My Experiences Learning Spanish with ReDefiners World Languages
Those close to me know that speaking Spanish is an important part of my life. I learned it when I was in college, and it’s the reason why I’ve made such strong friendships. I took four semesters in college. I wanted to take more classes, but my university had a small foreign language department, and they didn’t offer any advanced classes. It seemed like that would be my last foreign language class, at least for the immediate future.
That was my Spring 2019 semester.
Between then and now, a lot happened. In March 2020, a global pandemic shut down the entire world, sent the stock market and the economy reeling, and destroyed my post-graduation plans. I graduated from college in May 2020, at the height of the pandemic. I did my best to apply for work, but with how tight the job market was, I had no luck. Simply getting a response was a miracle, never mind an interview. Because there were no jobs available, I decided to start volunteering with ReDefiners World Languages to gain more experience.
2021 brought much-needed changes. However, despite these welcomed improvements, we still have a long way to go before our pre-pandemic lives resume.
By the Fall of 2021, I knew something needed to change. I had sent out hundreds of applications, and I only received two phone interviews and a single in-person interview. If I wanted to stand out from the crowd, I needed to find a way to differentiate myself.
To do so, I decided to expand my Spanish skills. I live in the United States, along the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s a demand for workers who speak English and Spanish here, especially if you want to work in settings like healthcare, customer service, and nonprofit organizations. There’s such a shortage of bilingual workers in my community that businesses struggle to find enough people with the right qualifications.
Besides, I remember how much I enjoyed my Spanish classes in college, and I was excited about the idea of resuming them.
At this point, I had volunteered with ReDefiners for about nine months. I knew a lot about the classes, but I had never taken one before. There are a lot of benefits to our classes, but the two biggest selling points for me were the cost and the ability to learn remotely. The classes were more affordable than those at my local universities and community colleges, which was a big plus.
However, what sealed the deal for me was the availability of online courses. Because I live outside of Florida, in-person classes wouldn’t have been an option. Even if I lived in Tampa, the Covid-19 pandemic has made in-person gatherings more difficult. I remembered how unstable the situation was in 2020. Almost all in-person events were canceled, postponed, or heavily modified to comply with local guidelines. Most of the plans I had made in 2020 were canceled or moved online as conditions worsened.
With these memories still fresh in my mind, I decided that the best way to learn a foreign language was to learn online, at least for the time being. It would be safer to do so, and I could still attend class, even if I got exposed to Covid-19 or had to quarantine. If I had taken an in-person class, there would have been a higher chance of missing classes due to illness or exposure.
With something like foreign language learning, it’s critical to attend class meetings. The more classes you miss, the easier it is to forget what you learned. With online programs, it’s easier to attend classes in spite of unexpected difficulties. For example, if you attend an in-person class and got exposed to Covid-19, you would have to stay home for at least a week. If you started to show symptoms, you would have to stay home even longer. Either way, you have to miss class. With online courses, you can still log in and attend, even if you got exposed or got sick. Many people view online learning as a “lesser” option, but until the pandemic gets under control, online programs will make it easier to attend classes consistently.
In short, I decided to take Spanish classes with ReDefiners because of cost, convenience, and the availability of online courses. I could stay safe and expand my skills, all from the comfort of my home. What more could I want?
Because I tested into the intermediate level, I signed up for the Spanish Conversation workshop. Doing so would strengthen my conversation skills and make it easier to interact with native speakers. This class seemed like it was the best fit for me. At that point, it was much easier to read and write Spanish than to speak it, and I needed help improving my conversational skills.
On the first day of class, I received an email reminder with a login link, and I logged in that evening. I looked over the syllabus, and all of the topics sounded interesting! For example, we were going to talk about how to express opinions, cultural events in Spain and Latin America, and vocabulary to use in the workplace. Each topic sounded more interesting than the last, and I was eager to get started.
During my first class, I met my teacher and classmates. I was so excited for the class to start, and I couldn’t wait to meet everyone! My teacher was so kind, and she was so passionate about education and Spanish. She was from Peru originally, and she’s a native Spanish speaker, so she was very knowledgeable about the subject.
Language learning is not a linear process. It’s very much a journey. There will be times where you understand so much that you seem like a native speaker. Other times, you’re going to struggle, and you’re going to wonder if you know as much as you think you do. This was what happened to me during my class. Sometimes, I would grow by leaps and bounds. Other times, it felt like a miracle if I could speak at all.
No matter where I was in my language learning journey, my teacher was good about meeting me where I was. She was so patient with me, even when I struggled to show patience with myself. She was always willing to review the material as needed and provide resources to practice outside of class.
Because she grew up in Peru, she had a lot of knowledge and stories to share. That helped me to understand both Peruvian culture and Latin American cultures in general. It also helped me see the commonalities between my experiences and those of Hispanics/Latinos. For example, I’m a white Catholic woman, and many Latinos are Catholic. It was fascinating to examine the similarities and differences between the traditions I had grown up with versus the traditions that many Latinos grew up with.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my class. I learned a ton, and I had a lot of fun in the process. Some of the tasks required me to leave my comfort zone, but it paid off. For example, for my midterm and final, I had to record videos of myself giving speeches. It was a bit awkward at first. After all, it can be uncomfortable to watch yourself on video. Despite the awkwardness, it helped me to determine my strengths and weaknesses when I speak. As I viewed the videos, it was clear that my speech was fluid. However, if I spoke too fast, I wouldn’t emphasize the accents enough; depending on the word, it can drastically change the meaning of your message. I also saw that my accent needs work. When I speak Spanish, it’s clear that I have a thick American accent. I wouldn’t have noticed these strengths and weaknesses if I hadn’t recorded my speech. Because of this, I now know what I need to work on.
I feel so much more confident in my Spanish abilities. Before I started, it was difficult to follow along with native Spanish speakers. But during the class, my skills improved to the point where I can understand the general ideas when someone’s speaking Spanish. Here are some of the victories I had during the course:
I read a news article in Spanish, and I understood most of the information.
I started attending Mass in Spanish before I started my class. When I first started, it was hard to follow along, and I needed the help of worship aids. Now, I can go to Mass and understand the general ideas. I can recognize the readings, I know several prayers in Spanish, and most of the time, I can understand general ideas in the homily. I still have a ways to go, but my comprehension grew by leaps and bounds in just a few months.
I attended a celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe at my parish, and it was a lot more meaningful for me because I had just completed the class. I understood the significance of the occasion more. For many, this occasion celebrates what it means to be Latino. It’s a celebration of faith, culture, and family. Because I had that background knowledge, this occasion impacted me greatly.
Currently, I speak Spanish at around a B2 level (upper-intermediate), and I signed up for another class. One day, I hope to become bilingual. With the help of ReDefiners, I know that my goal is within reach.
If you’re not sure about taking a class, I strongly encourage you to try it out. We’ll be there to support you every step of the way.
If you’re interested in learning a new language, ReDefiners can help! We offer online language classes in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic for kids and adults. In all of our classes, you’ll learn how to speak the language and learn about each language’s cultural influences. For more information or to sign up, please visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.