Learning a New Language


Gracias, William Alexander.

“Very few adults who who tackle a foreign language achieve anything resembling proficiency,” he wrote in his New York Times piece, The Benefits of Failing at French.

That might be enough to dissuade me from my ever-present goal to learn to speak Spanish.

But if you persevere, he concludes, you’ll not only learn a new language, but you’ll also bulk up the synapses in your brain. You’ll do mental gymnastics that will enable to you speak a new language and increase you brain power.

This week I was inspired by the courage of an English-speaking colleague who welcomed a packed room of people in three different languages.

Having endured the good-natured ribbing of my family members when I studied Spanish a few years ago, I had great respect for this person. His pronunciation wasn’t perfect, but he moved beyond his comfort zone to show his dedication to welcoming a multi-cultural group.

And as I wrote in a recent post about working globally, learning a new language is critical to building bridges cross culturally.

For some time, “learn Spanish” has been on my list of annual goals. And every December in my year-end ritual of evaluating my progress, I haven’t yet been able to mark it as compete.

Why do I want to learn Spanish?

For starters, I live in Southern California. Close to half of the population speaks Spanish, and I should too.

If I’m speaking at a local event, I want to develop enough confidence in my pronunciation that I can at least say a few opening and closing words in Spanish.

And half of our company’s business is in Latin America, so learning to speak Spanish makes good business sense.

Spanish is the world’s number-two language based on the number of speakers, which puts it ahead of English. So it’s a logical place to start.

And I want to set a good example for my children, one studying Spanish and the other studying French.

So what’s my plan?

Over the years I’ve scoured the web, tried a class in my community and asked people for advice. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Rosetta Stone. This is how I started my studies before, and it’s come a long way with mobile options for my laptop, tablet and phone. I started my first module today and I’ll do 30 minutes daily. Maybe I’ll go for a stacked win from time to time and combine it with my treadmill time. At the end of each month I’ll evaluate how it’s going.
  2. Radio. During my commute time, I’ll listen to Spanish radio stations.
  3. TV. A colleague recommended watching favorite TV shows and movies in Spanish. Easy and fun to do with DIRECTV.
  4. TED talks. This is a good time to turn on the Spanish subtitles when I listen to new TED talks.
  5. Travel. My daughter went to Spain last year and said it was a life-changing experience. With my family, I’ll plan where our next trip will be. Argentina? Chile? Costa Rica?

Now there are even more reasons to learn Spanish.

Deséame suerte . . . or, wish me luck!

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

One thought on “Learning a New Language”

  1. When learning spnaish it will start out hard but will soften up later.try taking a class around you town or even ask your friends to help you study a bit with the stuff you know and when you get it here is a game i like.Make notecards and have friends put spnaish words on them. Then make sure there in one room for example a microwave or refridgerator. tape them on them and have a friend time you take turns it is fun

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