I have always been fascinated by language and wished that I was bilingual. Growing up in Southern California, I was continuously surrounded by Spanish and Spanish-speakers, but was never given the chance to learn the language in the classroom until High School. It wasn't until I was 15 that I took my first foreign language class - a skill that is not emphasized in the United States nearly as much as I have always believed it should be. When Brandon and I were traveling through Spain a couple of years ago, we used our rusty High School Spanish to communicate as much as we could, and it felt amazing to dig the correct words from my brain to ask the question I intended - and even better to understand the response.
In the past few years of constant traveling, we have realized how much privilege there is in being a native English speaker, and how much English is truly the universal language - everywhere from Sri Lanka to Morocco to Japan, we have gotten along well with English; however, when we have gone off the beaten path, like on our road trips through tiny villages in France and Italy, we have been met with language barriers and have wished so deeply to be able to communicate in multiple tongues. I am always in awe of tour guides that switch between 4 or 5 languages with ease. I have tried a few times in my life to learn both French and Spanish - Spanish because it is the most useful as a Californian, and French because it is just so incredibly beautiful, but I have never made it too far. When we were planning our trip to Panama with Waldorf Astoria, I knew I wanted to start focusing on learning Spanish again and use the opportunity to flex my language muscle. I am not naturally gifted at language, foreign words are very difficult for me. I am a visual person, and am not very skilled aurally - I have a difficult time both hearing the words and pronouncing them myself (and I still cannot roll my R's!).
To get serious with learning Spanish, I started using Rosetta Stone. I have been familiar with the program for a long time, and previously used the mobile app for a while to try to learn French, and have always known that it is the gold standard for learning Languages. I personally love the simplicity of program - there are no written instructions, no conjugation tables, no lists of vocabulary words and lessons. The entire system is all visual, with the idea that you learn a language natively like a child does, through associating words with the images you see and repeating the tenses over and over until they sound natural to you. You'll learn the language, not just memorize the words. Rosetta Stone's Immersion method teaches new words and phrases based on the context in which they’re used, so they make more sense in real-world conversations - that don’t follow a script. Instead of charting out that yo tango means I have and tu tienes means you have, you learn the different forms through repeating images. Without really realizing it, the words just start making sense to you. This immersion style of learning moves seamlessly from words, to phrases, to conversations as you go further along in the program.
I also love that the program syncs across your devices - I can start a lesson on my laptop at home, and pick up exactly where I left off on the app while I'm sitting on a plane. Since my life is constantly chaotic and on the move, this became essential to me - and getting into the habit of using the program a little every day was easy - I would use the app while I caught a little sun out on my roofdeck and would use the desktop version while waiting for files to copy on my computer. The more I did a little bit every day, the more I started to retain.
Getting in a little last minute practice at home before flying out. After using the program for a couple of months, I have been seeing why Rosetta Stone has been the gold standard for languages - that it is goes beyond simply teaching words or phrases, and I can see how the more you use all of the different aspect of the program, the more you can really learn to speak and understand the language.
While I am nowhere close to fluent (yet!), When we arrived in Panama I started noticing that I could understand more words on menus and could pick out some phrases when listening to speak. Is it just me that gets really excited about little things like this? There is something magical to me about feeling those synapses connect and see my studying pay off.
So we travelled as usual...
We wandered the gorgeous streets of Casco Viejo (also known as San Filipe) - the recently restored old city of Panama City.
Found the cutest places for photo opps.
And took in the views.
But when we couldn't take the heat anymore and it came time to order the favorite of locals, shaved ice, I was able to try it in Spanish, and communicate effectively enough to get exactly what I wanted. And then get invited to join and try the ice shaver myself! And even though you can often get by with English in most places, being able to speak the local language, at least a little bit at a time, makes the experience so much more meaningful. I found the Phrasebook in Rosetta Stone's 'Extended Learning' Features to be incredible helpful for this. The Phrasebook is a separate section from the regular lessons featuring key phrases for different scenario so you can familiarize yourself with common phrase as a whole. I studied the Dining Out and Shopping sections a few times before the trip, and felt much more confident in ordering, making a reservation, and understanding the Spanish being spoken back to me because I had heard the exact same phrases in the program.
We stopped by the local crafts market, and being able to ask simple things like "how much?" and "Do you have more?" in the local language made such a world of difference to me.
A Saturday night out on the town in the old city.
So while we won't be able to learn every language for every country we visit, I will continue my Spanish lessons and work on knowing more, understanding more, and hopefully, finally being able to roll my R's to pronounce the words as they are meant to be said.
Are you interested in hearing more? Learn more about Rosetta Stone here!
Note: This post was sponsored by Rosetta Stone, all opinions are my own.