One of my pet peeves is the assumption that everyone with a Latino last name speaks Spanish. It’s something that happens a lot, by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, thinking that just because you are Hispanic you are bilingual. That’s not how it works. You can be a Gomez, Garcia, or Gonzalez and actually not speak Spanish.
The assumption doesn’t take into account things like being two or more generations away from living in a Spanish-speaking country, marrying into the name, or being truly multicultural. It doesn’t take into account those who grew up in a school system that punished them for speaking Spanish. It doesn’t account for the reality that if you don’t use Spanish every day, then you lose it.
Having said that, I should note that I love being able to speak Spanish.
One of the (many) things for which I’m grateful is that my parents made sure that their children grew up bilingual. And that means that I understand, speak, read, and write in Spanish. It’s something that’s enriched my life as well as proving to be valuable for my career.
My biggest obstacle these days is that fact that I don’t practice the language as frequently as I should. Every day it becomes a little bit harder to hold a conversation in Spanish. It takes a little longer to translate my words (in my head). It takes a little longer to find the actual phrase that I need to use. I need to practice.
You can learn or improve your Spanish. Even if you don’t know any Spanish at all, it’s not too late to get started on those Spanish skills! And there are a few online resources that will let you start today for free.
UPDATE — we had to remove Livemocha since the site has been taken down.
Duolingo is a a software-based learning platform with a website and an app, providing free instruction in several dozen languages (including Spanish). The process includes an assessment that helps identify where you start. Then you learn in a game-based format.
Each lesson includes speaking, listening, and other activities. Each lesson has a grading component. And the mobile app makes it possible for you to learn from anywhere.
Do you have any other recommendations for free language learning? I’d love to spotlight more.
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