Below, I will outline and discuss how learning Spanish while volunteering in Latin America not only benefits underserved communities, but can also benefit you personally and professionally.
Historically, those looking to learn a language which was not native to their countries had only two options: attend language school or take university courses, or hire a personal tutor. These options can be boring, expensive, and take a long time to produce tangible results. I would like to offer you an alternative: volunteering as a form of total cultural immersion.
Completely immersing yourself within a culture as a method of learning another language is a strategy which is supported by linguistic scientists such as Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker. They have asserted that the ability to learn a language is innate. We just need to be exposed to that language long enough, and after an ‘incubation period’, we begin to get a feel for how that language works. To them, just as a child is able to apply grammatical rules without having studied a language, adults can also recognize language patterns and instinctively use them in a fluent and natural way. Simply put, by being surrounded by a language, you are able to learn it without even trying. And if you are actively trying to learn that language, exposure to it will allow you to learn it faster.
Benefits of Learning Spanish
The benefits of learning Spanish are many, and some of those benefits will be discussed below.
1. Spanish is spoken in many countries: Currently, Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world with over 559.1 million Spanish speakers. Therefore, if you were to learn Spanish while volunteering, you would be able to use it in many different contexts such as traveling for work or vacation, or even to understand music and television shows.
2. Improved volunteering experience: Learning Spanish while in Latin America can improve the quality of your volunteership in numerous ways:
(a) The first way is that it will allow you to form better connections with the beneficiaries and locals. Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” There is a close relationship between language and culture. Therefore, even knowing basics such as a greeting can lead to you receiving a warmer reception from locals. This is because people will be able to recognise the effort you have made to learn their language and about their culture.
(b) Second, knowledge of Spanish will allow you to navigate around tourist cities such as Cusco better. Whether you are talking to the locals or using public transport, knowing Spanish during your volunteership will help you connect with locals and navigate the city easier.
3. Improves employment prospects: Statistics reveal that 66% of job recruiters are actively looking for bilingual candidates. Additionally, 61% of hiring managers say that knowing at least two languages is increasingly important in today’s world. This is confirmed by turning to the European Union where over half of its population speak at least two languages.
Learning Spanish while volunteering will not only help beneficiaries, but will help you personally and professionally too. Practically, it will help you move around the city you're in with ease. Additionally, it will help you connect with people better and improve your employment prospects. Click on the tab below to browse Globalteer’s volunteer programmes.