Tag Archives: how to learn spanish

How to Speak Spanish: Move Your Hips

There are many challenges for an English-speaker trying to learn how to speak Spanish. Adjectives and nouns are placed in a different order. How to Speak Spanish - Move your hipsVerbs have to be conjugated to agree with their subjects in person, gender, and number. And then, there’s the pronunciation, with all those rolled r’s! Not to mention the r’s that aren’t rolled, but “flipped.” Some people just decide it’s too hard, and give up. Don’t give up. You can do this.

Let’s start with those r’s and double r’s. Both are pronounced by holding the tip of the tongue near the front of the roof of the mouth and blowing air past it, causing it to flutter – a quick flutter for the single r, a longer one for the double r. Go ahead: try it. While this can be challenging if you didn’t grow up making that sound, I’ve found that a more common problem than an inability to make the r sounds is a tendency to overdo it. Once that tongue learns to flutter, it just doesn’t want to stop. Me comí una pera becomes Me comí una perra, and just like that, instead of eating a pear, I ate a dog. In rolling your r’s, as in many other endeavors, there can be too much of a good thing.

How Latin dancing can help you learn how to speak Spanish

While it may seem far-fetched, I think there’s an analogous relationship between speaking Spanish and Latin dancing. Both involve movements that are not part of the Anglophone cultural vocabulary. In speaking, those movements take place in the mouth; in dancing, in the hips. Just as the tip of the tongue has to be trained to move independently of the base, the hips have to be trained to move independently of the upper body. When you watch good salsa dancers, it looks as if their torsos are floating through space while their legs execute all manner of amazing footwork.

Many years ago, a Latin dance instructor I knew showed me a great trick for helping people develop that independence between lower and upper body: Pretend you’re riding a bike. Standing in place, with your feet just a few inches apart, begin to “pedal,” lifting one heel and then lowering it as you lift the other. Hold your torso still (but not stiff), hinge at the waist, and feel your hips moving side to side as you shift your weight. Soon you can feel the magic of your hips moving without bringing the rest of you along. People get very excited when they learn this. Sometimes too excited. Like the runaway rolling rrrrrrr’s, the gyrating hips can get out of control, giving the fledgling salsero a rather peculiar style and creating a minor hazard for fellow dancers.

The Spanish language and Latin dancing both embody an important element of Hispanic culture: Controlled exuberance. Enjoy the thrill of your tongue fluttering, the rhythmic swaying of your hips, but don’t get carried away with it. Master this, and you’re on your way to learning how to speak Spanish, or dancing, without an accent.

Learn Spanish and Discover a Culture

The United States of America has a population of 317 million as of 2013. The total population 5 years and over for 2011 was 291 million. Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau for this segment showed that 231 million people spoke only English at home and 37.5 million spoke Spanish at home. While 80% of Americans speak English as their primary language, the second most common language spoken in the country is Spanish.

learn-spanish-discover-culture-pimsleurAn impressive 12.8% of Americans speak Spanish, over 37 million people, and that number is only going to grow. As Spanish culture is incorporated in the U.S., the necessity to learn Spanish cannot be denied.

The United States is home to a myriad of dialects hailing from all over the Spanish-speaking world. More and more immigrants arrive in this country every year, with more of them speaking Spanish than any other language. As the melting pot of nations grows, English and Spanish speakers alike are discovering the benefits of being able to communicate, both to improve their lives and to grow culturally.

Where to Learn Spanish

The demands for Spanish classes are at an all-time high. According to the New York Times, institutions such as the New York Public Library have had a long tradition of providing free English classes. But it was not until recently that some branches started offering foreign language classes. Libraries all over the country are now following suit and offering complimentary language courses. However, libraries are only able to offer courses based on community needs and available resources. Space is very limited in most library courses.

A great way to learn Spanish is through the use of self-instructional language courses. Simon and Schuster offers the highly-effective Pimsleur Program, a comprehensive language course that gets the student off and running with the most useful phrases through an intuitive learning process. Offered in different media, MP3’s, audio CDs, and computer software, the digital language courses allow the students to choose their method of learning, whether it’s taking the lessons to the gym on their mobile devices as MP3s, or making the most of traffic while learning a new language in the car on CD. The option to take these lessons with you allows you to easily integrate learning Spanish into any free time you find.

The Benefits of Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish is not just personally rewarding, it is also an opportunity to broaden your cultural horizons. With so many books, movies, and music options being released in Spanish, this is an easy way to tap into the growing market. Taking time to learn Spanish can help open up your mind to exciting new sights and sounds.

New culinary experiences also await those who are inclined to learn Spanish. Spanish cuisine is a perennial favorite across the country. An amazing adventure awaits you if you have the ability to walk into an authentic Mexican restaurant and understand the menu, trying new foods you never would have tasted otherwise because you can now interpret the ingredients.

There are a plethora of reasons to take the time to learn Spanish besides the simple joy of learning a new language. No matter the reason, whether practical, sentimental, or perhaps gastronomic, learning Spanish will be a beneficial skill you can use daily. The Spanish-speaking population is growing in the United States every year and embracing the relationship between English and Spanish speakers will enrich your day-to-day interaction and cultural understanding.