Over the years, I have heard lots of questions from students about learning a language, including:
How many words do you know in Spanish?
Where did you learn to speak Spanish?
When did you learn to speak Spanish?
When did you learn to speak English?
Why is your Spanish so good?
How many languages do you speak?
Why do you speak English with an accent?
Why do I need to learn Spanish?
Some of you know that I grew up bilingual in Madrid (Spain) and as the daughter of a diplomat, I was encouraged to learn a third language (English) and a fourth (French). Growing up bilingual means being immersed in two languages (in my case, Spanish and Portuguese), and also means speaking both languages fluently with a native accent.
In 2nd grade, I started to learn English in my Catholic school and studied it through 12th grade. I also attended the British Institute for extracurricular English lessons. When I graduated from high school, my dad sent me off to England to better my English. I remember him saying, with a grin on his face, “After learning English all these years, it’s time to prove you’ve learned something — you’d better start speaking.”
From the moment I got off the plane at Gatwick Airport, I wanted to prove to myself that I could understand and make myself understandable. I was able to ask for directions, buy my train ticket for Brighton, and get on the train. When I arrived, my host family was waiting for me at the train station. From that moment on, I knew I was able to communicate in my third language, and although I wasn’t yet fluent, I was on the road to proficiency.
Those of you who grew up bilingual or speak a second or third language know how amazing it is to be able to communicate with people from other countries and cultures when traveling abroad, or within the United States. I have a passion for languages, and I try to instill that passion in my students. I told them that while growing up in Europe, I never imagined I would move to the U.S.A., become a proud American citizen! That’s why learning English from an early age at school was so beneficial to me. Yes, I do have an accent, but the reason is because my first English teachers were Spaniards, so I couldn’t get a native accent.
Harrisburg Academy children are fortunate to start exploring Spanish in Early Childhood and continue with it through 12th grade. They are also fortunate to be able to take Latin or French in addition to Spanish in Middle School and Upper School. I’m happy to say that most of my students at the Academy have my Spanish accent!
There are many reasons to learn a second language, including:
- It enhances memory
- It increases creativity
- It creates a deeper understanding and appreciation of other cultures
- It boosts confidence
- It helps making new friends
- It builds multitasking skills
- It boosts career opportunities
- It makes traveling more fun
For those of you who would like to speak a second language, here is my advice: it’s never too late to learn!
Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.