Guest Blog: Learning A Second Language

Hi everyone! My name is Isabel and I’m on the Bespoke tutoring team. As a college student looking back on all her previous education, I undoubtedly believe that learning a second language has been one of the most valuable skills I have been taught. I started taking Spanish classes when I was very young but didn’t make any real progress until I was in high school. Although I now enjoy my college Spanish courses more than any other subject, for many years, the thought of Spanish class discouraged rather than excited me. I thought maybe I was just ‘bad’ at languages in general, and I didn’t feel inspired to invest my own time outside the classroom or seek out opportunities to practice in my community.

I will forever be grateful to my high school spanish teacher for this reason. She, like me, is a non-native speaker who developed a passion for the language on her own, traveled the world, and eventually became a Spanish professor. She transformed my attitude toward Spanish; Spanish class wasn’t simply about learning a new language but rather gaining access to a new world of experiences and knowledge. Spanish is the rich histories of Latin America and Spain, it’s the diverse cultures of every Spanish speaking country, and it’s a key to connection and friendship with people all around the globe, and also, countless people in the United States. Although I’ve now gained appreciation and interest for all these applications and more, the first thing that helped me view Spanish as something more than a class was music. I’ve always been someone who constantly listens to music, whether I’m working, studying, walking, or driving I’ll invariably have my headphones in or the radio playing. It only took a couple weeks of listening on my own for me to fall in love with Spanish music. From Ecuadorian salsa and reggaeton, to pop artists from Spain and Dominican bachata, I’ve learned how varied Spanish music is and over the past two years, I’ve tried to constantly expand what I listen to, asking suggestions from Spanish speaking friends and exploring Spanish artists on Spotify.

Although music was the push I needed to go through the door, on the other side I’ve found so many more ways to enjoy personally investing in learning a new language. After arriving at Georgia Tech, I decided to apply for a Spanish minor, I got involved in organizations where I could practice Spanish and meet international students, and finally, I applied to study abroad over the summer. I returned from my 5 week study abroad program in Spain only a couple weeks ago, and it was one of the most fulfilling and engaging academic experiences I’ve ever had. Although I could have studied in an English speaking country or taken classes with English speaking professors, I decided to go on a program in Spain where all my classes were in Spanish. The ability to communicate and connect with people from a different country, in their language, was a wonderful and completely unique experience, one that I thrived off of. I can’t imagine my time in Spain without the friendships I made with Spanish people, and those friendships wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken advantage of my high school classes and developed my own interest in learning the language.

All this to say, when I was in middle school struggling through Spanish class or early in high school when I was constantly discouraged, I could have never imagined how important Spanish would later become to me, how many rich experiences it would open for me, or how many close friendships it would later help create. To students who currently feel like I used to: find a way to personally connect and engage with the language, whether it be Spanish or French or Mandarin or whatever language you might be learning. Start listening to the music, find a TV Show in that language, ask a native speaker to practice with you, or choose anything you’re already passionate about and research how people do that same thing in a different country. Love soccer? Watch soccer games on Spanish TV channels! Enjoy dancing? Look up salsa or bachata or merengue and you’ll find a whole world of different styles and new music! If you find one way to personally connect, you’ll naturally begin to develop interest and then you’ll be eager to learn more. Even though it can seem impossible in the beginning, learning a new language is one of the most important, useful, and fulfilling skills you can take away from middle and high school, so stick with it- no one has ever regretted it! "

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