I know how tempting it is to switch to English when you don’t know a word in Spanish. I struggle with this as well, as do most people that speak 2 languages. Sometimes it’s out of laziness and other times because there is no exact word in the language you’re speaking, but there’s a perfect word in the other language.

The difference between a bilingual person doing this and someone who is trying to learn the language, is that it is actually hurting your abilities. You come to rely on being able to throw English into the mix and then when you are traveling or speaking to someone that doesn’t speak English, you suddenly draw a blank and are not able to communicate.

When I came to the US at the age of 10, I thought I spoke English. After all, I went to an American Academy in Chile and had studied English for several years. The problem was that I had studied the language, not used it. These are very different things. I had a lot of vocabulary, but no practice actually using it to communicate. I quickly learned that I had to stumble through conversations with the vocabulary I had and use long explanations to say one word. But this is not unique to me, this is part of the process for all language learners.

At PBO our focus is conversation. The entire point of taking conversation classes is to develop your communication skills. By switching to English when you don’t know the word you need, you are not allowing yourself to develop this ability, which is the single most important skill you can develop when learning a foreign language. I’m assuming that is why you all picked Pura Buena Onda instead of a typical language school, right?

Our tip of the week is to at least try to explain yourself in Spanish. Tell the person you are speaking to that you do not know the word, but that you are going to describe it. This will allow you to develop your communication skills and also to develop the ability to think in Spanish, another very important step in foreign language learning.

And apart from how it will hurt your abilities, it’s not very fair to the other students in the class either. After all, they are there to learn to communicate in Spanish as well 🙂

Something to think about…



PS “No pic inglich” is something my Spanish & German speaking grandmother used to say.  Anytime anyone spoke to her in English, she would say “no pic inglich,” which was meant to be “I don’t speak English,” but that’s what it sounded like 🙂