After 8 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.
My rule is this: I ALWAYS approach them and speak with them in Spanish. 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 that doesn't 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 muscle relentlessly. I also practice my courage nonstop.
Everything about this helps me be who I want to be: Fearless, kind, and growing.
If you too experience that fear when meeting someone new put on your confidence and push through! Make it your challenge to constantly put yourself out there when it comes to Spanish!
Confidence comes with the way I teach and if you're lacking in your Spanish gusto, please reach out today!
-Brittany, VAMOS Denver
What are Growth and Fixed mindsets? We have two ways of looking at ourselves and the world. You can see a challenge or situation with the idea that you will fail, or you can see that with time, little by little, you will SUCCEED. That is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset does not serve you in this world. It means you are not willing to learn and believe most things come “naturally” to certain talented people. This almost universally is not true. It’s nurture not nature. It’s about the environment where you plant yourself. A fixed mindset is not always easy to see in yourself. You may be fixed in areas of your life that you don’t even realize. Just because you’re fixed in some areas doesn’t mean you don’t have a growth mindset in other areas.
Growth mindset is the most beneficial to have in all scenarios and phases of life. A growth mindset involves seeing that EVERYTHING takes practice to be good at it. Every phase, challenge, and goal involves the ability to learn, change, and grow. If you believe you can grow through a challenge, you are more likely to stick through the hard parts and succeed in the end. If you are fixed, and believe you could never achieve or grow in whatever the challenge; quite frankly you will not!
Learning to have a growth mentality when learning languages is a MUST. You have a long path to take to becoming fluent. That is why seeing the small improvements along the way, being consistent in your practice and efforts, and appreciating your growth are all parts of successfully approaching a long hard task like learning a language!
If you are fixed and think Spanish comes naturally to some and to “me” it doesn’t, you will not have the stamina to push through the challenge. Like so many things in life, it’s a marathon not a sprint. That being said, it’s not all about the push; It’s about the flow too! Going with the flow through learning something new brings it about even faster!
In conclusion, focus on your growth and learn to go with the flow through the learning process of becoming bilingual. I love helping clients learn how to set their pace, and remind them to enjoy the process while challenging them to grow. Contact me to learn more about your ability to GROW through learning Spanish. With a growth mindset, you too can become bilingual! ¡VAMOS!
Learning through music is a great example of using Comprehensible Input, which means learning through interests. We know that learning through things we like helps us learn faster and more efficiently. So why not start with music?
I practiced learning many songs in Spanish when beginning to understand and practice the language. I recommend finding artists you enjoy, downloading the songs, listening to them and writing down the lyrics. After writing down the lyrics, try your best at analyzing and translating those lyrics. Then memorize the chorus and eventually the whole song!
Remember that enjoying the process is key to learning another language. If you make it too hard, you risk giving up too soon. However, if you make it too easy by not setting small achievable and regular goals, you risk not ever completing your task of becoming bilingual. Find that happy balance!
Here are some Spanish speaking Artists I love:
Perota Chingó= Argentina
Jarabe de Palo=Spain
Calle 13=Puerto Rico
Stay tuned for a list of my favorite Spanish songs, that I will be sharing soon!
Have a wonderful day and go enjoy some beautiful music!
Do you want to see a kinder world? If so, like Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”
Growing tensions between different races and cultures is a sad reality of today. One way to bridge gaps is to learn Spanish. Learning any second language will grow your compassion, empathy, and understanding of other cultures and their differences.
If we want to see a kinder world, we have to learn how to open our hearts and relate to the differences around us. Research has shown that students who study a second language have more compassion for the speakers of that language. This study proved true from whatever second language the student was learning. Therefore, if you would like to become more of a cultural bridge in your community, learning Spanish is a sure way to connect and open your compassion channel to our neighbors across the border and Spanish speakers already living in the United States.
Just yesterday I interacted with an amazing young man, living and working in the United States, who wanted to learn to read and write English so that he could begin his own business. He was so kind and enthusiastic when I spoke to him in his native tongue. It was delightful getting to interact with someone who appreciated it so much! Start learning Spanish today so that you too can have peace building interactions and grow compassion within!
If you are inclined to do so and are extra brave, I recommend traveling alone at least once in your life. It seems wild for many people to go on their own and experience something so vulnerable, but let me tell you why it could be worth it.
Traveling alone develops your confidence, knowing, and trust in yourself, and your ability to say no to others demands while respecting your own time, needs, and goals. This is especially great for young people and retired people, before and after raising a family. However, anyone can do it! How often do you not have a job? How often do you not have anyone to respond to? How often do you have absolutely no responsibilities for days or weeks at a time? How about NEVER as the answer?! Even average vacations involve compromise and thoughts of your family and friends you're traveling with.
Allowing myself to experience the freedom of traveling alone to Argentina for six months in my early twenties gave me a foundation for the rest of my life, proved to me my ability to conquer any challenge, and gave me the confidence to choose for myself regardless of what others thought or needed of me.
It’s true that you stand the risk of being bored, anxious, or even possibly in danger travelling alone, but you also stand the risk of never getting to know yourself, what you’re capable of, and what you truly desire by not traveling solo.
If you’re bored you will find ways to explore and step out of your comfort zone by talking to new people. People you might not approach with the safety net of your friends clinging. It’s amazing the amount of wonderful interactions I’ve had in my travels for the very reason I was alone and needing a friend in the moment. It helped me realize how generous and eager people are to connect, especially when you’re alone.
If you’re anxious, that too can be solved by practicing enjoying your own company. What do you want to do that the needs of others may have always pulled you away from? Growing a sense of peace in yourself is a lifetime practice that can be jump started in a solo trip. Feeling anxiety and learning to soothe yourself while finding new capabilities in problem solving will give you a sense of confidence that most people don’t have.
If danger scares you, consider the fact that you could die any day and that life is inherently risky. Challenging our notions of fear in a healthy way helps us grow and enjoy life more fully. Try finding and listening to many different contrasting views of travel to help prepare you for the trip that's right for you and find your middle way.
The time I traveled by myself was one of the most impactful things I've ever done. It allowed me to live for a bit outside of anyone's needs or wants of me, whether that be family, friends or bosses. I had a chance to drink wine on a Tuesday morning, or go on a long hike by myself, or just sleep in, or stay out late meeting fellow travelers and having deep conversations. At any moment I got to choose for myself what I felt like doing and for some reason that is a freedom rarely granted to any of us. I got used to thinking of myself first and thus better developing a sense of self compassion and self love.
At least once in your life experience solo travel, following exactly what you want day by day, moment by moment. If you can only do it for a week, trust me it will be worth it. If you can do it longer, like a month, or 6 months, you will have a life-changing journey that will help set your true north and internal compass for the rest of your life.
A continued grievance of mine with standard school systems is that we take the fun out of everything in hopes to cram more into student's brains. Many adults later reflect that they took four years of Spanish, but don't remember a thing... I know there is a correlation there!
We need fun to learn and to learn well. Fun and learning are not opposites. They must go hand-in-hand if you want to learn quickly or efficiently at all.
The times I have learned easiest are the times when I have been actively engaged through curiosity, made a game out of something, and been around people I enjoyed learning with!
Use these as compasses for how you learn best. If you find yourself trying something new and getting stuck, ask yourself:
Am I making this too hard on myself?
Are my goals reasonable?
Am I trying a slow yet steady approach?
Am I learning through fun?
How can I make this more enjoyable for myself?
Who would help me be accountable that I enjoy being around?
My goal as a Spanish teacher is to provide accountability, constancy, and fun! If I am not engaging someone every session we have, then I know I'm not meeting my requirements as a teacher.
We know through the studies of comprehensible input, that if you're not engaged and enjoying what you're learning while you're speaking and reading and writing in Spanish, then you will not remember it as well as if you were engaged in the content.
That's called fun! It's fun when you enjoy what you're talking about. It's fun when you enjoy talking to who you're talking to. So fun is our number one goal and through actively accounting for fun, we learn Spanish in the most efficient way possible!
Have a wonderful day and remember to put some fun into everything your learning right now.
*Photo of Spanish client and I laughing, per usual! Photo by @pono_media
Me gusta is an interesting thing to learn in Spanish and quite difficult at first. One of the frustrating things about Spanish is that the sentence structure is often the opposite direction than ours!
For Example: Me gusta café, means I like coffee.
However "me gusta" doesn’t mean “I like” in the way you think of it. Literally it means “IT is pleasing to me!”
SO…. Me Gusta Café.
REALLY MEANS... To me, it is pleasing, Coffee.
Strange, I know. However, a handful of verbs follow this pattern. This can be confusing for the novice learning to conjugate a simple thing like “I like”… instead of the normal add an -o to make it for ME, you have to think backwards.
Let’s try another! How about I don’t care! In Spanish you would say it’s not important to me. So, start with your TO ME=ME(pronounced MAY). Then add the verb, to be important=importar. Then conjugate it to: IT is important. =importa.
Then you should get: NO ME IMPORTA. = I don’t care, or it’s not important to me!
There are a handful of verbs that follow this pattern:
Importar=to be important, gustar=to be pleasing, molestar=to bother, and encantar=to be enchanted/to love something are the main verbs used this way .
I promise this backwards thinking will get easier, but learning the way the language works is the part that does make it easier! So keep trying and keep moving forward! With time, like anything, it becomes natural. ¡Que tengan un buen día!
Learning a language helps you think differently by becoming more figurative and not so literal. You’re more flexible because you have to constantly rework the way you’d like to say something and turn it into a more direct translation.
Instead of saying something like "My boyfriend and I broke up” which is a funny expression if you think about it. WE BROKE, We Broke where? Up!
Hmmm…. You can’t translate that literally to Spanish. It would sound weird. They might be like -what did you break? A vase? An arm? And why In the upward direction?
No! Not at all! It’s just an expression we use, and they don’t! So how else can I say that? We ended our relationship. We are not together anymore. We are both single now.
Cool! Three different ways to say the same thing and get the same point across without completely confusing the person you’re talking to. This is why it makes you more flexible. It helps you think differently and in new ways, and recognize what is literal and what is an idiomatic expression.
Kids are said to have an ability that most adults no longer have. Do you know what that is?
It’s idea generation. The ability to think of more uses or ideas for a thing than what it is used for or thought of typically.
The example I’ve always heard of was that a box is placed right side down and both adults and kids are asked how many ways can you use the box. Adults generally think of only one way, put stuff in it!
Kids, however, see it as a house, a storage container, a hat, a stair step and so many other things! They often come up with many more ideas for what something can be than an adult. Why? Because we are trained to see things a certain way as we age.
The beauty of what kids can do can be accessed and harnessed through learning a language. You can think of that sentence or thought in new ways by trying to say it differently. This very abstract thinking helps us reconnect to our childlike open-minded view of life and grows our brains!
Be prepared to become a better idea generator and a happier, smarter, more flexible person than ever! You can do it! ¡VAMOS!
Everyone asks me “Do you dream in Spanish?” Yes, I do! Especially when I’m speaking it more. The first time you dream in another language, you feel so proud!
It’s like your brain is working overtime and has fully started to understand how to think and process a different way. I’ve had full on conversations and planned speeches while dreaming in Spanish! I wake up feeling marvelous, fully rested but like I was doing slight brain exercises overnight.
Whether it’s true or not, I wake up feeling smarter. In a lot of ways it is true, because this is one of the first signs that your brain is assimilating the language and actually getting it.
I had a recent client tell me she was having dreams of our Spanish lessons together. It was so exciting to hear. She was partially thinking- “Brittany, get out of my head!” but she was also so pumped that her brain was finally understanding it to that degree!
It won’t be long until you reach that milestone too and you will understand exactly how cool it is to dream in another language!
Reach out now for online lessons!
This "dreamy" photo was taken in the salt flats in northern Chile outside of San Pedro de Atacama. I took this photo and I'm so proud of it, that I sent it to National Geographic for a contest... Sadly it didn't win, but I still think it's phenomenal!
I've heard over and over again the idea that only kids learn languages well and quickly. That may be true, but one thing adults have the advantage of is that they already understand concepts versus children aren't just learning sounds and translations but entire concepts.
For example, children on average listen to their native language for 2 to 2 1/2 years before two word phrases are even spoken! That means they take way longer than the average adult before the ability to speak. Consider that an encouragement and enticement to start your language journey!
Another defeating idea is that one can be too old to learn a language, if you are a senior citizen. However, I believe that is also an ego based idea preventing someone from trying because taking on learning a language confronts beliefs of one's value and inherent intelligence.
First of all, you already have learned a language when you were a child. What makes you think you can't do it again? Secondly, age does not prohibit one from learning. Learning a second language within retirement age can actually stimulate your brain and help decrease memory and cognitive loss over time.
Third, when in retirement you have more time than ever to jump into a new skill. Why not take advantage of the space and time one has earned after a lifetime of working and little time to spare?
These are all great reasons to learn regardless of age. I have worked with retired persons and they have told me they felt surprised with their ability and the fun of learning. They reflected that it was challenging yet possible and enlightening to see what they could do at their ages.
That being said, I believe it's important to question our limiting beliefs any time we want to start something new, and ask ourselves why we don't think we can do it. Our egos are magnificent at coming up with excuses for things that would take us out of our comfort zones and I see it time and time again with language learning.
Don't forget that you can BE, DO, or HAVE anything you want in this world, regardless of your age or limiting beliefs. Begin today taking risks and questioning what really matters to you. Life is too short to not go out on a limb, after all that's where the best fruit is!
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!