27 Feb 7 Reasons Why You Should Really Take Spanish Classes
For some reason, I thought I’d be able to pick up Spanish quite easily. My native language Tagalog, has about 4,000 similar words so I thought, “How hard could it be!?”
When I moved to Indonesia, I lived with three Spanish friends for over a year. While I learned common phrases and expressions from them and even practiced everyday, I felt that I had reached a plateau at some point. I understood most of what they were saying, but I couldn’t respond properly.
I decided I was ready to travel Latin America and set off with such enthusiasm, thinking I was effortlessly going to pick up the language solely from traveling. Boy, was I completely wrong.
My favorite teacher Nataly explaining the difference of por and para
Here’s 7 reasons why you should really consider taking Spanish classes:
1. TRAVELING WILL BE A BREEZE. No doubt getting around will be much easier if you speak the language. No more missed buses, no more taxis trying to rip you off. If you are planning to travel Latin America for a couple of weeks and plan to stay in the Gringo trail, a phrasebook will probably do. But if you are staying longer than that and want to genuinely speak the language and immerse yourself in this beautiful continent, you should really invest some time and money in taking at least a week or 20 hours of Spanish classes.
Disclaimer: Not a typical Colombian house!
2. COUCHSURFING WITH LOCALS. While it’s comforting to stay in hostels to mingle with your tribe of backpackers, you’re missing out on a truly authentic local experience if you don’t stay with locals. I stayed at a friend’s house in Bogotá and they made it a point to let me try every single local food they could think of from our daily breakfast of arepas to Bandeja Paisas, chocolate con queso, achiras, arequipe con queso, empanadas and tropical fruits and so on. I’m not complaining at all. I didn’t wanna leave!
My Colombian family in Bogotá
3. MAKE NEW FRIENDS. Yay! Less of the obligatory “Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going?” conversations with people you may never see again. When you start speaking the language, you become comfortable with being around Spanish speakers and possibly gain more genuine connections. I’ve also been able to go rock climbing several times in Costa Rica, Panamá and Colombia without having to book expensive tours because I spoke some Spanish and have become quite excellent at Charades. Escalandoooo!!!
Local climbers in Boquete, Panamá
4. BARGAINING POWER. Congratulations! Now you’re no longer gonna get overcharged for taxi rides. Though I like conversing with taxi drivers, I never get nervous about my grammar because there’s no eye-to-eye contact and they never really expect tourists to speak any Spanish anyway. When I started traveling, I wanted to save every centavo I had saved up for hostels and food. But I’ve realized it really pays off to invest in language classes. Some countries are cheaper than others like Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, about $150 per week, four hours a day.
Tagging along on market day with hostel owners in Suesca, Colombia
5. TINDER. Yes ladies and gentlemen. Tinder has shredded its reputation as an app solely for hook-ups. It’s a great way to meet people in your immediate vicinity. Grab a cup of coffee or have them show you their favorite spots. It’s great way to practice your Spanish, even if you never plan to meet up with them. Just be sure to make your intentions clear on your profile, meet in public places and always follow your intuition!
Searching for waves in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
6. UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE. A huge part of understanding a country’s history and culture is learning the language. If you are a keen observer, you’ll have a better understanding of what really matters to the locals just by knowing the basics of the language. Accents vary from place to place, from country to country. By learning how to speak Spanish properly, and not just based on the local slang, you’ll be able to converse with people old and young all across the continent.
7. GET OFF THE GRINGO TRAIL. Because it’s a more authentic experience, and cheaper too. The Gringo trail is beaten for a reason, it’s safe and convenient even for first time backpackers. There are a variety of options for accommodation and transportation. But if you really wanna see the most secluded and beautiful places in Latin America, you’re gonna have to suck it up. Try to go out of your way and veer off the most popular spots. Trust me, it’s quite refreshing to be the only tourist in town!
No tourists in Jardín
So unless you already speak a language that’s similar to Spanish like French, Italian or maybe Portuguese, yes indeed, don’t “waste your time on language schools“. But if you want to really understand the rules of the game and be able to speak and write it properly, you should really invest some time learning the basics. 9 months into traveling Latin America, I finally signed up for a class out of frustration. And I discovered here’s why Spanish was so complicated for me to learn:
TENSES. English has 6, Spanish has 17! Though you don’t necessarily have to learn them all, you still have to know about half of it to have a decent conversation.
CONJUGATION. –er –ar –ir. Seriously, this needs to be explained with a chart and all.
IRREGULAR VERBS. Care to explain esta vs. ser anyone? How do you conjugate ir?!
GENDER. English doesn’t require masculine or feminine forms in inanimate objects, Spanish does for everything! Yes, even your pencil has a freakin’ gender!!!
SINGULAR OR PLURAL FORMS. To make a word plural in English, all you have to do is add +s or +es. In Spanish, you have to determine the gender first and whether its singular or plural (el/ella, el/la, los/las) and then add +s, +es.
ACCENTS!!! á é í ó ú The meaning of a word can change with accents. For example: doméstico = domestic domestico = I domesticate domesticó = he/she domesticated
Do you really think your hot new Latino lover will have the patience to explain all that in between salsa dancing?! Unless you beg your local friends to tell you everytime you make a mistake, they may get hesitant to keep on correcting you. This is why you need consistent lessons from a patient Spanish teacher who is able to speak with a neutral accent. But of course no matter how awesome your teacher is, you still need to do most of the work, a.k.a. PRACTICE! There’s really no other way around it.
Muchas gracias TOTAL Spanish in Medellín, Colombia por la clase de Español con Nataly. She had excellent diction and very clear pronunciation. I actually looked forward to our classes everyday for a week. Que chévere!