Learn a Second Language and Improve Your Marketability!

by Tiffany Newton, Head Editor, INALJ Missouri

Learn a Second Language and Improve Your Marketability!

tiffany n2I took 3 years of Spanish in high school, and 2 years in college, I even went to Mexico for a week, but sadly, I cannot understand most native Spanish speakers. They just speak too fast and their words get run together and I can’t understand the words. I can however, read Spanish. Reading gives me time to look at the word and remember what it means. I’m a little less skilled at writing Spanish. I have trouble coming up with the correct words.

I’ve noticed something. A lot of jobs, especially those on the Mexico border prefer applicants who are bilingual in Spanish and English. There are also numerous other jobs that list knowing a second language as a preferred skill. Even if you apply for a job that doesn’t mention a second language, knowing one could greatly increase your chances of getting a job. At the very least, you’ll be able to communicate with a different patron group, and increase their likelihood of returning to the library. If they find someone who works in the library who can speak to them in their native language, it eases their anxiety!

So, how do you learn a second language? I’m glad you asked! Here are just a few tools and hints that I’ve found to help me improve my Spanish skills.

Duo Lingo

Duo Lingo is very easy to use and it’s fun!  It offers Spanish, French, English, German, and Italian. And with just a few minutes a day, you can increase your vocabulary and pronunciation of common words. It gives you points for every activity you successfully complete, but then takes away points for each day that you do not return. I’ve only used it for a few weeks, but I feel like I’m improving my language skills!

Live Mocha

Live Mocha offers a variety of languages, including the most common, Spanish, French, German, Italian, as well as Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese. There are also plans for many more languages in the near future, such as Apache.  You’re given points for various things, like completing lessons and grading other’s exercises, but you spend coins on new lessons. Live Mocha also has forums and chats that connect you with native speakers so you can practice your new skills.

Learn a Language

Learn a Language only offers 8 different languages, including Russian, Italian, and Spanish. You also have an opportunity to learn about each culture as well as the language. Slang phrases are also taught. You don’t need an account, but there are several ads that you must watch in order to access the lessons and play the games.


This is my own personal technique. If you think of when you learned English as a child, you listened to others speaking it. Generally your parents you tell you simple words and phrases to help you learn. You read simple books with few words and lots of pictures and you watched simple television shows. This might be easier said than done, but if you can find some picture or board books meant for children in your desired language, start there. Read those, then move to picture books. If you can find some children’s cartoons in another language, watch them. It will help you learn.

Another thing I like to do is watch movies in Spanish. On most DVD’s you can change the audio settings. The vocabulary and sentence structures in these more adult movies is probably too complex for a beginner to understand, but with subtitles in the same language, you can begin to learn how to listen to the language. This is a big part of learning as well. I usually do this the first time I watch a movie, rather than trying to watch a familiar movie in another language. A new movie would force me to listen and watch more carefully, trying to understand what’s happening. If I watch a familiar movie, I already know what’s going to happen and what’s being said, and I translate it into English. Also, I never put English subtitles on, because then I’m just tempted to read the English and not actually listen.

Find singers and bands of your favorite genre in the language you want to learn. Begin listening to and singing these songs. You might get the words wrong at first, but just try it! Audio books in that language might be helpful as well.

Whichever method you choose, stick with it. Try to practice for 10 minutes each day, rather than larger chunks of time less frequently. When you go to ethnic restaurants, try ordering in that language instead of English. I love Mexican food, and I do try to thank the waiters in Spanish, rather than English, and ask for “agua” instead of “water” to drink. Find someone who knows the language and speak with them. And, above all, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

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