My Interview with Voyage Denver
Today we’d like to introduce you to Brittany Anderson.
Hi Brittany, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Hola! My name is Brittany and I teach adults conversational Spanish. My dad often inspired me as a kid when we went to Mexican restaurants. Even though he didn’t actually speak Spanish, he would say the silliest things like calling me a “cabeza de piña” (pineapple head!) in front of the staff to get them to giggle. His goofy style of communicating, just to connect with someone and glimpse a smile on their face, is the best tool I could offer anyone and has continued with me throughout my language acquisition and coaching.
I studied Spanish Literature at the collegiate level and spent time living in Spain and Argentina. Afterwards I taught high school Spanish for one year. Children first learn language through listening and speaking not reading and writing. Therefore most public education is doing the whole thing backwards. Many adults reflect to me that after 4 years of high school Spanish they don’t remember a thing!
With this understanding, I realized I wanted to do things my way, work with adults who were committed to learning Spanish and teach mostly speaking and listening. I started tutoring Spanish in 2016 as a side job and now it has grown into my full time career. I love teaching and exploring the language with my clients. We have a lot of fun and my program has proven to be extremely efficient and approachable. I’ve sent clients to internships in Spain and across South American road trips with the tools they need to explore the world, improve their careers, and connect with new cultures.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
After 9 years of being completely fluent in Spanish, I STILL get the jitters every time I speak with a new native Spanish speaker! However, the fear I feel has been pretty much taken care of through a rule I follow every single time I encounter someone who speaks Spanish: I ALWAYS approach them and speak with them. I don’t shy away. I don’t act like I don’t have time, or that I don’t speak it out of fear of making a mistake or sounding silly. I make it my priority to at least say hi, how are you, and have a little chit-chat. Often it leads to more amazing conversation, but sometimes it’s just a hello.
I get to accomplish two things. One, I break their possible stereotype of a Gringa who doesn’t speak Spanish and that might not care about them or their culture. And two, I change my own perception of fear and never let that mind game win! I dive in with my imperfections, my fear, and my jitters and always come out stronger because of it. I practice my language muscles relentlessly. And in doing so, I also practice my courage nonstop. Everything about this helps me be more of who I want to be: fearless, kind, and growing.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Vamos Denver?
My goal as a Spanish teacher is to provide accountability, consistency, and fun! If I am not engaging someone every session we have, then I know I’m not meeting my requirements as a teacher. If you’re engaged and enjoying what you’re learning, then you’re more likely to remember the content.
I try to help my clients have reasonable goals and a strategy when it comes to learning Spanish. Thinking of ourselves as children is so valuable. Children often can only speak 2 word phrases by age 2. They can understand a lot, but speaking takes more effort.
In a lot of ways I do more confidence training than Spanish teaching. In a standard course you can get really good at the Spanish grammar without ever speaking it. If you end up scared to death just to approach someone, how could you ever improve? Or move forward? Or ever do anything with Spanish?
This is why the majority of my program is conversation based. With my guidance you speak Spanglish, mixing both languages until there is less and less English in your speech.
Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
Everything I do in teaching adults how to speak Spanish, is to help them connect with others. There is no doubt in my mind that this industry will continue to grow for many years to come. We have a booming Spanish population in the United States and interacting with our neighbors is the surest way to a happier healthier community.
One of my favorite ideas is based on how language can bring people together from an Arab proverb; “Learn a language and you’ll avoid a war.” And isn’t it true? How can we resolve problems without first communicating? From the micro to the macro, interacting with others is necessary in handling conflict as well as promoting thriving communities.
As you learn Spanish, you start to realize all the ways to communicate something. The power of communication and connecting with others is one of the most beautiful things on this Earth and it is well worth the effort.
Thank you for taking the time to read and learn more about me and my business.
Spanish Conversation Coach
To see website link Click HERE.
Accountability & Strategy
There are two main things that you need to learn Spanish.
1) Accountability &
Without these 2 things you are likely to go nowhere. First accountability, a course, a teacher, a friend who's committed to following up with you about your goals, is a huge factor in reaching success in any endeavor. It is so paramount in learning Spanish as well.
Secondly, without strategy it is likely you will give up on the task at hand. I once heard that those who are most confident operate from a plan or strategy. When you have a plan for your goal, all of the sudden, it doesn't seem so lofty. If anything it is now manageable. It may take you ten years, but you can start with step one and that will only build momentum.
"Paso a paso" is my favorite Spanish expression to demonstrate this truth. "Step by step" we move forward. If you don't clearly define where you are going and enact a plan for how to get there, it is unlikely that you will magically arrive.
Paso a paso. Find a friend, a course, a teacher. Make a plan. Know how much you want out of Spanish and how far you want to go. Then take it step by step. Make reasonable measurable goals and begin the process. In six months you will have wished you had started six months ago. So begin now!
Understanding Formal Spanish
Why is there a difference between formal and informal Spanish? Most languages have always used this difference, but English has phased out formal language. We have become a more informal speaking society, while Spanish has kept theirs and lots of other cultures have as well. They differentiate between their peer group, those that are younger, and those that are in higher ranks in relationships and work. This is a way to show respect.
In English, we sometimes differentiate this by saying ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma'am’. In Spanish, there’s an entirely different tense for how you would speak to someone formally. A boss, a teacher, parents of a spouse or partner, are great ways to practice more formal Spanish. This is especially polite when meeting someone new.
It is most easily understood by thinking about olden days and pretending you are the butler. For example, the butler would not dare say how are you Mr. Jonathan? Heavens no, you don’t know him that well!
The butler would say: “How is Mr. Jonathan today?” This creates separation, therefore implies formality.
Butler: “Is Mr. Jonathan going to the plaza today?”
Mr. Jonathan: “No I'm not. Why do you ask?”
Butler: “Why? Because I thought he would need his jacket because it’s windy. It seems like he doesn’t after all. Mr. Jonathan, I hope that he has a good day!”
Remember: this whole time you, the butler, are looking in his eyes and speaking directly to Mr. Jonathan, but the language sounds like you’re talking about him. This again, creates the illusion of separation and that shows your respect for your boss. This is the same way formal Spanish is spoken. Try it when you meet someone new! Start with the formal then switch to the easier “you/tú” form until it becomes more natural. They will understand that you mean respect, but aren’t as familiar with the language. Please ask any questions you have in comments below!
I have made a pact with myself. Every time I meet a Spanish speaker, I speak Spanish with them. Either from the way they say hello, the way they look, or perhaps their last name is Martinez, I often take a gander and start with “HOLA!” Sometimes I'm flat out wrong. They don't speak Spanish and they're annoyed that I even asked! But more often than not they do and they’re delighted! This is the difference between those who know a language only intellectually and those who can actually speak it. CONFIDENCE.
If perhaps you were a chess player growing and learning your skill set after a few years of practice and started seeing people who had been practicing for 20 to 60 years, would you interact with them? Would you learn from the masters? That’s often how I see Spanish speakers, not just a new friend I could enjoy meeting, but also a master at the language that could help me hone my craft a little more in just a five minute conversation!
This pact I made has made a huge difference in how I learned Spanish and how I continue to grow my skill set. I hope if you’re learning you will do the same. Challenge yourself to constantly use Spanish in any way that you can and grow confidence in yourself by interacting more. ¡SI SE PUEDE!
These things crack me up! 😂 I see bad Spanish translations all the time. This reminds me of two important things:
1) Don't use google translate EVER. It's run of the mill-not quality. Use Spanishdict.com instead.
2) Remember, you have to think like the culture you're learning from. Things are said differently in every language, but until you learn one it's hard to understand the many wonderful ways meaning can be expressed.
Have a beautiful day!
Think Figurative, not Literal
So much of the challenge of learning Spanish is switching the way we think about language.
We often overlook how strange our own expressions are until we start learning the ways other languages say things. For example, think about these common expressions. How would you describe their meaning to someone who didn't speak English and would likely take them literally?
"We'll catch up later" (Does that involve a ball?)
"We broke up" (What did you break exactly? Why up?)
"Where are you headed?" (Your head is going where?)
"Let's hang out" (Hang on the monkey bars? Or hang laundry?)
The same types of expressions exist in Spanish. They say things like: "I have cold" instead of "I'm cold" and "She falls well with me" instead of "I like her" or "I gave myself an account" instead of "I realized"
When you improve your figurative thinking, you will improve your Spanish communication. Language is both logical/literal/left brained- in the sense that there are clear patterns and rules. AND creative/organic/right brained- in the sense that a random expression that has nothing to do with the present meaning can create meaning through metaphor and abstraction. That's why learning Spanish is an incredible way to become more creative, think more whole-brained, and furthermore challenge everything we know about how to communicate. Keep trying, keep practicing! ¡Vamos!
How to plan a serious trip
I know you’re thinking about travel, who isn’t? It’s about time to leave our quarantine bubbles and get back out there. You may not be ready or feel the world isn’t ready for your trip, but it’s never too early to start planning! When planning a big adventure, there are so many things to think about. Having gone on two huge continental exploring trips, I have a lot of experience in this arena.
It’s good to read about your travel destination in terms of safety. What’s been happening there lately? Is it generally a safe place? One thing you can do is register your trip and length of stay with the U.S. Embassy in the country you are visiting. They also have wonderful updates to tell you if there are natural disaster alerts, brewing political unrest, and other potentially dangerous news you need to be aware of.
That being said, most people don’t travel on huge backpacking across the world kind of trips. So your family and peers may try to influence you with their fear. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless it prevents you from taking your trip. Some situations are cause for re-evaluation, however even post-pandemic, it is extremely safe to travel to most places in the world!
After you’ve done your preliminary studying, begin a budget. I generally recommend looking at your minimum monthly expenses and multiplying that number by how many months you’ll be there(or dividing it for weeks) to give you an idea of what to save for. If you are staying in hostels, your stay will be cheaper than average monthly rent. However if you are taking many flights that might make up for that savings. If you’re on a tight budget, consider sleeper car trains or overnight buses, where you can get a night’s stay and travel in one! This is how I got to travel to seven different countries on a very limited budget!
Once budget is locked in, decide on the most important tourist destinations you don’t want to miss. Then keep time and space available to experience local non tourist culture so you can enjoy what’s real about the place you are heading to, not just the well worn path.
Also, if you are traveling somewhere where the local language is foreign, consider doing a crash course in the language. Even if you are strapped for time, know the basics so that you can make sure you are safe and taken care of anywhere you go! Please reach out if you need help planning your trip. I love giving advice and have helped many others in planning their epic adventures!
World Traveler & Spanish Conversation Coach
If you haven’t yet experienced being a minority within a culture, allow me to explain the beautiful perspectives it can bring you. There are so many great reasons for it; it humbles you, makes you stronger, more independent, and most importantly grows your empathy for others. If you have always been a part of a majority through race, religion, or language spoken; etc. That culture and in-group is so natural to you, that you don’t yet understand the challenges minorities face, nor how you could grow from being in one. When you are the one who is different, you have to hold your own, and this can be a superpower!
It helps you learn how to ask for help more often when you are on your own in a foreign culture. I especially felt this when I was in Argentina constantly challenged by the language and the speed with which they spoke. It was such a steep learning curve being there, yet pushing through made me a stronger, more resilient person. In Spain as well, I remember being the only Brittany, the only American, and the only one that was challenged by speaking Spanish. It helps you be more patient with others broken English, when you too have had to fight for every word!
Consider trips that put you out of your comfort zone and out of the majority in one way or another, to fully feel the difference in being a minority. You will grow humility, patience, empathy, and tolerance for others and resiliency, strength, and confidence for yourself, qualities we could all use a little more of!
Conocer vs. Saber
Mini Spanish Lesson:
Conocer vs. Saber.
Conocer means to know, to be familiar with or to meet. It is ALWAYS used with people and places.
Yo Conozco-I am familiar with, I know
Tú conoces-you are familiar with, you know
Él/Ella Conoce-He/She is familiar with, He/she knows
Nosotros conocemos-We are familiar with, we know
Ellos/Ellas conocen-They are familiar with, they know
Saber means to know, how to do something, or to know information.
Yo Sé-I know
Tú sabes-You know
Él/Ella sabe-He/she knows
Nosotros sabemos-We know
Ellos/Ellas saben-They know
They can be confused for one another. The trick is to replace the word "know" with "to be familiar with."
If it works, then you can use Conocer. If not, use Saber.
Yo conozco a ella. I know her. I am familiar with her.
Yo sé cocinar. I know how to cook. NOT i'm familiar with cooking.
Ella sabe español. She knows Spanish.
Ella conoce Francia. She is familiar with France.
Finally a trick:
Nosotros sabemos su nombre, pero no la conocemos.
We KNOW her name (information), but we aren't FAMILIAR with her (person).
I hope this mini lesson helped you! Have a great day!
Spanish makes your child more whole brained, intelligent, compassionate, and worldly!
There are endless benefits of encouraging your children to become bilingual. If you think it’s all about the job (Which is also important; I mean, we don’t want your kid to starve!) It’s NOT. Becoming bilingual, especially in Spanish, is sure to get your child a raise, and help them not be overlooked when it comes to competition, but that is only one of the great benefits for them!
They will be more intelligent; juggling two languages grows your brain. They will be more compassionate through understanding minorities, differences, and learning to respect other cultures. Their worldview will expand knowing they could live anywhere and get by, they can travel without getting lost, and that they are capable of sticking through something. Finally learning that they are fearless enough to talk to strangers or continue past failures are hugely important life lessons that languages teach!
These are just some of the incredible benefits that getting your child started and interested in language will do for them. Keep encouraging. Keep helping them enjoy the process while striving forward. This is the delicate balance of life. Your child will thank you for encouraging them to be bilingual and I promise you won’t regret it.
Brittany is a bilingual Spanish teacher who has lived in Spain and Argentina. Through this blog, she hopes to relate her travels, insights, and Spanish speaking journey!