What was originally just a compulsory elective choice in elementary, middle and high school has quickly become the very thing that inspired my choice of outside concentration for my degree, shaped what I hope to go to graduate school for and changed the way that I look at the world.
“What school subject has the power to do all that?” you may be wondering. Well, I always loved Spanish class, but it wasn’t until I visited Perú (which is where I was in the picture at the top), and later when I got to college, that the ability to use Spanish outside of the classroom really manifested itself in my mind.
Before, I had assumed that Spanish, to me, would always present itself in the form of vocabulary quizzes and my frustration at trying to remember how to say “I wanted” in the past preterite form, if it was irregular or regular and if it had any accents.
It’s “quise”, and irregular with no accents to be found!
I decided that I wanted to continue learning Spanish until I could comfortably speak to people outside of an academic setting.
Because classroom Spanish and colloquial Spanish are very, very different.
More than anything, I wanted to understand, and take part in, a culture different from my own. And I attest to this day that the best way to really get to know a people and a culture is through the native language, as it will always be one’s heart language, and one’s second will always be the language of logic.
It is true!
Scientifically, when one is speaking in their native tongue they are much more attuned to their emotions. When one is speaking in their second language, they are better at making decisions and have less emotion tied to the ones that they decide on.
This is a huge reason why curse words in one’s own language seem so much more offensive than those in another! You may hear and understand them, but you aren’t able to completely internalize their negative connotations.
But, that is just one of the many reasons that learning another language is so great. For more, I encourage you to check out leadwithlanguages.org!
All of this I have learned in my classes at UF, and the information I have absorbed has inspired this post today. In the time that it takes you to read this piece, I want to talk about my experience learning Spanish, how I have seen the fruits of learning a second language in my life and how I want to incorporate it, and other languages, in my life in the future.
After a few weeks of bouncing back and forth between history and other subjects for my minor and outside concentration to supplement my public relations degree, I remembered something. I had always liked my Spanish classes in high school, I did very well on the IB Spanish exam and there is a large advantage to knowing how to speak the language in Florida.
So I thought, “what could be better than just improving upon a topic that I already know?”
With all this in mind, I filled out the minor request form and walked it down to Dower and Weimer Halls to get it signed by the department chairs; in the end I walked away with a nice and shiny new minor that would show up on my degree audit a few days later.
I thought it would be a piece of cake, since I had taken many classes before… but there was a part of me that was nervous that college Spanish classes would be unlike anything I had done before.
And, in a way, I was right.
While I was familiar with the topics, the grammar and the culture, I was confronted with the reality that I had a long way to go yet before I could properly speak to others without pausing to translate what I wanted to say into English, or getting too flustered to remember a single Spanish word in my run-on sentences.
For every new thing I accomplished, I felt like I was getting worse in other aspects of the classes. If one week I was a great Spanish orator, the next I wrote with the grammar of a five-year-old.
It was through the constant ebb and flow of failure and breakthroughs that I came to the one conclusion that has helped me stick with it.
Patience is more than just a virtue; patience is a necessity when you are acquiring any skill.
And, because I stuck with it even as I thought that my time would be better spent doing something I was good at, I started to see the fruits of my labor in my everyday life.
I could suddenly converse with customers in Spanish as a cashier at Chipotle, I understood content on social media, TV shows and songs more clearly and I could read books in Spanish without having to look up every other word.
I truly felt as if a new world had opened up to me – I suddenly had the key to open a door of content that I never had access to before, simply because I was monolingual.
The Fruits of Learning
Now that I am proficient in spoken and written Spanish, other benefits of my studies are becoming know to me.
First, now that I am learning Italian for my coming time living in Italy, I have found that many of the words and grammar rules are similar to those of Spanish. This has allowed me to pick up on this new language a little easier than I would have if I just knew English.
And second, I more readily understand the different parts of speech and grammar in English, which allows me to critically edit my writing in both languages with these technicalities in mind. I am hoping that this skill will translate when I take Reporting Lab in the summer 2020 semester… because I am very nervous. (Looking at you, UF J-school people who have taken reporting already and know it is the hardest class of our degrees.)
Plans for the Future
Aside from the feeling of personal accomplishment and freedom, learning a second language has also forced me to look outside of myself and my country to other places, ideas and ways of doing things. This international focus of the curriculum I have chosen for myself has lead me to my current dreams and professional aspirations.
Once I graduate from UF, after completing my last two semesters online in Italy, I plan to take the GRE and apply to masters programs in international communications.
With this degree, I hope to either work for an international public relations agency, or work in-house for an airline. In both of these places I see a great need for employees who can focus on communicating across the barriers of culture and language; I also see a need for people who are dedicated to bringing everyone in to have a seat at the table.
In my time working with a global perspective, I hope to be able to contribute to the augmentation of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
All in all, I think that learning Spanish has enhanced my college experience, assisted me in my life outside of the classroom, opened doors for me professionally and helped me develop as a person.
I hope that I have encouraged you today to persevere and continue trying to master something you are passionate about, no matter how long it takes. In the spirit of the saying “pan para pan y vino para vino”, which is a phrase that means to say things bluntly and as they are, I want to assure you that the only way to know something as if you had been doing it since childhood is to make up for all the lost time not doing it.
So, don’t give up… get to work!
You won’t regret it.
Until next time,