When it comes to knowing a foreign language, United States citizens fall behind the rest of the world. We have been so used to only having to speak English, that we've become lazy. Most Europeans, South Americans and Asians know enough English to communicate with us, so the American traveler usually doesn't think about having to learn another language in order to travel.
However, as the infamous Bob Dylan wrote, "The times, they are a changing" and indeed, they are. Spanish is now spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide, with over half of the population in the western hemisphere being Spanish speakers.
The United States has the 5th largest Hispanic population in the world, after only Spain, Mexico, Columbia and Argentina and by the year 2050, 25% of the U.S. will be Spanish speakers.
If this isn't reason enough to start learning Spanish, think about the fact that many foreign speakers of English have a better grasp of the English language than our own students. As an English teacher, it often surprises me that my American born English speakers cannot construct simple sentences, yet students who came to this country later in life can write beautifully. Why is this?
By learning a language separate from the one with which we grew up, our brains naturally expand to allow connection between our original form of communication and a new language, because the way we learn is by association. This association allows us to create new neuronal connections through existing synapse and thus, we learn.
With new associations, the native English speaker now has different associations connected to their cache of vocabulary and every time a new Spanish word is used, an association with the old vocabulary fires along the neuronal connection. The reason foreign born English speakers are better at English grammar than native speakers? They have a physical advantage in the fact that they have more neuronal connections working for them when they communicate.
Now don`t you wish you knew another language? Well, it`s not too late to learn. All over the United States, there are intensive immersion programs that can teach you Spanish in a matter of weeks or months, depending upon how much you need to know. Obviously, the best way to learn Spanish would be to spend time in a Spanish speaking country, but for those of us who do not have the time or money with which to do this, there are plenty of options.
One of these options is Word Magic Software. It is not only a language program, but is geared for education. It contains teacher hints, vocabulary, retranslation which shows you exactly how English translates to Spanish and how this may change the meaning of what you want to convey and it also has an application which pronounces words for you.
For users of translation software, there is also Software.com which offers the Before You Know It Lite language programs and Babylon 8, which is comparable to Word Magic Software.
It's time to get bilingual, Americans! Get out there and learn Spanish. You`ll increase your opportunities for education, business and travel. ¡Expanda sus horizontes!