Education, Spanish

The time is now!

Let’s face it.  Learning a foreign language can be an intimidating and overwhelming concept.  Stuck in your own little world, surrounded by other English speakers, it is easy assume that English is sufficient and that there is no need or reason to venture outward. Don’t let this small sense of security fool you.  The world is so much bigger than you can imagine. If you have ever dabbled in the idea if learning Spanish, let me reinforce those thoughts with 10 undeniable reasons to start learning Spanish, today!

1.) …to join the club!

Over 575 million people speak Spanish (2018).  Why don’t you? In fact, Spanish is the 2nd most spoken native language in the world.  Can you guess which language took the number one spot? I’ll give you a hint! It’s NOT English.  (It’s Mandarin.) English comes in third place with approximately 480 million native speakers, followed by Hindi. The Spanish-speaking population has been growing at supersonic speeds for the last several decades and will most likely continue to grow steadily, even within the United States.  According to El País, there are approximately 40 million native Spanish speakers in the United States.  This doesn’t include those within the U.S. that are not native Spanish speakers, but have learned Spanish secondarily.

2.) …to increase brain function!

(Photo Credit: Shaw Nielsen)

Is your memory lacking? Do you wish that you could recall information more rapidly? Many studies suggest that learning a second language significantly enhances cognitive abilities and memory.  In fact, statistics have demonstrated that there is a direct link between bilingualism and higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem, and higher scores on standardized tests, including reading, math, science, and social studies scores.  The NEA report labeled the resulting benefits to self-image, self-esteem, and satisfaction as “enormous.” On top of this, these results were not gender or race specific. In other words, regardless of who you are, learning Spanish can make you smarter.

3.) …to open more doors! undefined

Among the top benefits to learning any foreign language (especially Spanish) is career advancement and security. While English may be the world’s international economic language, the ability to reach out to individuals of the 2nd most common use language in the world definitely has its benefits.  Learning a foreign language promotes more global competency. The vast majority of industrialized countries require students to begin world language courses in the elementary schools and continue them yearly throughout high school. As of right now, most U.S. colleges/universities require only two years of a foreign language for acceptance.  International business leaders have warned that American graduates competing for the same jobs as their peers from other countries, may be technically competent but are increasingly culturally deprived and linguistically illiterate compared with graduates from other countries. Stay ahead of the game!

4.) …because, in relation to English, Spanish is a breeze.

Ok, so perhaps Spanish grammar seems a bit more complicated, but phonetically speaking, in Spanish, what you see is what you get.  There are minimal exceptions to phonemic rules. English, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Sometimes it seems as if we have more exceptions to the rules than rules themselves.  Spanish has 25 phonemes, while it is argued that English has 44. As a native English speaker, we become desensitized to the complications of the English language. Take the words cough, rough, through, though, for example.  Why do these words not rhyme? How about the word “Queue”? Who said, we’re going to make this word 5 letters long, but we’re only going to pronounce the first one? Crazy, right? The image below also demonstrates how crazy English can be.  Moral of the story→ if you can learn English and abide by its rules (or lack thereof) you can dominate Spanish.

5.) …because your knowledge of English helps you learn Spanish (& vice versa)!

This point kind of goes along with the previous point.  The Latin roots of the Romance languages makes learning Spanish a lot easier.  Between the existence of cognates (ie: música and music) and root words, Spanish reading comprehension skills should be very attainable. As an added bonus, learning Spanish can actually to improve your English language skills, too! Multilingual Living (an magazine that promotes global communication and multilingualism) sums this concept up quite nicely in the following excerpt:

“For example, the Spanish word “mal” means “bad”. That small root always carries a negative connotation in English. It becomes obvious in words such as malevolent, malicious, malfunction, and malignant. The Spanish inverse is “bien”, which means “good”. English words with positive connotations containing a similar root include beneficial, benevolent, benign, and benefit.”

Visit this Multilingual Living’s article by clicking HERE for more information regarding how learning Spanish helps you better your English.

6.) …to receive gratitude for service and assistance!

Have you ever been behind someone in line at the store who is struggling to communicate with the clerk? What about at work? Have you ever had a client that needed a service, but was unable to adequately communicate his/her needs with you? Just the other day, I was at the dentist for a cleaning, when the person in front of me was trying to make an appointment.  Unfortunately, this individual’s insurance had changed and the dentist office no longer accepted this type of insurance. Long story short, the lady behind the desk was struggling to relay this information to the patient who did not understand what was being said, as her English was limited. Due to my knowledge of the Spanish language, I was able to jump in and help them out.  I relayed the information to the woman and was also able to offer directions to a location that would be able to accept her insurance. The gratitude from not only the patient, but also the worker, was immense. It felt good to know that my bilingualism is beneficial to myself, as well as other people.

7.) …to impress your friends!

Not only can your Spanish be beneficial to other people, but it’s impressive, as well. Learning a foreign language is an admirable feat. You’ll, undoubtedly, be the star of many conversations.  Isn’t it nice to have people highlight a characteristic of you that you worked so hard on? It definitely helps with self-esteem! Plus, your awesomeness might even be motivation for your friends to try and learn Spanish, as well! Look at you, role-model!

8.) …to find the love of your life!

You know, in the movies, when the protagonist goes on a much needed vacation and meets a super hot, exotic stranger with whom they instantly click? It doesn’t matter that they don’t speak the same language, because they both know the language of love and that is all that matters.  With the language of love, they can break down any barrier and conquer the world. Yeah, no.  That doesn’t happen.  You cannot build a future with someone who doesn’t understand you.  So, why not broaden your horizons and expand the pool. Sure, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but what if your fish is a pez?  What if your soulmate is waiting for you and all that is restricting you from being with him/her is that you don’t know their language and you’re not confident enough to grab the bull by the horns? Don’t lose out on the chance to have the love of your life! Learn Spanish!

(Photo credit: Jonathan Borba)

9.) …because you’re missing out on so many awesome books and movies!

    There are an abundance of amazing books and movies in Spanish that you’re missing out on and they are all right at your fingertips.  Here are some of my favorites:

Super Awesome Spanish Movies

–Bajo la misma luna
–No se aceptan devoluciones
–La lengua de las mariposas     
–Como agua para chocolate
–Overboard (okay, not entirely Spanish, but a lot of Spanish included that adds so much to the charm and hilarity.      

Super Awesome Spanish Books
–El alquimista (Paulo Coehlo)
–La distancia entre nosotros (Reyna Grande)
–Corazón tan blanco (Javier Marías)
–Que nadie duerma (Juan José Millás)
–Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes) …Ok, You knew I couldn’t put a list of great Spanish novels without including this one.

Do you have a favorite Spanish movie or book? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below to let us know all about your favorites!

10.) …because you’ll get left behind!

If all of the other reasons weren’t enough to convince you, just consider everyone that has made the leap. As I mentioned before, the Spanish is a vastly growing world language.  Twenty-one countries list Spanish as their official language. Several more speak it as a secondary language. The world is progressing whether you join or not! Get with the game! Don’t get left behind!

(Photo Credit: Dan Gold)

References:

Alban, Deane. “The Brain Benefits of Learning a Second Language.” Be Brain Fit, Be Brain Fit & Blue Sage LLC, 29 May 2019, http://www.bebrainfit.com/benefits-learning-second-language/.

Collins, Leslie. “Learn Spanish to Help You Understand English!” Multilingual Living, 25 Apr. 2014, http://www.multilingualliving.com/2011/09/23/learning-spanish-can-help-you-understand-english/.

Morales, Manuel. “Number of Spanish Speakers Tops 577 Million.” EL PAÍS, 5 July 2018, http://www.elpais.com/elpais/2018/07/05/inenglish/1530780465_701866.html.

Stopera, Dave. “18 Rules that Prove the English Language Needs to Be Stopped.” BuzzFeed, 10 February 2017, http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/english-language

Education, Language Retention, Spanish Classroom

Use it or Lose it!

So, you’ve made it to the end of the year! Congratulations, you! Now, all we have to worry about is the dreaded Summer Learning Loss. It is a well-know fact that foreign language is one of the first components to go. I am sure you’ve heard the old adage: “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” Don’t let Summer get the best of you! Retention is key! Here are TEN fool-proof ways to keep your Spanish language loss at bay over Summer Break!

1.) Use Duolingo! If you have been following my posts, you know how much I LOVE Duolingo. I use Duolingo at home with my kids, at school with my students, and even for myself. (I’m currently learning French… oui-oui, la vie est belle!) Anyway, it is a FREE interactive, user-friendly method to staying on top of a foreign language that only requires a few minutes a day. For more information regarding Duolingo, you can click here to read my post about it!

2.) Invest in a language diary and challenge yourself to #thelanguagediarychallenge . It doesn’t matter how much you write in your journal. Focus on a sentence. Focus on a paragraph. You do you. Just strive for consistency and expansion of your vocabulary. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

(Photo Credit: Aaron Burden)

3.) Utilize your local library. With our vastly growing diversity, most libraries, especially those in larger cities here in the US, have a fairly impressive foreign language (primarily Spanish) section. These books cover a wide range of content and come in almost every grade and reading level available. Choose a book with content that interests you in a level that you are comfortable reading…and then actually read it…yes…out-loud. You don’t have to do this in public. Take it back home, fire up a hot cup o’ joe and practice. Practice makes perfect, or at least progress, which is what we’re looking for!

4.) Endeavor to find a Spanish conversation group in your area. Here, where I am located, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and chat with other language learners in your shoes, who are eager to better their conversational Spanish. You just have to look for them! Check with your local library or college campus for information they may have regarding these groups. If this doesn’t yield sufficient results, try the paper or local magazine! This is where ours are usually listed!

5.) Now I don’t usually promote this, but watch TV. Netflix and Amazon are goldmines for finding movies and shows in Spanish. There are hundreds of available opportunities. Exposure to the oral language accompanied with a visual representation is one of the most fool-proof ways to attain a new language. For added bonus points, turn on the Spanish subtitles! PS: FluentU has some great tips on how to maximize your language learning skills through shows and movies. (Click here for more information!)

(Photo Credit: Dawid Labno)

6.) Listen to Spanish podcasts! I cannot stress this one enough. Not everyone has a native Spanish speaker that can talk with them whenever they want. The beautiful thing(s) about podcasts is that they are easily accessible and they can provide you (the Spanish language learner) with contextual, real life language, in native accents. I am going to throw FluentU at your face again because they say it better than I can. Visit FluentU at this link to learn about why listening to podcasts as a language learner is so beneficial and which podcasts would be the best for you.

7.) Música, música, música. Music is a beautiful thing, especially when learning a language. It gets stuck in your head and it’s fun. Here in the United States, we have seen a significant increase in the Spanish language bleeding through our radio stations. A lot of songs on the radio are bilingual. Take advantage of this exposure!

8.) Play games in Spanish. I am sure the game that came to mind is “Uno”, which is definitely a great game to play if you want to stay quick with your numbers and colors. However, take a step out of your comfort zone and work with Spanish scrabble to access vocabulary content. Or, if these games are not available to you, try to use as much Spanish as you can in whatever game you play! Twister helps with body parts and location, Guess Who is an excellent choice for physical descriptions. Even Monopoly can be used for language acquisition and retention. The opportunities are endless!

(Photo Credit: Simon Ray)

9.) Utilize the educational resources available. YouTube is an obvious choice. Take advantage of the innumerable amount of educational videos, songs, and resources on YouTube. The opportunities available are essentially unlimited. You may choose to watch a video in Spanish for authentic exposure or you may want to research a certain topic or component for review such as “subject pronouns”, “verb conjugation”, or “the calendar”. The choice is yours!

10.) Lastly, DON’T BE AFRAID. Get out there and make the most of what the world has to offer. There are so many ways to expose yourself to the beautiful Spanish language and culture. Too often, people overthink themselves and feel embarrassed at the possibility of messing up. The benefits of learning a foreign language are so much more rich than minor embarrassment for an error that no one is ever going to remember. If you don’t practice it, it will slowly dissipate. GO FOR IT. YOU DESERVE IT!

Education, End of the Year, Spanish Classroom, Stay Sane

It’s finally here!

The end is in sight!!!

We’ve done it! We’ve hit May and the official countdown has begun! If you’re anything like me, at this point you are simply running on fumes and everyone is just lucky that you made it to school with pants and the little patience you have left! There is so much left to do at this point and so little time to get it done, but fret not! There is light at the end of the tunnel and that tunnel’s end is quickly approaching. We just have to make sure that the train doesn’t crash before we get there. So, make sure that seat belt is on and get ready to ride…

1.) Get that coffee brewing, baby!

Start your day with a good ole cup o’ joe! If you think that you’re excited about the impending finale of the school year, just think about the group of 25 restless children who are also just as, if not more, keenly aware of how close their summer vacation is! You cannot handle the crazies if you, yourself, are not pepped up, energized, and on your ‘A’ game!

(Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao)

2.) Have a plan.

Whether you’re required to turn in plans or not, the last month should be full of plans. These don’t have to be explicit, descriptive, step by step plans with modifications, assessment explanations, reflections, and the whole she-bang. However, I would not survive the last month if I didn’t have a day by day game plan. I teach Spanish 1-2 times a week to groups in first through eighth grade. Everyone is on a different unit or lesson. Some groups test while others don’t. By the time I get to one group’s class, I don’t always remember what we did the week prior because everything gets jumbled up! To stay focused and organized, I make a very simple day by day (or week by week) plan on a Google Spreadsheet (stay tuned for my post on the many uses of Google in the classroom!) that acts as an excellent time management resource for the last week of school. On top of your school work, the end of the year also brings about many end of the year festivities such as field day and pow-wows! This gives you an excellent opportunity to internalize these events and not be surprised if you don’t have that class you planned on using for your final!!! (What a pain!) Check out your school’s calendar of events to make sure you include these! Create your own on Google Sheets. The left hand column has the date that we have class and the right hand column has our general plan overview for that day. This is usually as simple as “No class: Talent Show”, “Kahoot Review: Palabras Interrogativas” or “Unit Test: Los Pronombres”. Talk about a game changer!

3.) Create a to-do list!

There are so many things to do on my end of the year to-do list. I am constantly adding things to this. The key is to make sure you have your list ready to go so that you can see, revise, and add things as they come to you. Don’t tell yourself that you will add that item to the list later. With everything else going on, we’re bound to forget! Here are a few (haha!) of the things I currently have on my list:

  • Organize text books
  • Throw out dry markers
  • Print out unit tests
  • Print out review packets
  • Make a cleaning schedule list
  • Create a job list for students
  • Make list of anything that needs repair (technology, wall paint, chairs etc)
  • Create explicit last week of school list.
  • Send textbook order to office
  • Return borrowed dice and baskets
  • Write letters to homeroom students

The Pinspired Teacher has some great products to help organize your lists!
Click here to go to The Pinspired Teacher’s TPT page.

4.) Stay on top of things!

We’re at the end and you’re running on steam but just dive in. Don’t put those tests on the back burner to grade later. Don’t wait until the morning of to plan your day out. Just go for it. These things pile up and boy do they pile up fast. Nothing stresses me out more than a huge pile of papers to grade with minimal time to get it done. Listen to Nike and “Just do it!” You got this. Then, mark that bad boy off of your to-do list. Doesn’t that feel so good!

5.) Expect ruined plans (and be ready to deal with them)

Expect plans ruined by impromptu events and unforeseen circumstances. No matter how well you have planned your last few weeks, there is bound to be some sort of issue or unplanned event that messes up your immaculately and strategically created schedule. Unfortunately, there is nothing your can really do to fix this or even plan for it. Just don’t let it kill your vibe. Which brings us to our next tip:

(Photo Credit: Steve Johnson)

6.) Just breathe.

…and breathe again. Deep breaths. It will be fine. The end is in sight and everything will fall in to place. You can stress or you can just relax. Either way, the end of the year is going to come. Try not to place unnecessary stress on yourself. You’ve got this. Pace yourself.

7.) Treat yourself (because you are a warrior)

Read that book. Take that walk. Buy that thing you wanted the other day. You deserve it. You are in the winner’s circle! (BTW, Happy Derby Day!)

(Photo Credit: Joanna Kosinska)

Education, Spanish Classroom

Duolingo in the World Language Classroom

Image result for duolingo

Duolingo has been one of the most worthwhile and efficient programs that I have integrated into my Spanish classroom. If you live your life as a world language educator, chances are, you know about Duolingo. With that being stated, its use has been tremendously helpful in regards to multiple facets of our classroom. We use Duolingo as a reward, as friendly competition, for homework assignments, for review, for a filler for early completion of classwork, and the list can go on and on.

10 Benefits of Duolingo:
1.) Extremely user-friendly.
—The website and the app are very well organized and easy to use. Additionally, there are excellent references and support measures to help you with any question or concern you may have.
2.) Good for a wide variety of ages.
—I have used Duolingo in my middle school and high school classes. Even my seven year old uses Duolingo at home.
3.) Fosters independent growth.
—The app and the website follow at an individual user’s rate. This helps immensely in the classroom when you have students who are excelling at different speeds.
4.) Can help both language learners and native speakers.
—Now, bear with me on this one. If you have a native Spanish speaker working on Duolingo for Spanish, it can probably be assumed that he/she will not get as much out of the program as his/her non-native Spanish speaking classmates. With that being stated, Duolingo also works with provided spelling and grammar tips/pointers that some native speakers may need.
5.) Progress Monitoring
—Teachers are able to monitor student progress and usage through the Duolingo School component. Simply add your students to your “classroom” and voila, you are now able to see which lessons and vocabulary your students have mastered and how many days they have practiced!
6.) Assignments
—Through Duolingo, you can schedule homework assignments to your classes. These assignments can range simply from spending x minutes on the program or can focus on finishing lessons in reference to a certain set of vocabulary.
7.) Listen to Podcasts in your target language
—Duolingo offers easy to listen to podcasts in your target language that are easily accessible through a variety of different platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts etc).
8.) Interactive Stories
—You can listen to a wide variety of interactive stories that help practice your listening skills by asking you to fill in blanks with what you heard.
9.) Constant updates
—Duolingo is also adding additional vocabulary and lessons so that you can continue your educational growth whenever you need. As of the beginning of 2019, Duolingo offers extensive courses in 24 different languages.
10.) It’s FREE
—As if this needs explanation, it’s FREE…and even better…It does not constantly bother you to purchase the premium upgrade. All of the above mentioned is included in the free program. Unbelievable!

Education, Uncategorized

Meet the Author

I am a psychiatrist.

I am also a counselor, a nurse, a body guard, a dancer (not a good one), a singer (again, not a good one), a comedian, a drill sergeant, a writer, a therapist, a detective, a manager, an events coordinator, an editor, a mediator, a clerk, an interior decorator, an artist, a secretary, a nanny, a communications specialist, and subsequently probably the largest coffee consumer in the world.

You guessed it.  I am a teacher.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

An extremely wise individual most likely once said, “Only the strongest, bravest, dedicated, most awesomely fantastic, super-cool people can be teachers.” I can sort of almost guarantee that this was said at some point in time.  Those exact words. They may or may not have also included the adjectives “crazy” and “insane”, but that’s beside the point.

All of those wonderful things they said were about you…you wonderful thing, you!

So, let’s do this thing! Let’s band together.  Show me yours and I’ll show you mine! How do you  crack in to those beautiful skulls and bring out all that creativity and expression, all while keeping your coffee hot? No, seriously.  Help a girl out.  Momma has a job to do, but momma also really needs her coffee hot. Iced coffee’s just not cutting it.