Is it worth it to offer your English-speaking employees Spanish language training if a large percentage of your workforce speaks Spanish? And, if so, how challenging will it be and what should you expect?
Learning any second language is challenging, but it’s also 100% worth it. For multilingual organizations and workplaces, we’ve seen Spanish language training bring the English-only teams closer to the bilingual (English/Spanish) teams. Learning the language of your workforce shows deep respect and appreciation. This leads to loyalty, engagement and better collaboration when working on new projects, coming up with new ideas and brainstorming solutions.
So if you’ve decided you want a group of people at your workplace to learn the basics of Spanish, what should they be aware of? How can you prepare them for the challenges they will face? Let’s start by comparing Spanish with some aspects of English.
In the English language, it’s really quite simple to learn to say basic sentences. That’s because our verbs don’t change a lot: I eat, you eat, he eats, they eat, we eat. That’s true even in the past tense: I ate, we ate, they ate, etc.
Even if you forget the letter “s” at the end of the third-person singular verb in the present tense, no meaning is lost, because we always have to use the subject before the verb. The verb “to eat” in the past tense is an irregular verb, but most verbs can be made past tense by simply adding “-ed.” Now, of course, English has a slew of other challenges, but verbs and conjugating them are pretty straightforward.
Spend Time Speaking Spanish
Spanish, like other romance languages, has a different verb form for each subject, which makes learning the basics in Spanish quite time-consuming. It takes a lot of practice conversing in Spanish to get those verbs aligned with the subject you want to talk about. It’s not that it’s hard, but it takes time. Learning any language really comes down to the time you spend speaking the language.
In Spanish, the subject is understood in the verb most of the time due to the verb ending used. So oftentimes you do not have to use the subject to be understood. But this can cause more challenges for the learner if your ears are constantly searching for the subject to be used. It won’t be used most of the time, so you have to get used to listening for the ending of the verbs.
When you’re first learning Spanish and swimming in verb endings, you might confuse listeners if you use one subject, but then a different verb ending that refers to another subject. Most people will assume you meant to relate the subject you used with the verb. So it can still be figured out, but it gets all the more complicated when you realize that every verb tense has a different set of verb endings for each person doing the action.
When I was learning Spanish myself, I spent way too much time memorizing verb endings and filling in the blanks on online exercise websites — and not enough time actually trying to express my thoughts in Spanish in real-life conversations. I could have saved myself hundreds of hours of conjugating if I had simply hired a private tutor to listen to me talk about my day and just chat. I could have learned through doing, instead of memorizing and then not being able to apply anything in real life.
Although studying on my own felt like I was working really hard, it wasn’t doing much to improve my fluency. It was fun, because I’m a big language nerd, and I loved reading, looking up words in the dictionary and taking notes. But looking at words on a paper did not prepare my ears for how native speakers talk. Nor did it give my brain synapses practice in forming the thoughts that I wanted to say. Only real-life practice can do that.
So although conjugating Spanish is challenging, mastering it helps you relate to coworkers and neighbors. It opens doors to countries that you’ve visited before, but where you’ve never really “heard” the sounds of the country and the hum of conversation going on around you.
Spanish is being taught at corporations worldwide. A class on basic Spanish conversation can help you relate to coworkers and team members who speak Spanish as their native language. This really engages a large part of the American workforce, and I believe it shows respect and honor to the people on your team. So, even though Spanish is challenging, like any new language, it is worth putting in the time so that you can connect with your organization’s Spanish-speaking population. If you have questions about offering Spanish language training at your company, contact us for a free consultation: [email protected] or (800) 401-3159.