- Spanish is one of the three fastest growing languages in the world. 500 million people can’t be wrong.
- Having a second language under your belt makes you instantly more employable.
- Study abroad looks good on your resume and shows future employers that you able to adapt to new situations and take on challenges
- If you plan to live in Spain, even a small knowledge of Spanish will make the difference in your day to day life.
- Spain is a fascinating country with a wealth of culture just waiting to be explored.
- Students from all over the world come to study Spanish in Spain. There is no better way to meet new friends and learn about other cultures.
- You can earn credits for your home university while learning a useful language and discovering an exciting new culture
- Total immersion (throwing yourself in at the deep end) is the best way to grasp a new language and to practise what you learn.
- Spanish is spoken in 21 countries worldwide, so if you plan to travel, a little knowledge of the language will be a great asset
- You’ll love the food, friendly people and non-stop nightlife that characterise Spain.
Why Studying Spanish Abroad can Boost Your Career Potential
Spanish is a language that’s already spoken by 500 million people worldwide and is growing in importance. In the U.S., the number of native Spanish-speakers (currently 31 million) is increasing at such a rapid pace that Spanish has already become the unofficial second language. Worldwide, 21 countries use Spanish as their official language. These numbers simply can’t be ignored in a world where the constant trend towards economic globalization has become the norm.
Learning a second language has always been a plus when looking for jobs. When it comes to Spanish, this is especially true since the language is becoming increasingly relevant in both business and cultural contexts and many employers actually require job applicants to have knowledge of a second language. More than ever before, companies are reaching beyond political borders to do business on a world scale.
The internet has made it possible for even small organizations to offer their products and services to a worldwide audience. But businesses can’t expect all of their potential customers to speak English – they need to have the flexibility necessary to approach consumers using their native languages and remaining sensitive to their cultural perspectives. This is why so many companies today place a high value on people who not only speak a second or third language, but who’ve been exposed to different cultures and have the mental flexibility necessary to understand and deal with people from varying socio-cultural backgrounds.
By telling a future employer that you’ve taken the time to learn Spanish (and perhaps even that you’ve gone to the extent to study it in a Spanish-speaking country) you’re proving that you not only possess a language skill of great value in today’s global marketplace, but that you’re willing to take initiative and participate in a demanding experience that many people might have shied away from. Employers will infer that if you were willing to surround yourself with a foreign culture and unfamiliar language, it’s very likely you’re the type of employee that’ll have the balance and resources necessary to confront challenging situations effectively.
Your experience studying Spanish abroad will prepare you in the best way possible to communicate and do business with Spanish-speakers, and it will also teach you how to approach and interact effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds. In today’s market, these are two extremely valuable and unique tools that are guaranteed to make you stand out in a list of job applicants.
Experiencing a New Culture While Studying Spanish
Studying Spanish in Spain is undoubtedly the best way to learn the language; it’s the equivalent of throwing yourself into a lake to teach yourself how to swim. At least, it’s comparable – the lake scenario might be a bit too negative. Immersing yourself in Spain’s unique environment in order to absorb its language to the fullest might be challenging, but few people will say they had a bad time doing so. That’s because Spain has so many endearing characteristics: intriguing history, profound culture, excellent food, friendly people, great weather ‘¦ just a few of the reasons why thousands of people every year decide to leave their native home and move there.
Gathering up the courage to leave familiarity behind and enter a new cultural dimension is not the easiest thing to do. Sadly, most people decide against it; studies have shown that fewer than 10% of college students decide to study abroad. But the rewards are undeniable: you’ll learn a new language, discover an alternate culture, and come to a new understanding of yourself. Learning to navigate an unfamiliar environment using a new language to interact with people of different cultural backgrounds will result in a definite broadening of your perspective. Excepting a sudden case of intense amnesia, you’ll never have this type of experience in your home country.
Some might argue that in today’s world people can become sufficiently aware of new cultures through television and internet. But it’s one thing to recognize that people from different parts of the world think and live differently; it’s quite another thing to experience those thoughts and lifestyles firsthand. Taking the leap beyond your native land is an absolute requisite to opening your mind and expanding your life opportunities.
By learning to understand and accept a foreign culture, you’ll gain the ability to be flexible and resourceful in demanding situations. You’ll also realize that beneath the layer of cultural conditioning, all human beings – including you – share essential similarities that extend beyond time and place. Feeling this connectedness with people who you might have previously thought of as distant or incomprehensible will help you see the human race as one family, breaking down notions of separateness that are the root cause of so much suffering and conflict in our world.
Experiencing a different way of life in depth is a paradoxical experience in that it eventually comes full circle to teach you about yourself. The willingness to immerse yourself in a new culture to learn from it teaches tolerance and acceptance towards the unfamiliar, revealing the inherent commonality of life and blossoming in self-understanding. Having understood yourself, you’ll be able to understand others in a deeper way than was previously possible. When you return home, you’ll find that your shift in cultural awareness will help you see your own culture with more clarity, no longer as your sole reality but as part of a world dynamic. This heightened perspective, a truly rare human trait, will be of exceptional value in your life’s journey.
Moving to Spain?
So you’ve made the move and you’re ready to start living the dream! Relocation is a major lifestyle change and a little culture shock is an unavoidable part of the process. Language is an integral part of any culture and to feel really at home a basic understanding is invaluable. Learning some useful phrases before you arrive can help, but nothing can prepare you for your first conversation with a bona fide local!
Locals will often ‘go the extra mile’ for foreigners who attempt to speak Spanish and if you can make small talk with passing folk you will be far more readily accepted into the community. Language barriers can make the smallest task seem like a mission and you will soon find communicating with hand gestures exasperating. Once you’ve mastered the basics, opening a bank account or shopping at the street market will seem like a walk in the park!
You may wish to prepare yourself by learning some Spanish before you leave home. If you can’t make it to an evening class, language CDs can be helpful. Look out for Michel ThomasÂ´s Spanish course which gives you some basic grammar and vocab. Many foreigners make the mistake of thinking that they will magically ‘pick up’ a new language. While it is possible to learn new vocabulary, a basic understanding of grammar is essential. Even a couple of weeks at school will give you a sufficient grounding to then teach yourself will the help of locals and friends.
Choosing a City
For a comprehensive guide to the delightful cities of Spain why not visit Spanish Town Guides where you will find information about cultural attractions, monuments, gastronomy, and nightlife.
Choosing a Course
Most language schools in Spain offer courses for all levels, so even if you are complete beginner you can sign up and start speaking Spanish from day one. You may choose to study at a private language school or university (see information below). There is a wide range of study options and you will be able to choose a course that suits your needs. The standard of teaching is generally very high in Spain, provided you book a course through an accredited agent.
Don’t be alarmed by the name, intensive courses are simply short daily programmes that teach Spanish grammar and conversation. You may see adverts for super intensive and intensive plus courses, these names are just based on the amount of hours of study per day. A standard intensive course will usually involve 4 hours per day 5 days per week, while a super intensive can be six hours per day or more.
Many universities and schools in Spain offer students the chance to spend a semester studying Spanish and other subjects taught in English or Spanish. Students can gain transferable credits for their home universities and will receive a certificate at the end of the course stating their Spanish level. Many schools offer seasonal programmes while some offer year-long courses.
Courses for Mature Students and Teenagers
Language schools in Spain are attended by a diverse mix of people. However, many schools recognise that different teaching methods can work better for teens while mature students sometimes prefer to study alongside people of a similar age. These special courses often involve cultural and social activities.
Business and DELE Courses
Students who wish to study Spanish for business or sit the recognised exam may do so at many of the language schools in Spain. DELE courses provide evidence of ability in Spanish and can be taken at a number of levels.
Cultual activities are popular at private language schools and they offer students a great way to see the sights of Spain and get to know their peers. Activities may include day or weekend exurcions to places of interest or simple city walking tours. Many Spanish courses also offer additional classes in Spanish culture and history.
Choosing a School
Once you have decided on a city you will have to decide on the type of school. In general you will have the option to study at a university or a private language school. There are advantages and drawbacks to both:
Studying at a Spanish University
Studying at a Spanish university is a good way to experience the culture of education in Spain and to study alongside Spanish students. The university language school centres are sometimes located away from the campus but many offer students the opportunity to meet and exchange languages with native Spanish speakers.
Studying at a Spanish university will look good on your resume and on completion of the course you will receive a certificate stating your language level. You can also receive credits for your home university. You do not need any prior knowledge of Spanish or any qualifications to study at university, although most centres require a minimum age of 16 or 18. Studying at a university is cheaper than studying at an established private school.
Drawbacks: The class sizes at the universities will be larger than in private language schools but this is reflected in the lower price. Private schools tend to offer a wider range of cultural visits and excursions than the universities. University websites are often difficult to understand if you don’t speak Spanish and finding accommodation can be difficult. Check out Go Study Spain a language school agency that offer tailor made packages at the best universities in Spain
Studying at a Private Language School
Private language schools offer students a guaranteed maximum class size (usually between six and eight). Smaller class size makes pupil-teacher interaction easier and language problems are resolved quickly. Private schools often have more facilities, for example swimming pools and restaurants and they usually offer a wide range of free time activities.
This kind of school often has a wider range of levels, and the standard test at the beginning of the course will help to find the correct class for you. Private courses tend to be more flexible than university programs so if you decide to study for only a couple of weeks, a private school will cater to your needs.
Drawbacks: Courses at private language schools cost more than university courses. Unless you are living with a host family, you will probably not have the chance to mingle with native speakers as you would at a language school on a University campus.
AASS is one of the biggest and best language schools in Spain with more than 20 years Spanish school experience.
Things to look out for when choosing a School
You can save a packet by booking through an agency, but make sure they are accredited (ask to see letters of collaboration from the schools).
Look at class size; any more than 15 is too many.
Ask if the school or agency can offer accommodation
Ask to see feedback from other students
Do your research to get the best price. Check out language school agency UniSpain who offer discounts on courses at the best schools in Spain
Learning Spanish in Spain
Throwing yourself in at the deep end by learning Spanish in Spain is by far the most effective way to learn and with so many resources around you can really make the most of your time in Spain.
Read the morning papers
Free newspapers are popular in Spain and there are plenty of lively local titles that you can pick up on the street or the bus. The pictures will help you to understand the text and the language is fairly basic. Now this exercise is supposed to be enjoyable so don’t go looking up every word in the dictionary. Instead, try to get the gist of an article, guessing at words that sound like the English and then look up the words that you see more than once. Learning this way helps you to keep abreast of local news and learn frequently used vocabulary.
Go to the movies
So you may not be able to follow Almodovar’s latest arthouse hit to the last word but a good old horror film is easy enough to grasp. After all, screaming sounds the same in every language! Watching films will help you to get used to the Spanish accent and stress patterns, which are different from English.
Spanish TV is notoriously bad but it is also very funny. Hit the teletext button and find page 888. This will bring up Spanish subtitles for most shows. Follow the words on screen with what is being said and see how much you can understand. The more vocab you learn the easier it will get.
Talk to locals!
This is the most important but also most frightening approach. If you can live with a host family rather than other foreign students you will have to speak Spanish and you will see some steady improvement. If not, try to make conversation outside of the classroom with friendly looking locals. The Spanish people are very open and they will gladly speak to you and correct your mistakes.
Don’t give up!
It has been said that to really remember a foreign word or phrase you have to hear it spoken sixteen times in context. By keeping your eyes and ears open and exposing yourself to as much of the language as possible you will soon find that you are learning something new everyday. If you do get disheartened, sit down and make a list of all the Spanish words you know, then learn five more. Most importantly, don’t give up! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.