The Importance of Studying Spanish

Hi, my name is Philip, and I am an American college student studying Spanish.

I started studying Spanish when I was in the third grade. I can’t say that my classes were particularly rigorous, but I was first exposed to Spanish in the third grade, and took classes every year since. My classes became serious when I reached high school; my teachers were excellent and my education in Spanish was very thorough. My college Spanish classes continued that trend. Nevertheless, despite my early exposure to Spanish and my rigorous and thorough education in the language, I still lacked the ability to effectively communicate. Yes, I could read decently, and understand more or less, if the speaker spoke slowly, but the point of learning a language is to learn to communicate, and I definitely couldn’t do that. I didn’t begin to really achieve communication, in fact, until I studied abroad in Ecuador.

The key was one on one communication with native speakers. My classes had laid the foundation for my Spanish understanding, but once I began speaking with native speakers, my fluency took off. All the vocabulary that I had ever seen came rushing back as necessity brought it the surface of my brain. Grammatical concepts that had not made sense in the classroom suddenly clicked when used in real conversation. And I began to pick up idiomatic expressions and colloquial phrases that were used in conversation. I quickly became able to distinguish between what I called “classroom Spanish” and regular Spanish when I heard a non-native speak the language. None of this would have been possible without the ability to speak one on one with native speakers on a regular basis.

Now, the ability to speak Spanish has opened me to so many things. A whole new section of the world has been opened to me to which I can travel. I have begun to study French, and my study of Spanish has made it much easier, as many of the words and grammatical concepts are the same. Additionally, I have noticed that increasingly the world around me is becoming multilingual. More of my friends than not speak a second language. Increasingly I notice that job descriptions say things like “Bilingual English/Spanish preferred” or even “required”. I would like to say that by studying Spanish I have gained something that has vaulted me ahead of my peers, but in truth, it really has just prevented me from falling behind the curve. The future is multilingualism. There is no doubt.

Unfortunately, while I am glad that I can now speak Spanish, I wish that I had started younger. In my opinion, children should begin learning a second language as soon as possible. Energies I devoted in college to studying Spanish could have been devoted to something else if I had learned as a child. Looking back I wish I had had access to means of person to person Spanish instruction that would have given me the skills I now have. When I am a parent, I know multilingualism will be a priority for my children, like playing a sport or an instrument is for many children. I think this is something that all parents should make a priority.

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