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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Working with the Spanish Language

El Carmen block party
At a block party in (El Carmen) Chincha, Perú


Learning Spanish is a Lifetime Effort

For many years I've been using my Spanish on the job, and even received bilingual pay. Unlike your average bilingual person at work, I'm not a native Spanish-speaker, nor did I have years of classroom training. I am self-taught out of a book and flash cards. Today, as an educational-vocational specialist with a social service agency, I conduct counseling sessions in Spanish and even taught a couple of job search workshops.

I listen to a lot of Spanish music, mostly salsa and bachata, some Afro-Cuban, some Afro-Peruvian, and sing along when I can.

In prior job searches, I've been interviewed in both English and Spanish. I'll never forget the day, I was interviewed for a position with a prominent San Francisco vocational service. The department manager was impressed that my résumé mentioned my Spanish language experience. When I returned for a second interview, there were two (not one, but two) native Spanish-speakers waiting for me in the interview room. I told them, in Spanish, that I speak better Spanish with those who cannot speak English, and added that bilingual people make me so nervous to the point that I forget simple words. They were so pleased that my response had such a good accent with proper grammar that they let me off the hook and conducted the rest of the interview was in English.

When I returned for a second interview, there were two (not one, but two) native Spanish-speakers waiting for me in the interview room.

Each year, I spend my vacations (three weeks at a time) in one or more Latin-American countries; mostly in Perú, my home away from home. My primary reason for Latin-American travel, other than exposing myself to black culture, is to be totally immersed in the Spanish language so I can get better at it. Although I'm far from fluent. I'm still learning. In fact, the more Spanish I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I'm a subscriber to Transparent Language and Dictionary.com where I get daily e-mails containing the word-of-the-day and have found them very helpful. In addition, I listen to a lot of Spanish music, mostly salsa and bachata, some Afro-Cuban, some Afro-Peruvian, and sing along when I can.

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