Posted by: Karen Fowler
You probably already know a few Spanish words, even if you've never studied it before. Words like "hola" and "rodeo", which are Spanish words, have made their way into the English language. However, Spanish is much more important than most of us realize. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and is the official language of 21 countries. Spanish is also the second most popular language in the United States - over 45 million Americans speak it. If you want to do any traveling through the United States or around the world, Spanish is an excellent language to know.
Spanish, like French and Italian, grew from the Latin language. The nice thing about these languages, called "Romance languages", is that if you learn one, like Spanish, learning another is much easier. Spanish wasn't written down until the 13th century, when it was standardized in Toledo and Madrid. It gradually grew to become the main language of the Spanish colonial empire, and any territories that Spain conquered, like Mexico, were exposed to the language as well. Today, over 400 million people around the world speak Spanish - 40 million more than people who speak English.
Like any language, learning Spanish requires dedication and plenty of practice. You don't even have to spend that much time on your studies - just working on it for thirty minutes each day will be a massive help. Since, like any language, Spanish can be tricky to learn to hear, practice by watching TV shows or movies in Spanish. Most DVDs will have either Spanish subtitles or a Spanish audio track that you can play over the film. If it's a movie that you know very well, like a Disney movie that you grew up with, then watching it in Spanish is a great way to help you get familiar with the language. When it comes to learning new words, don't be scared! Get some flashcards and write the word on one side and the translation on the other. You can use these cards to practice on the school bus, in the car, or even while you're brushing your teeth.
You can also use your own home to practice. When you learn the Spanish word for pencil or cup, write it down on a sticky note and stick it to the correct object. Seeing the word on the physical object will help your brain recall it visually. If you have a friend or relative who speaks Spanish, use them as a practice buddy. Try to have whole conversations in Spanish. Your buddy will know how Spanish is supposed to work, and if you get stuck, they can help you figure out what word you're looking for. Now, if your school doesn't offer Spanish as a class, don't panic. There are plenty of other resources available to help you learn. Your local library will have a Spanish-English dictionary, and will probably have a book on learning Spanish as well. If your parents agree, there are also software programs available that can teach you Spanish on the computer. They can be extremely effective, but they can also be expensive. If you're short on money, seek out free programs, like DuoLinguo, that are well-known for their effectiveness.
Whether you're a serious student or you're just looking to learn Spanish on your own time, the links in this guide will help make sure that you get a flying start. There are tutorials, online dictionaries, and many other resources that will help you get comfortable with the language. Remember - practice daily, and don't expect yourself to be perfect right from the beginning. Languages, like any other skill, take some time and practice to master. Be patient, and before long, you'll notice yourself accidentally referring to something by its Spanish name! Good luck, or, as they say in Spain, buena suerte!
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