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  • Writer's pictureEmil Tiedemann

50x50 Challenge #26: Learn Spanish

Knowing a second language opens up an entire new world to you, allowing you to easily and naturally communicate with a whole new group of people, usually from another part of the world. There are numerous other benefits to understanding how to communicate in multiple languages (such as cognitive improvement, career advancement, more confidence, and a better understanding of other cultures), which is why it's always been on my bucket list.

Photo by Jon Tyson.

It's one thing to just slap "learn a new language" on one's bucket list and a whole other thing when it comes to tackling this particular goal. It takes most people YEARS before being able to speak another language fluently, especially if you're not able to immerse yourself by speaking with other people in that language on a daily basis.

I'm from Canada and so finding others who speak Spanish, which happens to be the language I decided to learn, was going to be more challenging than finding someone who spoke French, for example. In fact, I've heard many languages spoken in the streets of my hometown (Edmonton, Alberta), but Spanish is not one I remember hearing often, if at all. I know there are people in Edmonton who speak Spanish, but it's not exactly a well-used language where I come from.

So why did I choose to learn Spanish then? Well, although I saw the immediate benefits of learning French or was drawn to the cultural importance of learning my own Cree language (or German, as I am of mixed race), Spanish had always called out to me. It's spoken in many countries around the world and I've heard it so often in music, film, and television, to the point that I just so happened to know what at least a dozen Spanish words actually meant without ever taking a Spanish course. Many others, I could take a good guess.

That brings me to another reason. Spanish seems relatively easy to learn for English speakers like myself, which was a huge draw. Because learning a second language is a major undertaking in itself, some languages are particularly difficult to learn, such as Mandarin or Arabic. For me, at least. I think that learning one of the more "difficult" languages could be disparaging to the point of mental exhaustion, which could easily lead to me giving up. I've even done it before, with Spanish, actually. I tried once or twice in the past to learn Spanish but never took it seriously, thus never getting past a few days before throwing in the towel. Or should I say, toalla!

This time, I was more prepared. After doing some research online and playing around with several different language-learning apps (starting on January 1, 2021), I settled on the one that I felt was the best fit for me and my learning abilities/habits. At first, I just used the free version of Duolingo on my smartphone, but that was limiting for me and so I upgraded to the paid version of the app soon after (around $85 CAD for a year).

I promised myself at the end of last year that I would train myself EVERY single day in 2021, even if it was just for a brief time. It had to be daily had to become routine. And it has. I haven't gone a single day this year (so far) without using the Duolingo app (or one of the others I tried prior to settling on Duolingo).

I've learned how to say hundreds of words in Spanish and even how to speak, read, and write full sentences. Basic sentences, yes, but sentences nonetheless. And it feels amazing! It's exciting to be watching a show that randomly includes Spanish and actually understanding at least some of what's being said. It feels like I've been admitted to this exclusive club, like I'm being let in on some kind of secret. I love it.

Don't get me wrong, I am far from fluent in Spanish at the moment. In fact, I have years ahead of me, but it's something that I will continue to work towards every single day. For as long as it takes. If you've always wanted to learn another language yourself, I recommend you go for it! Find an app that works for you and start learning TODAY! ¡No te arrepentirás!


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