most popular posts: “5 Reasons I Will Never Regret Studying Spanish,” written by Chelsea Jewell, former Spanish Institute staff member, for us last year!
As the daughter of a self-taught electrical engineer and a medical laboratory supervisor, there were a couple of questions raised when I chose to study Spanish in college. Here are five reasons I will never regret that decision:
5) It’s a romance language.
I could end this list here and simply reference Buzz Lightyear’s Spanish mode, but I’ll elaborate. For one reason or another, I have a predisposition to fall in love with the foreign. I don’t just mean guys with accents (but let’s be real). I’m talking about the Spanish language’s Latin roots, fascinating linguistic evolution, and the fact that every Spanish-speaking country has its own unique slang, and even grammar. Countries with large indigenous populations like Peru (where many people still speak Quechua) and Bolivia (whose president, Evo Morales, is a native Aymara speaker) have rich histories of cultural and linguistic integration that have resulted in blended accents and vocabulary. Countries like Argentina, with histories of prolonged immigration from Europe, speak Rioplatense Spanish. It’s a diverse language that has evolved (and continues to evolve) through centuries of (de)colonization, cultural interweaving, and the spread of linguistic knowledge. As if that weren’t enough to draw me in, there’s always the incredibly beautiful cenotes of southern Mexico, La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, and ancient ruins like Machu Picchu and Tikal across Latin America. Plus: Antonio Banderas. Salma Hayek. Need I say more?
4) It will never hurt to put it on your résumé.
It might take me a couple of minutes in a job interview to explain what exactly “International Spanish for the Professions” means (basically, Spanish language, plus translation and business classes). But ultimately, having Spanish on my résumé – no matter what job I’m looking at – is never going to hurt. It might be that an organization doesn’t particularly care whether I know how to ask the sweet woman who takes out the trash how her kids are doing. But I care (more to come on this later). And anyway, the world is shrinking. The days of English-only are behind us in a global marketplace with growing and competing economies all over the world. Spanish is the fifth most-taught language in Romania (source). In India, Spanish is the second most popular choice for a foreign language (source). And for an example closer to home: in the City of Boulder, 13% of the population spoke a language other than English at home in 2011 and 23% of children under 18 were Latino (source). Every year, more and more Spanish-speakers are going to be my customers, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and bosses. Think they might appreciate that I speak Spanish? Obvio.
3) It’s a good brain workout.
I started learning Spanish in 7th grade, when I was 11. That seems like a long time ago now, but it was already a lifetime too late to become fluently bilingual. (Hold the phone, she’s been learning Spanish for over a decade, isn’t she fluent? Maybe you would say so, but I don’t. Lots of language classes have taught me one overarching lesson: I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s always more to learn.) I do believe languages come more easily to some of us than to others, but anyone is capable of learning a new language. Spanish is like going to the gym: with the right combination of motivation, commitment, and a great personal trainer, it becomes second nature. You start thinking in Spanish instead of translating everything back and forth. You might wake up from getting your wisdom teeth out and be speaking Spanish (getting put under loosens the tongue, I guess). The point is, learning a language is a good workout for your brain, no matter your age, no matter your reasons for joining the gym.
2) It opens your eyes (and ears) to new things.
I can read, write, speak, and understand two languages. Know what that means? Twice as many books. Twice as many movies. Twice as much music! And probably more than double the chances of getting whatever I want at a local market in Latin America or Spain for a good price. There are so many practical reasons to learn Spanish, but as someone who values communication above all else, one of the most important reasons I’ve been learning the language for so long is so I can immerse myself in meaningful ways in various Spanish-speaking cultures. I went on a cruise to Mexico once with my family. There was a disgusting amount of delicious food, lots of sunshine, and pretty fantastic long island iced teas. But my favorite part of the entire trip was getting off the ship and taking a van to Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltún. I spent the car ride interpreting for the driver – he was telling my family and I about the local economy, the climate, the animals, the history -all things I would have completely missed out on if I didn’t speak Spanish.
1) It helps you make new friends.
When you’re learning Spanish, you start hearing it everywhere. Lucky you! Remember above where I mentioned the sweet woman who takes out the trash? Real life anecdote – a friend with an incredible story about being undocumented and working to put her kids through college. When you learn to communicate with people outside your native language, doors are opened to hear others’ stories, and to tell your own. The woman with the adorable toddler at the bus stop becomes an opportunity to practice. The random guy who walks back and forth in front of your office starts calling you “amiga.” When you’re traveling, people ask where you learned Spanish. At first, you might be afraid you’ll mess up and not just embarrass yourself – but worse! – your intended language practice target might be insulted by your bad pronunciation or the fact that you used “tú” instead of “usted.” I can tell you from over a decade of speaking Spanish that despite countless mess-ups, invented words, and the fact that I am still not always sure when to use the subjunctive, no one has ever been mean to me for trying.
In a country where athletes and actors are paid more than teachers, and where science, math, and technology are put at the forefront of education, learning a language is still a requirement for young people. Someone, somewhere understands the value of cross-cultural communication. Studying Spanish was not just a way for me to stretch my brain, ask for a bigger salary, or meet the Latino man of my dreams. It’s an opportunity for me to connect to the world we live in, to experience new things, and to meet all kinds of incredible people. And that’s why I will never regret studying Spanish.
Written by Chelsea Jewell